Graffiti Glossary


In the graffiti glossary from Graffiti Empire we describe terms of the graffiti culture and elements of graffiti

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3D stylegraffiti style which is focused on 3D blocks and the three-dimensional appearance of the graffiti


angelsgraffiti artists, who got fame and already passed away
all cityachieving fame in a whole city through one’s tag or a catchy graffiti piece/throw-up. The original meaning was to be known/famous in the five Boroughs of New York City (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhatten, Queens, Staten Island) by placing one’s graffiti and tags on subways to be seen all around the city
autorackgoods train with surfaces easy to spray on


back-to-back (b2b)gf a graffiti covers a whole wall/carriage from end-to-end (e2e), it will be called back-to-back.
backjumpA “backjump” is a very fast sprayed graffiti on a train during a stop at a station.
blackbookA sketchbook for graffiti sketches. It usually has a black cover, so it is called “blackbook” as well.
blockbusterSimple, huge letters characterize a blockbuster. The graffiti’s aim is to cover as much of a background as possible. Often done with silver or white coloring.
biteTo bite means to copy or steal a tag or piece of another sprayer. Do not mix gathering inspiration with copying.
blockA three-dimensional shadow of a graffiti.
bombingThe art of illegally spraying graffiti. Tags and throw-ups are sprayed mostly.
bubble styleThe letters of a bubble style graffiti are round and partially overlap each other. They look like balloons a bit, which seem to fly away. The rounding of letters of throw-ups led to the bubble style. Thus bubble style graffiti are often done in two colors only, like throw-ups.
buffremove graffiti, or removing materials; also: painting over it with the color of the background to remove it
burnerVery well done graffiti piece with many details. Often used to compliment other writers
bustedGetting arrested by the police for doing illegal Graffiti.


canspray paint can/ aerosol can
capA nozzle made out of plastic for paint cans. Different types of caps can achieve different spray effects like sharp lines or soft fadings.
charactersAbbreviation for “cartoon character”. It is painted next to a graffiti to create a scenario around the graffiti piece.
crewA group of writers collaborating together.
cross“To cross” means to paint over an existing not appreciated graffiti with a quick throw-up, tag or just lines.
cutRedefine lines by using the background color to make them look more straight.


drip marker (mop)a graffiti marker with round nib, which is used for tagging
dripsunwanted paint tears, if the can is not moved fast enough; sometimes also used as an element of style
dubsGraffiti done in silver/chrome (silver style) –  originally from London/UK


end-to-endTrain carriages with graffiti covering the whole length. If the graffiti pieces also cover top-to-bottom, it is called a wholecar.


fadingTransition between two colors; gradient
fat capFat caps are caps constructed to fill big areas or draw thick lines.
fill insThe coloring of a graffiti piece is called “fill in”
fire extinguisherA fire extinguisher is filled with diluted paint and used to create huge ugly tags.
freestyleGraffiti done without preparation or sketch.


ghosta piece of streetart which was tried to be removed but is still visible
graffiti Artists
  • Josef Kyselak (already tagged his initial letters in the 19th century in Austria)
  • Taki183 – first documented writer in New york
  • Seen
  • CanTwo
  • Banksy
  • Daim
  • Skore79
graffiti Brands
  • Montana
  • Molotow
  • Ironlak
  • Flame
  • Stylefile
  • Belton
graffiti markersThere are different kind of graffiti markers: e.g.: drip markers – markers for tagging; markers for drawing handstyles: like Grog, Stylefile or Toki markers; alcohol based pens to draw graffiti sketches – like Stylefile or Copic markers – good for drawing gradients. Acryl base markers – used for highlights or coloring graffiti without gradients (Molotow markers)
graffiti styles
  • 3D-style
  • bubble-style
  • semi-wildstyle
  • silver style
  • simple-style
  • stencils
  • wildstyle
graffiti movies
  • Wildstyle: first graffiti movie from 1982.
  • Wholetrain – german graffiti movie from 2007
  • Banksy – exit through the gift shop (2010)
  • beat street (1984)
going overCompletely covering an existing graffiti.


