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Graffiti 101: A Basic Overview

Graffiti is mostly seen as a pastime of misplaced youth and vandals or wrongly associated with violent gangs. But for many others graffiti is a form of art, an expression of creativity and a major inspiration driver in life. While most of the general public goes about their day-to-day life commuting to work in an often dull and meaningless manner, they often miss the beauty of art in the form of graffiti that surrounds them in their urban streets.

If people were to take the time to stop and notice these works, it would become clear that there is actually a diverse range of styles and types of graffiti. From the quick and simple tags and throwies to the often remarkable and breathtaking larger pieces, graffiti has a lot to offer for both the viewers and the writers. More people are recognizing graffiti as a legitimate art form with many legal murals and art commissions taking on a heavily graffiti influenced style across cities all over the world.

This articles looks at how graffiti art has developed and how the style becomes so unique to both writers and artists. Artists and writers develop their unique style through a progression of experimenting with different types and styles of graffiti.

Types of Graffiti: The path of Progression


Tagging is the simplest form of graffiti and often the entry-level for beginner writers. A tag is a stylized version of the writer’s street name, usually done in just one color. If the writer is part of a crew, they will also sometimes add their crew’s name or initials. Tagging is usually done to help a writer build up their rep quickly. The more you see someone’s name around the street the more likely you are to notice more of his or her work.

Tagging often then leads to throwies.


A little more complicated than a tag, a throwie usually has two or thee colours: an outline and a fill. Like the tag a throwie is another quick piece that can help a writer build their rep in the streets quickly. Often on a larger scale than the tag, but not quite as elaborate as a piece, a throwie is something that can be done repeatedly with minimal effort. A throwie is usually a writer’s name in bubble lettering or a motif with initials, depending on how a writer wants people to identify with his or herself.


When a writer goes out ‘bombing’ they are getting up as many tags and throwies all over their area.

Piece (short for Masterpiece)

When a writer becomes more comfortable with their area and getting up, they often move on to piecing. A piece is the most elaborate type of graffiti, made up of at least three colors, and often the most widely recognized in the streets. A piece is more difficult to get up in the streets, so a good piece will gain a lot of respect for a writer. It is mostly piecing that had gained graffiti its recognition as an art form within the art community, No matter how good they get or how much they build up their rep a writer usually doesn’t stop bombing. Sometimes it’s impossible to pass up the temptation to put up a tag or throwie no matter how long you’ve been in the game.

Styles of Graffiti: Developing a Unique Style


Wildstyle graffiti is a style that was developed and made popular by New York City writers. It’s a complicated and overly elaborate style that can be difficult to read for the untrained eye. Wildstyle graffiti includes other elements like arrows, spikes and curves that non-graffiti artists may have a hard time understanding. It’s one of the more hardcore graffiti styles that often delivers the most wow factor when done well and on a large scale. It’s a difficult style to master and is often passed on by skilled writers mentoring newer writers.


A blockbuster is used to cover the most amount of space in a minimal amount of time. It’s usually put up with rollers and is made up of block letters in two or three colors. Writers will usually put up a blockbuster to cover up another piece or to stop writers from getting up on the same wall.


A heaven piece is one of those pieces you see in odd locations that make you think “how did someone get that up there?” Popular heaven locations are on or near the tops of buildings, freeway signs, train bridges and overpasses. These are usually dangerous and difficult pieces to get up, so any writers that do often receive more respect and credibility with other writers.