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How to Tag like a Real Graffiti Artist

Think you've got what it takes to be an urban graffiti artist? Follow these steps to become da 'hood's next da Vinci.


  • : Do not graffiti public or private property without obtaining permission.
  • Step 1: Talk like a writer Master the lingo. A "writer" is a graffiti artist, a "king" or "queen" is a great writer, a "toy" is inexperienced, and a "crew" is a group who work together. A "tag" is a simple work of graffiti, a "throw-up" is more complicated, and a "piece" is a very complex work of graffiti.
  • Step 2: Develop lettering The foundation for all graffiti art is tagging your nickname on a visible space. Develop a nickname and lettering style that are unique to you. The style you create can be used for your tags, throw-ups, and pieces.
  • TIP: Use your influences. Look to anything from album covers to comics to consumer products for inspiration.
  • Step 3: Start a black book Start a black book, a hardcover sketchbook where you and other writers can develop ideas. Write tags, throw-ups and pieces in full color with pens, pencils, and markers. Contribute to other writers' black books, too.
  • Step 4: Practice spray-can techniques Practice techniques by painting on a large piece of plywood in a well-ventilated area. Use a variety of spray-can tips to control spray-paint flow. Consider wearing gloves and a respirator anytime you use spray paint.
  • TIP: Experiment with tagging techniques that don't involve traditional spray paint like putting up stickers, using fire extinguishers filled with paint, and etching on glass.
  • Step 5: Join a crew Learn the ropes from a crew. A crew will admit you based on work they've seen in public or in your black book. Joining one can help improve your work and get you involved in group projects.
  • TIP: Take time to learn the etiquette of tagging, like which tags can and can't be written over.
  • Step 6: Find legal walls Find places to write on by searching for "legal walls" online. Cities around the world have established legal spots for writers to craft their masterpieces.
  • Step 7: Go out and tag Go out and write! Express yourself as much as legally possible. With hard work and the help of a good crew, you'll go from toy to royalty in no time!
  • FACT: Tagging was popularized in part by a 1971 New York Times article about the graffiti artist Taki 183.

You Will Need

  • Lingo
  • Creativity
  • Hardcover sketchbook
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Markers
  • Plywood
  • Spray paint
  • Spray-can tips
  • Latex gloves
  • Paint respirator
  • Legal wall
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Fire extinguisher (optional)

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