Graffiti Terms


All City – The state of having one’s graffiti all throughout a city. Takes time and dedication.


Background – Originated on the subways out of necessity. Backgrounds were used to make the piece stand out from all the tags and assorted scribbling on a subway car that make the piece hard to discern. The color or design behind the letters.

Backjump – A quickly executed throw up or panel piece. Back-jumps are usually painted on a temporarily parked train or a running bus. Should be executed while drunk.

Back To Back – A wall that is pieced from one to end to the other. Also can refer to throw-ups that are in a row. Looks great along highways.

Battle – When two writers or two crews have some sort of disagreement. A Competition between two or more crews to see who has the best style or who can get up the most in a particular city. However, in reality usually involves getting drunk and dissing pieces with penis throw ups.

Beef – To have a grudge against another graffiti writer or crew. Grown men acting like kids over hurt feelings.

Bench – The act of watching trains for graffiti. With the popularity of digital cameras benching also means taking a photograph or video of a train spray painted with graffiti.

Black Book – A graffiti artist’s sketchbook. Often used to sketch out and plan potential graffiti, and to collect tags from other writers. Doesn’t have to be black. Fancy name for a sketch pad. Real black books should have phone numbers of sexy people inside.

Bite – To steal another artist’s ideas or lettering schemes. Mr. Brainwash comes to mind. Getting something to eat while painting a legal wall.

Blockbuster – Big, square letters, often tilted back and forth and in two colors. Mainly invented to cover over other people and to paint whole trains easily, but they are effective on smaller walls for maximum coverage. Not to be confused with the dinosaur that is Blockbuster Video.

Bomb – To bomb or hit is to paint many surfaces in an area. Bombers often choose throw-ups or tags over complex pieces, as they can be executed more quickly. Homeland Security flags this term in your internet search queries.

Bubble Letters – A type of graffiti letters that are often used for throw ups because of their rounded shape, which allows for quick formation. The type of graffiti that the general public hates. Can be executed while drunk or high or cheesing.

Buff – To remove painted graffiti with chemicals and other instruments, or to paint over it with a flat color. Buffing the paint is not to be confused with painting in the buff.

Burn – To beat a competitor with a style. All of these standard graffiti definitions sound like they are out of a 1980s hip-hop graffiti break dance book.

Burner – A large, more elaborate type of piece. Lots of detail. Also, a giant blunt.


Cannon – A spray paint can.

Cap – The nozzle for the aerosol paint can, different kinds are used for styles. Some are fancy. People brag about using stock ones. Can also mean going over another writer. I capped his shit.

Character – A cartoon figure usually taken from comic books, movies, 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. Usually survive the buff longer.

Clean Train – A train that hasn’t been painted with any type of graffiti. New or just never hit. It can also refer to a train that just had all the graffiti removed from it.

Crew – Is a group of associated writers that often work together. Some run in like ten gangs and they commit hate crimes. Others spray paint, smoke weed, talk about girls and look at graffiti pics online.


Diss – To put a line through, or tag over, another’s graffiti. Dissing is graffiti self regulating.

Dress-Up – To completely write all over a specific area like a door-way, wall or window that is untouched. Or when a female writer is painting on a ladder and the wind blows.

Drips – At first drips are the sign of a novice painter who does not have good can control. Over time a writer can get so good that he or she intentionally drips their tags in order to show style. Thus completing the graffiti mind fuck circle. This style originated early on in New York subway graffiti with home made markers. I ain’t got to blow on lines.


Fade – To blend colors. Or after a piece has been in the sun for many years and it starts to loose vibrancy.

Fat Cap – A nozzle used for wide coverage, used for the fill of pieces.

Fame – What a writer achieves when he or she is up around the entire city. Can be bought or earned. Overrated.

Fills – Graffiti that is either filled in a rush or a solid fill. A fill is also the interior base color of the piece of graffiti. Can be called throwies, quickies or bombs.

Flats – Freight train cars with flat surfaces.

Floaters – Graffiti that is painted on the top part of a train above traditional piece placement. Can also be graffiti on the side of a building that was once accessible from another building that has since been demolished.

Freights – Railroad train cars.


Gallery – Locations such as overpasses and walls facing train tracks that are secluded from the general public but are popular with writers. Since anything that is written is likely to stay for a while, an accumulation of styles and skills can be viewed. These take some exploring to find.

Getting Up – To paint and build up a reputation. When other writers see your work in multiple locations.

Going Over – To paint on top of another writer’s graffiti. Can be used in a more general way such as I need to go over the that religious billboard with a giant goat head.


Hand Style – The handwriting of a particular graffiti writer. In a general sense, good flow of letters especially with tags.

Heaven Spot – Pieces that are painted in hard to reach places such as rooftops and freeway signs, thus making them hard to remove. Such pieces, by the nature of the spot, often pose dangerous challenges to execute, but may increase an artist’s notoriety. They require some good climbing skills.

Hit – To paint a spot with graffiti. He just hit that shit.

Hollows – Also referred to as outlines and shells, the graffiti contains no fill. Mostly done with bubble letters.


