Make personal photos the focal point of a room

Large-format digital printing turns your photographs into wall coverings

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Maybe you traveled to Hawaii and vowed to always remember the shimmering sunsets. Turns out that isn't so hard, as long as you've got great pictures.

Custom wall coverings can put Paris, the Great Pyramids or fall colors of the Great Smokey Mountains on your walls. As a result, large-format digital printing is taking hold as a way to make a generic builder home more of a personal space.

Who needs floral wallpaper when sports and movies are what matters to you? Smaller images also can become a room's focal point. Used in multiples, your children's smiling faces or your cat's paw prints can make a custom pattern.

Digital images

The same process that provides businesses with signs and other promotional products can also be put to work to the delight of residential clients, according to Deanna Duke, owner of Sign Innovations in Huntersville, N.C.

"You may want to have an accent wall in a child's room that displays the child at a recent gymnastics meet; with the right photo, we can do that," Duke said.

Digital images are a made up of a series of tiny "dots." The higher the dots per inch, the clearer and sharper the image.

Printing in a large format calls for a chemical and heat-transfer process that can reproduce your favorite images as wall coverings, murals or cutouts. Customers can get pictures and murals for entire walls, windows and floors.

There are different types of vinyl for different applications and durability, Duke said. The wall art can be temporary (four to six months) or durable enough to last several years. Digital images can even be used outdoors to add art or illusion to garage doors or other areas.

Sign Innovations, www.signinnovations.com, usually handles design, manufacture and installation for its customers. Prices vary greatly for custom work, depending on the size of the image and materials. Turnaround times vary from a few weeks to longer periods.

Large wall murals of jungle, forest and mountain scenes are also available at retailers such as Lowe's. Prices start at less than $100 for an image that is 100 by 164 inches. These are typically do-it-yourself projects, but a contractor who is well-versed in wallpaper probably could step in if you don't have the time or skills.

Wall murals, cutouts

If you're crazy about the Panthers and want a life-size image of Luke Kuechly exploding off your living room wall, then Fathead wall murals or cutouts might be your scene.

Fathead, www.fathead.com, has licenses for peel-and-stick sports and entertainment wall murals and sells them in several sizes. So now there's one more way for "Star Trek" fans to let Captain Kirk and his sidekick, Mr. Spock, live on. The collection also gives Disney fans a cast to choose from.

Custom printing is available to supersize your own superstars or scenes with your personal photographs or images. Prices start at around $25 for an 8-by-10-inch die cut (background removed) to $140 for a 48-by-78-inch premium-quality image.

Custom wall covering

Homeowners who are looking for a more traditional look often choose textures or bold patterns as a way to add accent and focus, according to Brock McLendon, owner of Brock Moran Home, www.brockmoran.com/index.html, an interior design shop in Charlotte's Ballantyne neighborhood.

"Natural fibers such as grass cloth and hemp offer warmth and comfort," said McLendon. "I see geometric patterns gaining in popularity of late; these are a great way to add dramatic flair."

Two of his favorite manufacturers are Phillip Jeffries (www.phillipjeffries.com) and Cole & Son (www.cole-and-son.com/home.asp).

McLendon said that some companies set a minimum number of rolls per order. He estimated the starting price for custom wall coverings for a small powder room at $3,000, plus installation.