Wallpaper Printing Techniques and Substrates

Some of the traditional methos for Wallpaper Printing Techniques and Substrates

Traditional Block printing

Block printing is a traditional practice which is completed by hand; using carves wooden blocks each with a different layer of the finished design. Layering each individual block each in a different colour to create the final design. The process requires skill and patience, many artisans who can create these beautiful truly handcrafted papers and no longer around. 

Cole and Son hold the largest archive of hand carved wooden blocks including some designs that date back to the early 1700’s. View a selection of the Cole and Son block prints

Screen Printing

Screen printing studios have been around since the late 1940’, the process involves a stencil and a screen. The screen is used to evenly spread the painted design onto the paper through the mesh of the screen; this can be repeated to add more colours or layers of a design. 

Surface Printing

This method is one of the earliest forms of mechanical printing which allowed paper ti be printed in continuous lengths. Colour is applied to an engraved printing roller by means of a sieve which allows for a thick layer of colour to be printed, creating the typical surface relief effect. This printing method allows designs to be printed in lots of different colours, on heavier, less smooth paper and in doing so creates a handmade appearance. 

Digital Printing

Digital printing is the latest printing revolution and it can be used to produce large scale designs, designs with more that 8 colours and designs that are not restricted by the roll width in terms of their pattern repeat. This flexibility along with the latest production methods gives wallpaper designers the opportunity to create large scale designs that are bigger and better than ever before. 


Flock is the process that creates wallpaper that looks and feel like cut velvet. It involves tiny fibre particles being negatively charged and then magnetically drawn to the area of the paper where the design will have been coated in a form of glue. The flock will then stick to the area where the glue is due to the magnetic charge. 


Flexograph (Flexo) printing is a 20th Century development from surface printing and utilises the same basic principle of engraved rollers. The development is in the speed of the rollers and the application of the ink. It all runs and dries faster. The result is a finer toned finish that is cheaper to product due to the efficiencies. 

Gravure / Rotary Screen Hybrid

Another development in technology allows for designs that would not be possible with older techniques. In effect it is simular to Flexo but gives more production control allowing designs to have subtle backgrounds, textures and opaque overprints. 

Rotogravure (Gravure) Print

In Surface and Flexo printing ink is deposited on the raised area of the roller and transferred on to the paper to create the pattern. In Gravure printing the roller is chrome plated copper and the design is etched onto the surface creating tiny cells or pits. The ink is carried on these cells and is transferred on the paper under considerable pressure to form the renditions of a watercolours style design. This printing method can only be used with smooth paper. 

Most of Designers Guild’s Gravure wall coverings can be printed on embossed heavyweight vinyl for commercial projects. 


The use of different substrates upon which design houses print on is normal. Quality and density of papers are selected according to the style of the design and the print method. Typically rotogravure prints require a smoother, coated surface for high printing resolution, whereas Flexograph and surface printing work better with a rougher, more porous paper texture.  

Non – Woven Paper

The use of Non-woven substrates has increased over the last decade. This substrate is made up in a simular way to paper, but has the addition of polyester webbing on the beck. These polyester fibres give the paper structure, making it stronger, and more stable. It also has the huge advantage of being a ‘paste the wall’ application, making it much easier to install. 


Vinyl wallcoverigng are usually made up of a layer of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is then bound to a paper with a non woven backing. It is available in a wide variety of weights. (From 200g/m2 – 600g/m2 from domestic to commercial) It is embossed to give a surface texture, without the texture the vinyl would be very shiny. Vinyls are more resistant to knocks and abrasions which make are ideal for commercial application. 

Lacquered Metal / Vinyl

A new and innovative substrate, comprising of a non- woven base layer, vinyl coating and a printed foil layer to create a high gloss metallised look that is quite unique.