An innovative take on street art. 

When the liquid-repelling spray NeverWet came on market in June, those who thought they could magically waterproof everything were met with disappointment -- and soggy smartphones.

But NeverWet spray isn't totally useless, and it might just fuel a new form of graffiti: street art that only shows up in the presence of torrential downpours.

Atlanta-based artist Nathan Sharratt had been exploring the idea of rain drawings ever since he saw a video about superhydrophobic coatings over a year ago. Sharratt first tried a single-layer coating spray that repelled water but wasn't strong enough to create a noticeable difference between dry and wet for more than a few minutes in the rain. When Sharratt heard that Home Depot was running a contest for creative uses of the new NeverWet two-layer waterproofing spray system, he revived the rain drawings project and submitted the following artworks, which ended up making top 10 in the contest. 

Sharratt sprayed NeverWet on a stencil to bring out the design. 

The spray coating, although not totally invisible, is inconspicuous when dry, and obvious when poured on. 

Watch the drawings reveal themselves in these videos (the second video includes DIY instructions). 

According to Sharratt, creating the stencil was the most time-consuming part -- the “I'm Only Happy When It Rains” stencil took a few hours to design on a computer and cut out, while the more complicated “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” stencil took over five hours. Spraying takes only a few minutes (not including the recommended drying time of 30 minutes between the base and top coats). Sharratt writes via email that the process is analogous to making a regular spray paint stencil, timing just depends on complexity of the design and whether or not the stencil is pre-cut. The material costs about as much as regular spraycans. Sharratt was able to make both stencils (with two or three coats per layer) plus some smaller test runs using one set of NeverWet cans, which costs about twenty dollars. 

According to Home Depot, the coating can be cleaned up with soap and water. Sharratt writes that the coating isn't slick as one might expect. When subject to abrasion, the coating flakes off like paint on smooth surfaces (which is why waterproofing iPhones with NeverWet won't go well) and doesn't leave a residue.

Looking ahead, Sharratt has plans to make a huge rain drawing on the side of a 14-story marble building, as well as smaller works on road intersections in Atlanta. And he's not the only one playing with this new material. Another Home Depot forum user submitted a similar project to the contest, and there is also a different rendition on Youtube, embedded below. Will these new stealthy works of art begin invading our streets? We'll just have to wait for the rainy days to find out.  

All images by Nathan Sharratt and used with permission. 

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Sharratt's submission took third place in the Home Depot contest — it made top 10, not listed in any particular order.

About the Author

Jenny Xie
Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie is a fellow at CityLab. 

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