What is a Graffiti Blackbook? (Blackbooks Explained)

blackbook sketch by done-min
Written by Richard September

Ready to build out your blackbook? Here’s everything you need to know.

Before everyone had a camera in their pocket, graffiti writers needed somewhere to physically store their work.

After all, how were you meant to prove to other writers that your graff was on point if they’d never seen one of your pieces?

This is one of the reasons blackbooks exist. But they’re also essential for improving and developing graffiti styles, collecting sketches by other writers and preserving graffiti history.

Here’s everything you need to know about blackbooks for graffiti.

What is a graffiti blackbook?

A blackbook is a sketchbook or sketchpad used by graffiti artists to sketch graffiti tags, throw-ups and pieces. It’s called a blackbook because it’s a tradition in graffiti culture to use a black hardcover book or pad.

Blackbook sketches can be simply one colour pieces using a pencil and a marker, for example, all the way through to full-colour burner pieces. It all depends on the writer’s style of graffiti.

Various Molotow marker pads
Molotow marker pads (Image credit: Wildstyle Technicians)

Why do graffiti artists use blackbooks?

Blackbooks are where graffiti writers perfect their sketches, improve their technique and develop their style before taking to the streets.

Blackbooks aren’t just for the owner’s sketches though. It’s common to let other graffiti writers drop a tag or do a piece in someone else’s book – particularly crew members and famous graffiti writers.

Blackbooks are also used to visualise progression. As a writer develops their style and improves, the book holds every sketch that they can look back on whenever they want to.

Before the days of affordable cameras, smartphones and social media, blackbooks were the best way to show graffiti sketches to others and preserve writers’ work.

Full colour graffiti sketch in blackbook by Gons
Sketch by Gons (Image credit: Bombing Science)

Is a blackbook different to a markerpad or sketchbook?

No. Any markerpad or sketchbook can be considered a blackbook as long as it’s solely for graffiti sketches.

But staying true to the culture, it’s best if it’s a black hardcover sketchbook or markerpad.

What markers are used in a blackbook?

Any fine liners, alcohol or water-based markers and acrylic pens can be used in a blackbook. Just be sure it’s a good quality sketchbook or markerpad so the colours come out as best as they can.

If you need help deciding, take a look at our selection of best markers for blackbooks.

Graffiti sketches in blackbook by Dahan
Sketch by Dahan (Image credit: Pintrest)

When should I buy a blackbook for graffiti?

Because graffiti sketches can be done on literally any type of paper, a blackbook isn’t essential. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t ever pick one up.

There’s no best time to buy one, but before you do I recommend sketching on paper as much as you can beforehand. This will mean fewer low quality sketches in the early pages of your blackbook.

But if you think a blackbook will motivate you to sketch more, then definitely buy one. Regularly sketching in a blackbook will improve your letter structure, style and technique – which is hard to put a price on.

There will also inevitably become a time when you get tired of sketching on odd pieces of paper or lined paper. Having a blackbook means having somewhere to store your work and show friends once you improve – all in one clean book.

What blackbook should I use for graffiti sketches?

As I mentioned, paper of most kinds can be used for graffiti sketches. So if you just want to improve your sketches, having a blackbook isn’t essential.

But if you’re looking for a high quality blackbook I’ve got two recommendations – the Stylefile A4 and the Stylefile A5 Marker Pad.

If you want a stay at home blackbook, go for the Stylefile A4 size. This is the blackbook I’d recommend to most people as you’re probably going to mostly be using it to yourself and not carrying it around too much.

But if you want a blackbook to take with you on the move, go for the Stylefile A5 size. It’s smaller and easier to carry, and won’t be as annoying to handle on the go.

Stylefile’s quality is best-in-class and these books are no exception. They both hold 144 pages of 120g/m² paper and have a classic old school blackbook look.

Stylefile A4 Classic Marker Pad
Stylefile A4 Classic Marker Pad

About the author

Richard September

Growing up in London, I've always been fascinated by the graffiti that covers the cityscape. From seeing it around where I lived to reading it on the train lines, I was hooked straight away. For over 15 years, I've been painting graffiti and immersing myself in the culture. I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2019 with a BA in Sociology and Media Studies. My final year research project, entitled "Vigilant Vandalism or Mindless Mischief: A Narrative Analysis of Graffiti Writers in London & Brighton", exposed me to the lives of graffiti writers in the field and better shaped my understanding of the culture. I created Graff Storm in 2021 with the mission to help new artists learn more about graffiti culture, find the right tools and avoid toy status.

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