At LexJet, we keep an eye on emerging trends, and we’ve certainly noticed the buzz that’s been building for digital wallcoverings over the past few years. The ability to pair personalized images or graphics with modern wallcoverings that can be printed, easily installed, repositioned, and removed, is revolutionizing both the décor and wide-format printing industries.
Technology companies are often known for their whimsical office spaces, relaxed atmospheres and shake-your-fist-at-convention attitudes. Think: hammocks and giant slides at Google or picnic tables and video games at Zappos.
Rackspace, a global web-hosting and cloud managing firm headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is not one to be outdone. The company purchased the deteriorating Winsdor Park Mall in 2007 and has steadily revamped its corporate offices into spaces with themes like breakfast cereals, toys and movies. The former mall is now known as “The Castle.”
Rackspace’s workplace experience team tapped the creative brand imaging and signs experts at Cold Fire to bring their playful vision for The Castle to life.
“We’ve done about 100 rooms so far,” says Chris Jackson, Cold Fire’s founder and president. “They’re trying to create an environment where you don’t feel like you’re in a corporate work environment … to spur creativity and employee engagement.”
The workplace experience team typically comes up with the ideas for each of the sections, Jackson says, and his team then finds the best media to print the wall murals on. He often chooses dreamScape wallcoverings, thanks to the wide variety of finishes that are compatible with his HP Latex 360 printer. The latex capabilities, he says, allows him to print durable, scratch resistant wall murals that do not need to be laminated.
Two of the more recent rooms that Cold Fire has completed are The Dollhouse and The Lodge. The Dollhouse is actually a conference room with wooden furniture centered in a room with murals that look like the rooms of a child’s dollhouse, giving it a nostalgic feel.
The exterior of the room is framed by a white fence and a wooden deck that holds a handful of rocking chairs. “The idea is to increase employee morale,” Jackson says. “So you’re not going to the same old mundane work environment every day.”
The Lodge is a smaller meeting room, complete with brick fireplace, tree stump side tables and the mounted head of a wildebeest. The room’s overstuffed, dark brown leather furniture gives it the ambiance of a true lodge — a dramatic departure from some of the other more whimsical rooms.
“They give me the room dimensions and create the graphics from scratch,” Jackson says. “What I do is suggest the media. In The Lodge, the log cabin-like walls were printed on the dreamScape wallcovering with the wood grain texture on it, which is applied with wallpaper paste.”
Jackson says the rooms in the renovated mall are nearly all completely reimagined by the Rackspace team. But this creative duo’s work isn’t done yet. Cold Fire is currently working on Rackspace’s New York City sales office, with urban wall murals of graffiti and maps.
Eric Erickson, prepress systems administrator for Clear Lake Press, Waseca, Minn., loves LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric, and is sticking it everywhere to give customers and prospects a bigger-than-life visual of what they can do with the printable adhesive-back fabric.
The nostalgic photo above was applied at the offices of Clear Lake Press to illustrate the eye-catching displays that can be easily and economically created in similar settings. Erickson has also created visuals in various forms and formats for other environments, like cubicle and bedroom walls.
“We’re trying to provide some creative ways of using it, more than just rectangles on walls. You make up something, show it off, and it helps spark ideas for use in their home or business,” says Erickson.
Erickson adds that the unique adhesive, which makes it easy to re-position, remove and re-use is also a big selling point to customers.
“Now that we have offered Print-N-Stick and are showing it off, a lot of people have been asking about it. For instance, we printed some artwork for the Waseca United Way from the front of their brochure. We made a large graphic out of it with Print-N-Stick for use at local businesses to put on their walls and promote the United Way. When they’re done with the promotion, they can peel it off and put it back on the backing paper and hold onto it for future use,” says Erickson.
For the classic kids’ lemonade stand photo from 1967, Erickson asked the Waseca County Historical Society, a long-time customer, if he could use the photo for their wall. The Historical Society was happy to oblige (with the requisite “be careful with the photo” instructions) and Erickson scanned the original 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ black-and-white photo.
