How to Draw Graffiti Letters
If you're interested in graffiti art, you'll quickly discover that it can be difficult to find helpful tutorials on lettering. Graffiti is a secretive art form, so many who do it aren't willing to share their techniques. Fortunately, some cities and towns have set aside special areas for legal graffiti. These walls are the perfect places to create art without worrying about the police arresting you. If there are no legal walls in your area, you can always use your own private property to practice. You can also use a pen, pencil or paint to draw out designs on canvas or paper.
Materials You Need to Graffiti Letters
Whether you're drawing graffiti letters on paper or on a larger canvas, you'll need some basic materials to create your art. For graffiti letters on paper, you'll need a sharp pencil with an eraser and drawing or sketch paper. Paper with some texture will pick up the pencil marks better than smooth paper, and it will smudge less. If you plan to add color to your sketches, then you'll need colored pencils, pastels or markers depending on the look you want.
Once you're ready to transition to spray paint, you'll need paint, a mask and gloves. You can use different tips to vary the thickness and heaviness of your paint spray. If you want a bigger canvas than a sheet of paper, you can practice drawing or spray painting on large pieces of cardboard.
Drawing Graffiti Letters
If you're new to the art of graffiti, you'll want to practice with pencil on paper first. Then, you can try canvas or cardboard before moving up to using paint on walls. Giving yourself time to practice allows you to develop your own style and come up with a tag. You'll also avoid making rookie mistakes in public where others can see you.
To make graffiti letters on paper: Start by printing a word in pencil and spacing out the letters evenly. Next, draw around the letters with curved lines to make bubble letters, or use straighter outlines to make block or spiky letters. You can add serifs, or short lines to the ends of the letters, or use shading to round out the surface of your bubble letters. You can also try out hearts, arrows, skulls or other objects to add visual interest to your lettering.
Try using colored pencils to experiment with shadows, shading and color combinations. For example, try outlining your letters in one color and filling them in with another color. In addition, look at other examples of graffiti lettering for ideas. Although you don't want to copy other people's art if you work in public, doing it on paper can be a good way to practice and build your own style. Don't forget to erase any unwanted pencil marks before you finish a piece.
Moving Up to Spray Paint
After practicing and perfecting your tag and style, you might decide you're ready to take your work to a bigger canvas. If you decide to spray outside, make sure you work in a place where spraying is legal. Spraying without permission is vandalism, and it can result in fines or even jail time.
When you choose a spray paint, make sure you have one that matches what you want to create. If you're using an oil-based spray paint, wear a mask and gloves since the fumes are toxic. Spray paints come in different colors, and their cap diameter and pressure can also vary. You can also use different tips to create a variety of paint effects.
Shake your spray paint for a least a minute before you start. Varying how quickly you move the can, how close you stand to the wall and the angle of your spray will affect the final result. After you start using spray paint, you may still want to practice on large sheets of cardboard. Spray paint can be a difficult medium, and it has its own tricks, so your work probably won't look perfect right away. If you keep practicing, you'll develop the skills to wow people with your graffiti lettering and art.
Different Types of Graffiti
Although you might see some form of graffiti every day, most people don't pay attention to it. This makes it hard to realize that there are different types of graffiti. These range from quick tags to elaborate pieces. Tags are the artist's name and signifier done in a single color, which makes them the simplest kind of graffiti. On the other hand, throw-ups and blockbusters are more complicated tags that have multiple colors and different styles. Wildstyle is an art form that is difficult to read and may include arrows, stars and other symbols.
Some types of graffiti tell you more about the creation process than the style. For example, heaven is graffiti in a difficult to reach place. Another common type of graffiti is a stencil, which requires using a cutout. On the other hand, a poster is graffiti made on a separate sheet of paper and mounted in place on a wall. A sticker is a small poster, and a piece is a large picture painted freehand. Thinking about these styles when you look at graffiti will help you understand what has gone into each creation and what the artist may have been trying to accomplish.
Stacy Zogheib's writing has been published in various online publications including Classroom.Synonym. She is a teacher and developmental specialist with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with families of children ages 0 to 3. She has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and special education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University.
Graffiti Art Drawing
In this tutorial you’ll learn how to draw graffiti art. I originally did this lesson with my 8th grade students. I was having some difficulty keeping them engaged, so I wanted to come up with something that would keep their attention. This lesson did the trick.
* Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
When I started this art lesson, I knew very little about graffiti. So I started doing some research and discovered a very interested documentary series (Graffiti Verite) about the subject and became intrigued. The more I learned about this art form, the more inspired I became.
The more I practiced, the more I loved doing this type of artwork. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
If you’re not entirely impressed with graffiti art, I challenge you to open your mind and give it a try. You may be surprised.
Graffiti Art Lesson
I began by showing the video to my students. I created a handout that went along with the video that was filled out and turned in after the documentary was finished.
