By Melissa Donovan
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the graphic arts is no stranger to that. When a new trend or application catches on, print buyers take notice. More often than not, print service providers (PSPs) are asked “Can you do this?” and are shown an example of the graphic in question.
Digitally printed wallcoverings and wallpaper are no exception. “Once people are introduced to the concept of custom printed wallpaper—and it is still fairly new—the demand to replicate it in other spaces grows almost immediately from those who do not have it within an organization. We have seen this happen repeatedly,” shares Harvey Meister, CEO/owner, GDS Retail & Display Graphics/BranDecor.
Meister’s company offers digitally printed wallcoverings in addition to a number of other services.
Above: GDS printed this graphic on DreamScape Suede with an EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro printer for a large corporate customer’s break area.
Large Format Digital
GDS began in 1997 with Meister the sole employee. Today the company staffs 22 out of a 20,000 square foot location in Bloomington, IL. The PSP’s capabilities include UV roll fed, UV flatbed, dye-sublimation fabric, finishing, fulfillment, and a custom picture framing shop.
According to Meister, approximately ten to 15 percent of the company’s business is digital wallcoverings. Included in that number are true digitally printed wallpaper, pressure-sensitive adhesive-based vinyl and fabric, and magnetic-receptive applications.
A business-to-business operation, GDS receives wallcovering requests from a number of verticals including education and healthcare. These jobs range from designing graphics for remodels and new construction to long-term exhibits and branding.
Beyond education and healthcare, Meister recognizes the potential of digitally printed wallcoverings in interior design, architecture, and construction. In response, he formed BranDecor to cater to the architectural and commercial interior design markets. Customers that have already embraced digitally printed wallcovering love it, according to Meister, and he believes they will increase their usage of it into the future.
However, he notices resistance from players in this sector. “It seems that it is still somewhat new to many of them and they don’t want to take chances. They may be waiting to see if it’s a passing fad or if it will have some longevity to it,” he admits.
The PSP relies on media from DreamScape for its wallcovering work. For a pressure-sensitive adhesive-backed option it uses DreamScape Caviar Peel N Stick. A thick 13-mil vinyl, it weighs 15 oz. and features a textured surface. DreamScape Suede is the preferred choice when a traditional, paste-backed wallpaper is needed. A Type II wallcovering grade material, it features a suede embossing on the printable surface.
“Customers seem to migrate to true digital wallcoverings versus traditional laminated PSA vinyl. The finished look is more appealing to current tastes with the various textures available. This is clearly where things are trending and often the costs are about the same,” observes Meister.
For hardware, GDS recently purchased a Canon Solutions America Océ Colorado 1640 UVgel roll printer. While the company ran its wallpaper jobs on multiple printers—whether it be solvent, pigment, or UV—Meister says the 64-inch roll-to-roll printer is ideal for wallpaper.
Prior to working with the UVgel device, the PSP coated wallcoverings with a UV liquid laminator. “This provided some solid protection and improved the risks involved in some inks and handling,” explains Meister. However, since the Océ Colorado 1640 joined its portfolio of presses, it has retired the UV liquid laminator.
The Océ Colorado 1640 offers consistency—a challenge regularly associated with wallcoverings or wallpaper. Overtime, there may be damages to part of the wall and graphics need to be replaced. While just replacing one panel may seem to be the simple and easy solution, color matching is a problem.
“Having our share of disasters where a damaged panel needed replacement, the capability to print repeatedly with identical results for replacement panels is a big deal. We stripped entire walls in the past just because we could never color match one replacement panel,” explains Meister. Now GDS can replace one panel and not reprint an entire job.
Achieving Custom Work
Digitally printed wallpaper provides opportunities for GDS’ client base that wouldn’t have been possible if digital wasn’t available. One example is a unique rose pattern printed in a customer’s brand PMS red. The client requested a wallcovering for one of its conference rooms. GDS printed the graphic on DreamScape Suede on an EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro LED printer.
Meister points out this design would be difficult to achieve using conventional wallpaper because it wasn’t a large run—and it wouldn’t be available in a wallpaper catalog as a stock item. In addition, since the client requested their exact brand PMS red, it had to be custom printed and digital was the cost-effective option.
Another job that benefited from digital printing capabilities includes wallcoverings for multiple break areas for a large corporate customer of GDS’. One break area utilizes a wallcovering that includes the location of the room. “This is important to the customer as they have dozens of identical looking break areas and they also use these for meetings. So it’s wayfinding in a large building and adds a design element,” explains Meister. GDS printed the graphic on DreamScape Suede on the EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro printer.
One trend Meister sees a lot of is wallcoverings placed in elevator lobbies. “Each floor will be printed differently in some fashion, which makes them more interesting but also aids in wayfinding as people will notice the floor by the graphics,” he says.
Let’s Get Creative
Digitally printed wallcoverings and wallpapers are popular for a number of reasons. Digital printing technology’s ability to custom print at a low cost opens up limitless opportunities for creative professionals.
Mar2019, Digital Output