The photo was scanned with a desktop Epson scanner and brought into Photoshop for touch-up to get the right tone, and blown up to its final wall mural size of 12′ x 8′. The image was printed in two panels on the company’s Canon iPF8300 and applied horizontally with the help of employees Tonya Wittman and Cory Stencel.
“There’s a little bit of an overlap that you can see. This was our first time applying more than one panel and we learned from the experience. Next time, we’ll include an overlap and slice it right down the middle and take off the excess for a clean, exact cut,” says Erickson. “We love the material and the way the bright white point on the fabric reproduces artwork, whether it’s black-and-white or full color. The coordinator at the Historical Society was thrilled with the mural.
The Orlando Science Center aims to immerse visitors in its exhibits. An important element of that immersion is the transformation of the Center’s exhibit spaces with the use of wide format inkjet printing.
The most recent example is an exhibit opening this week at the Orlando Science Center that gives visitors an opportunity to sample what it would be like on a Mars space base. Appropriately, the exhibit is called Space Base.
The Space Base’s centerpiece is a Virtusphere, a self-propelled 4D virtual reality experience. Visitors don a head-mounted display and can walk around in the 10-foot rotating sphere, virtually sampling the Space Base environment.
Before the visitors enter the Virtusphere, the scene is set with inkjet-printed wall murals that replicate what one would see through the windows of the Space Base: the Martian landscape. The murals are printed on two walls, one which is 20 feet long and the other 25 feet long.
“For the Virtusphere we used data from Mars to recreate an accurate activity on the surface of Mars that visitors can go through and explore. For the theming I took one of the big surface murals from the Spirit rover and made a big bay window overlooking Mars. It’s all life-size so you feel like you’re there,” says Eric Vickers, Creative Manager for the Orlando Science Center.
The Orlando Science Center typically uses either LexJet PolyGloss PSA or LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric to prints its exhibit murals. As noted in the story behind the Curious George: Let’s Get Curious and Engineer It! exhibits, which used Print-N-Stick Fabric, Vickers chose LexJet PolyGloss PSA for the Space Base exhibit because of its gloss finish.
“I wanted it to have a clean, space-station feel. The sheen of the material makes the various parts of the space base look like a metal or plastic material, and not just matte white. The window looks like a window because it has that gloss and sheen to it,” says Vickers. “The PolyGloss also holds up real well to people touching it.”
The murals were printed on a Canon iPF9100 60” inkjet printer. Vickers used Canon’s Photoshop Plug-In to set up and print the 59”-wide vertical panels through Photoshop.
“The Canon plug-ins and driver are so great out of the box, and are very similar to Illustrator’s print controls. We use Illustrator as our main overall layout tool, then make individual art boards for each panel as needed before bringing it into Photoshop,” says Vickers. “We included an inch of overlap for each panel so we had some room for error. When we apply the panels, if we do it vertically from the top, stick the first 6-12” and get it evenly flush where we want it, we can then let it hang and it will flow well down the rest of the panel as we apply it.”
If you’re in Orlando, be sure to see this exhibit and immerse yourself in Mars. The new exhibit runs daily. Check www.osc.org/spacebase for current times.
Creative Interior Imagery, based in West Pittson, Pa., merged interior décor and design with digital printing for a medical center that wanted something less conventional and more inviting for its patients.
Eric Marsico, a partner at Creative Interior Imagery with Keith Tomkins, recommended hundreds of feet of wall and window murals to carry the common “tree” theme recommended by the medical center’s architect throughout much of the facility.
“They were hesitant at first because they had used wall murals on other projects that didn’t hold up. We pitched LexJet Velvet WallPro SUV with ClearShield Wall Armor and found that the stuff is tough when partnered together. We beat it up in the shop to test it beforehand and it held up really well,” says Tomkins.
For the windowed nurses’ station Tomkins chose LexJet Simple Perforated Window Vinyl (70/30). The trick was to ensure a perfect match from walls to windows. Not only that, but Tomkins took great pains to match the interior paint as well.
