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Wallpaper Glossary


Abstract - A pattern or design not based on natural forms.

Acanthus - A motif derived from the large leaf of the low-growing acanthus plant. Used at an early date by the Greeks for architectural scrolls on the capitals of the Corinthian column.

Accent Mural - A mural designed to bring visual interest into smaller spaces. Popular designs include windows, personalized signs and fireplaces.

Accent wall - The wall in a room which has been given special design emphasis to attract attention from the adjacent walls.

Accordion Folding - A technique of "booking" - usually used for long lengths of wallcovering, especially borders. After the paste is applied or the prepasted product is dipped in water, it is gently folded back and forth, paste to paste and then front to front - resembling an accordion. This allows the wallcovering to relax and it makes long strips easier to handle during installation.

All-over pattern - The typical effect produced by a wallcovering. A pattern in which the units of design are evenly distributed over a surface, without undue emphasis.

American single roll - A quantity of wallpaper between 34 to 36 square feet. The width of the roll is usually 20.5 inches, however, it can be up to 36 inches wide. The length ranges from 4 to 7 yards. (Compare to metric single roll)

Applique - A design or ornament applied to another surface. In wallpaper, cut-outs applied to a plain, textured or figured background.

Art On Canvas - A canvas print hand-stretched over a natural wood frame. Shipped ready to hand and designed to coordinate with murals, accent murals, wallpaper and borders.


Bandbox designs - Motifs taken from hatboxes or bandboxes of the early 19th century which were covered with wallpaper, usually of a romantic or topical nature.

Baroque - A style of decoration, art and architecture that evolved in Italy during the late 16th century and spread to other parts of Europe in the 17th. The style is characterized by sweeping curves, dramatic scale, and a general effect of fantastic opulence.

Batik- A fabric dying process developed in Indonesia where wax is applied to areas where dye is to be resisted. Some wallcovering designs simulate this effect.

Beidermeier - A neoclassic style which embodied simplicity and comfort. Developed in Germany and Austria in the early 10th century.

Block Printing- A printing technique where a design is carved into a wooden block. The raised area is coated with ink and prints the design on fabric or paper. It is similar to modern day "stamping".

Bolt - A continuous roll of wallpaper, packaged as one unit. It contains a quantity of paper equivalent to two single rolls of paper.

Booking - Folding (without creasing) a continuous strip of wallpaper which has just been pasted, allowing time for the adhesive to soak into the paper, and keeping the adhesive tacky until ready to hang. The paper is folded over on itself, pasted sides together with the edges in alignment. The correct amount of booking time varies, and is noted on the directions that come with the paper.

Borders - A decorative strip of wallpaper which traditionally has been used as a chair rail or in combination with a chair rail. Because of the wide variety of designs and widths now available, borders are also used along ceiling lines, along the baseboard, around doors and windows, and in any manner that a trim could be used.

Butted seam - Two strips of wallpaper are laid with the edges just touching, and not overlapping.


Cellulose - A type of wallpaper paste generally used for non-vinyl wallcovering.

Chalk line - Used to establish a vertical plumb line on a wall to get paper properly aligned on the wall.

Charger- An over-sized decorative dish or platter. For home décor, they are usually available in one of two options for display: with a stand for tabletop or with a wall hanger.

Chinoisserie - Originally, European designs in the Chinese taste. Now, loosely applied to almost any oriental form of decoration.

Chintz - Papers resembling printed cotton material from India, featuring brightly colored flowers.

Choke- the background of a pattern also known as the "ground".

Colorway - The assortment of color options available for a specific pattern. Most designs will be made in from two to six colorways, and will all be shown in the same sample book.

Contemporary - A synonym for modern, frequently preferred because it suggests that which is distinctly of today rather than what belongs to the chrome and glass modernistic decorative art of the twenties.

Cornice - The decorative wood box affixed over a window which may be painted, wallpapered, or covered with fabric. Sometimes used around the top of a wall for indirect lighting.

Coordinating wallpaper - Wallpaper patterns which complement each other due to color and design. They are often used over and under each other as companions, or they visually tie together two different rooms.

Crown molding - The molding or trim that follows the ceiling line around the top of a room.

Cut Outs - A group of individual design elements printed as a set and designed to be trimmed individually to shape and placed randomly on the wall during installation. Cutouts coordinate with wallpaper, murals, borders and accent murals. They are generally un-pasted and installation instructions are included in each package.