The next step was for them to decide on a word they were going to use. I wanted them to use a word instead of their names for a couple of reasons. For starters I didn’t want to get any complaints from the school or any of the parents about students learning to “tag”.
Integrating Language Arts
I also wanted to integrate language arts into the lesson. To do this, students chose a word that has meaning to them. They also wrote a short paragraph on why their word was meaningful to them.
For my example I used the word dream. The importance of this word for me is because without dreams we don’t have anything. While creating my sample for the lesson, I fell in love with this type of art. If you visit me on Instagram @artbyroteaches, you’ll see several of my graffiti style works of art. I continue to create “Dream” artwork today.
Graffiti Art that Gets Noticed
There are many challenges involved in creating graffiti artwork. The purpose of creating graffiti art is to get noticed. So now you have to decide how to get noticed. What will be in the background? What colors will be used? How will you make the letters stand out?
Do I want the letters to stand out? Which letter style will I use for your graffiti drawing? There is a lot to consider when drawing graffiti art. But there is a lot to be gained in advancing your drawing skills.
These are the supplies I used for this tutorial. There are many acceptable supplies you can use. It’s really just a personal preference. As you develop your own style, you’ll find which art supplies you prefer to use.
How to Draw Graffiti
Before you get started on the actual drawing, there are a few things you need to think about.
- What word or name will you be drawing
- How will the letters “flow” on the page
- Where is the center point of your word or name
- What style of letters you will use
For this graffiti art tutorial I’ll be using the word dream. I typically do my graffiti style art in a hard cover sketchbook. I have some cheaper ones for practice drawings and some nicer ones for my finished drawings. This is the one I’ll be using today. I picked it up in a Barnes and Noble bookstore on their clearance shelf.
If you’re going to use markers, make sure the paper has a smoother tooth. They seem to take markers better than the rougher papers.
Prevent Bleed Through
In all of my sketchbooks I keep a piece of scrap paper between the page I’m drawing on and the one that is directly behind it. This prevents any of the markers from bleeding through onto the next piece of drawing paper. This extra piece of paper stays in the sketchbook and simply gets moved to a new location after each drawing.
Graffiti Drawing Layout
Before drawing out your letters, you need to decide how you want the letters to flow on the page. Will they be tight against the bottom of the page? Do you want them to curve in at the center or maybe curve out? Should they go diagonally across the page?
There are several options. Many more than what I’ve shown here.
Download your FREE graffiti workbook at the bottom of the post
Graffiti Drawing Guidelines
I’ve decided on a diagonal flow for my letters. Lightly draw in some guidelines where your letters will need to go. I’ll usually use a red Col-Erase pencil because it doesn’t smudge like a regular pencil will. However, today I’m using a regular pencil so it’s easier for you to see.
When drawing out your letters, you want to make sure you fill as much of your paper as possible.
For this reason you’ll need to know where the middle of your word is. For the word “dream”, the letter E is the middle. If your name or word has an even number of letters, your middle point will be between two letters.
The next step is to divide your drawing area up into enough sections for each letter. Since the word dream has five letters, there are five section on the page. This will be your guideline for your letters. It will give you a rough estimate of how big, or small, each letter needs to be to fit on your paper.
Drawing Graffiti Letters
I usually begin with the middle letter, which is the letter E. The first thing I do is draw my letter E in the center of the page. When doing this, I try to stretch my letter to the top and bottom of the guidelines I drew in for how I want my letters to flow. Don’t worry too much about your letter going outside of it’s section. You want your letters to overlap each other so this will be OK.
Move onto the next letter. At this point, you can work on the next letter to the right or the left. It’s really a personal preference. I drew the letter A next.
Overlapping Graffiti Letters
As you’re drawing out your word you’ll need to decide how your letters will overlap one another. This is partially personal preference, and partially determined by the letters themselves.
If you cover up the key parts of a letter, it will make it difficult to tell what letter it is, and therefore, make it harder to read your word.
Continue working your way through each letter of your word. The order in which I’m drawing my letters is my own personal preference. The overall look of your drawing will vary depending on how you draw out your letters.
How you overlap them, the size variation, and the shape of your letters will help create your own personal style to your artwork.
Finish Your drawing by adding in the letter D. The biggest struggle I have at this point is deciding how I will overlap the D and R because of the way they both have the upper loop in the letter.
Clean Up Your Graffiti Drawing
After giving it some thought, I decided to let the R overlap the E, and the D to overlap the R. If you are satisfied with how your letters look, it’s time to clean your drawing up a bit.
Erase any lines that don’t need to be there, and darken up any lines that need to stand out a little more.
How to Ink Your Graffiti Drawing
After cleaning up your rough drawing, it’s time to go in with a black marker and start working on your finished work of art. When all of your letters have been outlined, use a pink pearl eraser to get rid of your pencil lines.
It’s a good idea to give the marker a couple of minutes to dry before using the eraser to avoid smudging the ink.
