Home Wallpaper Dictionary


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

Acrylic : A family of plastic resins which can be used in making synthetic fibers, for surface coating or as pigment binder.

Advancing Colors : Warm colors such as red, yellow and orange; and dark colors which make surfaces appear closer or larger.

All-over Design : Usually floral, foliage or scroll patterns which cover an entire paper without any particular feature standing out.

American Single Roll: A single roll of wallcovering that comes in a wide variety of lengths and widths ranging from 18 to 36 inches in width and from four to eight yards in length. Regardless of length or width, each single roll contains 34 to 36 square feet of wallcovering.

Analogous Colors : Also known as related colors, they are those that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.

Appliqué : A cut-out design or ornament in fabric or other material that is applied on top of another, larger surface. In wallcovering, cut-outs applied to plain, textured or figured backgrounds.


Batik : A non-directional geometric type design with an East Indian influence. The background has a tie-dyed appearance. The word itself refers to a method of dyeing designs on cloth by coating with removable wax the parts not to be dyed.

Bleeding : In printing, a spreading of pigment beyond the design outline or the appearance of one color through another.

Block Printing : The process of producing a pattern on a wallcovering by means of wood blocks into which the design is cut. For the most part it has been replaced by silk screening.

Blooming : A hazy or foggy appearance due to the incompatibility of some of the compounds in the coating or plastic sheeting.

Bolt : A roll of fabric or wallcovering of a given length.

Booking : When applying paste onto wallcoverings, the procedure of folding pasted surfaces together for easier handling.

Border : A narrow strip of wallcovering often used just under the ceiling or around a window or door frame.

Butt Seam : Most common type of wallcovering seam in which the edge of two strips of wallcovering are tightly butted together without any overlay or spacing between the strips.


Ceiling Papers : Plain, geometric, trellis or foliage patterns of wallpaper which look good on a ceiling from all directions.

Center of Interest : The principal focal point in a room. In a wallcovering design, the dominant motif. It is usually hung at eye level in the central area of the room to establish a starting point for hanging the re of the wallcovering.

Chairrail : The topmost molding of a dado which is placed on the wall at the height of a chair back. Complementary wallcovering patterns are often used above and below a chairrail. A wallcovering border is often used as a chairrail.

Coatings : A thin protective surface layer, usually of vinyl, which is applied to wallcoverings to provide washability and durability.

Crocking : Coloring that rubs off and causes discoloration.

Collage : A technique in which pictorial images or patterns and pieces of colored, textured material are superimposed onto each other.

Color Change : Putting different colors in place of those used on the previous run when manufacturing wallcoverings. The pattern does not change.

Color Run : The amount of role of a particular design produced of a single color combination. Subsequent runs of that same design and colorway may be slightly different. (This is why it is important for purchasers to retain the run number in case additional rollage is needed.)

Color Wheel : A circular arrangement of colors that expresses their relationships according to a particular color theory.

Commercial : Product manufactured in quality and width to serve high traffic areas.

Companion Wallcoverings : A set of wallcoverings designed and colored to be used together in the same or adjoining areas.

Complementary Colors : Colors that lie directly opposite each other on the color wheel and are, therefore, as unlike as they can be. Examples include red and green or blue and orange.

Contract Wallcoverings : Wallcoverings produced for commercial use and normally available in 48 or 54 inch widths.

Cool Colors : Blue, green and violet, or any color to which blue has been added.

Cornice : A horizontal molding or combination of moldings which finish the top of a wall.

Correlated : Wallcoverings and fabrics designed to be used together. They are known as correlates or companions.

Cove Ceiling : A ceiling which is rounded where it meets the wall.


Dado Paper : Wallcovering which covers the lower part of the wall, or dado, and ending at the chairrail height.

