Finding a graffiti style you can call your own isn’t easy. In fact, it can take graffiti artists years to define their style so it becomes instantly recognisable to other artists.
It’s no short process and it doesn’t happen overnight. After all, the rewards of graffiti need to be earned through hard work – that’s what brings recognition and respect.
Graffiti styles constantly evolve too as artists experiment with different letter structures, techniques and mediums. Finding your style is a process of constant improvement.
So if you’re a beginner struggling to find your graffiti style, here are 10 tips and tricks to help along the way.
Be sure to stick around until the end. The last tip is the most important.
- 1. Start sketching consistently
- 2. Go outside for inspiration
- 3. Read graffiti books
- 4. Watch graffiti movies
- 5. Use social media for inspiration
- 6. Avoid how to draw “X” letter tutorials
- 7. Sketch the alphabet, not always your tag
- 8. Upgrade your sketching supplies
- 9. Share sketches online or with friends
- 10. Go out and paint
1. Start sketching consistently
By far the best way to develop your graffiti style is to start sketching letters consistently.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to get started either. A pencil and paper are more than enough to get working on your style. Start by drawing letters you like, or even better, sketch the whole alphabet to develop a more versatile style.
Making a routine of sketching is one of the most underrated ways to get better at graffiti. Set aside half an hour or even 15 minutes each day to sketch graffiti letters. You’ll start to see results quickly and your style will begin taking shape.
Keep your sketching routine up along with the following tips for the best results.
2. Go outside for inspiration
Find local graffiti, travel to your nearest big city or ride the train lines to find graffiti for inspiration.
There are loads of graffiti videos and images online but nothing compares to seeing graffiti in person. Nowadays we’re lucky to be able to view graffiti online. But before the internet graffiti writers had to get outside if they wanted to be inspired.
You’ll get a much better idea of the methods and techniques of graffiti by seeing pieces in person. You’ll get a feel of how the paint sticks to surfaces and how different styles fit into different spaces.
As graffiti styles differ from region to region, you’ll also get a much better idea of local styles too. Remember to take pictures of stuff you like so you can look back on it later.
3. Read graffiti books
Graffiti books and zines played one of the biggest roles in making graffiti the global phenomenon it is today. They’re still hugely influential in graffiti culture and a great place to start for finding your style.
Subway Art, for example, is an absolute must-read book for any aspiring graffiti artist. It teaches methods, techniques and stories from New York’s earliest subway writers during the 1980s in what’s known as the Golden Era of Graffiti.
Plus, Subway Art is packed with photos of legendary painted subway trains to inspire you. You might be surprised at how graffiti styles haven’t changed that much since this era – especially the fundamentals of graffiti.
4. Watch graffiti movies
Watching graffiti movies is another great way to immerse yourself in graffiti culture and find your style.
Produced in 1983, Style Wars is one of the best graffiti documentaries to start with (trailer below). Like Subway Art, it’s set in New York City during a time when graffiti was taking the East Coast by storm.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Flickr have become very popular spaces for sharing graffiti photos – making them a great source of inspiration.
Try following hashtags like #londongraffiti or #newyorkgraffiti to find inspiration from those areas – especially if you’re a fan of those local styles.
There are also loads of high quality graffiti Instagram accounts to follow, although remember that they may only post graffiti from the area they’re based in.
If you want to be exposed to a broad range of styles for inspiration, follow a few accounts from different cities and countries.
6. Avoid how to draw “X” letter tutorials
There are hundreds of videos and tutorials on the internet that will guide you through how to draw certain graffiti letters. I highly recommend avoiding these.
Although they may seem inspiring, if you’re serious about finding your graffiti style, it won’t be found by copying someone else’s letters. That’s just simply replicating (or biting) someone else’s style.
Instead, look for tutorials that teach letter structure, managing negative space and other graffiti fundamentals that can be used to improve your letters and develop style.
Progress will be slow if you’re copying someone else’s graffiti letter by letter.
7. Sketch the alphabet, not always your tag
Although you may be tempted to just sketch your tag every time you go to practice, try sketching the whole alphabet too.
By sketching the whole alphabet, your style will become much more obvious as you draw other letters outside of your tag. It will challenge you to use different shapes and manage things like negative space – making you a much more versatile graffiti writer.
Don’t get me wrong – sketch the letters you write as much as possible. But if you want to see clearer results with speed, give the whole alphabet a try.
8. Upgrade your sketching supplies
There’s nothing wrong with using just a pencil and scrap paper to find your graffiti style in the beginning. But there comes a point where it makes sense to upgrade with some essential graffiti supplies so you can progress.
Once you’ve got a dedicated blackbook for sketching, upgrade your toolset with a selection of blackbook markers.
Choose a set of fineliner pens for sharp details and outlines, along with an alcohol marker set for colour. Plus, a white paint pen to add shines and 3D effects.
Upgrading your supplies can help you find your graffiti style beyond just pencil sketches and help with visualising colour schemes.
Getting feedback on your graffiti sketches either from friends or by posting online can help you find your graffiti style quicker and help you improve.
If you’ve got a friend who’s into graffiti, share sketches with each other and give honest feedback.
However, like any art, what looks good depends on individual taste. So it’s better to give constructive feedback on graffiti fundamentals like missing 3D or poor negative space management.
Another way to get feedback is online. Try posting on Reddit forums like /r/graffhelp or /r/blackbooksketches. Writers on these forums can be unpredictable though, so be prepared to get ripped apart if you’re a beginner.
10. Go out and paint
And finally, along with consistently sketching, one of the best ways to find your graffiti style and master can control is to go out and paint.
Find local legal walls, abandoned buildings or chill spots to practice on. Learning by doing is the quickest way your style will come to life. After all, the goal is to paint your name with your new style, so going out and painting is essential.
You can be a god in the sketchbook, but if you can’t actually paint your graffiti in public then your style is going to waste.
Grab some good quality graffiti spray paint, find somewhere chill and practice. There are no shortcuts when it comes to finding your style.
Ready to take your style to the streets? Find your supplies with our rundown of the 10 Essential Graffiti Supplies Every Beginner Needs.