While most people see graffiti as a public nuisance, its hard to ignore its unique artistic style and celebration of free expression. Using a graffiti style for everyday lettering can be a fun way to make your mark, even if you are not making a statement.
While graffiti lettering was designed to make the most of spray paint, it’s possible to create it in other mediums as well. The overall effect just won’t be quite as smooth if you use markers or paint, as they will blend differently. Chalk and pastels can mimic spray paint blurring qualities quite nicely. But you can also create less elaborate versions with just a pen or pencil.
First, look at existing graffiti for inspiration. If there’s graffiti in your neighborhood, an up-close look is best. Look at the overall picture, but also step closer and look at the lines and the colors of the words. If you can’t see graffiti firsthand, there are several art books available on the subject and any number of websites highlighting graffiti work. Another idea is to look for graffiti-style fonts online to get ideas on letter design. You could even print up copies of the letters and trace them to get your hands used to the style.
You should then trace out a basic alphabet. You could even create several to see which ones you like best. The basis of graffiti-style writing is large, blocky, overlapping letters. You’ve probably made a bubble or outlined letters at some point for a school presentation or a sign. Use those as a starting point, but you all most likely need to go wider. Decide whether you want your letters to have rounded edges or to be more angular. This will help create a unifying style to your graffiti writing.
Once you’ve decided on the shapes of your letters, then you should practice connecting them in words. The biggest point you need to consider is how they will overlap. Decide whether letters should stay on top, fall behind other letters, or even change shape to squeeze into small spaces. Think of other touches you might add. If your word starts with an L, you could stretch out the bottom to underline other letters. Is there anything creative you could do while crossing your toes and dotting your I’s?
Finally, turn to color and shading. If you want to use multiple colors for filling, graffiti letters will typically flow from one color to the next with careful blending instead of creating distinct stripes of color. You might also want to outline your letters in one color and fill them in with another. There are no set rules in graffiti writing. Do what comes naturally and what you think looks good. And if you mess up, it’s easy to erase or turn to a clean sheet of paper.
The more you practice, the easier the writing graffiti style will become. As you become more familiar with the process, see what extra flourishes you can add to your designs. See if you can create dynamic borders and outlines for your words. When you are ready, you might even branch out into full-fledged graffiti art.