Dado - The wall space between the chair rail and the baseboard.

Damask- A reversible fabric created by combining two weaves, twill and satin. In wallcovering, it is a style that simulates the fabric origin - it is usually monochromatic in color.

Decoupage- The art of decorating surfaces by applying cutouts of paper and coating with several layers of a clear finish such as varnish or lacquer.

Diagonal pattern - A pattern that appears at a slant; an oblique pattern.

Die-cut Border - A border that had been trimmed with a decorative edge, providing added impact. Borders can be die-cut on the top, bottom or both edges.

Digital Printing - A method of wallpaper production that uses computers, large inkjet or solvent printers and the CMYK color model. All colors that are produced are described as a mixture of the four process colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Murals, accent murals, art on canvas and some borders are produced using this method.

Directional print - A pattern on a wallpaper or border which must be installed in a particular direction to be aesthetically pleasing.

Double cutting - This technique is sometimes used by professionals to obtain a perfectly fitted seam when a pattern does not need to be matched. Strips are overlapped about three inches, and a very sharp blade is used to cut through both layers. The top strip is peeled back, the bottom strip is peeled off, and then the top is adhered again to the wall. This technique is also used when making repairs.

Double roll - A bolt of two single rolls of wallpaper, in a continuous strip. The double roll, or bolt, is priced as two single rolls but is packaged as one unit or length of paper to minimize waste.

Drop cloth - Recommended to use when preparing walls and installing wallpaper to protect floor and furniture.

Drop match - A pattern match in which every other strip will have the same pattern design along the ceiling line. There is waste with the drop matching of large scale patterns, therefore, when dealing with a drop match, professional paper hangers use the technique of measuring and cutting adjacent strips from different rolls of wallcovering and alternating them.

Dye-lot - A set of numbers and /or letters given to a particular batch of wallcovering rolls printed at the same time. With every reprinting, a new dye-lot number (sometimes called the run number) is assigned. Slight color variances occur from print run to print run. It is important to ensure that all rolls of the same pattern have the same dye-lot number before beginning a job.


Embossed - Wallpaper that has a raised, textured effect. This is done during manufacture when a hot or cold embossing machine at the factory presses a design into the back of the paper. Generally, a seam roller is not used on this paper. In-register emboss is the technique whereby the ink colors are applied at the time the paper is being embossed, generally resulting in a pattern of embossing that duplicates the printed pattern.


Fabric-backed wallcovering - An open weave fabric bonded to the back of vinyl wallcovering. It can be cotton, polyester or a blend.

Faux - A French word for "imitation". In wallcovering, it usually applies to designs that imitate actual textures such as marble and wood.

Finial - A crowning ornament or detail, such as a decorative knob. Finials are most known as the decorative top piece of a lamp that secures the lampshade to the harp. They are also often used as the decorative end pieces on drapery rods and sometimes as a larger decorative object on their own.

Fleur de lis - A stylized version of the iris flower. Used often in heraldry and French designs.

Flexographic Printing - A machine printing process that utilizes rollers or cylinders with a flexible rubber-like surface that prints with the raised area, much like surface printing, but with much less ink. This means the ink dries quickly and allows the machine to run at high speed. The finished product has a very smooth finish with crisp detail and often resembles rotary screen printing.

Flocked - Wallcovering made by a machine that shakes very fine cotton, silk, rayon or nylon fibers from a hopper over wallpaper that has been printed with a slow-drying paint, to create a three dimensional effect.

Floral print - Any pattern or arrangement of recognizable flowers printed as the decorative surface of wallpaper.

Focal point - The first wall you see upon entering a room, or the wall facing the room's dominant flow of traffic.

French Provincial - Furniture and decoration of the French provinces, particularly in the 18th century. Typical wallpaper designs are small in scale and rustic in character.

Fret - A geometric band or border motif, consisting of interlacing or interlocking lines. Also known as a key pattern.


Geometric prints - Geometric or horizontal line prints. Usually printed on non-woven surfaces.

Georgian - Period style encompassing the reigns of George I, II, III, in England in 1714-95.

Grasscloth - Originally a handcrafted product imported from Japan, usually made by glueing grasses or vines on to a paper backing. Also, printed or dimensional wallpapers simulating same.