Insides – Graffiti done inside trains, trams, or buses. Usually tags. The graffiti that angers the local city officials the most.


King – A writer especially respected among other writers. Be weary of self-appointed ones.

Krylon – A type of spray paint available at local hardware stores. Cheaper than Rusto.


Landmark – When an individual “tags” on a certain location that becomes very difficult for removal. Can also be a location that will not get noticed too much, therefore it stays on longer. Or the spot of a deceased writer’s work.

Layup – Side tracks where trains are parked overnight and on weekends. Initally used to refer to subway layups, but now can refer to freight-train layups. Obviously trains are not painted while they are moving so these are the spots of paint application.

Legal – A graffiti piece or production wall that is painted with permission.


Married Couple – Two simultaneous whole cars painted next to each other. Writers who always paint together.

Massacre – When city officials take down or cover up an accumulation of tags and pieces, leaving a blank space.

Montana – Paint made for graffiti. Fancy.

Mop – A type of graffiti marker used for larger tags that often has a round nib and leaves a fat, drippy line. Mops may be filled with various inks or paints. Originally started with home made markers. Gotta love those drips!

Mural – A large graffiti painting usually featuring multiple writers and a theme.


One-Liner – A tag written in one constant motion. Or a cheesy pickup line used to hit on graffiti groupie.

One-Stroke – When a throw up or hollow is completed in one fluid motion.

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.


Paint Eater – An unprimed surface such as raw wood or concrete that eats up standard spray paint.

Painters Touch – A brand by Rust-Oleum that is favored for quality and general availability.

Pasteup – A drawing, stencil etc. on paper fixed to a wall or other surface using wheatpaste or wallpaper paste

Patch – A tag that has been rubbed out by being painted over usually by gray paint.

Pichacao – Brazilian name for the unique form of tagging found in that country.

Piece – Short for masterpiece. A large and labor-intensive graffiti painting. A writer’s best work.

PT – Painters Touch brand by Rust-Oleum.


Racking – Shoplifting or robbing, not limited to but including paint, markers, inks, caps, and clothes. Thievery.

Roll Call – Tagging everyone’s name in a crew, or the list of people who helped create it to the side of the piece.

Roller – An enormous piece done with a paint roller instead of aerosol.

Run – The length of time graffiti remains up before being covered or removed. If work has not been painted over it can be considered running.

Rusto – Rust-Oleum brand spray paint. Tried and true.


Scribe – Also called scratchitti, scribing creates hard-to-remove graffiti by scratching or incising a tag into an object, generally using a key, knife, stone or drill bit.

Slam – To paint an extremely conspicuous or dangerous location.

Soak Up – To consider other pieces for inspiration. Study up!

Stainer – A marker used to tag with, generally with a 12mm or 20mm tip.

Sticker – Also referred to as “labels” or “slaps”. A sticker often obtained from shipping companies and name greeting labels, has the writer’s tag or character on it. A sticker can be deployed more quickly than other forms of graffiti, making it a favorite in any public place such as newspaper dispensers, stop signs, phone booths etc. A popular sticker that was used originally was the Hello my name is red stickers in which a writer would write his or her graffiti name in the blank space.

Straight Letters – are direct, blocky, more readable and simpler style of graffiti. They can be read by anyone and usually contain only two colors. Painted by writers of all sexual orientations.


Tag – A stylized signature, normally done in one color. The simplest and most prevalent type of graffiti, a tag is often done in a color that contrasts sharply with its background. Tag can also be used as a verb meaning to sign. Writers often tag on or beside their pieces, following the practice of traditional artists who sign their artwork.

Throw Up – A throw-up or throwie sits between a tag and a piece in terms of complexity and time investment. It generally consists of a one-color outline and one layer of fill-color. Easy-to-paint bubble shapes often form the letters. A throw-up is designed for quick execution, to avoid attracting attention to the writer.

Top To Bottom – Pieces on trains that cover the whole height of the car.

Toy – Used as an adjective to describe poor work, or as a noun meaning an inexperienced or unskilled writer.


Undersides – Tags or signatures painted on the under carriage of passenger trains. Undersides are normally marked in the yard after painting the train panel, most undersides will last somewhat longer than the original piece, as the railway workers primarily focus on the most visible things and sometimes do not have resources to clean everything.

Up – Writers become up when their work becomes widespread and well-known. Although a writer can get up in a city by painting only tags or throw-ups, a writer may earn more respect from skillfully executed pieces or a well-rounded repertoire of styles than from sheer number of tags. Usually the more spots a writer can hit, the more respect he or she gains. A writers ups is determined by how much prolific graffiti he/she has accomplished and that is actively running.


Whole Car – A single or collaborative piece that covers the entire visible surface of a train car, usually excluding the front and rear of the train. A whole car is usually worked upon by either a single artist or several artists from the same crew and is completed in one sitting.

Wildstyle – Graffiti with text so stylized as to be difficult to read, often with interlocking, three-dimensional type.

Woodblock – Artwork painted on a small portion of plywood or similar inexpensive material and attached to street sign posts with bolts. Often the bolts are bent at the back to prevent removal.

Writer – A practitioner of writing, a graffiti artist.