Graffiti tags & handstyles: design theory & examples


What are graffiti tags?

In the context of graffiti „tags“ stands for one-colored signatures (pseudonyms) of graffiti writers. Decorative elements like stars, drips, arrows and/or splashes may be added to it. It is the basic form of a graffiti and a good point to start learning proportions and connecting letters for a graffiti sketch.

Red Graffiti Tag in Paris
Red graffiti tag spotted in Paris

What do the numbers added to graffiti tags mean?

There are several possibilities for the meaning of the numbers added at the end of a graffiti tag:

  1. In the US, the number can stand for the street the writer is living in
  2. If the same name is used from several writers, the one who used it first will add „one“ or „1“ to his/her tag and subsequent writers the corresponding numbers
  3. The number can also stand for a syllable
  4. Year of foundation of a crew
  5. Just personal preference of a specific number

How to draw handstyles/graffiti tags?

The best way to start out designing a graffiti tag is to just design one letter of the word and keep the others basic. Usually the first or last letter is the best choice. At the same time the letters should form to a shape – for instance: a laying triangle.

Example of a basic tag

As described in the paragraph above, the tag fits in the form of a triangle.

BMW graffiti tag fitting in a shape
“BMW” graffiti tag fitting in the shape of a triangle

What are handstyles?

Handstyles are artistically done graffiti tags. I usually start to create my graffiti sketches by drawing the word I want to write as a handstyle. This gives me hints for connecting the letters and the general composition of the graffiti piece. Thus, I still got enough of steps to do to rearrange the letters if the composition is not the way it want it to be. In this article, I will explicitly post examples of this first step in my drawing process. So, you will see a growing collection of photos of handstyles in this post.

Example of handstyles

TADA Graffiti Tag by Graffiti Empire
“Tada” handstyle
Pain - handstyle
“Pain” handstyle
Oida Handstyle Graffiti Tag
“Oida” handstyle
Leni Handstyle
“Leni” handstyle

Example of graffiti tags & handstyles done with Procreate for iPad

write Handstyle done with Procreate for Ipad
“Write” Handstyle done with Procreate for Ipad
Fatcap Graffiti Tag
“Fatcap” Handstyle done with Procreate for Ipad
Style handstyle done with Procreate for Ipad
“Fatcap” Handstyle done with Procreate for Ipad
Soul handstyle graffiti tag
“Soul” handstyle

Another great resource for handstyles is Check it out for additionally ideas.

If you feel quite confident about designing your graffiti tag, you can move on to our article on how to draw graffiti.


  • Das große Graffiti-Lexikon – Bernhard van Treeck

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

9 comments on “Graffiti tags & handstyles: design theory & examples

  1. Enco

    there needs to be more grafff styles and how to do tags and different names for inspiration but amazing website and what happend to your app ?

  2. Clandestine

    This was great I really liked it, It helped me add some finesse to my tag!

  3. Allzeit

    i love this site

  4. drifter

    The best its so good and it taught me alot

  5. Corbin

    very epic, very cool would reccomend yes

  6. Dawood Johnson

    Great jop guys

  7. Dawood Johnson

    Dope guys

  8. Matt

    By far the best graffitti tutorial ive ever come across.i have learned so much from reading thru all these and practicing and ‘tweaking’ the art of it all.thx 4 the knowledge

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.