Gravure Printing - A machine printing process often used for wallcovering. The copper printing rollers are engraved with a design and then plated with chrome for hardness. The engraved or recessed areas of the rollers pick up the ink and deposit it on the wallcovering surface. There is a separate roller for each color, and the depth of the engraving determines the strength of the color. This means that each roller or cylinder is capable of printing tones of that color. Gravure machinery usually allows up to eight printing rollers/cylinders which print the wallcovering as it passes through the machine. The machinery runs at high speed and the ink is applied and then runs through a dryer before the next color is printed. This process allows for very fine detail and reproduction of images with photo quality.

Ground - The background area of the wallcovering. Also called a "choke".


Hand Screen Printing - A printing process that uses flat screens. The printer uses a type of squeegee to manually force ink through the mesh onto the wallcovering. There is a different screen for each color in the design - all of the screens must be perfectly aligned for the application of each color so that the design comes together. Hand screen printing allows for a heavy coating of ink and a very rich appearance.

Hemp - Wallpaper made from the fibers of the hemp plant. It resembles grasscloth with a finer weave.

Herringbone - A pattern made up of rows of parallel lines in which any two adjacent rows slope in opposite directions.

Houndstooth - A usually small broken-check pattern that is inspired by the textile weaves of the same name.


Inside Corner - Formed when two walls facing each other meet.


Jacobean - Style influenced by crewel work imported from India. Developed from Tudor and Elizabethan styles.

Jacquard - A fabric of intricate variegated weave or pattern including brocade, damask and tapestry. Jacquard wallcoverings simulate this effect.

Jute weave - Wallpaper made by using jute, a strong coarse fiber that is used in making burlap.


Lamination - Process of building up in thin layers, then under heat and pressure with an adhesive added, bonding together as one product.

Lining paper - Plain paper applied to the wall prior to applying wallpaper. This assures a smoother surface and better adhesion. Common usages are over paneling and cinder block.

Lotus - One of the oldest of all decorative motifs, utilizing the water lilies of the Nile river in every degree of stylization.

Louis XV - The rococo style associated with the French King whose active reign covered the years 1723-74. The Chinoisserie designs of Jean Pillement set many of the fashions.

Louis XVI - The style associated with the last pre-revolutionary rule, 1774-92. Noted for its delicacy, luxury, and the combination of romantic and classical themes.


Match - Wallcovering patterns are printed in repeats known as straight match, drop match, and random match. The "match" refers to the place where the design matches at the seams. When ordering wallcovering, be sure to take the pattern repeat and match into consideration. For instance, a large repeat with a straight match will require more wallcovering than a small repeat with a drop match. A random match has the least waste factor, because no allowances need to be made for matching the pattern.

Medallion - A decorative element confined within a round, oval, square or rectangular outline.

Metric single roll - A metric roll contains 28 to 30 square feet per single roll. It is usually 21 inches wide and 16 feet long, or can be 27 inches wide and 13 feet long. Also known as a euro roll. (Compare to American single roll)

Mitered corner - A corner formed by cutting two pieces of border t a 45-degree angle and fitting them together. To create a mitered corner during installation, hold a ruler at a 45-degree angle across the corner where two sections of border meet and cut through both layers of paper. Peel away the cut pieces and smooth the paper back into place for a neat corner.

Moire - A watered silk or wood grain effect printed or embossed on the decorative surface of wallpaper.

Monochromatic - Having only one color or the various tonal values of one color.

Motif - The recurring design or subject matter of a wallpaper pattern.

Mural - A machine-printed or hand-painted picture or scene which usually comes packaged in panels or strips of wallpaper which when joined form the scene. Photo murals simulate photography and are usually divided into quarter panels for installation purposes.

Mylar - Often mistaken for foil, it is similar in nature. A brand of polyester film from Dupont that is applied to decorative print of wallpapers.


Outside corner - A corner formed when two walls, not facing each other, are joined.


Paisley - Woven or printed with colorful curved abstract figures of Persian origin.

Patina - An appearance or finish that has developed with age - often associated with the green film that forms on copper and bronze.

Pearl finish - Pearl pigment added to clear liquid vinyl coat to obtain pearl essence finish.

Peelable - Usually a paper-backed vinyl. To remove from the wall, the decorative or top layer can be dry-stripped away easily, leaving a solid layer of backing paper on the wall. This backing paper can easily be removed by wetting it. Often referred to as solid sheet vinyl.