Hall of fame“Halls of fame” are places with lots of high-quality graffiti. It is usually legal to spray there.
hall (of fame) pieceA “hall piece” therefore is a graffiti piece sprayed in a hall of fame.
handstyleterm for a tag/writer’s signature; tags with more complexity, sophisticated individual styles
heavensHeaven spots are rooftops, bridges or chimneys for instance. It is hard to spray there and it is easy to get caught by the police, but the graffiti is seen from many people and from far away and it is not that easy to remove it.
highlightreflection of light as an element of style usually sprayed as a star
hollowsA throw-up without a fill in; just the outline is sprayed


Insidestags/throw-ups inside of a train


keylinethe outline around a whole graffiti piece
kingKings are respected, well skilled writer. This status can be achieved by getting props from another king. Crowns used in tags can be used to show this status, but also can be just a stylistic element.


landmarkA tag which is nor removed for more than 5 years.
line pieceA graffiti piece sprayed next to rail tracks. Often done on noise barriers.


married coupleTwo wholecars next to each other
muralLarge graffiti piece created in a complex manner. Often in wildstyle or 3D style with characters, and/or detailed background.


one-linerA throw-up or tag done in one line without interrupting the movement of drawing this line.
old schoolUsed as a prefix for an experienced writer or graffiti style from decades ago – mostly basic tags and throw-ups from the 1970/80s.
outlinecontour of graffiti letters, a piece


panelA small graffiti on a train car usually done under the windows and somewhere between the doors. “Flying panels” are a sub-category and are sprayed above the windows.
paste-up a stencil graffiti (or drawing) on paper attached to a wall with wallpaper paste
pichacaobrazilian form of tagging
pieceAbbreviation for “masterpiece” – a graffiti created in a complex manner. Often in wildstyle or 3D style with characters and/or detailed background.
punitionRepeating a word/tag in order to cover a whole surface as a style of graffiti.


to rack / rackingstealing graffiti supplies
rollerpiece / rollerNot very common form of graffiti. A graffiti only done with paint rollers. The disadvantage of this technique is that it only allows block letters. Not easily reachable areas can be painted and big letters can be created fast on the other hand.
rooftopGraffiti foolhardy sprayed being on top of a building – Like on roof edges or chimneys.
runlength of time a graffiti stays in is place before it is covered up or removed.


semi-wildstyleAlready harder to read than simple style but not that complex as a wildstyle graffiti. Wildstyle graffiti have lots of effect, style elements, are arranged in a complex way, so they are really hard to read. The semi-wildstyle already uses some of them but not an extent that the graffiti is not readable anymore.
silver styleLike the name already implies: graffiti letters only painted in silver. Shadows and outlines are usually painted in black. The silver color makes it possible to paint on structured surfaces.
simple styleThe letters of a simple style graffiti are easy to read und not arranged in a complex way. The fillins usually consist of 1-3 colors. There are not a lot of style elements used.
skinny capA cap designed to create exact lines.
slamSpraying in very dangerous places
slashCrossing someone else’s graffiti with one line.
soak upGet inspired by other pieces, tags and letters.
soft capA cap designed to create fadings and for instance dust effects
stainerA marker for tagging.
standard-capAs the word already implies – a cap with no specific focus: industrial standard
stationTags and throw-ups inside or next to a train station.
stickerA way to spread one’s tag. Stickers with the tag on it are placed around the city. “Hello my name is” – sticker are most popular. 
straight letterSimple style letters using only two colors


tag / graffiti tagsThe signature of a writer – a line graffiti in one color with calligraphic and/or styled letters. Many famous sprayers use short synonyms – like “Daim” or “Seen”.


Red Graffiti Tag in Paris
Red graffiti tag spotted in Paris
throw-upMeaning: Fast sprayed, simple graffiti with usually only one colored fill-ins. Tags and throw-ups (also “throwies”) are the two most basic types of graffiti. They can be sprayed quickly and thus are used to reach a large audience.
top-to-bottom(T2B) – So called “top-to-bottom” pieces cover the entire height of a train carriage.
toppingTo paint one’s graffiti directly above of someone else’s piece. This behaviour can be considered as passive-aggressive confrontation.
toya beginner or graffiti writer with no skills


whole carA carriage of a train completely covered in graffiti
wholetrainA train completely covered in graffiti.
wildstyleVery abstract, three-dimensional letters with many details – like arrows – added  and complex coloring and backgrounds characterize wildstyle graffiti pieces. It is often very hard or impossible to read them because the size of letter elements vary and the letters are very abstract already.
window-downIf a graffiti is sprayed below the window of a train car, it is called window-down graffiti. “window-down”- is also often used as a prefix for whole-cars.
woodblock graffitiNot very common form of graffiti. A piece of streetart done on cheap wood and usually attached to lampposts.
writerA synonym for “sprayer” or “graffiti artist”.


  • Graffiti School – A student guid with teacher’s manual – Chris Ganter / Thames & Hudson, page 172
  • Graffiti – Kunst aus der Dose – Torsten Will

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