How to do graffiti

Learn how to do graffiti with Graff Workshop

Here we have a free online resource for anyone to use, we try to accompany each part with relevant pictures. If there is something specific you are looking for then let us know!


If you want to get your hands on some kit and try graffiti for yourself then visit our Graffiti Shop



Tag - Handwriting style scrawl painted or drawn quickly on to a surface. 

graffiti tag

Graffiti Throw Up - Very quick two colour letters, traditionally in a bubble style. 

graffiti throw up

Piece - Graffiti painted using a multi colour fill, outline, band, background and more

graffiti piece

Production - this is when graffiti artists get together and paint a wall as a team. Sometimes using similar colour schemes like the one below and adding characters between the pieces. 

graffiti production

Burner - This is a compliment given to a really good piece of graffiti. That Burns, thats a burner etc. Below is a burner by Mad C

mad c burner

BlockBuster - Graffiti Block Busters are often painted with rollers as the main point of them is to go as big as possible. A roller can be attached to a pole to create huge letters, and will also cover large areas faster, and for cheaper, than spray paint

graffiti blockbuster

Fill - The colour inside the letters, the block buster above has a white emulsion fill

Outline - The outline on the blockbuster above is black

Band/Second Outline - Have a look at the video below of the Charlie Graffiti wall. The band in this is red. 

3D - The blockbuster above shows what 3D is quite clearly. The large black sections coming off the letters which make them look 3D.

Drop Shadow - Drop shadow is used below in the Charlie Graffiti Mural. If you moved your piece away from the wall and shone a light on it, then a 'drop shadow' would be created below. 

Blocks/Chips/Bars - Letters are made up of blocks (amongst other names). So a T is made up of one horizontal block and one vertical. An H is made up of two vertical and one horizontal. In graffiti when an artist is marking out their piece they will usually use blocks to make sure all the adges line up.

Cut Back - The process of using one colour to go over another to tidy your piece up. Using cut backs you can make lines thinner than the normal spray width.

Fat Cap - A spray cap (nozzle, tip etc) which covers a large area when sprayed. Some spray widths can be as wide as your hand

Skinny Cap - A spray can which can create thin lines, sometimes less than a centimetre

Can Control - The skill acquired by graffiti writers. The art of using a can of paint to create a master piece. You will find spray paint is very difficult to use at first, and learning to control is the first battle, before even thinking about how much style you have.

Toy - A term used for someone who isn't good at graffiti. Everyone starts out a toy so don't be disheartened if someone calls you it. For most people it takes years of practise to get to a half decent level. Some people will pick up and be good at graffiti in a few months, some will take years to develop a style, and some people just dont get any better. Its all about going out and painting what you want to paint so try not to listen to people who criticise, unless they are being constructive. 

Hall Of Fame - A place where there are a lot of walls for people to paint. Usually illegal but 'tolerated' by locals. There are many spaces around the UK where you can go and paint without trouble from police. These places are usually out the way, under motorways etc and the police and councils prefer you paint there rather than on the streets. That said be careful and make sure you have permission to paint whatever wall you are painting. Criminal damage is a crime and you can get a criminal record for painting in the wrong place. 

Bombing - otherwise known as 'tagging'. It is the process of going out and doing loads of tags - 'going bombing'

Getting Up - Gettting your tags, pieces, throwups in as many places as possible. 

Painting A Piece

Watch the video below of one of our graffiti artists painting a basic piece from start to finish. We will then outline the stages below

The piece is marked out using white paint. The reason we do this is because the 'fill' is going to be white. It is a matter of personal preference what colour people use to mark out. Some use a dark colour as their outline is going to be dark, some use whatever paint they have spare at the time

You can see during the marking out stage the graffiti artist uses 'blocks' to form the letters. Like drawing a capital 'H' you have the two vertical lines and one horizontal. The same applies with graffiti but you make each line thicker. Even the most experienced artists will use this as a way of marking out their letters.

After 'marking out' the piece, it is then filled in using white. This piece needs  two coats as white is generally quite a thin paint and the wall is grey. After marking out some people will do their background before filling their piece, this is so they do not have to worry too much about going over the fill with the background. Some people even start by painting the full background to their wall first, then doing their piece after.

The brick background is then marked out and filled in, be careful not to go over your piece, but go as close to the edges as possible. Generally if a piece looks tight the whole way through thats how it will finish, if you are lazy with the edges it will be harder to pix at the end. 

The pointing of the brick background is then marked out using a dark brown, first horizontal lines, then vertical. (For a guide on painting straight consistent lines please scroll down

Once all the lines are painted using the dark grey, the original beige used for the bricks is used to 'cut back' the darker brown to make the lines a bit thinner and more realistic looking. 

The same dark brown used to do the pointing is then used very lightly on the bottom edge and left edge of each brick, this gives a slightly more textured and 3D effect to each brick

A black line is then painted round the brick using skinny caps. Level 1 Montana Skinny caps are great for this bit. With a bit of practise and when using your hands at the right angle you can get really thin lines to make the wall look cracked.

Once the background is done its time to work on the piece. As you can see, the 'outline' in this one is dark blue. Traditionally in graffiti the outline would be Black but more and more artists are experimenting with their colours and sometimes even doing a different outline on each letter.

Once the outline is on, its time to give the letters some depth. Generally, graffiti artists will either do a drop shadow or 3D to make their letters stand out from the wall. In this video a drop shadow is used.

Once the drop shadow is on the graffiti artist uses white to cut back the outline, you can see the blue of the outline gets slightly thinner as the white is applied. This makes the whole piece look a lot more clean. 

After the outline and cut backs its time for the 'band' or 'second outline'. In fact there are a lot of names for this, and second outline is most well understood. The band in this piece is red and you can see it goes around the outside of all the letters, and in between the letters too. It doesn't usually go over the letters unless you want to make it look like it is dripping over. Try not to band all the way round each letter individually as it looks toy, just band round the outside of the piece as a whole.

To finish up, tidy any drips and overlaps, add your tag and your done.

Graffiti Etiquette

The mere concept of 'graffiti etiquette' is something I often question. Many people try to 'claim' a spot and say they own it. Sometimes it can be justified but really, they own nothing. It is usually not theirs to paint and they just want it to themselves so they have somewhere chilled out to paint whenever they want. These same people would have spent years painting other peoples property without permission so saying that something is theirs only to paint is a questionable claim. Either way here are a few generally accepted rules

Pieces can be painted over tags and throw ups

Throw Ups can be painted over tags

If you tag on top of someones piece it is a sign of disrespect. When you are at a hall of fame, don't just tag anywhere, if you see a nice looking piece leave it alone. We all did it, and for some reason young people just don't realise what they are doing when they start writing on other people graffiti. Either way try not to do it, find somewhere with loads of tags already and add yours there if you must. 

Painting Straight, Consistent Lines

Don't look at your hand! When you are painting a straight line, put the can near where you plan to start your line, then look at the point where you plan to finish, dont take your eyes off this point! Now move your can from the starting point, start spraying where you want the line to begin and follow through all the way to where you are looking. Now if you look at your line it should be straight. Just remember, don't watch your hand as you do it!