Pigment - Dye colors used in the manufacture of durable vinyl wallcoverings. Quality pigments are the most costly item in a vinyl compound. Many of the pigments used in the coloring of paints and leathers will not withstand the high processing temperatures used in vinyl.

Plaid - Designs consisting of crossed stripes, many of them originating in Scottish tartans.

Plumb Line - A sting from which a weight is suspended to determine a true vertical line.

Prepasted - Wallpaper with paste already on the backing, which can be activated by soaking it in a filled water tray. The directions for each individual paper must be followed to determine proper soaking and booking time.

Pretrimmed - Paper which has had the selvage edges removed during the manufacturing process. Almost all wallpaper is pretrimmed.

Primer - An acrylic or other product applied to the wall prior to wallcovering installation. A better slip and thus a better positioning of the wallcovering is achieved. Use of a primer also improves the initial bond, and it improves the removability.

Print roller - In machine printing, the cylinders on which a design is cut. A different cylinder is used for each color in the design.

Prints - Any decorative or textural effect added over the base sheet. Each print adds one other color.

Provincial - Refers to designs inspired by the native arts and crafts of Europe and America in colonial days.


Railroading - The horizontal application of wallcoverings. This is sometimes used to create an unusual or striking effect - a stripe hung horizontally is a good example.

Random match - The wallpaper looks beautiful no matter how one panel is placed in position in relation to the next one. Stripes, all-over textures, and grasscloths are usually random matches.

Reedcloth - A handcrafted wallcovering in which every individual reed is inserted into the cotton warp threads of a hand made loom.

Regency - An English period, about 1793-1820. Coincides with the French Directoire and Empire periods and is characterized by adaptations of Greek and Roman classical themes.

Renaissance - Meaning revival or rebirth. This period began in Italy in the 14th century and spread gradually throughout Europe, marking the transition from medieval to relatively modern times.

Repeat - The distance from the center of one motif of a pattern to the center of the next.

Resin - A synthetic composite that can be molded into any form.

Rococco - An 18th century decorative style marked by artificiality and excessive ornamentation although it is expressed lightly and delicately with an abundance of foliage, curves and scrollwork. The name is derived from the French word rocaille (rock) and coquille (shell), both motifs that figure prominently in this style.

Rosette - A motif formed by a series of petals or leaves arranged around a central point. These are conventionalized to form a circle, eclipse or square.

Rotary Gravure - A method of printing wallpaper using copper rollers which are chrome plated and engraved with the image to be printed. Each separate color requires a separate print cylinder.

Rotary screen - A method of printing wallpaper using 36 inch screens in which ink is forced from the inside onto a vinyl substrate.

Run - Same as dye lot. A particular batch of wallpaper rolls that are printed or run at the same time. All rolls should be from the same dye lot or run to insure uniformity. Each time the same wallpaper is printed again, it receives a different dye lot or run number.


Sample - A portion of wallpaper or border (usually a full repeat) used to show color, texture and design.

Scrubbable - This wallcovering can withstand occasional sponging with a detergent solution. Same as washable.

Seam roller - Small tool used to used to secure the seams of wallpaper to make them adhere to the wall when dry. This is done by rolling or pressing the seams after the paper has been applied to the wall and the air bubbles, if any, are smoothed away. This should be used on most papers as part of the installation process. Stringcloth, grasscloth, flocks and heavily embossed wallpaper are examples of product which would be damaged by the use of a seam roller.

Shade - A color produced by adding a percentage of black to a pigment.

Shading - Inconsistency of tonal value usually from left to the right side of the strip of wallpaper. Reverse hanging (hanging every other strip upside down) can often solve this problem.

Sidewall - Sheets of wallpaper, as opposed to borders or murals. Sidewalls are sold by the single roll and packaged in double rolls, or bolts.

Silk Screen - A method of printing wallpaper whereby a silk screen is used during the printing process to develop unique design effects not usually available through other manufacturing processes. The process can be carried out entirely by hand, partly by hand and partly by machine, or entirely by machine.

Sizing - A powder mixed with water and applied to a painted or otherwise sealed surface to give better slip and thus make installation easier.

Slip - The characteristic of an adhesive that allow sliding and repositioning of the wallcovering while it is being installed.

Small Scale Pattern - Patterns that have small design repeats and are usually spaced close together. Sometimes referred to as mini-prints.

