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Wall-Graphics Insights From Three Expert Providers

Image4, GP Color Imaging and Rainier Display

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This month’s Vinyl Apps column will feature Q and A’s with three more wallcovering providers: Image 4 Graphics (Manchester, NH), GP Color Imaging (North
Hollywood, CA) and Rainier Display (Tukwila, WA).

Jeff Baker, Image 4 Graphics
How much of Image 4’s business do wallcoverings represent?

They represent approximately 25% of our print-graphic billings.

How has your work evolved over time? Have new materials opened new types of applications and markets?
Both our internal design team and our clients’ teams are recognizing the image value of large-scale graphic murals and the way these contribute to interior décor. Much more material is being designed into projects. We are using it for everything from accent elements to large-scope scenescapes.
Designers are learning more about how to design for the print properties of the material – less large-wash color and more patterns, text-based art elements, and background layers in dimensional installations.
There hasn’t been much new material released in the past 12 months. We use a combination of fiber-based Monadnock wallcoverings, Invisilok magnetic media, 3M self-adhesive vinyl and some textured vinyls. Image 4 has also pioneered the production of wallcovering graphics utilizing Dow Corning’s Guerilla Glass™ through a process called GlazPrint™.

What types of printers and ink do you use? How does the type of installation or material dictate this?
We use latex- and solvent-ink printers. Broadly, latex offers superior color gamut and PMS accuracy. Yet, the latex printers available today have issues printing large amounts of solid color evenly, so when the project calls for large amounts of custom color without a pattern, we switch to solvent-based printing. Solvent printing broadly lacks the color gamut of latex. It’s also slower throughput at the relevant dpi and will not print to the fiber-based wallcovering we prefer to specify.

Do your clients typically choose the type of installation, or do you normally direct them?
Broadly, we are asked to specify the appropriate graphic approach via material and engineering specifications. Architects and interior designers generally welcome our technical expertise and practical experience. By specifying, we become responsible for the success of the project and can guide the designer and end-user/project owner through the process that best supports a successful project outcome.

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Do any of your installations require post-heating? If so, what type of heatsource do you use, and at what temperature?
We do little or no post-installation heating. It’s slow, potentially dangerous, and broadly does not improve the adhesion of the material in a properly-installed project.

Victor Sevilla, GP Color Imaging
How has your work evolved over time? Have new materials opened new types of applications and markets?

Wall installations have always been a key aspect of our business model – they represent at least 50% of our workflow – and users have benefitted from diverse materials. For each application, it usually comes down to whether the site is interior or exterior, the graphic’s lifespan, the wall surface and the client’s intent for the space. Interior, floor-to-ceiling wallcoverings allow murals to be installed without seams or size constraints, with many texture choices. We also use self-adhesive, flexible and rigid vinyl, aluminum-composite media, Sintra® and Gatorboard® for wall-décor projects.

How do you prep wall surfaces to receive prints?
One wallcovering benefit is their thickness and ability to be installed perfectly onto less than perfect walls. A Level 3 drywall finish is required, but a Level 4 finish is recommended (Editor’s note: Drywall levels are graded on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest quality). We recommend priming the wall at a minimum. Our installers often will add a quick-dry primer as the first installation step. Self-adhesive vinyl requires a high-quality finish because the material is quite thin.

What types of printers and ink do you use? How does the type of installation or material dictate this?
GP Color has a number of large-format printing devices using UV-cure, full-solvent and eco-solvent inks, up to 16 ft. wide. The type of installation always dictates the material and ink type. If installations will require 90° corners, we always use the cotton back wall covering base so the installer can successfully wrap the corners.
Our inks are created by a lab to our specifications for standard and fluorescent printing. GP Color created and patented the Starlight UV-printing system. It produces a vivid, photorealistic, UV-reactive graphic. They can be frontlit or backlit and provide luminosity control.

What hardware and tools do you use to install? Do any of your installations require post-heating? If so, what type of heat source do you use, and at what temperature?
This depends on the type of installation. Our drywall installers use a paste machine, straightedge, laser or level, and a sharp blade and squeegee. Adhesive vinyl requires many of the same tools as other wall-graphic media. Depending on the wall, heat will be used to help the installer stretch or conform in certain areas or to make removal easier. The range of heat typically is 175°-190°F. Some requests for stucco and highly textured walls require a heating device to properly install.

Casey Brookbrush, Rainier Display
How long has Rainier been in business? How much of its business do wallcoverings represent?
Rainier has been in business since 1896. We have been involved in large-format printing since the late 1980’s. Our business includes a mix of exterior and interior applications. Wallcoverings are generally all interior applications, while printed vinyl is used for exterior work (windows, murals, etc.).

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For what types of clients and environments does Rainier fabricate wallcoverings?
Rainier Display’s clientele varies greatly: retail, commercial, architectural, exhibits, events, collegiate and professional sports venues, museums and more.

How has the work evolved over time? Have new materials opened new types of applications and markets?
Printing technology is always evolving. Recent trends are incorporating large-format printing with dimensional components built into the displays. Another recent development with large-format printing is the ability to control sheen levels within specified areas of a print. Last but not least, improvements with low-VOC-ink printing and recycled-content or recyclable materials have helped our industry become more environmentally friendly.

How do you prep the wall surface to receive printed graphics?
Typically, we require a Level 5 drywall finish, with a smooth surface that’s been primed with an acrylic primer/sealer. Bisco’s Z-Prime II water-based latex is our preferred primer; we have had great success with it over the years. One gallon covers approximately 400 sq. ft.

What types of printers and ink do you use? How does the type of installation or material dictate this?
Rainier uses Durst Rho UV printers with white ink, spot colors and varnish capabilities. The advantage of using both UV-flatbed and roll-to-roll printers is that you have an enormous number of substrates onto which you can print. We have a solution for virtually every customer request.
 

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