Instructables
Picture of Reverse Graffiti with Pressure Washer
Expanding upon other reverse graffiti instructables and works elsewhere this is how you can create bright and clear street art and engage the public on issues of importance in your community with the help of some friends and a pressure washer.

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.
 
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Step 1: Equipment

Picture of Equipment
This approach is more cumbersome than the bleach method but is non-toxic. The generator will produce air pollutants and carbon dioxide but is quite minimal when compared to the impact of a single-occupancy vehicle at rush hour. No SOVs were used in the making of this action. I looked into electric solar generators that are available in Canada but the largest is only 1200W- not enough for a 15-16 Amp washer. Sometimes you do gotta say it with hydrocarbons.

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.

Equipment List:

- 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
- Bucket
- 3000W gas generator (quiet model)
- Dolly
- Extension cord
- 4+ traffic cones
- Rain gear and waterproof boots
- Eye protection
- Water source
- Costumes
- Leaflets
- Petitions
- Clipboards
- Pens

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.

The best pressure washer is a cleaning tool that is capable of removing mold, dust, pain, dirt, mud and tough stain from objects and surfaces such as walls, concrete surfaces, vehicles, and the likes using pressured water. The machine is capable of producing about 5 MPa or 750 psi. But there are also other ones that can produce about 200 MPa or 30,000 psi. Pressure washer is measured in volume which is normally designated in liters per minute or in gallons. This tool features a motor which can be hydraulic, electric, pneumatic or internal. The high-pressure water pump is driven by the motor. Other important parts of pressure washer are the trigger gun-style switch and high pressure hose. The motor of the engine provides power to the pump which moves water at a very high speed via the hose and nozzle. The water is pushed out at a great pressure which is capable of getting rid of tough stain such as grease, dust, dirt, and grime from any surface.

Pressure washer is available in a number of brands and models. But just as the case with other tools, these products are not equally made and thus consumers’ experience which determines the review differs. Some models of pressure washer have been rated higher than others in Amazon by consumer based on the experience they have using the machine. Pressure washer is also available in a number of types designed to suit different needs. Given the availability of difference types of pressure washers in the market coupled with the fact that each product is unique in its reliability, functionality and available features, you don’t just buy any one you see in the market. There are some factors that you should take into consideration if you want to buy a pressure washer. These are some of the things that you will learn here.

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fishph059 months ago
Power washing a street is a quick and efficient way to get it ready for painting or g raffiti, but the same effect can be created by using simple household cleaning products. Read information
lhuyghe2 years ago
where can I hire someone to do this service for my business in Vancouver?
astrochimp (author)  lhuyghe2 years ago
I don't have anyone to recommend, however, a quickie Google search yielded this possibility: http://smak.ca/

Good hunting.
typo31504 years ago
Wonderful and hope your transit goals are realized.
typo31504 years ago
Love how you discuss your strategy! I hope to try this.
Nice work, green advertising is the future. A typical advert would last around 3 months. But they can last 5 months or more!
I really like this. It seems a great way to convey your message without damaging the look of the area, as many people consider typical graffiti to do. How long did the messages last for? Also, did they evoke a significant response from people, or have much of an impact? Great idea and excellent implementation.
astrochimp (author)  Damage, Inc.5 years ago
Thanks! I have seen other examples of reverse graffiti around town since our action, even shops are allowing messages from charities to be etched in the grime at their front doors, some lasting for a couple weeks. Ours lasted a day or two in some cases, "removed" by some building owners, and others a week or so, busy sidewalks returning to their grimy state, to carry another message, another day. The response from folks during our event was great, many enjoyed the method and the message- we distributed hundreds of flyers to bemused passersby and several folks stopped to discuss the issue more (also why a quiet generator is important!). We got the message out through local and provincial media too. Our ask to the public was to sign a petition calling for the expansion of public transit instead of a mega-bridge and freeways, in the end, after a few more events, we collected over 10 000 signatures. On its own or as a means to build dramatic tension for another type of action or event, I think it is a fun and pretty effective, positive method to deliver a message and engage the public.
Wow, that's awesome. I really like the temporary aspect of the whole thing. Out of curiosity, did the petition work?
astrochimp (author)  Damage, Inc.5 years ago
The petition hasn't worked yet, though the fight is still on. Neighbourhoods have organized and community groups are making a strong case for light rail transit. The current provincial government is beholden to the interest groups that want the freeways so more work ahead- perseverance furthers!
luvit5 years ago
i secretly reverse graffiti dirty cars with political statements
Gamer9175 years ago
gordo means fat in spanish
aguness5 years ago
hi, this it great! Can you tell more on the stencil itself? Which material did you use and how did you laminate it?
astrochimp (author)  aguness5 years ago
I just had the stencils printed on poster size paper (100% post-consumer recycled) and then laminated at a small, local print shop. Not all small print shops can do such a large size (1m x 1m) but this one does and they offer discounts to fellow planet savers! Laminating can get expensive so print only what you need- they are pretty durable. After laminating the stencils, a dozen friends and volunteers helped me cut them out with xacto knives as we enjoyed some sun and each others company out on the lawn. It can be time consuming if you have a lot of stencils but in most cases it won't require much time- about 10 min or so per stencil. After cutting out the letters, the paper inside is exposed but is not a problem as it is no longer required. I found that each stencil lasted for a dozen or so applications before some of the letters broke. If you try it yourself, let me know your results.
cry_wolf6 years ago
I like it, but its too publicized and wanting attention in my opinion. I understand that you want to convey your message, but doing it in a way thats discrete and just seems to "pop out of nowhere" would grab more attention than an overly attention focused public display. I like it, but id rather do this in the night, or even during the day in a more casual manner. Then when someone would walk past, they'd see you're message which would allot time for them to think about it. This is similar to what graffiti artists do. Banksy for example lays down tons of political messages in discreet ways but gets tons of people to get the point. Nice instructable. :D
Valche cry_wolf6 years ago
...during the day in a more casual manner.

