Wallpaper Dictionary and Terms

A glossary of wallpaper terms used in the wallcovering industry.



Abstract art

Art that is not an accurate representation of a natural form or object. The art can be differed in many ways including the shape, color, and form. The artist takes the object and then either simplifies it or exaggerates it using these things.


A leafy plant used in ancient Greek art, especially as ornaments in their sculptures.

Accent Wall

The wall in a room on which special or extra emphasis has been given to attract attention from the adjacent walls.

Accordion folding

See Booking.

Aeration of adhesives

A condition that exists when the adhesive is filled with miniature air bubbles, frequently caused by extreme or vigorous whipping during the mixing procedure. This must be avoided for the reason that it may cause small blisters to form underneath the wallcovering, especially when installing a non-breathable type.

All-over design

A design that covers the entire paper without any stand out emphasis usually comes in floral, foliage, geometric, or scroll patterns.

American single roll

The wallpaper roll will contain between 34 to 36 square feet, regardless of length and width. Contains 25 percent more material than a Euro roll, so you have fewer seams, but its width makes it slightly more difficult to handle.

Anthemion (Anthemia)

A stylized classical motif based on the honeysuckle leaf and flower. Often found in neoclassical and neo-grec wallcoverings. Its similarity with the palmette has allowed for the two terms to be used interchangeably. Also known as Honeysuckle ornament.

Appliqué (Applique)

A design or ornament cut out from wallpaper or floor covering and then applied to a plain, textured or figured background.


A Greek word meaning "raised ornament". When speaking about wallpaper, it refers to a type that is embossed or textured, looking like ornate plasterwork. Anaglypta wallpaper is available only in white; it must be painted after hanging.


Compound commonly added to a coating to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi and algae on the surface of a finished product.


The molding that surrounds a door, arch, or window. Also known as Casing.

Art Deco

An art movement, largely from the 1920's and 1930's, that is characterized by the use of angular, symmetrical geometric forms.



The style is characterized by rich ornamentation and depth, sweeping curves, and dramatic scale. Baroque style used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur from sculpture, painting, literature, and music.


See Skirting.

Basket weave design

A pattern or arrangement that simulates the over-and-under weaving effect of basket weaving.

Blank stock (Backing paper)

See Liner paper.


A small bubble (air pocket) which forms under the wallpaper during the installation. Blisters are usually caused by: (a) inadequate soaking or relaxing time after the adhesive has been applied to the backing; (b) installation temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit; (c) air trapped betweenthe wall and the paper; (d) wallpaper installed on an extremely porous wall that was not properly sealed; or (e) aeration of the adhesive.


Two or three single rolls of wallcovering sold as a continuous length packaged as one unit.


When applying paste onto wallpaper, the procedure of temporarily folding, not creasing, pasted surfaces on to each other for easier handling and allowing time for the adhesive to soak into the paper, keeping it tacky until ready to hang. It allows the wallcovering to relax, which helps to prevent stretching and shrinking that can cause seams to show. Also known as Accordion folding.


A narrow band of wallpaper usually used along ceiling lines, baseboards, doors, windows, and at chair rail height in place of or in addition to wood molding.


Wallcoverings that allow water and air to pass through. String wallpaper, vinyl-coated paper, and paintable woven fiberglass wallcoverings are breathable.

Bridging liner

Porous under-wallcovering material designed to cover irregularities on walls or smooth surfaces, such as brick or paneling, to hang decorative wallpaper. This material may also be painted though many will want to hang liner paper over the bridging material for a smoother surface.

Butted seam (Butt joint)

Two strips of wallpaper are laid with the edges just touching without any overlapping or spacing between the strips.



See Architrave.

Cellulose paste

A paste that is derived from wood plup, cotton, plants, etc. These are non-staining and ordorless adhesives that are frequently used in hanging natural materials such as Grasscloths, Linens, Silks, Bamboos, etc. We recommend Dynamite C-11 Ultra Clear wallcovering adhesive for lighter natural papers, like Silks and Jute String Grasscloths and Roman's Ultra Premium Clear Pro 880 for heavier grasscloths such as Burlaps and heavy Jutes.


Placing the dominant part of a wallpaper pattern on a focal point in a room, such as the middle of a fireplace.

Chair rail

A strip of decorative wood molding set 32 to 36 inches above the floor.

