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Test Drive: WhiteWall's Direct Print On Wood Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

24 October 2017

When WhiteWall announced its new Print On Wood option in which the birch wood grain of the printed piece remains clearly visible, we scratched our head a while. Just what would look good printed on wood?

Arrival. UPS delivered a well-packaged product before the week was out.

We thought of all those vacation homes in the Sierras we have inhabited for a week or two with decorative rural scenes on the walls and thought maybe that would be the thing. Wooded landscapes, say.

Certainly not portraits. Unless they are of a centenarian whose skin has wrinkled into a woody texture.

Our idle speculation became an assignment, though, when WhiteWall offered to make a 15x20-inch wood print for us.


A tough assignment, actually. We spent an awful lot of time settling on an image. But we'll cut to the chase.

The decorator in us decided to hunt for an image of wood with a light sky. We imagined the grain of the birch would be visible in the sky and complement the woody subject.

And we found just what we were looking for in an image of Andy Goldsworthy's Spire, a rising tower of tree trunks in the Presidio. We had made the Raw capture with the sculpture itself blocking the sun, so the sky was quite light around it.

In the rollover above, you'll notice some slight distortion in the photo of the printed piece as a result of using the Upright tool in Lightroom to straighten the image and not correcting for the optical distortion. In reality, they are identical, our original slightly cropped in the print to accommodate the print size.

Two points to keep in mind about image selection:

  • The birch surface itself is warm, so your image will have a warm cast.
  • While the product uses a 7-color printing process, there is no white ink so anything white will be transparent, letting the grain of the birch show through.

And just one word about WhiteWall's printing process on wood. It uses an ultraviolet curing process to dry the inks immediately without evaporation or absorption into the wood surface.


In our review The WhiteWall Experience, we detailed WhiteWall's image requirements and our prep to match them.

Printing on Wood is a different game.

There is no color profile to download and apply. WhiteWall uses an sRGB profile to print on wood, which is standard stuff in any image editing software. But if you don't apply an sRGB profile to the image you upload, WhiteWall will.

And image size isn't a bit deal either because you can print on wood blocks as small as 4x4 inches. Or as large as 40x36 inches.

But we couldn't resist optimizing the image.

We processed the DNG through Piccure+ to create a TIFF we edited in Photoshop CC, making sure we were working with an sRGB profile. And we were done before we knew it.


One concern we had during the ordering process was the direction of the grain. The birch grain, in the images shown on the WhiteWall site shows all the grain as vertical. And indeed, the company confirmed that grain is always vertical.

WhiteWall also notes that the birch is peeled in a single piece from the tree to make sure the grain is consistent throughout the print.

Sizes. In addition to this secondary page of sizes, you can order a custom size as well.

With so few options, the ordering process is simple. It takes just a few steps to complete:

  • My Product: Select the WhiteWall product you want. In this case we selected Direct Print on Wood, which is different from Original Photo Print on Wood (which attaches a conventional print to a wooden base).
  • My Photos: Upload or select your image. You can also edit the image here but it's best to do that on your desktop.
  • Size & Format: Pick the size of the print you want. Your image will already have an aspect ratio and WhiteWall will suggest some sizes but you can click to a fuller set of options. And custom sizes between 4x4 and 40x36 inches are also available with this product .
  • White Border: There's no white used in this process, so no white border. No "clear" border either.
  • Corners: Corners are standard.

Our bill for the 15x20 print was $71.95 exclusive of tax with a $14.95 shipping estimate.

Our Order. Painlessly few steps including uploading and selecting a size.

We placed our order late in the afternoon on Oct. 13, a Friday, from San Francisco. WhiteWall estimated it would take up to four days to complete the order. We received an email from WhiteWall on Oct. 17, the next Tuesday, to tell us the order had shipped. And UPS delivered the order on Oct. 19.

UPS is testing a new feature that let us track the truck delivering our order as it worked its way around our neighborhood so we knew exactly when it would arrive. Very nice.

UPS Tracking. We could follow the truck around the neighborhood.


We continue to be charmed by the care with which WhiteWall packages its products.

Packaging. Mouse over or tap for captions.

The 15x20-inch piece arrived in a cardboard jacket secured with four plastic straps. Inside the piece was protected by Styrofoam padding on all four sides. The wooden board itself was wrapped in bubble wrap.

Corner Protection. Three levels.

When we removed the bubble wrap, we noticed the board's four corners had been protected by oversized plastic covers buffered with a waxy tissue paper where contact was made with the board and a springy foam sheet between that paper and the plastic corner itself.

You might guess from that our print arrived unharmed. And you'd be right.


Our first look at the 3/4-inch wooden board was, of course, its back side.

At the top two holes were drilled into the limed plywood for plastic cups that slip completely into the holes. The cups have a sawed ridge to grab mounting hardware like a screw or nail.

Apart from a WhiteWall Seal of Quality certificate that states:

We hereby certify that this photograph was made with care using the most state-of-the-art printing processes and high quality brand-name materials. Photo prints are certified for 75 years of brilliant color and prints made through other processes are certified for 25 years. This photograph went through a 6-step final inspection. 5-year guarantee.

It's signed by Alexander Neiswandt, founder and CEO of WhiteWall Media.

The guarantees are a little confusing. But the WhiteWall site makes it clear the 75-year guarantee applies to the color while the 5-year guarantee applies to the product itself.

Product Details. Mouse over or tap for captions.

Note that there WhiteWall does not apply any bumpers to the bottom corners to protect your wall. The back surface is sanded very smooth but you may want to attach rubber bumpers or felt near all of the corners to keep the piece from rubbing against the wall when you hang it.


When we finally flipped the piece over to take a look at our image, we were stunned.

The Reveal. We were quite pleasantly surprised stunned.

It was magnificent.

We'd had misgivings about the quality of the image we had submitted in general.

The bark of the tree trunks was particularly noisy being shadow detail in a backlit subject. We'd minimized that in our final edit but weren't confident it wouldn't be noticeable. It wasn't.

We were a bit worried about the sky, too, which graduated from blue at the top to white. There was just a hint of blue at the top of the image and the white had all turned into birch grain, which emanated from the spire in waves that we found particularly attractive.

And that dark spire itself held its detail very well, clearly bark, clearly rising up and twisting into the sky. We couldn't have made a single edit to improve it.


As we mentioned above, the birch itself is not a neutral white but a warm color that will give your image a warm cast. That worked out well for our image of the spire.

But as we looked at the image from the side, we noticed the birch surface did not reflect light evenly. When you make a print on paper, the surface is relatively even but on a natural surface like the birch, there is not only variable grain but areas where growth patterns and other natural factors can vary.

Surface Variation. Some unevenness is to be expected in a natural product.

On heavily inked areas like the spire, this wasn't noticeable. But it was noticeable in the sky from an angle. Seen straight on, it wasn't objectionable, however.

Then too, as much sanding as one can do, there will be artifacts in the wood itself. Very small nicks, for example, as seen above in our third Product Details image. If that sort of thing bothers you, abandon the idea of printing on a natural surface like wood. It's unavoidable.

The last thing to say about the surface of this product is that it is unprotected. We avoided touching it with our hands, holding it by the sides like a long-playing record.

It is framable, of course, if you're worried about the elements (which you might if you hang it in a bathroom). But we liked it just the way it arrived.


This is a specialty product not suitable for every image. But if you have a suitable image, it makes a stunning presentation.

Our image of Goldsworthy's Spire printed on birch has impressed everybody who's seen it. And the closer they get, the more impressed they are. Amazed, in fact.

And that earns WhiteWall all four photo corners.

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