Wallpaper is back in style in a big way, which means there’s a lot of demand for trendy prints and patterns that can be used in wallpaper design.
For fans of interior and graphic design, becoming a wallpaper designer is a way to merge interests into a single creative career. Wallpapers come in a huge range of styles, colors, textures, and prints, and there’s a lot of opportunity there to flex your artistic muscle and make pieces that are worthy of adorning even the most stylish of homes and commercial spaces.
Think you have what it takes to make it as a wallpaper designer? Here’s what to know about this intriguing career, with a quick look at what a wallpaper designer does and the various steps that you can take to get started in the field.
What is a Wallpaper Designer?
A wallpaper designer, also known as a colorist, is a type of artist who creates original illustrations for wall coverings. Designs may be digitally produced or hand-drawn and often feature repeated patterns that come together into one cohesive piece.
To be successful, a wallpaper designer should also be highly proficient as a graphic designer, even if their process starts with sketching out designs by hand. Equally important is having a talent for staying on top of interior design trends, since styles need to be in line with what people want to buy for their homes or businesses—especially if the designer is working for an established wallpaper or décor company. And because wallpaper collections are created in advance of when they’ll go on sale, designers must be able to see into the future and predict what’s going to be popular.
Other things that a great wallpaper designer will bring to the table include an eye for patterns and symmetry, impressive drawing skills, and, in the case of designers who create custom prints, the ability to work with clients on bringing their wallpaper visions to life.
Wallpaper Designer Job Description
There are three career directions that an aspiring wallpaper designer can choose to pursue: high-end designer collections, mass-market collections, or custom work. They can also decide to work for an established company or to go out on their own as a freelancer.
High-end designer collections are produced on behalf of prestigious designers and are usually sold in limited quantities and at high prices. Creative freedom may be somewhat limited for these sorts of wallpaper design positions due to the fact that styles must adhere to a designer brand’s identity and potentially a larger themed collection as well.
Mass market collections are produced for mid- and lower-level retailers and are sold at a more affordable price point. These wall coverings may be created as part of a wider range of home interior products for a specific brand, or they may be created as branded products for retailers themselves. Designs tend to be trendy and well-aligned with what consumers are looking for in a particular season.
Custom work is for wallpaper designers who want to create wall coverings directly for clients. These clients may be business owners or homeowners, or they may be interior designers who are representing them. Similar to the work that a wallpaper designer would do for a high-end brand, these designs are going to be dictated at least in part by predefined styles and preferences. However, a wallpaper designer who specializes in custom designs is likely going to be chosen for their unique style and skills, so there is still plenty of artistic license.
Regardless of which type of wallpaper designer you become, many of the tasks will be the same. These include:
- Sketching out designs either digitally or by hand and then finalizing them in a digital format
- Selecting materials, colors, textures, and other wallpaper elements that are best suited to the design
- Budgeting and managing costs for a wallpaper collection
- Researching upcoming interior design trends and staying on top of what’s popular
- Communicating with a design team, product managers, buyers, individual clients, and interior designers
Wallpaper designers are artists first and foremost, but they often wear many other hats. Most spend a fair amount of time on responsibilities outside of simply sketching out designs, so it’s essential that you have the interest and the skills needed to take on these broader tasks.
The Wallpaper Design Process
If you haven’t designed wallpaper before, it might be helpful to know what steps go into the wallpaper production process. In-house wallpaper designers are involved with all if not most of these steps, including design conception, cost management, and overseeing any necessary adjustments.
Step 1: Do Research and Planning
Because wallpaper designers must be ahead of the curve on interior design, their work involves quite a bit of trend forecasting. Many will attend conventions and industry trade shows to see what’s coming up in terms of popular styles and colors. They may also look to the past for inspiration, modernizing classic styles for the contemporary consumer.
Step 2: Sketch Preliminary Designs
This is the point when a designer will put pencil to paper (or finger to screen) and create a full or partial sketch of their design. If working as a staff designer or selling their work as a freelancer or custom wallpaper designer, this sketch will then go out for approval to a team or client.
