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Wallpaper Decoded – Different Types

Wallpaper is not a new material but being an ephemeral material historic samples are in short supply. However early examples do exist and some have been faithfully reproduced (e.g. by Little Greene). Wallpapers were not printed in the beginning, they were rather painted by hand. The heart of early wallpaper design and invention was France from the 15th Century. Early repeating paper was block printed or hand painted (still used on a small scale today). But in 1785 Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the first machine for printing coloured tints on sheets of wallpaper and in 1799 Louis-Nicolas Robert patented a machine to produce continuous lengths of paper.

Today, traditional and modern techniques and designs abound. Styles come in and out of fashion and new techniques emerge – for example digital printing. Applications have changed over years, encompassing papering above/below dado rails, horizontal use of paper borders or trims, and the recent focus on feature walls.

Here are a few of the best known types of wallpaper.

Printed Wallpaper

Printed papers give you the widest choice of colours, designs and qualities. They range from cheap mass-produced, machine-printed designs to exclusive hand-printed patterns. Printed wallpapers shouldn’t be used in areas where there is a lot of steam or condensation. Care is needed when hanging cheaper printed wallpapers, as the delicate paper can tear easily and the complex patterns can stretch and be difficult to match up.

Vinyl Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpapers consist of a printed skin of vinyl stuck onto a base layer of paper or fabric. Some vinyls are 100% vinyl. They are tough, hard-wearing and washable, although some have a thicker layer of vinyl than others so will be more durable. Vinyl papers are suitable for kitchens and bathrooms as they are resistant to condensation and steam.

Metallic/Foil wallpapers

Metallic wallpapers add an interesting touch to home decoration, often making rooms brighter and seem bigger. Due to their nature, special care needs to be used when hanging metallic papers, especially to avoid damage to the metallic print and these papers require a special adhesive.

Wood Chip Wallpaper

A 1970s hangover, when it was popular, wood-chip wallpaper is a cheap way of covering imperfect walls, but never could be called stylish! Wood-chip is made by trapping small chips of wood in the paper when it is manufactured. It comes in plain white and is designed to be painted over with emulsion.


Anaglypta wallpapers are thick, traditional embossed papers available in a huge number of patterns available.  Usually they are designed to be painted with emulsion. The typically high grade of these papers make them easy to hang, and the embossing means they are suitable for covering slight imperfections in the wall. In recently years they have declined in popularity.

Flock Wallpaper

Flock wallpaper is traditionally one of the more expensive options. A velvet-like fibre 3D pattern gives a very luxurious, old-fashioned feel. It is hard to resist stroking a flock wallpaper, so they can easily become marked. Flock is also a tricky wallpaper to hang, as it takes skill to avoid getting any paste on the flock, which will mark and ruin the texture.

Holographic Designs

Recent developments include the use of holographic effects. This can give the 3-D optical effect of a crystal coating in a smooth wipeable 2-D printed design.

Hand Printed

Hand Printed wallpapers are specialist papers that usually have untrimmed edges and are usually made to order in reproduction period and bespoke designs. Given the variability of designs and the material costs these should only be handled by a professional decorator.

Super Wide Width

Most mass produced wallpapers are made to standard sizes (usually 52cm or 68.6cm wide in Europe). Some designs, particularly digital wall art, are now available on rolls 140cm wide. These are really jobs for two people to hang and not for the inexperienced.

Digital Wall Art

Think of a giant ink jet printer printing wallpaper to order, rather than off the shelf printing. Modern technological developments means vibrant colours, complex palettes and designs and detailed resolution. This can generate one-off bespoke designs or murals.

Wallpaper you never thought you’d need!

Electromagnetic Wallpaper

This specialist paper contains a continuous metallic foil or mesh to keep radio wave out (or in) of a room. It’s intended to block mobile phone signals and to stop spies eavesdropping on occupants of a room.

Seismic Wallpaper

In 2012, Scientists at the Institute of Solid Construction and Construction Material Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology announced that they had developed a wallpaper that can help keep a masonry wall from failing in an earthquake. The wallpaper uses glass fibre reinforcement in several directions and a special adhesive which forms a strong bond with the masonry when dry.

At Fabric Gallery & Interiors we are pleased to supply a huge range of beautiful designer wallpapers.  If you are interested in wallcoverings please do come and visit us at our Dunnington showroom or contact us for a Quick Quote.