This technique is very effective for etching designs into sidewalk grime but also has that "What the hell are they doing?" appeal for direct dialogue with the public. We did not attract any unwanted attention from police or security guards as we put our messages on public property. We used this technique in broad daylight, issued a press release and there were 14 of us who spoke with passersby. Check with the laws in your area.
Step 1: Equipment
You will need a minimum of 4 friends to implement but a group of 8 or larger is far better. Some can speak to passersby about your issue while others get wet and wild.
We did this action in downtown Vancouver on foot. If you intend to use reverse graffiti in other areas, like freeway overpasses for instance, then you will require additional safety and other equipment. As ever- safety first.
Most, if not all, of the equipment could be borrowed from family, friends and local organizations that are supportive of your cause. The generator rental and the stencil lamination are the pricey items.
- Consumer grade electric pressure washer (1200 PSI)
- Narrow spray nozzle
- Plastic/laminated stencil
- 20L/5 Gallon water jug
- 3/4" hose adapter
- 10' hose
- Plumbers putty or tape
- 3000W gas generator (quiet model)
- Extension cord
- 4+ traffic cones
- Rain gear and waterproof boots
- Eye protection
- Water source
For stencil production:
- Exacto knife
- Hard surface
- Straight edge
- Basic graphic design software
- Access to printing and laminating services
The easiest way to make the stencil is to create your design, have it printed and laminated and then cut it out with exacto knives. Our stencils survived 20 applications at 1200 PSI but that was the limit. The paper inside the laminate will disintegrate through water entering the open edges but the plastic will remain intact. Avoid thin strips in your design.
I used a plastic hose adapter for the water jug but it bent slightly very early on which resulted in a small but bothersome leak. Next time I'll try a metal adapter. The generator and most of the equipment was moved on a dolly. A second dolly or handtruck would make water hauling more convenient if you do not have a water source nearby.
The pressure washer will require a feed water flow rate of 1.5- 2 gallons per minute (check the manual). I did employ a stand at first but the flow rate from waist height only resulted in middling performance, even when tipping the jug. Optimum performance can be achieved by using a gravity feed approach by holding the container at head height. You may have to increase the size of the air inlet hole in the jug.