By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
Wall graphics and wallcoverings represent a large opportunity for wide format digital print providers. With all types of walls surrounding our daily lives, each represents a canvas ideal for promotion, customization, and decoration. From interior and exterior to smooth or textured surfaces, selecting the best media for the job is essential.
Pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed media is popular for both interior and exterior wallcoverings. These films are offered as cast or calendered, featuring permanent or removable adhesive. Pasted solutions are also available, and include pre-pasted options.
“Digitally printable wallcoverings make it affordable and easy to add depth and impact to any graphic installation,” says Tina Forbes, graphic design and color management, Coveris Advanced Coatings. “Whether it is retail, restaurants, hospitality, home, museum, or transit venues, these one-off custom murals are easy to install, low cost to change, and easily cover large spaces. This gives wallcoverings a huge advantage over the more expensive and traditional backdrops or hand painted wall graphics,” she adds.
Whether using a pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed solution or a commercial grade offering that installs with paste, proper installation is critical to ensure a high-quality appearance and reduced chance of media failure. Additional variances include material options that range from polypropylene to fabric and canvas and are used to provide different effects to wallcovering installations.
Tips and Tricks
When it comes to choosing the best media for a job, consider the environment and media warranty as well as who will be performing the installation. “Installers should be aware that there is no one-size-fits-all wallcovering, every wall, print, and environment is different, so what works on one wall won’t necessarily work well on another,” says Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation.
Pressure Sensitive, Adhesive Backed
Pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed media is common for wallcovering applications. This includes vinyl, film, and fabric offerings.
Kelly Kwo, technical service manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC, suggests practicing Edward Deming’s Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA), one of the lean manufacturing tools for continuous improvement, which Kwo says translates well to installation projects.
First, plan. “Understand the client’s expectation of the wall graphics and establish objectives and outline necessary steps for getting the desired, positive outcome,” explains Kwo. This includes the expected life of the graphics, type of paint on the wall, age of the paint, and whether or not the paint is suitable for pressure-sensitive adhesive.”
Second, do. “Select vinyl candidates and conduct vinyl to wall compatibility testing based on the requirements. This takes time and planning, but is a critical step to a success story,” says Kwo.
Third, check. “Study the result. Which of the recommended candidates met the requirements or did not work? Does it require a second round of refined testing if the paint is removed during testing?” asks Kwo.
Finally, act. “Move forward with the material that performed best on the project. In some cases, a second round of testing might be needed for optimum performance,” concludes Kwo.
Arlon offers pressure-sensitive adhesive wall film for interior and exterior wallcoverings.
Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions also provides vinyl films suitable for wallcovering graphics. David Timmerman, technical services representative, Avery Dennsion, notes the importance of choosing cast or calendered. “Cast films are thin and should be considered if the wall is textured, the cast film will conform to the peaks and valleys of the textured surface, ensuing the wall film adheres properly. Calendered films are typically thicker, but easier to apply—especially on smooth wall surfaces—and may not require a professional installer,” he explains.
Avery Dennison’s Digital Series features the Supercast, High Performance Calendered, Intermediate Calendered, and Promo Calendered series, which feature many products ideal for wall graphics. “You can narrow down your search between removable and permanent adhesives as well as matte or gloss finishes,” notes Timmerman. “All of these options are digitally printable films that are durable, easy to install and remove, and offer excellent ink receptivity.”
Catalina Graphic Films Inc.’s newest product used for wallcoverings is Wall-Tex, a 7-mil matte polyester fabric with low-tac removable adhesive. The media is compatible with eco-solvent, latex, solvent, and UV-curable printing. It is suggested for high-quality indoor marking on surfaces such as painted walls, wallpapers, and wood paneling.
DreamScape promotes its WallWraps series of products in the adhesive-backed space. The media is a 13-mil vinyl available in a number of different textured surfaces. It offers superior durability and does not stretch during installation. Textured surface hides wall imperfections and reduces surface glare from bright lights.
Drytac Corporation offers several pressure-sensitive adhesive vinyl specifically designed for wall graphic applications. ReTac Wall is a matte white PVC film with ReTac ultra removable and repositionable adhesive. It is available in 3.5- and 6-mil. The company also offers WallTac, a matte clear film with removable adhesive.
Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac, says that its ReTac Wall pressure-sensitive adhesive vinyl is easy to apply. “Installers should start on one edge and slowly apply the decal with a felt pad, using a sweeping motion as the release liner is pulled off. Remember that the most important consideration is preparation for application—making sure the wall surface has been properly cleaned and line up the graphic ahead of time to ensure it is applied straight. If a bubble appears, pull back the film and push out the air before reapplying,” he offers.
Jaimie Mask, product manager, LexJet Corporation, says that regardless of the material used for a wall mural, the wall needs to be properly prepared for installation. “Patch and smooth any imperfections in the wall, prime the wall, use a semi-gloss silicone-free paint, give the paint time to dry and cure—at least 30 days—and clean the wall prior to installing the mural.”
LexJet offers pressure-sensitive vinyl, adhesive-based fabric, wallpaper in various finishes, canvas, and polypropylene for wallcovering applications.
Surface preparation and the application environment are also crucial to the success for any wall graphics application.
Dean Strohmenger, product support supervisor, ORAFOL Americas, says gloss and semi-gloss finish paints are recommended for applying vinyl as they provide a smoother surface that allows for better adhesive contact than a print with a matte surface would provide.
Surfaces must be free of dust or any other contamination and painted surfaces must be fully outgassed prior to application to ensure the evaporating solvents from the paint do not prohibit the adhesive from bonding to the surface. “A safe recommendation would be to wait three to four weeks after painting before applying vinyl to the surface,” he suggests.
Strohmenger says that a more accurate determination of the paint’s readiness would be to apply 4×4-inch squares of the vinyl to be used randomly around the surface. Observe these squares carefully on a daily basis and replace them with fresh ones whenever they show signs of bubbling or curling. Once all of the squares are free of any signs of the paint outgassing beneath it, the surface is indicating that it is safe to proceed with the vinyl application.
He adds that the application environment ideally will be 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity. In the Winter, when heaters are running continuously, the air in the application environment can become very dry. Low humidity, especially in the first 24 to 48 hours following a vinyl application, can be prohibitive to the adhesive developing a complete bond with the surface.
ORAFOL Americas manufactures a variety of PVC pressure-sensitive media and offers multiple options for wall graphics. For use on interior latex, low volatile organic compound (VOC), or zero VOC paints, the company recommends its ORAJET 3169RA Intermediate Removable Calendered Digital Media with RapidAir Technology, which features a gray removable solvent-based adhesive, that provides high quality and the adhesive strength necessary to overcome the direct and stain repelling properties of low VOC and zero VOC paints. ORAJET 3169RA also has the added benefit an air egress adhesive. The air channels in the adhesive provide the added ease of application by easily eliminating bubbles and wrinkles during installation.
For wall murals and graphic applications on traditional full VOC paints, ORAJET 3628 Wall Art Digital Low-Tack Wall and Window Graphics Digital Media offers a clear, water-based, low-tack removable adhesive combined with a matte finish to eliminate glare from interior lighting.
Photo Tex Group, Inc. offers a self-adhesive polyester fabric, which does not require any paste or tools for installation. Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex, states that its material is repositionable at any time. Installation can involve either butting the seams or using its new Opaque version to overlap. The material is designed to not shrink, curl, rip, or wrinkle in any temperature change.
Presto Tape’s three main wallcovering portfolios include repositionable peel-and-stick products. CanvasTac, PrestoTex, and PaperTac feature an adhesive back on canvas fabric, polyester fabric, and paper, respectively. They do not rip, wrinkle, curl, or peel indoors or outdoors. Media is PVC-, lead-, and phthalate-free.
E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Qué Media, Inc., suggests that any pressure-sensitive wall graphic be applied to a clean surface. “We recommend a ten percent alcohol solution to wipe the wall clean before installation. Installers should put the cleaning solution on a small test area to ensure that it will not ruin the wall’s surface,” he states.
Qué Media offers pressure-sensitive fabrics used in wall graphic applications.
Roland’s Hunter notes the importance of allowing freshly painted surfaces enough time to outgas before installing any wallcoverings. “Failure to do so will interfere with the adhesion properties of the media. This can cause the wallcovering to either fall off the wall or become permanently adhered to it,” she says.
Roland provides several types of media that are ideal for wallcovering applications.
Among Ultraflex Systems, Inc.’s wallcovering media is FabriTac, which features a removable adhesive fabric that can be mounted to virtually any surface and repositioned several times while retaining its adhesion.