“They painted their building with a specific paint color, so we went to the paint manufacturer’s website, pulled those paint numbers, and plugged them in to make sure we matched their paint. We got the RGB formulations, converted them to CMYK and incorporated those colors into the graphic. They were impressed with how closely our prints matched their paint colors. You can’t tell where the wallpaper ends and the paint starts,” says Tomkins.
Tomkins adds that to ensure a seamless transition along the walls through the windows and back onto the walls from panel to panel he took pictures of the empty spaces and manually lined everything up instead of using the tiling function in the RIP software.
In addition to the vector tree art that adorns the walls and windows, Creative Interior Imagery installed a gigantic photo of a tree Tomkins found and captured in a local park. Tomkins photographed the tree with his GigaPan camera so that fine details would be apparent in the final print, also on LexJet Velvet WallPro and protected with Wall Armor.
“They wanted the tree to go up the wall and across the ceiling so you felt like you were sitting underneath it. I took the shot going up the trunk and through the canopy. By the time it was done it was a 1.2-gigapixel image. It’s 11 feet off the ground, goes up 19 feet and across the ceiling 14 or 15 feet and is about 10-12 feet wide. The resolution is amazing. If you get right up to it you can see the texture in the bark; it’s just like you’re standing in front of the tree,” says Tomkins.
Tomkins adds that this is the company’s largest project to date and that the combination of the right materials and a precise color management system made it a successful project sure to bring similar projects through the doors in the future.
“We spend a lot of time working with profiling software. We have an i1 and custom-profile all of our media. There are manufacturing tolerances in everything – printer, ink and media – and when we do it in-house we can get it spot on, like we did with the paint colors, which shows how the profiling helps. That’s one of the things that sets us apart, and when you get into a major project like using different materials and matching décor and paint color management is a big issue,” explains Tomkins. “And, at nighttime when the inside is lit, you can see it from the highway and it looks fantastic.”
The project was printed on Creative Interior Imagery’s Epson SureColor S30670 low-solvent printer. To illustrate the tight color tolerances Creative Interior Imagery’s color management system can produce, Tomkins recently created a gigapan wall mural of New York City using 12 different inkjet media on four different printers (the S30670, and the Epson Stylus Pro 11880, 7900 and 4880).
“With this 2 1/2′ x 6′ mural in our showroom we can show people how their print will look on the different media and show off our color matching skills, because that’s difficult to do,” says Tomkins. “The architectural firm did a walk-through of the medical center with interior designers after we installed the murals, and person who was leading the group remarked that no one else could match the quality of the materials and workmanship, so we were feeling pretty smug about that.”
3M recently released a Bulletin regarding graphics application over low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, which 3M says are becoming increasingly popular and can cause adhesion issues.
3M’s recommendation is to clean a section of the wall twice with a mixture of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water.
Then, apply strips of the graphic to the cleaned areas where the graphic will be installed and observe their release characteristics after 15 minutes. If the adhesion looks good, use the same cleaning method to prepare the entire application area.
However, be sure the surface hasn’t been freshly painted. Installation professional Keith Bernard of Road Signs in Sarasota, Fla., says to avoid alcohol on freshly painted surfaces. “A lot of interior barricades you find at malls are drywall with a fresh coat of primer, and if you use alcohol you run the risk of smearing the paint, which will cause adhesion problems with the material you’re installing,” he says.
And, as you prepare for the application, the first rule with inkjet-printed media is to allow the ink to dry and set for a minimum of 24 hours. Then, it’s safe to apply to whatever substrate you’re using. Also, when you prepare the surface, don’t use soap, Windex or any ammonia-based cleaners as they leave a residue that will affect the graphic’s adhesion. It’s best to follow 3M’s recommended cleaning and application procedures, which you can also find detailed at http://3mgraphics.com/lowVOC.
If you need any additional help or advice, give one of our experts a call at 800-453-9538.