How to Draw Graffiti with Spray Paint

Written by adam peter lawrence
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How to Draw Graffiti with Spray Paint
A "burner" is the true measure of a graffiti writer's talents. (graffiti 8 image by Olga Chernetskaya from

Graffiti dates back as far as the drawings on cave walls made by our earliest ancestors.Today there are new tools and new terminologies. Modern graffiti can be broken down into different types. "Tagging" is like a signature and can be done with one colour of paint or ink. "Bombing" is generally a quick two-color item with an outline and a fill-in. "Piecing" is the full-colour artwork we see adorning spots where the artist had time to work. A graffiti writer's piece, also called a "burner," is the culmination of practice and preparation, and represents the pinnacle of the medium.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Large canvas or legal wall
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Gesso
  • Foam roller
  • Paint tray
  • Spray paint
  • Piecing caps
  • Outline or sketch of your piece on drawing paper

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  1. 1

    Look at your outline carefully and consider the scale you will be working in. Get up close to your surface and measure things out with your arms to ensure that you can reach your painting area. See that you have enough space. Now put your mask and gloves on and pour some Gesso into your paint tray. Use your foam roller to apply Gesso onto the wall or canvas that you plan to paint, so that you have a consistent background to work with.

  2. 2

    Remove all the covers from your paint cans and take off the stock caps. These are the plastic nozzles at the top of the can and they can be removed by simply pulling up on them. Now replace the caps with your piecing caps, which will make the stream of paint much more accurate. Piecing caps can be purchased online or at a local graffiti supply shop.

  3. 3

    Set aside your outline colour, usually a dark colour, and look at your fill-in colours. These are the shades you wish to use for the interior pattern of your piece. Select a lighter colour from the bunch and use it to sketch a large scale outline which matches your paper outline (the dark outline colour will be used later). Don't be too hard on yourself here. Just keep at it until you have a good match for what you planned.

  4. 4

    Work on your fill-in now that you have an outline. Play with your colours, combinations and contrasts. Experiment with the distance from the wall and the angel of the nozzle. With some practice you will find ways to create fades and hard lines, and it will get smoother. Try to keep the can moving while spraying to avoid drips.

  5. 5

    Look through to your outline. When you are happy with your fill-in, you will be looking at an outline which is now partly obscured by all the patterns inside it. Don't worry: you'll make it all nice and tidy now. Get your unused outline colour and start to contain everything with the dark borders. Take plenty of time and just trace the outline you already made earlier with the light-coloured paint.

  6. 6

    Tag your masterpiece. This is your signature and it lets people know who did the work. Learn from your experience and improve the next one.

Tips and warnings

  • Lettering is the best place to start, and works very well when you follow the outline, fill-in, final-outline sequence.
  • Any backgrounds are best done before starting in on the painted outline.
  • Always do a paper sketch first so you have a road map going in.
  • Remember, graffiti is illegal unless you have express written permission from the property owner. Make sure you have a safe wall to work on or use a canvas. If you are sharing a wall with other artists, avoid painting over the adjacent pieces as this can cause hurt feelings.

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