Graffiti Styles You Need to Know | Widewalls (2022)

Developing a classification of graffiti styles may seem a daunting task. Graffiti developed over several decades but this relatively short time span when compared to other art forms does not seem to affect the richness of their stylistic expressions. History of graffiti goes back to Roman times, but these first graffiti scribbled on Roman houses were not created with any aesthetic idea behind them so they can't be described as one of the graffiti styles. In the 20th century graffiti are considered an urban art form, but not by everyone. From the first widespread appearance in New York subway to buildings and walls around the city, graffiti had a bad reputation that often provoked negative actions by the officials. Some of the early graffiti masters were even incarcerated and persecuted for their work, which was pronounced as vandalism by political elites.

From initial struggles to perhaps the most prevalent art form, graffiti developed in different styles following the initial dominant forms of tagging and throw-ups. Tags and throw-ups are the most basic forms of graffiti, which are the writings of the names of graffiti creatives in highly stylized letters. Throw-ups are slightly more complicated than graffiti tags and include the use of more colors. Some of the first taggers in New York were TAKI 183 and SNAKE-I. Over time graffiti styles developed into more complex representations that surpass the lettering and include figurative and abstract compositions, as is the case with wildstyle graffiti. The quality of such images and their critical edge raised the importance of graffiti, and influenced their transition from streets to studios and galleries. Many of contemporary graffiti creatives now operate in both fields - they are still active on the streets, but the art market is now open for their works as well. Artists Banksy, Lush, Shepard Fairey, and even the old-school taggers such as SNAKE-I now present and sell their works in galleries and auctions.

Find available artworks by Banksy on Widewalls marketplace!

From simple scribbled names on the walls, graffiti are today done in numerous styles. Some of these types of graffiti such as stickers and hardcore graffiti may not formulate a style per se, but are part of the street art scene. Stickers are created in studios or any other place where street creatives operate and are later applied on walls, while hardcore style is a slightly edgier form of tagging, and is described as a violent vandal form of tagging or throw-up.

Scroll down to learn more about graffiti styles and to see some representative examples of each style.

Graffiti Styles You Need to Know | Widewalls (1)Graffiti Styles You Need to Know | Widewalls (2)
Editors’ Tip: Graffiti Art Styles: A Classification System and Theoretical Analysis

This book presents a classification system for graffiti styles that reflects the expertise of graffiti writers and the work of art historian Erwin Panofsky. Based on Panofsky's theories of iconographical analysis, the classification model is designed to identify the style of a graffiti piece by distinguishing certain visual characteristics. The classification system also demonstrates the relevance of Panofsky's theories of iconographical analysis to the provision of access to non-representational or abstract images. The result is a novel paradigm for Panofsky's theories that challenges the assumptions of traditional models. This innovative book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about graffiti and for information professionals concerned with both the practical and intellectual issues surrounding image access.

Featured images: Several, Phat2, Nadib Bandi, Deter - EP-222 Mural, Geneva. Image via nadib-bandi.com; Kurar - Stencil in Clermont, France, 2013. Image via fatcap.com; Wholecar. Image via pintrest.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

Old School - From Subway to the World

Old School refers to graffiti styles developed in the 1970s and 80s at the beginning of graffiti art. They are basic tag and throw-up graffiti that have been widely present in New York’s subway system at first. Later they emerged from this underground cradle to take over the city and initiate the burgeoning of this art form. ArtistsSNAKE-I, TAKI 183, KIKO and DESA were among the first taggers in New York whose works swamped the subway system of the city.

Featured image: TAKI 183 - Metro tag, New York. Image via wikiart.org

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Wildstyle Graffiti - Difficult to Read but Attractive to Look At

Wildstyle may be hard to decipher, but is visually equally, or even more engaging than other graffiti styles. Many consider it the queen discipline of the New York graffiti. The convoluted and interlocked letters, arrows, spikes and other decorative elements of wildstyle graffiti merge into one another making it difficult to discern what has been written. The complex pattern of letters and other forms creates dynamic abstract images where letters can only be detected by professionals.

Featured image: Piece by Wand, San Francisco, 2013. Image via fatcap.com

Bubble - Rounding up of Tags and Throw-Ups

The name of this graffiti style gives much apropos the style’s aesthetics. The rounding of letters in classical throw-ups was the initial phase that led to the development of bubble style. The letters are round, circular and often overlapping partially one another, creating an image that seems to expand and bubble-up in a way. Bubble graffiti style can be done in two colors, where letters are sprayed in one color, and later outlined with another, creating a contrast, or multiple colors can be applied for a more exuberant effect.