After you have your word outlined, go back in and thicken up your lines a bit. How thick you make them is, once again, a personal preference. You can make them all the same thickness, or vary the thickness some. It’s up to you.
Graffiti Drawing – Color
Now it’s time to add some color to your graffiti drawing. This is where the fun really begins. And the challenges. I went with warm colors for my letters.
You can use any color scheme you want to use. It’s best if you have at least a basic understanding of color theory. You want to pick colors that work together in your graffiti art.
Below is the marker set I used for creating this drawing. You can read the full review at, Bic Intensity Marker Review – Fine Point.
For the letters in this graffiti drawing, four markers were used (yellow blaze, summer melon, sunset orange, fandango pink). And they were used in that order. These are all included in the Bic Intensity 24 pack.
Begin adding the blaze yellow at the top of your letter. Work on one letter at a time because you want the markers to stay “wet” while you’re working on it or they won’t blend together.
Next, add the summer melon. Be sure to overlap your colors. Use the yellow where the two colors meet and blend them together.
Now add in the sunset orange. Again, go back in with the previous color (summer melon) and blend the colors together where they meet.
Finally, add in some fandango pink. Don’t forget to blend the colors together using the sunset orange.
There are so many options when choosing how to finish your letters. Which colors you use and how you add color is entirely up to you. However, I would suggest using some kind of color theme when you are just starting out.
The more you practice, the better you will get.
After doing a few of these you’ll notice the decision making will start getting easier as well. You’ll start to know your next move sooner and become more confident in what you are doing.
If you need help blending markers check out How to Blend Markers for Beginners.
The next thing I did was go in with my black pen and thicken up the outline around the edges of the letters. I left the lines where the letters overlap the way they were. I’ll add a shadow to these areas later on.
Drawing a Graffiti Background
After giving it some thought, I decided to go back in with black and fill in the enclosed areas of my letters. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use black or purple for the insides. I went with the black.
For the background cool colors were used. Because this is a graffiti lesson for beginners, I kept the background pretty simple. There are an endless number of options for the background. From very simple to extremely complex.
Have some fun with it and be creative. The more you practice, the more creative you will be.
Add Shadows and Highlights to Your Graffiti Drawing
The final step is to add some shadows and highlights. Again, lots of choices here. You can use black and white colored pencils for this. The colored pencils lay on top of the marker nicely and shows up well.
Below is what my final drawing looks like. I added some little specks in the white areas to break it up a bit… and because I dropped one of the markers on my page which left a couple of dots.
Happy accidents, as Bob Ross always said. It turned out ok, but I should have made the inside of the letters purple instead of black, or added more black around the edges.
How to Draw Graffiti Letters for Beginners
I hope you enjoyed this lesson on drawing graffiti letters for beginners. There will be more many more graffiti lessons coming up in the near future.
Get your free graffiti workbook below
If you do a quick search on Google for “graffiti blackbook”, you’ll find some really cool graffiti drawings that I’m sure will inspire you. Happy drawing and don’t forget to practice!
More Graffiti Art Posts
Roshanda is an art education blogger who is on a mission to coach and encourage as many aspiring artists as possible through the use of her blog. Learn more about her on the About Me page and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I’ve never tried my hand at graffiti letters before so I decided to give it a try the other night. Lately, I’ve had an interest in street art and more specifically, street murals and I am planning on giving a large scale mural a try pretty soon but I figured to do that I need to practice up on a different type of a style. I figured I’d start with something on a smaller scale before I delve into something much larger later since I still need to get some paint and graffiti letters seemed to bee a good start.
First Try at Graffiti Letters
This is my first attempt at graffiti letters, but don’t get me wrong, I’ve been doing art for some time. Before I got started I watched some videos on graffiti artists and how they do their graffiti writing. It gave me a pretty good base on where I should get started so I took that and added what I already know with art.
Graffiti Letters Sketch
I started with a sketch in pencil, that way I could modify the piece as I go, try new ideas and not be bound to something from the first line. This is a similar process to how I do my drawings as well. I’ve done this on hot press illustration board so it had a nice and sturdy surface to work on.
Graffiti Letters Pen
After the sketch was to a point I was happy with, I commit to the lines by going over it with a thin India ink pen. This will then lead me to the next stage which is cleaning up the lines. If I leave the pencil marks there, the markers will smudge the pencil and make it look dirty which we don’t want. I like the clean graffiti writing you see on the streets and I’m trying to emulate that with marker.
Once I have the thin pen down it’s time for markers. I wanted to use some complimentary colors and a simple one was orange and blue. Originally I was going to do orange and gray, but my gray marker was fairly old and streaking so I decided not to use that one and opted for blue instead.
Once the base layers where down it was time for some details. I added the shadow to the letters and some texture by adding a slightly darker color over the marker. I then finished up with a silver paint pen so it reflects from the angle you are at. You can see it in the short video below.
Pencil graffiti letters
.Graffiti ‘Throwie’ in colored pencil
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