Kylie Schleicher, marketing coordinator, Ultraflex, says it is important to ensure that all previous cleaning products are no longer on the wall surface, as it could affect the adhesive on the material. If FabriTac is applied to a painted wall, it is recommended that the wall be primed to help ensure paint will not peel off the wall. “Installers should also be careful not to stretch the material when installing, as the material will look to contract causing bubbles or curled edges to appear,” she says.
In addition to adhesive-backed, pressure-sensitive options, wallcovering media for digital output is also available with the option to adhere to the wall with paste.
Coveris’ Forbes says the company offers a pre-pasted wallcovering, which adds efficiency to installation by eliminating the step of applying paste, and subsequent clean up of paste residue.
“Textured wallcoverings are preferred for imperfect surfaces as they mask imperfections better than a smooth substrate,” she adds.
Coveris offers wallcovering media including latex saturated Wet-strength paper—GFIOP212; latex-based nylon reinforced, DMIBOP10/MuralPro; fiber-based ten percent PCW, pre-pasted—SLEEK; and paper-backed vinyl—PEBBLE and WEAVE.
DreamScape, known for its Type II commercial-grade printable wallcoverings, offers Terralon—a PVC-free printable wallcovering for solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable inks. It consists of a polyester/natural fiber technology that contains over 31 percent recycled materials. It is installed using standard wallcovering pastes, primers, and techniques.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) PVC-free Wall Paper is pre-pasted, requiring only water to activate the glue. Maria-Jesus Perez, marketing future product manager, HP Coatings for large format printing, HP, says it is easy to install. “This wall paper is strippable, just reapply water to it and remove it very easily. It also comes with a Brand Management Group warranty for easy removal.”
HP PVC-free Wall Paper is a flame resistant, PVC-free wall paper that carries the CE Mark as well as FSC4 and GREENGUARD GOLD certifications.
In addition to HP PVC-free Wall Paper, the company offers numerous other pre-pasted, un-pasted, and pressure-sensitive wallcoverings in paper, canvas, cast vinyl, woven PE, fabric, magnetic materials, polyesters, natural fibers, recycled materials, and metallic enriched materials. Perez explains that these are part of over 500 media products available on the HP Media Locator from HP partner companies.
For wallcoverings installed using a paste for adhesion, such as LexJet WallPro SUV by York, offered by LexJet, Mask says lay down the first panel and apply an even, thin coat of wallpaper paste to the back of the panel using a foam roller or pasting brush. Brush out from the center. Apply a thin coat to the wall section. Once the panel is applied, check alignment marks and double check with a level. Working from the top down, use a damp sponge or smoothing brush to lightly smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles. She warns not to apply too much pressure to the surface at this point. Then, wipe the panel with a clean, damp sponge.
For a renewable fiber-based alternative to PVC, Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. offers its Envi Wallgraphics, which is FSC-certified, pre-pasted media suitable for wallcoverings, murals, and point of purchase signage in corporate lobbies, restaurants and hotels, hospitals, and residential projects. Al Bobst, digital market segment manager, Monadnock, points out that the solution installs easily and removes cleanly in one piece. “It does not present any challenges for wallcovering installers. We even provide a detailed instructional installation video via our Web site to ensure proper and trouble-free installation,” says Bobst.
Perception Wide Format Media offers repositionable/removable wall graphic fabrics—some styles which are made entirely of recycled water bottles. When applying, Jim Tufts, business unit manager, Perception, stresses the importance of a clean surface and pre-testing prior to installation. Additionally, he says it is important to not apply excess tension on the graphic.
Tufts says that Perception’s media features a pre-applied, water-based adhesive that allows for clean installation and removal.
Ultraflex offers its WallScapes line, which is dry strippable, easily removable, and solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex printable. WallScapes is a commercial grade solution, with installation similar to typical wallpaper. “The installer has the option to either butt up the wall seams or overlap the graphics,” says Ultraflex’s Schleicher.
Wall graphics offer a range of possible applications. From personalizing home décor to beatifying a construction zone, each environment has specific needs that must be considered before choosing a media type. Adhesive-backed pressure-sensitive solutions are ideal for those unfamiliar with wallcovering installation—ease of repositionability is essential to providing a high-quality finished product. Commercial grade media offerings are more similar to traditional wallpaper, adhering to the wall using paste. Installation should be considered up front, and may help determine whether an adhesive-backed offering or commercial grade solution is best for the job.
Nov2014, Digital Output DOWL1411