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How Custom Wallpaper Works

Posted on: November 14, 2022

Custom Wallpaper Being Printed In Machine

Not all commercial and residential wallpaper buyers find the pattern they want when searching off-the-rack designs. Often these buyers browse through lots of available patterns without finding the right look. Perhaps their desired design isn’t currently on the market or is a specific pattern not offered as wallpaper. Other buyers may want something personally connected to their life or that relates to their business. For example, a homeowner could be hoping to turn a favorite beach-vacation picture into wallpaper for a guestroom accent wall. Or a Maine hotel owner might be envisioning wallpaper with fishermen trawling for lobsters added to the hotel’s lobby. Each of these buyers can get the design they want with custom wallpaper.

What Is Custom Wallpaper?

Any wallpaper that must be specially made from a design or image is custom wallpaper. Other terms used interchangeably for this type of product are custom murals or custom-printed wallpaper. However, for the sake of simplicity, we consistently use the term custom wallpaper.

Making custom wallpaper is somewhat like creating a flyer on a home computer that will be printed then hung on a wall – but on a much larger scale. First the wallpaper design and material to use is determined, then the required amount of wallpaper is printed and ready to put into place.

What Images Can Be Used?

Technically any picture can be turned into custom wallpaper; but image quality and image rights play an important role, as detailed below.

Image Quality

Regular printing on a home or office printer is different than large-format printing, which is the term used in the wallpaper and banner industry. A photo selected for custom wallpaper might be stretched and distorted when it is manipulated and printed to fit the dimensions of the space to be wallpapered. For this reason, nothing is printed until a sample is viewed up close and approved. Surface designers do their best to maintain an image’s quality when adjusting it to your wall’s height and width, but some images are better than others. Low-resolution images can be turned into custom wallpaper, but it requires a lot of design work. In these cases, designers take the existing photo and recreate as a new image that looks almost identical to the original but is not complete the same.

Image Rights

Random photos pulled from Google Images, Pinterest, or other websites cannot be used for custom wallpaper without purchasing rights to print and use the image. Otherwise, both of us (you and the company printing the image) could face copyright infringement lawsuits. There are image distribution companies where image rights can be purchased. Some of the available companies are iStock, Getty Images, Shutterstock or Shutterfly. Usually, it’s about $100 to secure the commercial image rights for printing as custom wallpaper.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of custom wallpaper depends on a few factors – including the area to cover, the materials, and design fee. These factors are covered in more detail below followed by a cost calculation for an example project.

Total Area

Usually, custom wallpaper is sold by the square foot. After custom wallpaper is created, it will be packaged and shipped in rolls or panels – which are terms you may encounter when purchasing. However, it is the total area being wallpapered that is used for cost calculation. For example, a 10-foot high and 10-foot wall will need to cover 100 square feet (10 feet x 10 feet = 100 square feet). In this scenario, the cost would be 100 times the wallpaper’s cost per square foot.


There are hundreds of types of paper-backing options available for custom wallpaper. However, printing companies do not stock all of them but focus on the materials most often requested by businesses and individuals. The options we stock for residential and commercial options are listed below. Other types of material, such as Mylar (provides a shiny and metallic look) can be requested and special ordered for your project.


  1. Non-woven, prepasted
  2. Non-woven, peel and stick
  3. Specialty textile (natural grasscloth feel), non-pasted


  1. Type II, 20-ounce non-woven, smooth texture
  2. Type II, 20-ounce embossed canvas, linen textured

Design Fees

There are also design fees associated with producing custom wallpaper. Either a completely new image needs to be created from just an idea or an existing image needs to be adjusted for large format printing. Both are done by a person called a surface designer, who specialize artwork and patterns that need to repeat themselves.

Example Project Cost

The example calculations below are for a custom wallpaper project from start to finish using a 10-foot by 10-foot wall, as mentioned under Total Space above, and our pricing. In this example, the customer is using an acceptable image found on Shutterstock or Shutterfly that required two hours of design work before printing.

Size of Area: 100 square feet

Price per square feet: $13.50 per square foot

Total material cost: $1,350

Design fee: $300 (2 hours x $150 per hour)

Sample: $92.21

Shipping: $44.12

Total: $1,786.33

What is the process for making custom wallpaper?

Almost every custom wallpaper printing company has the same process, with the two major variations being surface designer costs and production times. The following is our process:

  1. Submit your images, ideas, and wall dimension(s).
  2. We send submission to our in-house designer who determines if it your image can be successfully used and estimates the work involved to make it large-format suitable.
  3. We submit an invoice to you for the artwork, image rights’ purchase (if required), and sample.
  4. Creating Stage: We get to work making your final design.​
  5. We send you a preview of the final design for you to make adjustments.
  6. ​Once you approve the design​, we turn it into a 1-foot sample that is mailed to you.
  7. You email ​us your approval​ or let us know the modifications you would like to make. ​​Minor changes are done at no cost, but major ones will incur additional art fees.
  8. We send you an invoice for the final production of the custom wallpaper with shipping.
  9. ​Your custom wallpaper goes into production where it is printed, cut, rolled, packaged, and shipped to you via UPS.
  10. You or a paperhanger (aka wallpaper installer) hangs the custom wallpaper.

The process is not as complicated as it appears since we assist you during every step. Our team takes most of guesswork out of your hands once you submit the wall dimensions and image. The hardest part is finding and scheduling the right installer once you get your wallpaper because most are booked out for weeks.

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