Graff Glossary

We believe in making graffiti accessible to everybody who wants to enjoy it. We understand that to fully appreciate what you are looking at, it can help to have an understanding of the terms being used to describe methods and people on the graffiti scene.

Below you can find the basic and commonly used terms that many graffiti artists will use.

BACK TO BACK

A wall that is pieced from end to end all the way across, although it doesn’t necessarily describe a wall that has been bombed by only one writer.

BITE

To copy another writer’s style. This used to be considered very bad form and is looked down upon. It still is, but since writers like Banksy have emerged they have spawned many copycat writers

BOMB

To cover an area with your tag, throwups, etc.

BOMBING

To go out writing.

BUBBLE LETTERS

A type of graffiti letters, usually considered to be an older (and sometimes outmoded) style. Often used for throwup letters because of their rounded shape, which allows for quick formation.

BURN

To beat the competition with your style. Also refers to a really good piece, as in one that “burns”.

CHARACTER

A cartoon figure (usually, but not necessarily) taken from comic books, TV or popular culture to add humor or emphasis to a piece. In some pieces, the character takes the place of a letter  in the word.

CREW

A loosely organized group of writers who also tag the crew initials along with their name.

DIS

To insult. Comes from “disrespect”.

DOWN

To be in with, part of the group or action (as in “he’s down with us”).

DRIPS

Stylized drips drawn onto letters to add effect. Although inept paint application causing unintentional drips is considered the mark of a toy, stylized drips drawn on letters are acceptable and can bring added detail to a piece.

FILL

The solid interior color of letters on a piece.

GETTING UP

Originally, “getting up” meant to sucessfully hit a train. Now it means to hit up anything, anywhere, with any form of graffiti,  although the term implies the process of tagging repeatedly to spread your name. Tagging something once would be getting up, but would not make you an “up” writer.

GOING OVER

One writer covering another writer’s name with his/her own. Also known as “X-ing out” or “crossing out”. “Crossing out” is usually just that, painting an X over another writers tag or piece. In the early days of New York graffiti, Cap was the master of doing black and white throwups to go over people. There was even a crew called TCO (the cross outs), whose main goal was to cross everyone out. See also “blockbuster letters”.
HIT UP

When something is covered with tags.

KILL

To hit or bomb excessively. To really get up in a major way.

KING

The best with the most. Some people refer to different writers as kings of different areas. King of throwups, king of style, king of a certain line, etc.

MAD

Crazy, lots.

MURAL

A large-scale type of piecing, done top to bottom on a wall; usually a large production involving one or two pieces and usually some form of characters.

OLD SCHOOL

General term used to refer to the early days of writing, more specifically, the mid 70s to 80s. Also may refer to hip-hop music of this period.

OUTLINE

The drawing done in a piecebook in preparation for doing the actual piece. Also called a sketch. Can also refer to the outline put on the wall and then filled, or the final outline done around the piece to finish it.

PIECE

A graffiti painting, short for masterpiece. It’s generally agreed that a painting must have at least three colors to be considered a piece.

TO PIECE

To paint graffiti, creating a piece, not just go out tagging.

PIECEBOOK

A writer’s sketchbook where outlines and ideas to be executed are kept and worked out. Also referred to as a “black book” or a “writer’s bible”.

PROPS

Respect, comes from “proper respect”. From hip-hop/rap.

ROLL CALL

Tagging everyone’s name in a crew, or the list of people who helped create it to the side of the piece. Not done very often – tagbangers seem to like doing this.

SOLVEIG

The ‘Female Banksy’, Solveig is actually a 10 year old school girl in Brighton. Even so, her pieces are pretty dope considering her age! Check Solveig out

STICKERS

A form of tagging, most commonly saying “Hello, my name is”. Can be anything from computer-generated, clear, generic blank stickers that have the writer’s name on them to elaborate stickers with little pieces and characters. Some writers consider stickers to be for people who are “afraid” to use markers/paint, while other writers use a combination of stickers with markers and paint. There are lots of these around Brighton.

TAG

The most basic form of graffiti, a writer’s signature with marker or spray paint. It is the writer’s logo, his/her stylized personal signature. If a tag is long it is sometimes abbreviated to the first two letters or the first and last letter of the tag. Also may be ended with the suffixes “one”, “ski”, “rock”, “em” and “er”.

TAGGER

As opposed to “writer”; this term is usually used to refer to those who only do tags and throwups and who never piece. Some taggers seem to like more destructive methods such as scribers and sandpaper in addition to markers and paint. Some taggers do get interested in piecing, some don’t. Taggers who never piece are sometimes called “scribblers” by more experienced, piecing writers.

3D

Self explanatory – A three-dimensional style of letters, used for added effect on basic letters, sometimes applied to wildstyle for an extra level of complexity.

THROWUP

Over time, this term has been applied to many different types of graffiti. Throwups can be from one or two letters to a whole word or a whole roll call of names. Often times throwups incorporate an exclamation mark after the word or letter. Throwups are generally only one or two colors, no more. Throwups are either quickly done bubble letters or very simple pieces using only two colors.

TOY

An inexperienced or incompetent writer. Someone whose writing is either wack, who uses sucker tips, or whose style is just plain cheesy. One old definition of “TOYS” is that it stands for “trouble on your system”.

UP

Describes a writer whose work appears regularly everywhere and who is currently writing.

WACK

Substandard or incorrect (derived from “out of whack”). Anything that looks cheesy or weak. Badly formed letters, incompetent fills, shit looking tags, etc.

WILDSTYLE

A complicated construction of interlocking letters. A hard style that consists of lots of arrows and connections. Wildstyle is considered one of the hardest styles to master and pieces done in wildstyle are often completely undecipherable to non-writers.

WRITER

Somone who writes, or tags. This term is usually applied to people who get up big pieces or murals as well as tagging, not tagging alone.

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