Transforming a Blank Space into a Space Base

Space Base Orlando Science Center

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.

Space Base Orlando Science CenterThe 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.

Space Base Orlando Science CenterThe 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.

Space Base Orlando Science Center“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 for current times.

Getting the Most out of Wall Spaces with Print-N-Stick Fabric

Curious George Exhibit on Print-N-Stick

Once you start, you can’t stop. That’s been the experience for the Orlando Science Center with custom-printed wall murals for its permanent and traveling exhibits.

OSC Curious George Exhibit ColumnThe first big hall entrance mural project was for a Star Wars traveling exhibit (Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination), and since that time the Orlando Science Center has found great value in more wall murals throughout the facility, providing identification, atmosphere, visual interest, more interactivity and boosting sponsorship activity.

“The wall murals help in a lot of ways. First, it’s a big location identifier for us. We have an unusual building with a central rotunda that has a spiral staircase with a lot of glass and light. We had been using wall signs outside the halls that were 6′ x 3′ vinyl banners that we would change out, which was better than the small signs we originally used by the doors. Once we started doing these full-size murals by the hall entrances for the exhibits – and with them being such a focal point and life-sized – there was no going back,” explains Eric Vickers, Creative Manager for the Orlando Science Center. “It gives us a lot more atmosphere than just the blank walls, and it’s great for sponsorships, especially with traveling exhibits. We’re getting local exhibit sponsors again, and this provides much more visibility for them, so they are not only in our related collateral materials, but also in front of the exhibit space itself nice and big on the wall. So that’s been a great selling point.”

Exhibit Wall MuralVickers adds that most of the photographic and illustrative elements they use for the murals can print life-size so visitors interact with the murals and take photos of themselves with the characters depicted in the murals, such as the murals for the recent Curious George: Let’s Get Curious exhibit.

“With Curious George we printed out a couple of life-size Curious Georges that go up about seven feet on the columns inside the exhibit so there are additional thematic elements to brighten up the hall,” says Vickers.

Engineer It! Wall MuralThat first Star Wars wall mural was printed on LexJet PolyGloss PSA with a Canon iPF9100 inkjet printer. Since then, most of the murals have been printed on LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric, though PolyGloss PSA is still used for murals that require a glossy finish and opacity, such as an upcoming interactive exhibit experience about Mars called Space Base.

“The Space Base exhibit murals are printed on the PolyGloss because we needed it to be completely opaque; there are seams and a darker-color paint on the wall behind the mural. We also wanted a gloss finish so that it looked more like a window looking out onto the surface of Mars, and to have a clean, space station feel,” says Vickers.

Inkjet Wall Mural
The Orlando Science Center’s Meeting & Events wall, also printed on LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric, is located next to the Center’s big terrace on the fourth floor and serves as a great advertisement for wedding and event rentals next to one of the major spaces in the facility.

The murals pictured here for the Curious George: Let’s Get Curious and the Engineer It! exhibits were printed on Print-N-Stick Fabric where the background colors on the walls were lighter.

“Print-N-Stick is our new favorite thing. It’s a material that holds up well on its own, and helps us provide more color and atmosphere to our walls,” says Vickers. “The fabric has been great because it comes off very easily, but stays put well. It’s a lighter material so it doesn’t have as much weight pulling it off. It also tends to let the air out better and goes down flatter when it’s applied. It really hugs the wall and conforms to it well. We’ve had other adhesive-back materials start to peel down from the top because of their own weight on jobs this size, but we haven’t seen that at all with Print-N-Stick.”

Vickers also uses Print-N-Stick for the main traveling exhibit hall since it changes every four months or so. And, when it’s time to put up a new mural, the old one comes down easily, doesn’t damage the wall or leave any residue behind.

Wall Mural Follow-Up on Print-N-Stick Fabric

Wall Mural with Print-N-Stick Fabric.
The latest wall mural at the Orlando Science Center, printed on LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric. Zoom Into Nano was developed with funding from the National Science Foundation by Cornell University, in partnership with the Sciencenter, and Painted Universe, Inc. Photo courtesy of Orlando Science Center.


