Nowadays, surface printing method is something of a speciality. It is a slow, traditional printing process that demands high level of skill and focus, but there is no comparison to the beauty and character of the print. It produces a characteristic print mark recognisable by a soft layer of distemper paint on the paper. Only the exceptional surface printing can give such vivid colours and hand-crafted feel for wallpapers.
Classic paper wallpapers are manufactured using traditional tools, materials and procedures of the rotary surface printing method of the 19th century. Each production batch is unique with characteristically beautiful handmade appearance as each batch of colour is hand mixed to the factory’s own recipe for distemper paint. Small shade variations between the batches are a natural part of this traditional printing method.
The paper roll, which can be up to 2000 metre long, is first printed with a base colour with a distemper paint. The printed paper rolls are then hoisted to hang on drying racks to dry. When dry, they are re-rolled and printed with the pattern. Depending on the design, one or more rollers engraved with a pattern are placed on the printing press. There is a tray filled with the desired colour of distemper paint for each roller. Felt blanket lifts paint from a tray to a roller, which then presses the paint onto the paper. Together, the different colours create the wallpaper design.
After printing, the wallpaper is hoisted to hang loose on the drying racks in the factory ceiling to dry. It is then re-rolled onto a large roll and taken for finishing, where the colours are fixed, the edges are cut clean before the large roll is cut to retail length wallpaper rolls and finally wrapped for delivery.
Much craftsmanship is required at every stage of the production process, as surface printing as a printing method takes a lot of preparatory work, fine-tuning and the skill to handle old printing press with character.
"Ken kiuruista kaunein", wallpaper design by Birger Kaipiainen, being printed on a rotary surface printing press: