The use of stencils enables the translation of an artwork into a series of multiples, each of which is unique because it is painted by hand. A manual system from beginning to end, the choice of using stencils enabled the studio to make use of readily available resources—a surplus of human labor devoted to the war effort—while bypassing certain demands and limitations of machine technology. The choice of medium restricted the number of posters that the TASS studio was physically able to produce; however, it enabled other benefits with regards to paint materiality, color range, physical scale, speed, and human flexibility.

Despite the perils of war, the assembly-line team of artists, stencil cutters, stencil painters, text cutters, text painters, trimmers, gluers, and technicians produced nearly one design for every day of the war in editions of between 50 to1500 striking and sizable posters; created entirely by hand, some of the most intricate and chromatically brilliant designs demanded 60 to 70 different stencils and color divisions. The studio started small, with about a dozen employees, in 1941; by 1945 the operation had grown into a literal “poster factory” employing nearly 300 workers.

View stencils cut by artist Alexei Petroff and used to recreate TASS 757 The Moralistic Wolf.

Watch artist Alexis Petroff as he recreates a TASS poster to demonstrate how stencils were produced.