By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 2
When completed correctly, the right graphics should generate a response in the intended viewer. Digitally printed wallcoverings help to achieve this in any environment due to their sheer size. Many times the graphical element of a wallcovering is a key component in immersing the patron, viewer, etc. in an experience.
Textured wallcoverings can take the experience even further by invoking both tactile and sensorial emotion. There are many textures available including suede, stucco, leather, sand, canvas, and woodgrain. Each adds a heightened level to the viewer’s experience. Thanks to digital print technology, achieving this feat is simpler than bringing in actual suede or sandblasting a wall.
Much of the transition of digital print into interior and exterior design for residential as well commercial and retail settings is based on rising interest in personalization. While digital printing allows for runs of one on an economical level, digitally printed wallcoverings with textured finishes advance ideas of customization, cost effectiveness, and practicality.
According to Jay Kroll, product manager cut and craft films and wall and transit films, General Formulations, digitally printable wallcoverings in general open up the mural market to any sign shop. “The availability and ease of installation is propelling a shift from traditional to peel-and-stick materials. This combination of form and function, mixed with a bespoke marketplace driven toward the unique and branded, increases demand for more textured wallcovering options.”
Textures evoke certain emotions that influence the patrons placed in that environment, for example high-end residential, corporate offices, and hospitality. “When thinking about decor for these spaces, you must be mindful of the entire conceptual design. The wall space is shared with other details such as lighting and artwork, so it needs to look nice but in an understated way. Wallcoverings allow you to upgrade wall features long term using luxurious textures that set the tone for other design elements,” says Milene Ribas, global business development manager, wide format, Neenah.
Creating an atmosphere or “feeling” in addition to offering an added dimension helps differentiate wallcovering applications, adds Peter Bourgeois, territory manager, Drytac.
This is increasingly important today, especially for textured wallcoverings in retail settings. “With the growing threat of consumers buying online instead of shopping retail brick-and-mortar establishments, designers are trying to upgrade the in-store buying experience by including customization, frequent design updates, and unique textures with eye-catching graphics to their in-store designs. Designers have discovered how integrating textures can add an extra dimension enhancing their design plans,” shares Mark Shaneyfelt, director of sales and marketing, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.
Beyond aesthetic, the increased desire to use textured wallcoverings is also a practical one. ”Specialty self-adhesive vinyls with textures or finishes are becoming more popular due to their unique look, reliable print performance, and easy application. You can achieve the look of stone, stucco, and more coming in at a fraction of the cost of installing a new wall or completing a renovation project,” notes Cassandra Yu, product manager – architecture and retail, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Not only are the simulated materials less expensive, easier to install, and easier to maintain than their real counterparts, they address the raw material shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, explains Shauna Malgieri, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation. “Rising house renovations are creating a heightened demand for wallcoverings and these newer interiors prefer textured wallcovering to add a sense of luxury in place of paint.”
In addition, Kylie Schleicher, director of product development and product management, Ultraflex Systems, Inc., points out that different textures can assist with glare from light or hiding any defects on the wall.
“Textured wallcoverings can be used to cover minor imperfections on a wall where a smooth vinyl might show every bump or dent, which can distract from the overall graphic. While everyone’s preference would be to only install on pristine surfaces, that’s just not realistic and it’s nice to know that a simple texture can help alleviate the pressure for perfection,” notes Kroll.
Another bonus, certain textured products can influence the acoustics of a room and absorb sounds, adds Maximilian Klohr, DESCOR professional, PONGS Group.
Where They Are
Broadly speaking, textured wallcoverings can be used anywhere. A number of options are available when it comes to texture including suede, stucco, leather, sand, canvas, and woodgrain.
Rich Speeney, president, PrestoTex, a division of Presto Tape, has seen these products installed in various environments from restaurants, retail stores, apartment lobbies, and offices to movie theaters and homes.
“New technology has made it possible to use textured wallpaper even in rooms with high humidity such as bathrooms and kitchens,” shares Malgieri.
Rental spaces in particular benefit from digitally printed wallcoverings—even textured ones. “You see them used often in restaurants, stores, and offices. Many times, these spaces are rented, so completing a large-scale renovation or redesign is not possible. However, with textured films, businesses can achieve the look they want. For example, an Italian restaurant may want to achieve the look of stucco on its walls,” shares Yu.
“Matching textures to print themes is a great way to add depth to your print,” continues Kroll. Some examples he provides would be to use a sand texture for a desert-scape mural, leather for a football-themed man cave, or canvas for an artistic pattern of a company logo in the foyer or hallway.
