Decades after its invention, wheatpasting remains one of the most dynamic, exciting and flexible forms of outdoor advertising. Whether you want to advertise an upcoming concert or promote a soon-to-drop album, wheatpasting offers a disruptive way to get people to notice you. It also generates results. We see incredible outcomes for our clients when we use wheatpasting, and we recommend it as both a complement to other outdoor efforts or as a campaign in itself.

You may wonder what wheatpasting is or feel uncertain if you’ve seen it before. You might not be familiar with the term, but we promise you’ve seen (and even marveled at) wheatpasting before. Here is the ultimate guide to wheatpasting in 2024 and what you should consider when seeking a wheatpaste campaign.

Guns N' Roses Domination

Guns N Roses Wheatpasting

Wheatpasting Definition

The meaning of wheatpasting is posters adhered to walls and construction barriers using a simple paste most often made from flour and water. It wasn’t always associated with advertising. Wheatpasting began as an art form used by street artists to express themselves, like a more formal, pre-planned graffiti.

You can carry out wheatpasting on a large or small scale. For instance, you might go for street domination by plastering wheatpaste posters over an entire block or create a mural using different-colored posters. You could try something more understated, such as arranging a group of posters in a circle on a construction barrier.

There is power in advertising, and wheatpasting completely captures that opportunity. Wherever you use it, you leave things a little different than when you arrived—always for the better.

Wheatpasting can transform an environment. It can bring color to an otherwise gray urban landscape. It can add texture to flat walls or barriers. It can liven up a dull street and turn an eyesore into an escapist fantasy.

Take note of the time zones that you will be printing and posting in as well as the lead time. You only have enough time to plan from the day you inquire to the day of the campaign launch, so it’s best to allow four weeks for planning and production. 

Seem like a long time? Remember, due to the different time zones, most communication you send will not receive a timely response. A simple email exchange or text string query may play out over several days instead of hours when you’re in the same time zone, since you’re just starting work when your correspondent is already done for the day.

(Here’s a time zone cheat sheet that can help you figure out what time it is in the place you want to communicate with.) 

What Are Other Names for Wheatpasting?

You may have heard wheatpasting referred to by many other names, including flyposting (this term is used in the UK) or poster bombing. Whatever word people use, they refer to the same practice of putting paper notices on walls and construction barriers. Other lesser-known words used for wheatpasting include:

  • Sniping
  • Billposting
  • Broadsides
  • Postering

The History of Wheatpasting

Wheatpasting dates back centuries, though some would argue you can even trace it back to Ancient Egypt and the hieroglyphics used on walls to depict critical events and history. In more recent centuries, wheatpaste was used to affix thin posters or cheap cardstock to walls in cities to promote events or political causes. The roots of wheatpasting as an illicit activity trace to these days, before permits or landlord permissions became important.

Modern wheatpasting goes back to the 1960s. The punk rock aesthetic matched well with the underground nature of wheatpasting, which was often carried out without a building owner’s knowledge or consent. Posters for shows went up by the dozens to create advertising that looked almost like graffiti.

In many ways, wheatpasting can tell the story of a city and its culture evolution. Was it a blues era, a punk era or a jazz era? The answer becomes apparent beneath several layers of promotions. You couldn’t avoid the hundreds of posters on abandoned buildings or construction barriers that would stay up until the next big event papered over them.

Wheatpasting Posters Materials

Wheatpasting’s popularity stems in part from its simplicity. Anyone can make wheatpaste. It takes just a few minutes, and while everyone has their little tricks for making the mix better, it doesn’t take much to get the mixture right.

What You Need to Make Wheatpaste

  • ½ cup flour
  • Bowl
  • Fork or whisk
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Pot
  • 5-6 cups boiling water

Directions for Making Wheatpaste

To create wheatpaste, begin by putting the flour in the bowl. Use the fork or whisk to eliminate any lumps in the flour. Then stir in the cold water, adding more as needed. Mix until the lumps are gone. The look and consistency should mimic pancake batter.

Use the pot to boil the water. Lower to low heat and add your flour and water mixture into the boiling water, stirring for one to two minutes. Once the mixture has become thicker, take it off the boiler. At this point, some people add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of sugar to make the mix even sticker. We’ve found it works perfectly well without the sugar, though.

Let the mixture cool, then pour it into a large, sealable container for applying wheatpaste posters.