Smoothing brush - Used to smooth out wrinkles or air from behind wallpaper during installation.

Soffit - A structural part of a wall, the area often found in kitchens extending from the top of cabinets to the ceiling, or the underside of a beam.

Solid sheet vinyl - Wallpaper with a solid vinyl decorated surface which is laminated to a woven or non-woven backing.

Sponge - Used for cleaning wet adhesive from the surface of wallpaper itself during installation, and from the molding and other surfaces in the room.

Straight Edge - Ruler or other tool used as a guide for the blade when trimming wallpaper during installation.

Straight Match - A pattern match from one strip to the other by a direct straight a across sequence. The pattern design at the top of each strip is always the same.

Stria - A type of stripe, usually consisting of very fine, irregularly spaced parallel lines that are often monochromatic in color.

String - Wallcovering featuring yarns or string bonded to paper backing, creating a very textural product. The newest technology allows string cloth to be repasted and washable.

Strippable - Wallpaper manufactured with a special formulation which permits a release of the wallpaper from the adhesive when it is later to be removed from the wall. This makes it easy to tear off an entire strip without wetting it. Also referred to as dry strippable.

Substrate - The backing or portion of wallpaper that goes against the wall. The backing can be of a wide variety of materials ranging from woven and non-woven fabrics to light weight paper products.

Surface Printing - A mechanized form of block printing. Instead of using flat blocks, the design is engraved on rollers or cylinders. The raised area of the cylinder prints the ink, much like a rubber stamp. Most surface printing machines can print twelve colors, with each cylinder printing a different color. Surface printing is beautiful and very recognizable - the inks are thicker than most printing processes and often appear to be hand painted. This process adds an historical quality because it simulates the look of block printing - the oldest form of printing for wallcovering.

Swag - A looped or swinging design or decoration usually consisting of garlands, leaves, ribbons or drapery.

Swatch - A sample.


Tint - A color produced when a pigment is mixed with white.

Top colors - Those forming the design against the ground color.

Toile - The name comes from "Toile de Jouy" which is the fabric style that originated in the village of Jouy-en-Josas, near Paris. These designs typically resemble finely engraved copper etchings, use one color on a solid ground, and originally had a narrative element - such as a pastoral scene or motifs from classical mythology. Today, this technique can be used for any number of designs including floral trails, birds, or even palm trees.

Torchere - A lamp with the light directed upwards - usually a tall floor lamp, but can be smaller for table top use. It is also a tall ornamental stand for a candlestick or candelabra.

Toss - A pattern in which design elements are scattered on a solid or textured background.

Trail - A pattern in which design elements are linked together or connected by a vine, ribbon, or another element.

Trompe L'oeil - Means to "fool the eye". Wallcoverings that utilize this technique include designs that use light and shadow to convince you that you are seeing a three-dimensional object. Some wallpaper designs that have been successful are those that simulate draped fabric, trees, bookshelves, moiré silks, and murals and accents that feature a window or door with a view.

Trimming - Using a straight edge and a blade to remove excess paper from around door, windows, ceilings and at the baseboard.

Type I - A light duty commercial grade wallcovering weighing between 7 and 13 ounces per square yard. Generally produced on a scrim or non-woven backing.

Type II - A medium grade commercial wallcovering weighing between 13 and 22 ounces per yard. It is produced on an osnaburg, drill, or non-woven fabric backing.

Type III - A heavy duty commercial grade wallcovering, weighing in excess of 22 ounces per square yard. Usually produced on drill fabric backing.


Unpasted wallpaper - Wallpaper to which paste must be rolled or brushed on during the installation process. Directions provided with each individual wallpaper must be followed.


Value - Lightness or darkness of a color.

Vertical Repeat - The vertical distance from one point on the design to the identical point again. Almost all wallpaper has a vertical repeat, except for those papers with a random match.

Vinyl - A manmade material, which in the manufacture of wallcoverings is a flexible film. Wallpaper is often vinyl coated, or it is vinyl laminated to a backing. This helps to give the product washability.


Wainscoting - Paneling or woodwork covering the dado of a wall. This area is customarily equal to one third of the wall height.

Washable - Wallcovering that can withstand occasional scrubbing with a detergent solution. Same as scrubbable.

Wet Hanging - A method of hanging wallcoverings in which the adhesive is applied to the back of the wallcovering.