"Hey, uh, what are you doing?" "Oh, me? Just uh, you know, cleaning my stencil."
Toulouse Valche5 years ago
i guess it's just a different style of presenting your message... for my instructable, i just did it and got out of there
Toulouse5 years ago
wow! I'm surprised to see what a production you guys made! Awesome work! glad to have inspired some of it! :D keep up the great work, and if i get a hold of a pressure washer anytime soon, i will have to give it a try!
ramariel6 years ago
you could even pass out water bottles with custom labels that conveyed information about your message, instead of just pamphlets. goes with the water theme and people will find them useful and are more likely to hold on to them instead of just throw them away at the next corner trashcan lol. this would work splendidly in the summer.
astrochimp (author)  ramariel6 years ago
What an excellent idea!

It is particularly fitting here in Vancouver as the region considersconsiders banning bottled water, and also with people looking to replace their old plastic bottles that have been found to leachleach toxic compounds into their contents.
geez, just trying to help =/
astrochimp (author)  ramariel6 years ago
Your idea to hand out water bottles is truly an excellent one and I hope to use it. I wasn't being sarcastic or being a nit picky greenie, I only intended to point out that your idea would be especially salient here in Vancouver and elsewhere as people are moving away from store bought bottled water and moving to their own personal water bottles (not made of harmful plastics) to carry tap water and other beverages. Distributing these personal water bottles with custom labels would be very popular and the design of them could be a fun project to develop with supporters and volunteers. You wrote about distributing "water bottles" and I made a connection to "bottled water" to try to illustrate why your good idea fits not only with the water theme but also with the broader environmental theme. Everyone wants to be "green" nowadays and helping people out with a refreshing drink and a container they can adopt into their new green lifestyle while delivering an action message is perfect for what we were trying to achieve in our street action. Sorry for causing confusion and thank you for your help.
Ah I hear you. Hard to tell sometimes, especially with the way alot of people are on the internet. I apologize for being defensive and Im pleased that you appreciate my idea. Im always looking for different ways to deliver a message and Im surprised so many people stick to the old pamphlet-and-sermon method that usually just turns people off. Especially when I think about how all the swag that I usually hold onto are useful things. If anything, I am more inclined to give that company or that group's message a second glance because they at least demonstrated some insight into the audience they are targeting. Secondly, I meant to mention earlier that I am pretty excited about this method of 'clean graffiti' because its hard to take someones message about being green when they're using toxic chemicals to deliver that message. Just the kind of thing that their adversaries love to pick on. Keep up the good work!
astrochimp (author) 6 years ago
One could certainly do without the public engagement component, depending on what your objectives are. Working casually during the day is easy if you avoid the morning, lunch and afternoon rush hours. For us, social exchange was an important element so we used some street theatre elements to help break the ice. We were looking to deliver our message and collect petition signatures certainly but we were also interested in hearing what people had to say. Hearing how people from different backgrounds talk about your issue can be very informative and you never know, you just might meet a person or two who would like to join you next time! I am glad you liked the instructable.