What Type of Flour Should You Use in Wheatpaste?

We’re often asked what type of flour to use. Stay away from “special” flours like almond, chickpea or oat. The starchier the flour, the better. We favor regular white flour as it has a smoother texture than whole wheat flour.

Wheatpaste Poster Techniques

Putting up the posters will take several hours, depending on how many locations you target and how many you put in each. We recommend doing the following before you begin putting posters up:

  • Determine how many posters will go in each location.
  • Bring 50 along or so extra posters for flexibility—it’s not uncommon for posters to get ruined amid the application process during bad weather.
  • Sort posters by number and location, putting a PostIt® on each stack with the location and number so you ensure you hit each spot with the right number.
  • Bring more wheatpaste than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have too much than get midway through and realize you don’t have enough.
  • Take a ladder even if you don’t think you’ll need it. You may realize you have enough room to add more posters above your top layer even though you didn’t plan for it.

How to Wheatpaste Posters: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step look at how to wheatpaste posters.

  1. Gather your supplies. In addition to the wheatpaste and posters, you will need:

o   Newspapers

o   Scrub brush

o   Paint brushes

o   Paint roller (optional)

o   Spray bottles of water

o   Tape measure

  1. Before you start, cut newspapers to match the size of the poster. Create one cutout for each poster and bring extra newspaper just in case.
  2. Begin each application by cleaning off the area where you want to apply the posters using a dry scrub brush. Often, wheatpaste posters are applied over other ones, so you’re just looking to get rid of any lingering debris or dust that could interfere with a smooth application.
  3. Using the tape measure, define the area where you want to put up your poster.
  4. Put the pre-cut newspaper on the wall exactly where you want the posters to go and apply a coat of wheatpaste using a paint brush.
  5. Apply wheatpaste with the paint brush to both sides of the poster. Put it directly on the newspaper. Spray water as needed to make the mix stickier.
  6. Go over the poster several times with a paint brush or roller to eliminate air bubbles or wrinkles. You can also use your hands for this if you prefer.

Wheatpasting Tips

Here are a few more tips for an effective wheatpasting poster campaign:

  • Be patient. The technique is not hard, but if you rush, it won’t turn out as well.
  • Get rid of bubbles and ripples. You want the poster application to look as smooth as possible.
  • Protect yourself. While wheatpaste is harmless (flour and water aren’t harsh chemicals), we recommend wearing protective goggles and gloves while you work just in case.
  • Store wheatpaste with care. Again, it’s not a toxic substance, but you also don’t want to expose it to anything flammable.
  • Have an exit strategy. Make sure you know what’s expected at the end of the campaign—do you need to dispose of anything or clear out the posters?

How Much Wheatpaste Do You Need for Your Posters?

We’d say about a cup of wheatpaste will put up 20-22 posters. This can vary depending the posters’ sizes and the surface you apply them to.

Wheatpaste Legality: Is Wheatpasting Illegal?

Wheatpasting is not illegal, but you can face some hurdles to executing a campaign. Decades ago, people didn’t worry about whether there were “post no bills” signs, which means don’t put up a wheatpaste poster. In fact, that was part of the thrill. The advertising method gained attention because it was not altogether legal and slightly daring.

But it also inspired the wrath of landlords, who were angered when their properties suddenly became covered in ads that they didn’t want and didn’t authorize. That, in turn, could make advertisers look bad.

While it’s very rock ‘n roll to break the rules, it’s not cool to have to pay a steep fine for illegal posting, and it reflects badly on the advertiser. So, over the past decade, wheatpasting has gone legit. There are now agencies, like ours, that carry out totally legal campaigns for clients using vendors authorized to sell space on behalf of landlords.

Of course, sometimes it takes a more circuitous path of working directly with a landlord and/or getting permits for a campaign. And occasionally, it’s still necessary to do an end-around—carrying out advertising that’s not entirely authorized but no one is going to raise a fuss about. Honestly, that’s why it’s better to have an agency in your corner to handle such potential headaches. We know how to skirt the edge and ensure nothing comes back on our clients.

How to Do a Wheatpasting Campaign Safely Without Getting in Trouble

Avoiding legal issues when conducting a wheatpaste poster campaign doesn’t have to be hard! The best thing you can do is work with an experienced agency that can navigate the problems for you.