Featured image: Swarm's Graffiti in Engesvang, Denmark, 2010. Image via fatcap.com

Brush - Creating Painterly Results

Relatively quick to execute once the initial design is settled, brush style stands for the use of brush or paint rollers which creates a smooth final effect. Brush graffiti are devoid of unnecessary lines and petty details, but sometimes, brushes may be used for the execution of fine points, which creates a more painterly result. In the example we selected to illustrate this style, graffiti artist Zilda made a reminiscence of Renaissance art on a wall in Naples.

Featured image: Zilda's piece in Naples, Italy, 2014. Image via fatcap.com

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Abstract - Following Historical Precursors

In abstract style the main goal is not readability, but the visual excellence of each piece. There is no message or writing that addresses the viewers. Instead, the emphasis in on the combination of visual elements that creates dynamic and balanced pieces. Following in steps of the painterly and sculptural abstraction developed in the 20th century, abstract graffiti similarly represent intricate formal arrangements, where color, shape, lines and organization of compositions are of the foremost importance.

Featured image: Zard - Mural in San Diego, 2012, detail. Image via fatcap.com

Blockbuster Graffiti - Blocky Letters and Large Spaces

Blockbuster style stands for large murals made of sprayed letters that are done quickly, and sometimes with the use of paint rollers. The goal of blockbuster graffiti is to cover a large space in a short amount of time. Two groups are distinguished within the blockbuster graffiti style. The first is block graffiti. The use of large square and rectangular letters distinguish this style, while the second group - wholecar - stands for sprayed art that covers whole trains, from left to right and from top to bottom.

Featured image: Wholecar. Image via pintrest.com

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Fat Cap - Spraying the Widest Lines

Fat cap is a name for a special nozzle invented for graffiti art. The nozzle is put on a can of spray paint, and was invented in the late 1960s by graffiti artist Supercool. It allows a wider stream of spray to come out of the can, creating the largest lines. It is particularly used for tags, throw-ups and fillings, which are, due to the width of lines, defined as a special stylistic group named fat cap.

Featured image: Sanck's Tag in Aulnay-Sous-Bois, France, 2012. Image via fatcap.com

Stencil - From Graffiti Style to a Worldwide Subculture

Perhaps the most popular style at the moment, stencil stands for graffiti style where shapes made of cardboard, paper or other materials are used for reproduction of images. The desired forms are cut out of these materials and applied with spray paint or roll-on paint on the walls and other surfaces. The use of stencils makes replication of images easy, and this also contributes to the popularity of this style, which has in recent years grow into a worldwide subculture. Some of the most recognizable names of stencil art are Above, Banksy, Blek le Rat, Vhils, and Shepard Fairey.

Featured image: Kurar - Stencil in Clermont, France, 2013. Image via fatcap.com

Cartoon - Surreal Worlds of Graffiti Comics

Cartoon characters, superheroes from comicsor surreal motifs define the style widely known as cartoon. The style combines figures and motifs either taken from popular culture or creatives invent their own cartoon figures. Creating a surreal world of cartoon characters is the mission of Cof, an urban artist from Argentina, who we picked to illustrate this style. His inspiration came from the 1980s Argentinian publication Fierro. Cof was inspired by the marvelous illustrations and stories in this periodical, which prompted him to create his own cartoon worlds on the walls of Buenos Aires.

Featured image: Cof - Joining Forces, Buenos Aires, 2012. Image via buenostairesstreetart.com

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3D - Adding New Dimension to Graffiti

As the name suggests, 3D graffiti create illusion of the third dimension in represented images. Besides the walls, making 3D graffiti on pavements and roads is also popular. Landscapes, crevices that seem to appear in urban textures, figures and other forms that seem to pop-up on the middle of sidewalks make this style particularly popular. Some of the creatives known for the masterful use of this style are Edgar Mueller, Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner.

Featured image: Korail, Krome, Stus - Mural in Toulouse, 2014. Image via fatcap.com

Sharp - Cutting Edge Street Art

In Sharp style the letters or abstract elements are sprayed or painted in as sharp and angular forms as possible. Although in other styles sharp forms may be present, this style pushes them to their limits. Thinning, stretching and contorting of letters is extreme, which often renders these works to appear violent, aggressive and forceful.