Chalk line

A length of string covered in chalk dust, pulled tight, and snapped against a surface to leave a straight guideline.


A geometric form composed of a horizontal or vertical string of V's used either singly or in a series to form a zig zag. Also called saw tooth for its tooth-like protrusions.


A French term that describes the influence of Chinese design in wall coverings and fabrics. Usually represented by graceful, flowing floral designs with birds, and branches. Subdued tones or rich, multi-colors are used.


The background area of the wallpaper. Also called the ground.

Colorways (Colourways)

The various color choices for a specific pattern.

Cork (Cork veneer)

They have natural textures with no definite pattern or design. Cork veneer is shaved from cork planks of blocks and laminated to a substrate that may be colored or plain. Cork naturally absorbs sound, insulates, provides contrast and can be used as a bulletin board.


A moulding that runs round the ceiling at the top of a wall.

Crown Molding

Ornamental strip of wood that lies along the ceiling line.



The wall space between the chair rail and the baseboard.


Patterns imitating stylized textiles, usually monochromatic in color with floral, foliage or swag themes.

Dead corner

An inconspicuous spot where you can place the mismatched last sheets of a wallcovering. Also, known as the kill point.

Documentary wallpapers

Replica historic wallpaper.

Double cut seam

A wallpaper seam in which the edges of two adjoining sheets are overlapped and then cut through the overlap; then excess materials are removed from both layers and the seam is pressed into place. Also known as an overlapping butt joint.

DRC (drywall repair clears)

See Primer/Sealers.


A length of wallcovering cut to fit a specific space. A full drop runs from the ceiling to the baseboard and includes allowances for trimming. Also called a sheet or strip.

Drop match

A design in which the pattern is staggered rather than straight across. The pattern at the top is the same on every other strip of wallcovering. There is waste with the drop matching of large scale patterns, therefore, when dealing with a drop match, paper hangers use the technique of measuring and cutting adjacent strips from different rolls of wallcovering and alternating them. Also so known as a pattern drop.

Dry hanging

Method of hanging wallcoverings in which the adhesive is applied to the wall instead of the back of the wallcovering.

Dry strippable

Describes a wallpaper that can be pulled off the wall without first treating it with a wetting agent.



Wallpaper that has a raised textured effect, like Anaglypta paintables or a velvet flocked wallpaper.

Euro roll

A single roll of wallcovering sized in the metric system. Standard Euro rolls yield about 29 square feet of surface material. Its narrower width makes it easier than an American roll to handle, but you get more seams. Also known as a metric roll.



A French word for "imitation". In wallpapers, it usually applies to designs that imitate actual textures such as wood and stone.


The main wall area between the chair rail and frieze of a wall, also known as a sidewall.

Fleur de lis (Fleur de lys)

A stylized version of the iris flower used often in heraldry and French design.

Flock (Flocked)

Wallcovering made by a machine that shakes very fine cotton, silk, rayon or nylon fibers from a hopper over a pattern printed in varnish or slow drying paint, to create the appearance of cut velvet.

Floral prints or patterns

Any wallpaper pattern or design with recognizable flowers printed as the decorative surface.


The term used to describe two level, adjacent surfaces.

Focal point

The first wall you see upon entering a room. If a room has multiple entries, the main focal wall is the one facing the room's dominate flow of traffic.


Constructed by laminating a thin sheet of aluminum onto a substrate of paper or scrim. Foils sometimes have a polyester sheet between the paper backing and the foil to prevent water in the adhesive from actually contacting the foil. They must be hung on very smooth surfaces and require great care in handling.


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


A horizontal ornamental border along the top of a room or panel. Generally a pictorial border that ran above, the door height or, in a dining room, above the plate rail.

Frieze Pattern

A pattern that repeats in one direction, popular in the early 1900s.


A chemical that kills mold.


Geometric patterns

Modernist design from the 1900-1970's usually printed on non-woven surfaces. A pattern or design characterized by straight lines, triangles, circles, etc.

Glass textile wallcovering

Woven with glass yarns and designed for strength, health, safety, and designed versatility. They are paintable, decorative and a functional wallcovering for interior wall and ceiling surfaces.