Other ways to do wheatpasting right include:

o   Get permits and permissions in order before you begin the campaign.

o   Explore city ordinances that may regulate or restrict content in certain areas—e.g., ads for cannabis can’t be posted within a certain distance of schools.

o   Ask questions of the vendor and walk away if they can’t answer.

o   Google the vendor’s name to see if it comes up with any negative press about wheatpasting.

Drawbacks of Illegal Wheatpasting

As we mentioned, we only do above-board wheatpasting. Here are some of the disadvantages of working with a vendor who uses illegal tactics. They may charge low prices, but they hurt you in other ways, such as:

o   Your posters won’t stay up as long because others can rip them down or paste over them.

o   Your posters won’t look as nice because the people putting them up can’t spend the time to do it right as they try to dodge authorities.

o   It will cast doubt on your tactics and make your brand look bad.

o   You may have to pay a fee or be subject to legal action.

Best Practices for a Good Wheatpaste Campaign

The keys to a brilliant campaign are threefold.

  1. Pick the right location. You should choose a place your target demographic is most likely to see. For instance, if you are promoting a concert for an artist who resonates with Gen Z, putting posters up near a college or coffee shop where that age group hangs out is the best way to reach them.
  2. Embrace repetition. Frequency refers to repeating an advertisement multiple times to reinforce the message. The more times someone sees your ad, the more likely they are to remember it. So, for instance, putting clusters of wheatpaste posters along a street leads to better recall.
  3. Choose the right creative. You can put up all the wheatpaste posters you want and still not achieve the desired results if your creative sucks. Delivering bold, impactful creative makes a difference in getting attention but also in sharing the message. It should go without saying, but something fun and colorful will stick with passersby longer than a drab and colorless poster.

What Makes Good Creative for Wheatpasting?

Even more critical than executing a campaign with the right technique and materials is creating a wheatpasting poster that engages your target audience. The right creative is just that—creative, with flare and attitude to match your brand.

The right approach also depends on your aim. Do you want to get people into a physical location, convince them to buy an album (which they can do from their phones or at a store), or spread the word about a concert? Wheatpaste campaigns can effectively drive all three actions, but the creative will be slightly different for each.

Here are five things to consider when creating your wheatpasting poster.

1. Font and Font Size

You need something easy to read and big enough to see from several yards away. Ideally, people sitting in their cars waiting for a light to turn can view the creative and read every word.

2. Minimal Words

Like with billboards, wheatpaste poster creative should include limited words and be easy to understand. Six or fewer words is ideal.

3. Bright Colors

A lot of things compete for people’s attention on urban streets. To wrench their eyeballs in your direction, you need bold, blazing colors that demand notice.

4. Surprising Imagery

You want someone walking past your posters to do a doubletake. Incorporating unexpected and original imagery can do that.

5. Include a QR Code

QR codes are preferable to URLs. While URLs rely on someone’s memory to recall it later when they browse, QR codes invite them to pull out their phones right away and visit the site, creating a better chance they’ll take action.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Wheatpaste Take to Dry?

It can take up to an hour for wheatpaste to dry. We recommend keeping an eye on the poster for at least half an hour to watch for warping. You should also wait to apply a second layer until the first is dry.

How Long Does Wheatpaste Last?

You can keep wheatpaste in a sealable container for up to four days before it begins to go bad. While you can still use it after that, it won’t be as sticky and gets thicker and more difficult to spread.

How Can You Remove Wheatpaste Posters?

Wheatpaste will dissolve in hot water. Pour hot water onto the poster, and then you can easily pull it off or strip away parts of it until nothing’s left.

>How Can You Store Wheatpaste?

You can store wheatpaste in any type of sealable container. Leaving it open without a seal will make it congeal and dry up.

How Can You Make Wheatpaste Waterfproof?

Making wheatpaste waterproof can help it withstand rain. Adding several different ingredients can work, such as a few squeezes of wood glue (also known as polyvinyl acetate) or latex binder. But keep in mind that this changes the chemical makeup of wheatpaste and may make it harder to remove posters.

Begin Your Wheatpaste Poster Campaign Today

Wheatpaste posters are one of the smartest and lowest-cost ways to advertise. Contact us today to start your own wheatpaste poster campaign! Fill out the form at the bottom of the page or reach out to one of the emails listed there.