Wallpaper vs. Wall Murals — Which Choice Is Right for Your Project?

AUGUST 17, 2020| SpeedPro of Denver


Wall Graphics

When you think “wallpaper” you probably see a floral or a repeating diamond-shaped pattern. While today’s wallpaper can be more visually interesting, making the transition to wall murals is the way to go. By design, the materials, printing process and installation have evolved very well using large format printing. We’ve covered some of the major differences here so you can decide which approach is best for your situation.

One considerable difference between wallpaper and wall murals is the type of material used to make each. Both can be made using a variety of materials.

Substrates wall murals are made of include:

Vinyl:  Two materials are often used to produce vinyl wall murals. Cast vinyl is a thin material that can provide bright, vibrant colors. Calendared vinyl is slightly thicker and better-suited for larger walls. Cast vinyl’s thinness allows it to turn corners or wrap around columns a bit better than calendared.
Photo paper:  A type of paper that has a light-sensitive coating on top of it. The coating allows the paper to produce photographic prints. Photo paper is ideal for interior wall murals with a photographic print or pattern.
Canvas:  A type of fabric, usually made from cotton or a cotton/polyester blend. Unlike vinyl or photo paper, which tend to be smooth, canvas provides a bit of texture.
Polyester or Mylar (a type of polyester): Both are often used to create outdoor wall murals.

Substrates wallpapers are made of include:

Grasscloth:  Made of a natural fiber such as bamboo or hemp, it’s pasted onto rice paper. It’s not water-resistant and has a reputation for being more challenging to care for compared to other materials.
Velvet-flocked paper:  This substrate has a velvety coating, giving the surface a soft, fuzzy feel.
Foil:  If you’ve ever seen shiny wallpaper, you’ve witnessed foil wallpaper in action. Foils typically need to be use along with lining paper, as the foil is thinner than other materials.

Uses and Locations

You’ve no doubt entered living rooms with wallpaper plastered onto all four walls. Now image the same room with one amazing accent wall showcasing a nature scene, an engaging pattern, one massive photo or a series of photographs. Wall murals may wrap to cover two walls or as many as wanted to continue with a visual theme throughout the space.
The choice of wallpaper is also somewhat different from the purpose of a wall mural. Wall murals can be used as advertisements, which is why you often see them outdoors. When indoors, a wall mural can tout a company, products, services or values to employees, prospects and customers.

Prepping Surfaces

For either, starting with a clean, smooth surface is necessary for the best installation and long-lasting look. After removing any existing wallpaper or other printed items plastered to the wall, you want to wipe down the walls with water to clean off any residual glue or sticky materials. And just like you’d prep walls before painting, you want to smooth out any bumps or fill in any noteworthy holes. Then, wipe down the walls again with water and allow for drying time before the new substrate is going down.

Differences in the Application Process
The amount of work involved to hang wallpaper depends on whether you choose self-adhesive–also called peel-and-stick–or non-stick paper that requires you to put a tacky material on the back of the wallpaper while it is laid out on a flat surface; making figure-eight patterns is suggested for good coverage. If you choose self-adhesive wallpaper, you cut it to the desired length, then position it on the wall, starting with a small exposed strip at the top and slowly and carefully peel the backing off while adhering the tacky side to your wall. Have a plastic squeegee handy to push out any air bubbles! Before cutting any wallpaper strips, it’s a good idea to re-check your measurements and cut your wallpaper with a few extra inches at the bottom for easier handling – from picking up from the flat surface to that last finishing swipe and then make that final clean and even cut at the bottom. While adhering the strip, have a smoothing brush handy to wipe away air bubbles.

Wall Murals
Similar to installing wallpaper, start with a clean and smooth surface. Lay the panels out in the right order on a flat clean surface. Next, remove the backing and carefully position the first one against the wall. Smooth the panel into place. Repeat with the next panel while using a squeegee to remove air bubbles from the mural while adhering it to the wall.


DIY or Professional Installation

For both, you could do the work yourself. But, hiring an experienced professional with the right tools who knows how to (successfully!) handle large sheets of sticky paper will guarantee perfect lines and no creases.

Care Requirements and Lifespan

While both can last for years, you may become tired of a wallpaper pattern and the messages or logos on a wall mural may become outdated. Wallpaper can’t be clean with any “wet” products while they can be the best thing for vinyl wall murals. To clean wallpaper, you can use a duster, soft cloth or even a vacuum attachment on the lowest setting. For both, of course, any harsh chemicals or bleach products are a no-no because they can damage the substrate.

Ready to Start Your Next Design Job?
SpeedPro Denver Can Design, Print and Install Wall Murals Indoors and Out!

We specialize in large format printing including fleet wraps, elevator wraps, banners of all heights and widths, window displays and wall murals. Great. Big. Graphics. It’s what we do. Give us a call at 303.426.4199, email or visit to talk about your large format print jobs. We provide free estimates and will come to you. To see and read about more print jobs we’ve done, check out our Studio News, read some glowing reviews and browse our impressive, extensive portfolio!

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