Glossary of Terms


Embossed wallpaper made by feeding paper through a pair of profiled male and female rollers giving a relatively deep ‘hollow’ back, often designed to be painted over once hung. This type of wallpaper became common after the product was launched, under the trade name Anaglypta in1887. Some tradtional patterns are still available today. The term is now broadly applied to all embossed wallpapers of this type.

Arsenic green

Typically a strong green pigment developed in the late 1770’s and used in the wallpaper industry until the end of the 19th century. This pigment could be harmful to health in damp conditions.


A narrow strip of paper pasted around the edges of the main wallpaper. Borders not only provided a visual frame, but served to cover the uneven edges of cut wallpaper, and could help prevent the underlying wallpaper from peeling away from the wall.

Block printing

A method of relief printing by hand, from flat blocks that were traditionally made from wood. These blocks are typically constructed with a thin facing layer of fruitwood into which the pattern is carved, and is re-inforced by backing layers of softwood. As well as carving, the design could also be built up from metal pins and shaped peices of metal hammered into the surface of the block and packed with felt. Separate blocks are normally used for each colour. See our gallery

Cylinder printing

A term used in the early days of machine printing, see Roller printing.

Distemper colour

A paint typically made with pigments, chalk and water based glue or size, traditionally used for printing wallpaper.

Chinese wallpaper

Wallpaper made in China from the 17th century onwards, originally for sale to the European export market. Chinese papers and pigments are used in its manufacture, and it is often hand painted.

Domino paper

A French term used to describe single sheets of block printed patterned paper. These were used for bookbinding and many other decorative uses including early forms of wallpaper.


A technique that produces a relief surface, usually by pressing paper between pairs of male and female rollers or plates. This technique can be very shallow, forming a background to a pattern, e.g. giving a watered silk effect, or it can provide the main element of a pattern. In the 18th century flocked wallpaper was also sometimes described as embossed because of its raised textural effect.


A technique for achieving a raised pattern and fabric-like effect. The design is printed in adhesive which is then covered in short dyed fibres. The fibres were mostly made from wool until around the mid 20th century since when synthetic fibres applied by an electrostatic flocking process have been more commonly used. See mock flock, embossing.


Printing process where the image is transferred from incised etched designs. An intaglio process especially used for big production runs of wallpaper since the mid 20th century. Separate rollers are used for each colour and are engraved in a pattern of small square shaped recesses of different depths, which determine the strength of colour. This process allows for very fine detail.

Ground or Grounds

The background, or colour applied over the complete paper surface before the wallpaper design is printed. Some wallpapers, usually associated with the cheaper end of the market, have no overall applied ground. These groundless papers may rely on the natural colour of the paper fibres, or be made from fibres that have been dyed a plain colour.

Hand block printing

See Block printing.

India papers

India papers were not strictly from India but from China. Chinese export wallpapers in the 18th century were brought back to Britain by the traders of the East India Company. The supplier of these wallpapers rather than their place of origin was more commonly referenced and so the nickname stuck. See Chinese wallpaper.

Intaglio printing

Printing process where the image is transferred from incised engraved or etched designs, as in copper plate printing, this is usually from rollers in the wallpaper industry. Used for printing Sanitary wallpapers. See block printing, relief printing, gravure, Sanitary paper.

Laid paper

When applied to hand made paper it is paper with a characteristic wire mark resulting from the paper making surface. Closely spaced ‘laid’ lines at approximately 1mm intervals are crossed by ‘chain’ lines at 90 degrees, spaced at approximately 25mm. Most wallpaper made before 1800 was made using laid paper. See also wove paper.

Machine made paper

ppaer made on a paper making machine rather than formed by hand on a hand held paper mould. Continuously made or 'endless' machine made paper was commercially available from 1810 but the Government tax on paper meant that it was not allowed to be used, other than in cut sheets, until the 1830s. See pre-joined paper.

Machine printing

The term includes various mechanical printing methods and distinct from hand block printing. The first commercially viable machine that was made for printing wallpapers was in use from around 1840.

Mock flock

An imitation of true flock, where either a cheaper dry powdered pigment was used instead of flock fibres, or where the image was printed in such a way as to imitate the appearance of flock. See flocking.

Panoramic wallpaper

A set of wallpaper lengths which are each printed with a part of a scene which when hung together in correct order form a non repeating wider scene or view. A term mainly applied to French wallpapers of the first few decades of the 19th century, where scenes could be in excess of 30 metres wide.

Paper hangings

A term used historically from the 17th century to describe wallpaper. The name ‘wallpaper’ became increasingly more common after the mid 19th century.

Paper stainer

The traditional name for a wallpaper manufacturer before the introduction of machine printed wallpapers from the 1840s onwards.


A roll or length of wallpaper.

Pre-joined paper

A length or roll of wallpaper made by pasting individual sheets of paper together edge to edge before printing. Prior to around 1830 and the use of contiuous, machine made paper, all wallpaper rolls were made in this way.

Pulp paper

In the wallpaper industry this term applies to low quality paper that has been made from unpurified woodpulp.

Relief printing

Printing process where the image is transferred from the raised parts of a block or roller.

Roller printing

Term used to describe a rotary machine printing technique in which a wallpaper is fed around a large central drum, passing by several smaller rollers that are engraved (intaglio printed) or relief printed with the various elements of the design. Each smaller roller is fed by its own individual tray of coloured paint. The wallpaper is fed off the cylindrical drum when it has passed by all the smaller rollers bearing the individual component parts of the design.

