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March 18, 2011 7:05 AM   Subscribe

GraffitiRestorationFilter: how do we remove paint from on top of a mural?

My friend salvaged a number of cinderblocks from a knocked down building and he believes that a culturally important work of graffiti is underneath two layers of paint. Is there any way that we can remove this paint to see the mural? The top offending layer is probably house paint that was rolled on, and below that is some spray-paint, and below that is the mural we want.
posted by Hoenikker to Media & Arts (2 answers total)
The following is conjecture based on my personal experiences as an artist and set painter with different types of paint on different surfaces. Let's call it "somewhat informed spitballing". I fully concede that there are people who have much more in-depth knowledge of surface treatments who may have a golden solution that will blow both of our minds. Now, that said -

In my opinion, it's highly unlikely that you'd be able to strip or sand away the two different types of paint on top without damaging the mural layer underneath.
Best case scenario: Let's say the topcoat is latex house paint that was put on without a stainblocking primer, and the middle coat is oil-based spray paint. You MIGHT be able to strip / sand down the topcoat to see the underlayers, since latex paint doesn't adhere cleanly to oil paint without a primer layer. But the pitted texture of cinderblock would give you many many tiny pockets of latex that you wouldn't be able to remove, so the appearance would probably still be rough.
Then to deal with the oil-based spray paint layer, you'd need a different type of solvent, and more scrubbing. This is where -- even if you got to this point -- I think the mural would get damaged. Unless the mural had been covered in some kind of sealant before someone tagged over it (which seems unlikely), the spray paint will have more or less married itself to the mural paint, and you wouldn't be able to tell the heavy-duty solvent exactly when to stop chemically reacting.

I'd love to be wrong, though, so maybe there's someone with more expertise in the house...?
posted by D.Billy at 8:31 PM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: Another friend recommended using a heat gun to remove the top layer of paint, assuming it is latex based. Does anyone have any experience with this?
posted by Hoenikker at 11:48 AM on March 21, 2011

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