A style of architecture developed in northern France that spread throughout Europe between the 12th and 16th centuries; characterized by slender vertical piers and counterbalancing buttresses and by rib vaulting and pointed arches and a developing emphasis on verticality and the impression of height.


The background area of the wallpaper. Also called the choke.


Handprints (Hand screening)

See Screen-printed.

Header Strip

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


A pattern consisting of rows of short slanted parallel lines with the direction of the slant alternating row by row and used in masonry, parquetry, embroidery, and weaving.

Honeysuckle ornament

See Anthemion.

Houndstooth check

A textile design of small broken checks.


In-register paper backed vinyl

Solid vinyl layer of material is laminated or bonded to a paper-backing sheet. These wallpapers have a raised or embossed effect to register the pattern design. They resist moisture, stains, and grease and are scrubbable and peelable but will not withstand extreme physical abuse. Cleaning may be more difficult due to the raised pattern.


The strength of a color.



A soft, resilient natural fiber extracted from the stalks of the giant cochorus plants grown in Kerala, a state of India.


Key Pattern

See Fret.

Kill point

See Dead corner.



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

Lap Seam

A method of hanging wallpaper in which strips overlap slightly. Primarily used on commercial goods.


Perfectly horizontal.

Liner paper (Lining paper)

A special paper, also called blank stock, usually applied horizontal and used under wallcoverings. Benefits of use include, smoother surface for final wallcovering, serves as an excellent porous base for decorative wallpaper, and sets (bonds) the seams and controls the expansion/contraction process (moisture and vapor bubble reduction).


See Trompe L'oeil.


One of the oldest of all decorative motifs, utilizing the water lilies of the Nile River.



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.

Matte finish

A dull or flat finish.


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

Metal wallpaper

Wallcoverings with a real metal surface.

Metalized polyester (Mylar)

Consist of a vacuum metalized polyester film laminated to a fabric backing. They have a highly reflective surface of foil without the accompanying stiffness and creasing. They are strong and durable. Mylar is the common brand name.


Wallpaper that gives the appearance of a sheet metal or foil.

Metric roll

See Euro roll.

Moiré (Moire)

Wallpaper having a watery silk sheen or wood grain effect embossed on the decorative surface.

Molded wallcovering

See Anaglypta.

Molding (Moulding)

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


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


The recurring design or subject matter of a wallpaper pattern.


Wall coverings with a pictorial design that continues over two or more strips of wallpaper and is intended to cover part or most of a wall without repeat. These scenes may be photographic, digital, custom, hand, or machine printed. Cleaning care and durability widely varies depending on the manufacturing technique and materials used. Also called scenics.

Muted colors

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

Mylar (Metalized polyester)

Often mistaken for foil, it has similar application and appearance features. A brand of metalized polyester film from Dupont that is applied to decorative prints of wallpaper.


Natural fibers

Natural materials, such as bamboo, jute, rice paper, silk, cork, reed, sisal, cotton, and grass are laminated to a paper backing. They are usually unpasted. They provide a natural and textured character to decoration and are available in an extensive variety of color combinations.

Neoclassicism (Neo-classicism) (Neoclassical) (Neo-classical)

Reviving the unemotional ideals of ancient Greece and Rome. Its rigidity was a reaction to the over bred elegance and elaborate Rococo style and the emotional charged Baroque style.

Neutral colors

Beiges, whites, grays, and browns. Colors which coordinate well with most other colors.

Non-breathable (Nonporous)

Wallcovering with this characteristic does not allow water and air to freely pass through its surface. Solid vinyl and foils are not breathable.


Ombre stripe

Striped wallpaper where one color is used in several values, giving it a blurred or bleeding out look.

Open time

The time period available between the activation and application of adhesives until they dry.


Type of coarse, heavy cloth, usually cotton, used as a backing in Type II vinyl coated fabric wallpapers.

Outside corner

A corner formed when two walls, not facing each other, are joined and protrude into the room.

Overlapping butt joint

See Double cut seam.

Overlapping Seam

A method of hanging wallcovering in which strips overlap slightly. Primarily used on commercial goods.


Pad grounds

Wallpaper that has been printed in one operation, with the design printed on a wet background.


Printed with colorful curved abstract figures of Persian origin.


Fan-shaped ornamental motif resembling either a palm leaf or a loose cluster of honeysuckle flowers. A band of palmettes is called an anthemion.

