Tools of the Trade: What’s In a Graff Writer’s Backpack

Tips/ Caps

Although these are not used often when throwing up angsty scribbles under an overpass, if you are at all interested in creating street art that people will stop and marvel at, tips are essential. Depending on your location they may be hard to come by, but in order to mold and shape the paint and to guide it out of the can onto the wall to do your bidding and form a powerful image, you will need to get a hold of some. Rusto Fats, NY Skinnys, or German Outlines, all serve a different and distinct purpose that mesh masterfully to create the entire image. These caps perform many different purposes, including creating thin lines for fine detail, fat lines to fill in large areas of color, outlines to make crisp lines around that color, and calligraphy lines for simpler writing. These refined tools may perhaps mark the line between amateur throw-ups or gang vandalism and the actual art of graffiti, and no practiced graff writer is complete without a few baggies full of assorted tips.

Utilizing these tips to their full extent may be one of the more difficult and subtle aspects of graffiti art so don’t get frustrated if you can’t figure it out. As it is with all art, it takes time and practice to get it right.

Tips/Caps to look for: Fat cap, Skinny cap, Outline, Stencil

Bandanna / Gloves

Tools of the graff writing trade: Bandanna / GlovesAcetate, the chemical in spray paint, has not been proven to be dangerous in the long term, but the immediate effects stemming from the chemical that gives spray paint and other aerosols their distinct scent can cause damage to the brain. Therefore, the presence of a bandana around a graff writer’s neck is essential, even more-so if they intend on doing any extensive mural graffiti. The fumes will give you a headache if you go for too long without one, especially in an enclosed or poorly-ventilated space.

Of course masks work better, but they are more expensive and a good deal more conspicuous, so the bandanna will do. Not to mention the question of anonymity — a bandanna protects your identity in case you get caught on the ever-present CCTV, as will inevitably happen. In an art as dangerous and illegal as this one, it is important that you aren’t recognized where you don’t want to be.

A hat and sunglasses are also useful in this area. Gloves are important as well; paint-stained fingertips are always incriminating, and even a pair of surgical gloves will prevent this. These things are important even for a beginner, and they are guaranteed to make you feel more legitimate.


Tools of the graff writing trade: StencilsThis is not a form of graffiti that every artist partakes in, in fact some artists even look down on it, but it has grown in popularly due to its ease and convenience, as well as to the rising prominence of stencil artists such as Banksy. All you need is an Exacto knife and a sheet of plastic to make your own stencil; then you have a reusable template for a piece of graffiti art. This is very useful, especially in high-traffic areas or if you have limited time, and to spread your tag around town as quickly and efficiently as possible. It can range from a pocket-sized stencil on the wall of an alleyway, to a ten-foot, four-layer, multicolored stencil on a concrete pillar.

These can be quickly thrown up anywhere you can get alone for two minutes, and can be spread like wildfire. Stencils also utilize the element of repetition, as each one looks about the same, and can be seen everywhere you choose to throw it up. This can be the best way to generate hype about your artwork, and to make people notice and ask questions and to get your name out there. Stencils are possibly one of the most efficient ways of bombing a city with an identical image in vast numbers around a large area.

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