Featured image: Mediah's piece in Toronto, Canada, 2013. Image via fatcap.com

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FAQs

What are the 3 main types of graffiti? ›

Types of graffiti.
  • Tag. Tagging is the easiest and simplest style of graffiti; it includes one colour and the artist's name or identifier. ...
  • Throw-up or a bomb. Sometimes called a "throwie" is a simple form of graffiti, sitting between a tag and a bomb. ...
  • Letters. Letters can be different styles. ...
  • Piece or character.

What is the simplest type of graffiti called? ›

The easiest and simplest of graffiti styles, tagging is where it all started. It is essentially the artist's name or identifier in written form and uses at least one colour. It is considered disrespectful to write a tag over another's artist's tag or work.

What is vomit graffiti? ›

'Throw-up' or 'throwie' is a widely referenced graffiti term, most commonly used to describe tag-like drawings of bubble letters designed for quick execution (we all know why) of graffiti words, and usually consisting of artist's name and only two colors.

What is the best graffiti style? ›

Wildstyle is one of the most advanced styles of graffiti, containing many complex and intricate details including letters usually only readable by other graffiti artists. Elements like arrows, 3D, spikes, flares and sharp edges define wildstyle graffiti.

Who started graffiti? ›

Early exponents of graffiti in art included the French artist Jean Dubuffet who incorporated tags and graphic motifs into his paintings, and the New York artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring who could be defined as street art pioneers.

Who is the father of graffiti? ›

It is quite possible that there would be no graffiti history as we know it, for Darryl McCray, who was given the nickname Cornbread while in a juvenile corrections facility, is widely regarded as the father of modern day graffiti.

Is tagging illegal? ›

Graffiti is a crime, not just a nuisance. Graffiti, or tagging as it is sometimes called, is a misdemeanor crime. It can, however, become a felony-level crime if the damage inflicted is more than $1,000.00. Other penalties such as the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the offender, his/her age, etc.

Is graffiti hard to do? ›

Getting style isn't easy, and it takes many hours of arduous work to evolve into a presentable state. As the "Graffiti Bible" says, "There is no easy way to learn the complicated wildstyle, and no substitute for time.

How do I tag better? ›

GRAFFITI: TIPS FOR TAGS - YouTube

What is heaven graffiti? ›

'Heaven spot', or 'heaven' in short, is a graffiti term which refers to dare devil graffiti pieces that are painted in places that are hard to reach, such as rooftops, overpasses and freeway signs, thus making them hard to remove.

What are graffiti slaps? ›

Sticker art (also known as sticker bombing, sticker slapping, slap tagging, and sticker tagging) is a form of street art in which an image or message is publicly displayed using stickers. These stickers may promote a political agenda, comment on a policy or issue, or comprise a subcategory of graffiti.

What is anti style graffiti? ›

ANTI STYLE GRAFFITI - WHY IT FAILS - YouTube

What does Sano mean in graffiti? ›

Chisolm uses the tag “SANO” as his graffiti handle. “It's an acronym,” he said. “It means various things. It probably started off like: 'Sinister Artist, Notorious Outlaw. ' But now, it's more like: 'Sunny And Nice Outside' or 'SimplArtNiceOutlinez.

What is a graffiti artist called? ›

A street artist is a person who makes art in public places. Street artists include portrait artists, caricaturists, graffiti artists, muralists and people making crafts.

What do arrows mean in graffiti? ›

"Territorial" graffiti, the third most frequent type, contains a symbol that marks a gang's territory, typically in the form of an arrow pointing down.

What is graffiti lettering called? ›

Wildstyle is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti. Due to its complexity, it is often very hard to read by people who are not familiar with it. Usually, this form of graffiti incorporates interwoven and overlapping letters and shapes.

How do you draw graffiti style? ›

How To Draw Graffiti Letters Tutorial- Basic Straight Piece - YouTube

What is another name for graffiti? ›

That which has been scribbled, written in a scrawled or careless hand. scribbling. cacography. graffito. griffonage.

Is graffiti an art or a crime? ›

Most people argue that graffiti is vandalism because of the money it takes to cleanup, but graffiti is a truly a form of art. Graffiti artists use graffiti to address problems in their communities (send a message).

Why is it called graffiti? ›

"Graffiti" (usually both singular and plural) and the rare singular form "graffito" are from the Italian word graffiato ("scratched"). The term "graffiti" is used in art history for works of art produced by scratching a design into a surface.

Who was the first tagger? ›

In fact, TAKI 183 is often credited as being the first tagger (although some argue that CORNBREAD of Philadelphia was the first).

Is there a graffiti language? ›

Modern graffiti is a language largely developed in urban centers like New York City, starting in the 1970s. During that time, funding for arts education in public schools was down. Kids started tagging walls and subway cars as a form of self expression. “Media called it graffiti, but we called it writing.