Double Cut Seam : Type of seam used in situations where it is necessary to overlap two strips of wallcovering and yet avoid a raised ridge. One example would be when a border is being used as a chairrail with coordinated wallcoverings above and below the border/wallcovering. A straightedge is placed at the center of the overlap and, with a razor knife or blade, a cut is made through both layers. The top cutoff section is removed and then the bottom cutoff portion is removed leaving a tightly butted seam.

Drop Ceiling : A form of decoration in which the ceiling paper is brought down onto the walls of a room and divided from the walls by a border or molding. This gives the illusion of a lower ceiling.


Embossing : A raised effect created by impressing a design into wallcovering using either pressure or heat.

Engraving : Machine priming of wallcovering with etched-out rollers to obtain subtle and fine effects.

Etching : A process in which a copper shell is slowly revolved in an acid bath.

Euro-roll : See Metric Roll.


Flexographic: A printing process developed in England around 1900 which uses rubber cylinders which are easily repaired.

Flock: Wallcoverings made by shaking finely chopped fibers over a pattern printed in varnish or other sticky material to give the appearance of velvet or damask.

Focal Point: An area of a room with major visual interest such as a fireplace.


Grass Cloth: A hand-made product made by gluing woven native grasses onto a paper backing.

Ground: Raw stock onto which a coat of pigment has been applied before the top colors are put on in wallcovering manufacturing.

Ground Coat: The coat of pigment applied to raw stock before the top colors are put on in wallcovering manufacturing. The background color.


Header Strip: A strip of wallcovering that is allocated to be hung above a door or window.

Hot Spots: Shiny spots on wallcovering caused by chemical reaction.

Hue:The pure state of any color; the name by which a color is called


Incandescent: A common form of artificial light in which a filament contained in a vacuum and heated to brightness by an electric current. It can affect the appearance of colors often giving a yellowish cast.

Intensity: The strength of a color.


Job-Lot: Discontinued patterns which are often sold at reduced price



Lamination: The process of building up thin layers of materials and bonding them together as one product under heat and pressure with an adhesive added.

Line: Merchandise belonging to one group or series offered by a manufacturer. In wallcovering, name collections appearing periodically every year or two.

Lineal Yard: A lengthwise measure of a good.

Lining Paper: Plain material, often paper, usually applied horizontal and used under wallcoverings to assure a smoother surface and better adhesion.


Matching: Hanging strips of wallcovering so that the design will be in the correct relation to the preceding strips. The types of match are random, straight and drop.

Matte Finish: A dull finish.

Molding: An ornamental strip of wood or plaster that protrudes from a ceiling or wall surface.

Monochromatic: Of one color, sometimes in different light-to-dark values.

Mural: A wall decoration with a pictorial design that continues over two or more strips of wallcovering and is intended to cover part or most of a wall without repeat. Also called scenics.

Muted Colors: Any colors with brightness that has been lessened or moderated, often by their complementary colors.


Neutral colors: Beiges, whites, grays and browns. Colors which coordinate well with most other colors and which have been especially popular for the last decade or so.

Normal Value: The value of any color in its pure, unmixed state.


Off Grades: Not first quality goods.

Overlapping Seam: A method of hanging wallcovering.


Peelable: A wallcovering that can be drypeeled from the wall leaving only the substrate on the wall. Note important differences between "peelable" and "strippable" wallcoverings.

Pick Off: A condition in which coating sticks to the shell, which is usually caused by an air bubble in the coating or by tacky color pulling off some of the coating.

Plastic-coated Wallpaper: Wallpaper which feature a thick plastic coating.

Plumb Bob/Line: A weighted line used to produce a vertical line to assure that each strip is hung perfectly straight.

Polymer: A compound formed by the reaction of simple molecules. Poly-Vinyl Chloride: Commonly referred to as PVC.

Prepasted: Wallcovering that has had adhesive applied to the back of it by the manufacturer. Dipping a strip in water before hanging activates the adhesive.

Pretrimmed: Rolls of wallcovering from which the selvage has been trimmed at the factory.