Panel decoration

Style of wallcovering which developed in the second half of the 18th century, designed to be framed in the wood paneled walls. Today they are used as spot decorations and framed with molding.

Paper backed vinyl

Solid vinyl layer of material is laminated or bonded to a paper-backing sheet. This type of wallcovering is very durable since the decorative surface is a solid sheet of vinyl, making it scrubbable and peelable. Paper backed vinyl can be used in most areas of the home since it resists moisture and is stain and grease resistant. However, this type of wallpaper will not withstand hard physical abuse. Also known as solid sheet vinyl.


Often associated with the green film that forms on copper and bronze.

Pattern drop

See Drop match.

Pattern match

The alignment of wallpapering strips at the edges so that the design makes a continuous horizontal, vertical, or diagonal flow of pattern around the room.

Pattern repeat

The distance between identical parts of a wallpaper's pattern in a straight vertical line.


Describes wallpaper in which the decorative surface and ground can be separated from the backing. The backing remains on the wall, but should be removed before hanging a new wallcovering or painting a wall. Note important differences between "peelable" and "strippable" wallcoverings.

Photo Murals

Wallpaper that simulates photography that is enlarged to be placed on a room-sized wall or door. Photo murals are usually divided into quarter panels for installation purposes, and portray scenes such as waterfalls, forest scenes, seashores, cities, or outer space.


Blister under wallpaper caused by a wall defect, usually a small bit of drywall that protrudes above the normal wall surface.


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


Degree of softness and ease of flexing and bending of wallpaper.


A true vertical line on a wall.

Plumb bob (Plumb line)

A weighted string used to establish and mark a true vertical on a wall, assuring that each strip is hung straight.

Prepasted paper

Describes a wallcovering that has an adhesive coating applied to its backing by the factory. Activated by dipping in water, activator, or thinned down wallpaper paste. The directions for each individual paper must be followed to determine proper soaking and booking time.


Describes a wallcovering whose selvages were removed at the factory.


Are applied to make the substrate more uniform for acceptance and improve the adhesion of the topcoat. Not all primers will allow the wallpaper to slide easily during installation. Primers will improve the removability of the wallcovering and decrease the chances of wall damage.


Can provide the best insurance on a good installation, often used in place of sizing materials. It is a special penetrating primer that is designed to penetrate the wall surface and seal up any problem areas due to wall damage or any situation where wall surface anomalies are suspected. These products are available in several mixtures to address specific needs. A colored (pigmented) acrylic primer/sealer is the most common because it can be used on all surfaces. It's water based, easy to clean and the coloring helps prevent any discolorations from showing through the paper. These products protect the underlying drywall, provide a good surface for adhesion, and increase the slip during wallpaper installation.

Primer/Size (Prep coat)

Acrylic primer that normally, when dry, leaves a tacky surface. This surface allows wallpaper to easily adhere to the surface. Examples of prep coats are Roman's R-35, California Paint's Prep 'n Size, Golden Harvest's BITE and Muralo's Adhesium.

Primer/Stain Killer

Should be used for walls with problematic stains such as grease, recurring mold, etc. They prevent these types of stains from bleeding through the wallpaper. This product would be used to spot-treat these areas or as a total primer base. These primers are also excellent for covering brightly painted surfaces that may otherwise bleed through the final wallpaper. Most stain killer formulas contain antimicrobal agents to prevent future growth of any type of mold; however, existing mold must be removed using a 3:1 water to bleach solution prior to application of the primer.



The horizontal application of wallpaper. This is used to create an unusual or striking effect, an example is a stripe hung horizontal. It is also, sometimes done with liner paper or bridging material.

Random match

Describes a design in which the pattern doesn't align at vertical edges in a regular fashion. Stripes, all-over textures, and grasscloths are good examples.


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


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


The distance from the center of an identical element in a motif or pattern to the next.

Reverse Hanging

Technique of paperhanging where each strip is alternately hung "right side up" and "upside down" in papers with a random match. This is used to negate or lessen the effects of shading problems on the edges of those wallcoverings, if applicable.

Rigid Vinyl Acrylic

This product is used in areas where there is a potential for high-impact concerns such as hospital corridors, high traffic areas in commercial buildings and the hospitality environment where movable carts are used.


It is characterized by opulence, grace, playfulness, and lightness in contrast to the heavier themes and darker colors of the earlier Baroque period. Rococo motifs focused on the carefree aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance rather then heroic battles or religious figures.


Measured lengthwise.


Saw tooth

See Chevron.


See Murals.


Involves the use of stencils to transfer the design. Paint is applied to a frame of stretched silk, polyester, or nylon screen and penetrates areas of the screen not blocked by the stencil pattern. By using several stencils, many colors can be added to form successive layers in a single print. Also known as handprints, silk screening, hand screening, and serigraphy.


Describes a wallcovering that can be cleaned with a prescribed detergent, water, and a brush.

Sculptured Wallcovering

See Anaglypta.


Areas where two wall coverings are joined.

Seam roller

A small, narrow plastic, felt, or wooden roller 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. Stringcloth, grasscloth, flock, and heavily embossed wallpaper are examples of product that would be damaged by the use of a seam roller.


Wallcovering in which shades of one color are featured.


The blank edge of a wallcovering. Used for markings that maintain registration during printing, plus protects the design during shipment.

Semi-automated wallcoverings

The selvages are partially severed and can be detached easily, or, the wallcoverings are fully trimmed on one edge only.


See Screen-printed.


Effect that can sometimes appear along the seams of patterned or textured wall coverings due to heavier ink coverage at one edge than the other during printing. Reverse hanging can often solve this problem.


See Drop.


Means "four seasons" in Japanese and used to describe hand-made Asian silk glued to a backing.


See Screen-printed.


See Fill.

Single Cut

What you do to seam a sheet that is wet with a sheet that has already dried. This technique mainly applies to sidewall paper and borders. You overlay the wet sheet on the dry sheet, use a smoother or putty knife to force the impression line of the underlying dry seam and then with the feel of your fingertips and a single edge blade, you cut a butted seam using the creased line as your guide.


Wallpaper made from the fibers of the sisal plant.

Size (Sizing)

In the case of plaster walls, it will prevent too much paste from being absorbed into the wall. Its use on drywall applications is not so much to prepare the wall, but to provide added adhesion for the final installation of wallpaper. It usually comes in the form of a white powder that is mixed with water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Another form of size is to coat the walls with a thinned down version of the adhesive that ultimately be used in the installation of the wall covering. Many wallpaper manufacturers specifically request its usage on any wall type though it is traditionally associated with plaster walls.


Narrow board that runs round the base of walls. Also known as baseboard.

Sliding cut

A method of cutting wallpaper by sliding a sharp knife along the edge of a surface under it.

Smoothing brush (Smoother)

Used to smooth out wrinkles or air from behind wallpaper during installation. Most often used on delicate wallpaper.

Solid sheet vinyl

See Paper backed vinyl.


Describes two walls whose sides join one another at true right angles.

Stain killer primer

See Primer/Stain Killer.


Describes a wallcovering coated with an acrylic, plastic, or vinyl that does not absorb stains.


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

Straight across match

Describes a design in which the pattern aligns horizontally at single-roll intervals. This means that the pattern design at the top of each strip is always the same.

Straight edge

A six foot or seven foot ruler used by a paperhanger to trim the selvage off of the wallpaper.

Stria (Strie)

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

String effect

Wallpaper that have very fine vertical threads laminated to a paper type substrate. Threads may be of a man made material or natural fiber such as silk or linen. These wall coverings should not be subjected to abuse and require great care in their cleaning.


See Drop.


Describes a wallpaper that can be pulled off the wall without first treating it with a wetting agent.


The backing of a wallpaper. It is laminated to the bottom of the design layer.


Swinging or suspended decoration, representing garlands, drapery, ribbons or leaves.


A sample cutting of wallpaper or fabric.


Toile de Jouy (Toile)

A 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.

Trompe L'oeil (Loeil)

French term meaning to "fool the eye". Wall coverings 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.



Describes wallpaper with intact selvages, not factory-trimmed.



The lower part, dado, of a wall when it has a different covering or finishes than the upper part.

Wallpaper trough

A specially shaped container designed to hold water for soaking prepasted papers before hanging.

Wall Primer

See Primer.

Warm colors

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

Wire Lap

See Lap seam.


Describes a wallpaper that can be cleaned with mild detergent and water applied with a sponge or soft cloth.

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