Why do graffiti artists tag? ›

They find what they seek in their crew. Respect and recognition come from taking risks. For instance, spraying huge graffiti tags on a wall or throwing up their message in a well lit and populated area. Some of them will also go up and onto that freeway sign you see going through down town.

What time is best to do graffiti? ›

Most of the time around 5 AM.

Who created graffiti font? ›

The primary designer Matthew (Raseone) Napolitano is a lifelong graffiti artist and graphic designer. His lettering, fonts & other work have been featured across industries by names like: Lucasfilm, Netflix, Warner Bros., Midway, THQ, Sony, Genentech, Penguin, Avon and others.

What font looks like graffiti? ›

Urban decay is a handmade brush font that creator Zofos made to 'celebrate graffiti, urban exploration, street calligraphy and inner city living. ' This font is one of the best graffiti fonts we've seen, with a rugged authenticity that will bring an urban feel to your projects.

How do you start graffiti art? ›

4 Tips for Beginners | Graffiti Art - YouTube

What is another name for graffiti? ›

That which has been scribbled, written in a scrawled or careless hand. scribbling. cacography. graffito. griffonage.

What are the elements of graffiti? ›

The Elements of Art and the Elements of Graffiti

The first three elements of art are line, shape, and form. The three elements of graffiti mirror those art elements by manifesting as a “tag,” “throw,” and “piece.”

What are the examples of graffiti art? ›

11 Iconic Graffiti Art Murals That Will Make You Stop
  1. Balloon Girl. Banksy, 2002.
  2. Crack is Wack. Keith Haring, 1986. ...
  3. Flower Thrower. Banksy, 2003. ...
  4. My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love. Dmitri Vrubel, 1990. ...
  5. Tuttomondo. Keith Haring, 1989. ...
  6. The Lennon Wall. Various Artists, 1980 (ongoing) ...
  7. 7. Facebook Murals. ...
  8. Robbo Incorporated. ...
8 Mar 2020

What is heaven graffiti? ›

'Heaven spot', or 'heaven' in short, is a graffiti term which refers to dare devil graffiti pieces that are painted in places that are hard to reach, such as rooftops, overpasses and freeway signs, thus making them hard to remove.

What is the art of graffiti called? ›

Street art can be used interchangeably with the terms “independent art”, “post-graffiti”, “neo-graffiti”, and “guerrilla art”. Murals have been around since the renaissance, and the term mural is often used interchangeably with street art.

What is the sentence of graffiti? ›

a rude decoration inscribed on rocks or walls. 1 The walls had been daubed with graffiti. 2 Graffiti was scribbled all over the walls. 3 The buildings were covered with racist graffiti.

What is a antonym for graffiti? ›

Antonyms & Near Antonyms for graffiti. conserve, preserve, protect, save.

Who started graffiti? ›

Early exponents of graffiti in art included the French artist Jean Dubuffet who incorporated tags and graphic motifs into his paintings, and the New York artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring who could be defined as street art pioneers.

Who is the father of graffiti? ›

It is quite possible that there would be no graffiti history as we know it, for Darryl McCray, who was given the nickname Cornbread while in a juvenile corrections facility, is widely regarded as the father of modern day graffiti.

Is graffiti an art or a crime? ›

Most people argue that graffiti is vandalism because of the money it takes to cleanup, but graffiti is a truly a form of art. Graffiti artists use graffiti to address problems in their communities (send a message).

How do you draw graffiti style? ›

How To Draw Graffiti Letters Tutorial- Basic Straight Piece - YouTube

What country is graffiti legal? ›

Taipei, Taiwan. Many artists take advantage of Taiwan's legal gray area concerning graffiti and vandalism, posting their work all over the city. Police officers openly admit to not getting involved unless there is an owner complaint or property damage.

What does Sano mean in graffiti? ›

Chisolm uses the tag “SANO” as his graffiti handle. “It's an acronym,” he said. “It means various things. It probably started off like: 'Sinister Artist, Notorious Outlaw. ' But now, it's more like: 'Sunny And Nice Outside' or 'SimplArtNiceOutlinez.

What do arrows mean in graffiti? ›

"Territorial" graffiti, the third most frequent type, contains a symbol that marks a gang's territory, typically in the form of an arrow pointing down.

How long should a graffiti name be? ›

1. The right length. A basic element of graffiti art is to get the point across and not waste time. So your name needs to be short, generally no more than three to five letters.

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