A few days ago we discussed the use of wall murals to set the theme and create anticipation for the various travelling exhibits hosted by the Orlando Science Center. The travelling exhibits typically run for about three months and the Orlando Science Center has made wall murals a standard feature.

“Once we started with the Star Wars wall mural there was no turning back,” says Eric Vickers, creative manager for the Orlando Science Center. “The foot traffic to the exhibit comes in from the right, so you see the mural right away and then walk into the exhibit.”

Just installed yesterday to replace the wall mural fronting the recent Sesame Street Presents: The Body exhibit, the new mural previews the Zoom into Nano travelling exhibit.

The new mural was printed on LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric with a Canon iPF9100 from LexJet. The key to making this mural effective was the ability to hold the detail of the materials shown in the graphic, from left to right: a butterfly wing, salt, oyster shells and moon dust.

“The mural is really impressive in person, and provides more visual interest so that you’re engaged before you walk in. You can really see the texture, especially in the butterfly wing, when you get close,” says Vickers.

Vickers adds that the mural is based on four hanging posters used for the exhibit. Vickers laid out the four pieces together and added the copy. Having four different panels was convenient for lining up the printed panels, which were 35 inches wide by nine feet long.

“We used to apply the panels horizontally so we had fewer seams, but it’s more difficult to keep it level all the way down. Working vertically we can make it level and let gravity work for us so that the application goes more smoothly. The panels were easy to apply and the material holds its shape really well,” says Vickers.

Setting the Scene with Wall Murals

Museum Exhibit Wall Mural
This wall mural, printed on LexJet PolyGloss PSA with a Canon iPF9100 wide format printer, sets the scene for the exhibit, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. © 2012 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. Photo courtesy Orlando Science Center.


Wall murals are an excellent way to set the scene for any main attraction, whether it’s a special event, an exhibit, or any other venue.

LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric
Eric Vickers, creative manager for the Orlando Science Center, first tested LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric on various surfaces in the graphics department. Graphic design by Chris Ward. Photo courtesy Orlando Science Center.

The Orlando Science Center has recently used printed wall murals to great effect for its special exhibits, including one for the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination traveling exhibit, which showcased artifacts from all six movies, and one for Sesame Street Presents: The Body exhibit.

“It’s a great entrance piece when you’re going into the exhibit. It helps theme and create an experience before you even go into the exhibit,” says Eric Vickers, creative manager for the Orlando Science Center.

For the Star Wars exhibit, Vickers used LexJet PolyGloss PSA for the walls surrounding and leading into the exhibit, printed with a Canon iPF9100 from LexJet.

“They were photorealistic images from Lucasfilm, so I really like the PolyGloss for those types of images,” says Vickers.

Vickers adds that those wall murals “got the ball rolling” to make wall murals a regular feature of the special exhibits the Orlando Science Center hosts.

Museum Wall Mural
The Orlando Science Center used LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric for the Sesame Street Presents: The Body exhibit. Vickers says that since Print-N-Stick is not entirely opaque it’s best not to overlap the seams, especially with light-colored graphics.

“We’ve been using LexJet materials since we got the Canon iPF9100 about a year and a half ago. We like the polypropylene material better than vinyl because we can get the same pop from it as we can from paper, and it’s easy to work with,” explains Vickers.

For the Sesame Street murals, Vickers decided to try LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric after testing it on various surfaces in the graphics department (see photos).

“It’s the best of both worlds, but opacity is the only thing we have to be careful with since it’s not completely opaque. If you overlap the seams on a graphic with a light-colored background they can show through,” says Vickers. “It’s much more repositionable than any other material we’ve worked with, and comes off the walls easily. It’s the most forgiving material we’ve worked with so far; we don’t get bubbling or imperfections in it. It’s a little trickier to cut, but it follows straight lines really well; you just have to be a little more careful going against the grain.”