Surface Gel Tek (SGT), Mesa, AZ. a five year old innovative company is revolutionizing the use of acids for decorative concrete work and surface preparation. SGT just added Flattoos...the "art of tattooing images and graphics into concrete surfaces." It is a great new tool for contractors that enriches decorative options, expands the use of intricate designs and incorporates graphics, logos and text. Flattooing is easy to do and inexpensive. It makes the contractor look like an artist and increases profit potential!

Flattoos™–Vinyl Adhesive DesignsTamryn Doolan, CEO of Surface Gel Tek encourages creativity. SGT carries a full line of Flattoo stock and they are ready to be your art department. Customers can pick or create designs to add to new concrete or older installation. Just send a picture or select from stock designs shown on the web site.


  • Flattoos™ have no size or detail restrictions. A recent order was as large as 17 ft x 12 ft. Large Flatoos come in pieces for ease of installation.

  • Flattoos™ can be weeded negative (etch the design into the concrete), positive (etch everything except the design) or no weeding. "No Weeding" allows the applicator versatility on the job site to weed out the design as the job progresses.

  • Current prices range between $6.00 and $8.00 per sq. ft depending upon size and intricacy.

First...Prepare the SurfaceSurface Gel Tek products all apply to decorative concrete and Flattooing installations. Here are three basic products that open the slab for Flattooing, and decorative overlayments. The products are most applicable to prepare a slab for sprayable or thin over-lays.

  • Heavy Duty 24™ is SGT's most aggressive gelled acid. It bites into existing concrete surfaces removing laitance—the smooth cream on top that prevents other products from bonding. It lifts mastics and glues, opens steel troweled slabs burned almost "black and blue". HD 24 creates the profile that readies a slab for overlay material. Use a ventilator suitable for acid vapor and have good ventilation.

  • Tek Gelfor Profiling, the workhorse product is a medium grade prep material—a little less aggressive with the concrete. It is an excellent product to prepare a slab for thin overlay applications. Neutralizer is not necessary because the gelled acid products neutralize with water. Use a fan for ventilation if you are indoors.

  • Tek Gelfor Stenciling (Flattooing™) is the least aggressive product by design. It is the chief product used for Flattoos. Itoffers precision micro etch for designs, logos and lettering without removing all of the top laitance. This benefit allows applicators to use acid based stains as accent coloring after the design is etched and opens the surface enough to allow water based stains to penetrate and bond.

    Surface Gel Tek's gelled acid products are environmentally safe and flushable to sewers meeting the requirements of Sect. 7, MSDS

The Flattooing™ Process

The Flattoo process is straight forward and the tools required are simple.
  1. Complete necessary surface preparation using appropriate products to clean the surface. Make sure the slab is free of loose particles and dry.

  2. Have the Flattoo ready along with your tools—paintbrush, protective plastic, masking tape, rags, buckets and water for cleanup.

  3. Affix adhesive backed Flattoo to the concrete.

  4. Etch the design into the clean surface using Tek Gel for Stenciling (Flattooing). For secondary accent coloring, do not remove the Flattoo™. Use a soft paintbrush and lightly brush exposed areas to increase removal of laitance and any acid stain. Clean etching material from the slab. Use a bucket and a rag to sponge off exposed areas. Use caution–do not disturb the bond of Flattoo to concrete.

  5. Get ready to color.

SGT's Stain Mule™ The Stain Carrier, designed for mixing with color on the jobsite, works with acid based stains, pigmented acid, water based acrylic type stains and even mixes with dry shake color hardener. It thickens colorants for placement control, and eliminates color spidering and/or wicking even on vertical surfaces. A recommended mix subject to contractor's experimentation with manufacturer's color products is 1 part colorant to 1/2 part Stain Mule.

  1. With the Flattoo placed, simply paint Stain Mule with colorant onto the surface. Add secondary colors without worry about merging, or wicking.

  2. Once the color penetrates the, remove the Flattoo, and seal the work.

Stain Mule is environmentally safe and flushable to sewers, meeting requirements of Sect. 7, MSDS.

Artistic OpportunityConsider the base. For instance, Flattooing concrete with quartz and/or mica will expose glittering particles and reflect light with the design. The texture of the existing concrete after cleaning becomes the background texture for the Flattoo.

Another option is pre-staining the color base with acid based stain. (Water based stains are best as accent coloring after etching the design.)

  • After etching, color with both acid and water based stain. Start with acid stains and after neutralizing the surface, add the vibrant water-based colors.

  • Apply Flattoos to integrally colored slabs. The acid eats the surface, leaving a negative image of the same color. Use this already rich color base to apply secondary colors.

  • Apply a Flattoo to a color-hardened surface and the etching process reveals gray concrete underneath, creating a negative image—leave as is or fill the negative space with secondary color.

  • Use a free hand approach with etching materials.

Dana Boyer, ConcretiZen, see uses SGT products for preparation and artistry. She comments, "It is wonderful for quick art work as well as freehand artistry. It is easy to handle on the jobsite, useful for last minute additions when you already stained, and you do not need all the respiratory equipment. It is user friendly."

SGT Solves Problems such as:

  • Lack of control—the gel products stay where they are placed yielding crisp clean separation lines, shapes, artwork and lettering. It makes the application and coloring of Flattoos possible on vertical, overhead and indoor surfaces.

  • Complete Neutralization—When liquid acid penetrates the substrate, it cannot be completely neutralized because residual acid spiders. This is not an issue for gels.

  • Effects on ph—Within 1-1/2 hours, the ph level in the slab is the same as before using SGT products.

  • Uniformity—Blast track and liquid acids produce non-uniform surfaces. Interaction of gelled acid occurs only at the top eliminating deep uneven penetration.

  • Dust– Eliminates dust problems associated with sandblasting.

  • Disposal—Gels have no phosphates or detergents to violate Voc regulations.

  • Etching gel lifts easily from the concrete surface with a plastic trowel. Remove it from the site in a bucket. Products dilute with water and flush to sewer where allowed or neutralize with baking soda and water before disposal...or TSP, soda ash, or ammonia.

  • Design—Use available stock from the catalog of Flattoos or order custom artwork.

  • Removal—The same etching process, applying acid, easily accomplishes removal of a Flattoo.

Training and additional informationThe Flattoo™ process is taught in 4 and 8-hour classes every other month in Mesa, AZ and other locations. Doolan extends an invitation and says, "no one stands around at my workshops. Everyone Flattoos."

SGT turns you into an artist with an inventory and you make a profit!

  • Product Information

  • Distributors of SGT products

  • Training Certification

Call Tamryn Doolan with your questions.

See completed projects using adhesive-backed stencils

Jeanne Fields is the owner of Fields Marketing, which provides marketing services for contractors and manufacturers in the decorative concrete industry.

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Learn more about logos and graphics in concrete