Primary Colors: The three colors, red, blue and yellow, which cannot be produced by mixing any other pigments together.

Primer: Special primer paints designed for use under wallcoverings, often used in place of sizing materials.

Production Run: The production of one pattern in one combination of colors from the beginning to end on one machine.



Railroading: The horizontal application of a wallcovering.

Raw Stock: Paper in large reels. Also, the substrates used today, before lamination.

Receding Colors: Cool colors that tend to make surfaces appear farther away or smaller.

Relief: Making a design prominent by raising it or by cutting away the surface or background of the design.

Repeat: The distance from the center of one motif or pattern to the center of the next.

Roll Change: Putting a new roll on in place of a roll which has been run.

Room Lot: A sale unit consisting of enough rolls of a pattern for a given room.

Run: The number of times an individual wallcovering is made. Colors, and other features can be slightly different from run to run.


Screen Print: A printing process, also called hand-screening, for producing wall coverings involving stretching silk tightly onto frames, w a separate screen used for each color.

Scrubbable: Any wallcovering that can be safely washed with a sponge and detergent while still on the wall.

Seams: Area where two wallcoverings are joined.

Secondary Colors: These result from combining two of the primary colors.

Selvage: Either edge of a roll of wallcovering carrying no design, intended to protect the design.

Shade: A color produced by adding black to a pigment.

Shading: An effect that can sometimes appear along the seams of no patterned or textured wallcoverings due to heavier ink coverage at one edge than the other during printing.

Sidewall: Main wall area to be covered with wallcovering.

Single Roll: The standard commercial length of wallcovering.

Size: A sealer used to prepare the wall before the wallcovering is applied

Stain-Resistant Wallcovering: A wallcovering on which a coat of plastic or vinyl has been added to make the surface mostly stain-resistant.

Stencil: A method of applying a design by brushing ink or paint through a cut-out surface.

Stock: Different qualities and grades of paper or the man-made materials. Also, the inventory on hand.

Straight Edge: A 6 foot or 7 foot ruler used by a paperhanger to trim the selvage off of wallcovering.

Strip: A length of wallcovering, cut to fit the height of the wall.

Strippable: Wallcovering that can be dry-stripped from the wall leaving a minimum of paste or adhesive residue and without damage to the wall's surface.

Substrate: The backing of a wallcovering. It becomes laminated to the design layer.

Surface Printing: Conventional machine-printing in which the raised or routed design on the roller is transferred to the ground.

Swatch: A sample cutting of wallcovering or fabric.


Texture: The tactile surface quality of wallcovering or fabric, perceived through touch.

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

Tonal Value: The relative strength of color.

Tone: Color that has been toned down by adding its complement or gray.

Top Colors: The colors forming the design against the ground color.

Total Weight: The combined weight of both backing and coating, measured in ounces per square yard of wallcovering.

Two-Tones: Wallcoverings that show only two-toned values of one color.



Value: Lightness or darkness of a color.

Vinyl: Man-made material used in the manufacturing of wallcoverings.

Vinyl Coating: Either the liquid vinyl or flexible film applied to a wallcovering backing material. It gives a wallcovering strength, durability and scrubbability.

Vinyl Laminate: Vinyl laminated to either paper or fabric.


Wainscot: Wood paneling used on interior walls, especially that which reaches partially up the walls. Wallcovering is often used below a chairrail as a substitute.

Wall Fabric: A durable surface on a backing used to cover walls.

Wall Preparation: The preliminary cleaning of walls to prepare them for wallcovering. Also can include patching cracks/holes and applying a primer-sealer.

Wall Primer: The preparatory coat of primer given to walls before hanging wallcoverings.

Warm Colors: Red, yellow or orange, or any color to which yellow has been added.

Washable: A wallcovering that can be cleaned with a sponge, mild soap and water.




Content Provided by the Wallcoverings Association (WA).