Step 3: Create the Full Design
Once their initial sketch is approved, a wallpaper designer will get to work producing a fully fleshed-out illustration that includes details on the colors and materials to be used. If the pattern will be available in various color palettes, they will also create illustrations for the variations.
Step 4: Fine-Tune and Secure Final Approval
The last step is to send the design to the engraver or screen-maker who will be manufacturing the wallpaper. The manufacturer will send back a sample for the wallpaper designer and their team, and the wallpaper will go on to full production following a final approval.
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How to Become a Wallpaper Designer
Wallpaper design is a competitive field without a ton of open positions. If you want to snag a staff role, you’ll need to be able to prove that you have the education and experience to be a worthwhile hire. Alternatively, you could decide to pursue a freelance career (more on that later), though even then, having a good background in design will serve you well and help you find your footing.
A graphic design degree or an art degree is valuable for those interested in becoming wallpaper designers, particularly when it comes to beating out the competition for in-house jobs. Alternate (but also highly valuable) educational tracts include interior design and textile design.
That said, there’s no single correct educational path to becoming a wallpaper designer. So before investing time and money into a degree, you may want to check out online resources on the subjects to see where your interests and talents are. Reading about something like graphic design trends, for example, will give you insight into what this specialty entails and whether it’s worth going all in on, while courses can be great supplements to a degree program and help you round out your skill set.
Gain Experience in Wallpaper Design
This is one of those fields where you’ll want to have experience in addition to a degree, instead of in place of it.
So much of what you will need to learn to become a wallpaper designer will be picked up by actually doing it. On-the-job training through a full- or part-time position or internship will allow you to build a portfolio of work that you can take with you as you apply for jobs or attempt to book clients for custom work. You can also start a portfolio before getting that first gig by using a platform like Spoonflower to print your designs on your own. The designs won’t have the same pull as if they were made for a brand or client, but they will show off what you can do.
How Much Does a Wallpaper Designer Make?
The average wallpaper designer salary in the U.S. is $64,307, according to Glassdoor. Factors that will impact how much you make in the role include your location, your experience and skill level, and who you work for. To ensure you make the most amount of money possible, be sure to gain proficiency in digital design software in addition to gaining experience in textile design.
Types of Wallpaper Designer Jobs
You can work for an established company as a wallpaper designer, or you can freelance and work for yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, though either can lead to success and fulfillment in your career.
Work for a Wallpaper, Wall Covering, or Home Décor Company
Become a staff designer at a wallpaper design company or a related company, such as one that specializes in more general wall coverings, furniture, or home décor. Staff designers create collections on behalf of brands or retailers and often collaborate with design teams to sketch out designs that are in cohesion with larger collections of home accessories.
As a staff designer, you could also be tasked with creating custom work for individual clients. This might mean working directly with the clients themselves—such as homeowners, restaurant owners, or hotel owners—or with the interior designers who are representing them.
Working for an existing company means that you might have to sacrifice some creative control over your designs. There are some perks to make up for that, however, including consistent work and the ability to collaborate with highly skilled teams.
Go Solo as a Freelance Wallpaper Designer
Freelance wallpaper designers have all of the say over who they work with and how much they work. They also have more opportunity to express their personal style. This is a big win for any artist, but it does mean that they also have to hustle more in order to get in front of prospects and make sales.
A freelance wallpaper designer may sell their work to brands or retailers, or they may sell directly to designers and consumers through an online or physical store or through custom orders. Self-marketing is key, so a freelancer should maintain a strong web presence via a website and social media.
If you intend on freelancing, consider diversifying your efforts by offering wallpaper design in addition to other services. Broader textile design, interior design, or even basic graphic design could bring in more income while also allowing you to create beautiful wallpapers.
What Designer Brands Do Wallpaper?
Now you know what you need to do, but are you ready to shoot for the stars? Here are some of the luxury designer brands that make wallpapers, any of which would be a good place to look for inspiration—or for a future career.
- Ralph Lauren
- Karl Lagerfeld
- Christian Lacroix
- Brunschwig & Fils
Whether you join a big company, a small company, or go solo, there’s a lot to love about a career in wallpaper design. Follow your passion and discover what amazing things you can create.
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