Satin ground

A shiny lustrous effect given to a wallpaper by polishing the surface of a distemper ground with stiff bristles brushes and talc. See also ground.

Sanitary wallpaper

A term applied to wallpapers engraved roller (intaglio) printed in oil based colours and popular from around 1880 onwards. The slightly water resistant, oil based design was also capable of receiving a varnish coating, meaning that once hung these wallpapers could be very carefully wiped clean with a damp cloth and were therefore marketed as 'sanitary'. This term was still in popular use in the 1920’s.

Screen printing

Printing process where the image is formed by squeezing ink/ colour through a stencil made from an open weave fabric stretched over a flat screen. Each colour requires a seperate screen stencil to be printed one at a time. The technique was traditionally a hand printing process, however, some elements of it have been mechanised. Rotary screen printing uses rollers made from metal mesh rather than a flat bed screen. In this the paint is squeezed through the mesh from the inside of the roller and several colours can be printed at the same time as the paper passes through the machine. This process that has been successfully used to replicate the appearance of hand blocked wallpapers.

Scenic wallpaper

See panoramic wallpaper.


Process for making patterns by designs cut in a sheet material, such as leather, card or metal. Colour is brushed or sprayed through the cutaways. Commonly used for applying hand painted areas of colour, and adhesive for flock, in the early 18th century, and also for the sprayed application of colour in the 20th century.

Surface Printing

Traditional wallpaper and calico printing term for machine printing using relief printed rollers. This process became commercially viable in 1840. See Roller printing, Relief printing.


Patterned or plain paper specifically produced to decorate walls, also used to describe ceiling papers.

Wallpaper tax

A UK tax applied to most wallpaper produced in the UK between 1712 and 1836. Ink stamps were applied to the reverse of wallpaper to help ensure duties were collected. From 1786 one of the stamps, the Frame Mark, included the date of manufacture.


Paper consisting of wood chips sandwiched between two thin sheets of paper. These papers were very popular from the third quarter of the 20th century onwards. They are often hung and then painted.

Wove paper

A paper with a characteristic wire mark resulting from the paper making surface, which when visible, resembles the appearance of woven fabric. Most wallpaper made after 1800 has been made from wove paper. See also Laid paper.


Embossed wallpaper made from linseed oil, gums, resins and wood pulp with a textile backing invented in the 1870s. Its material composition makes it very hard wearing and capable of being formed into deep relief patterns. Designs were made for use on walls or ceilings and could be painted in situ. Lincrusta was very popular from the Victorian period onwards, with some tradtional patterns still available today.


The process of cutting off the unprinted edges or selvedge of a wallpaper length before hanging. This was a skill originally carried out by the decorator before wallpaper became available pre-trimmed by the manufacturer.


An upholstery term used to describe a decorative ribbon or tape that is used for trimming furniture and draperies. It is often used around the edges of textile covered walls to hide nail fixings. Paper wallpaper borders were traditionally used for the same purpose when a wallpaper was hung on a stretched textile base.


An area at the top of a wall usually marked out between the cornice and picture rail. The decorative effect which became known as the 'frieze, filling and dado' was very popular in the second half of the 19th century and involved dividing the wall into three sections and decorating each in different wallpaper patterns or coloured paint. See Filling and Dado.

Tapestry papers

Wallpapers designed to look like woven or embroidered tapestries. These machine printed wallpapers were popular in the decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were machine printed in a colour palette resembling faded antique tapestries and often had a grid of lines printed over them to suggest the texture of woven or emboidered stitches.


A wood panelled or wallpapered area on a wall of around two or three feet in height extending up from the skirting board. Dados were often used to protect the wall surface from wear and tear in this area, although they were also used as a decoratvie feature. They were often surmounted by a decorative 'dado rail' made from a wooden strip or wallpaper border.


An area of the wall between the dado and the cornice or picture rail. This area was often wallpapered or painted in a different scheme to the other elements dividing up the wall. The decorative effect which became known as the 'frieze, filling and dado' was very popular in the second half of the 19th century and involved decorating the three elements of the wall in different patterns or colours.


A glue-like substance made from gelatin derived from animal skin and bones and water, used in the preparation of distemper paint for wallpaper. Size is also a term used more broadly in paper manufacture to provide a smooth and slightly water resistant surface to printing and writing paper using gums and starches as well as animal products.


The adheisve used to hang wallpapers. Traditionally starch pastes made from flour were most commonly used. Decoratiors often had their own recipes involving various additives to improve performance or shelf life. Modern wallpaper paste is now made from a modified starch called methycellulose.

Non-woven wallpaper

A modern wallcovering with textile fibres and synthetic binders added to the paper fibres to make the wallpaper more dimensionally stable when wet. Commonly used for wallcoverings where the wall rather than the wallpaper is pasted.

Digital printing

A wallpaper printing process that uses a digital image, either scanned, photographed or digitally generated from which to print wallpaper by digital means, such as laser printing, inkjet printing or thermal transfer printing. By this process, all component elements and colours of the design can be printed at the same time.

Engraved roller printing

A form of machine printing where metal printing cylinders or rollers are engraved or etched with the wallpaper pattern. The engraving and etching technique (also known as intaglio printing) is capable of producing very fine lines, details and shading effects. As such it is not compatible with thick, granular distemper paints and is most often used with smoother oil based inks. See also Machine printing and Roller printing.