Sand and canvas finishes evoke a luxurious or high-end feel, suggests Bourgeois, whereas woodgrain creates a warm and homey feeling. “By pairing the texture with the proper graphics printers can create an environment that has more of an emotional attachment for the viewer.”
“Because wallcoverings work in tandem with other design components, you can create ambiance and a welcoming atmosphere without compromising other areas within your space,” adds Ribas.
Past the Niche
With growing demand for digitally printed wallcoverings from all types of industry verticals and media manufacturers stepping up to offer more product, it’s hard to view textured wallcoverings as a niche product.
For one thing, advancements in adhesive technology have made pressure-sensitive wallcovering products very affordable in addition to versatile, says Malgieri.
“Walls have been covered in textured materials for ages—whether canvas fabric, stucco, or venetian plaster, or even leather and paper. This category is simply expanding in accessibility, and in many cases with versatility through innovative adhesive systems,”comments Kroll.
Combining advancements in adhesive technology with other technological improvements also moves textured wallcoverings out of the niche category. “An increase in the number of textured wallcovering products combined with improvements in ink receptive coating technologies, as well as wide format printing equipment and inks has resulted in dramatic improvement in the print quality when printing on textured surfaces. Printers no longer sacrifice image quality or print resolution when digitally printing textured wallcovering products,” explains Shaneyfelt.
Schleicher believes that due to the widespread applications of the materials, textured wallcoverings should not be considered niche.
Textured wallcoverings “can be used in any setting and appeal to anyone from an interior designer to teachers creating sensory room decals, businesses looking for custom branding options, and everyone in between. It’s not just one type of consumer or one industry that’s interested in textured wall material,” agrees Speeney.
Textured wallcoverings encompass both film and fabric as base options. Depending on the product, it could cost a bit more than a traditional non-textured wallcovering. If the cost is higher, it is encouraged that the print provider move it upstream and charge the customer more.
Film products are usually embossed. This is how they mimic the desired texture and achieve an accurate reproduction. The added steps in the manufacturing process involved with embossing can lead to additional cost. But, “because printers are able to create a more luxurious and specific product to their end user they can and should pass on the associated costs and build in additional margin,” recommends Bourgeois.
Beyond embossing to yield texture, other reasons a textured wallcovering would cost more than traditional vinyl are because they often include additives for increased durability or fire resistance. These additional manufacturing processes may lead to a higher price point, but Kroll says that difference is in the tens of dollars per roll, not thousands.
“This should definitely be passed on to the customer, and the value of these textured materials conveyed to the end user,” he notes.
When it comes to textured fabric wallcoverings, Shaneyfelt says the cost of these materials per unit are generally higher than lightweight vinyl. However, the “perceived value add should allow printers to demand a pricing premium.”
The beauty of digital print technology is the increasing ability to print directly to a wide variety of materials, and textured wallcoverings are no exception. That being said, some nuances shouldn’t be overlooked in regards to design as well as installation.
“Advancements in ink receptive coatings as well as wide format printing equipment and inks has minimized or eliminated most challenges when printing textured wallcovering material. Consistent with improved runnability, most printers can achieve outstanding print quality consistent with smoother wallcovering materials,” admits Shaneyfelt.
Depth of texture is an important consideration during the design stage. “You must be mindful of the depth of a texture that may impact the visual result. When choosing a suitable wallcovering for your space, it’s best to discuss the image before making your texture selection,” suggests Ribas.
From design to print, if there are any issues printing to the textured material, Bourgeois advises increasing the height of the printhead.
When installing a wallcovering with overlapping seams, Yu warns that textured films do have a harder time adhering.
To maintain repositionability and removability over time, “textured materials with low-tack or microsphere adhesive may require a two- to three-inch overlap when paneling a mural, but otherwise do not pose any inherent issues with installation,” explains Kroll.
Shaneyfelt says that some installers have admitted that smoothing out air bubbles during the install of a textured wallcovering can be challenging, which prevents them from using standard squeegees. However, textured products also tend to be more rigid, which can make them easier to install.
A Taste of Texture
Textured wallcoverings open up design possibilities for all types of environments. Not only can any graphic visually appear on a wall, now that graphic can tap into the tactile and sensorial emotions of the viewer. Enhancements to the surface of the media ranging from something as classic as canvas or suede all the way to mimicking feathers or fur are now possible.
The next part in this series on textured wallcovering media takes a look at various products available in the digital print space.
Oct2021, Digital Output