Glossary of Terms
Aerosol art – graffiti in which pictorial elements are incorporated into the designs, often referencing cartoon and comic book characters from popular culture.
Angels – famous or respected graffiti artists who have passed away.
Background – the picture plane onto which a piece is painted.
Back to back – graffiti that covers a wall from end to end, trains sometimes receive end to end painting when a carriage has been painted along its entire length. This is often abbreviated as e2e. End to ends used to be called window-downs but this is an older expression that is falling from popularity.
Backjump – a quickly executed throw up or panel piece. Backjumps are usually painted on a temporarily parked train or a running bus.
Black Book – a graffiti artist's sketchbook. Also known as a "piece book."
Blockbusters or Blockies – straight letter style, simple throw ups with a minimal use of colour that covers up the work of other writers.
Bombing – hitting an area hard with graffiti.
Buffing – cleaning or removal of graffiti.
Burners – a well executed piece.
Cannon(s) – a slang term for spray paint cans. This term is thought to originate in Brooklyn, New York.
Cap (I) – the nozzle for the aerosol paint can, also referred to as Tips. Different kinds are used for styles. New York Thins, Rustos, and New York Fats are the most commonly used caps.
Cap (II) – to cross out or in any other way ruin a piece made by others. Derives from a writer named "Cap" who was infamous for making throw-ups over others' pieces.
Cloud – the background to a piece, usually a circular formation of colour but can include stars or other decorative shapes.
Chromies – throwups that are done in chrome paint so that as lights hit them they shine.
Crews – groups of graffitist who operate together. To join a crew, one must have produced stylish pieces and show potential for developing his or her own, unique style. A crew is headed by a king or queen who is usually that person recognized as having the best artistic ability among the members of the crew.
Etch – the use of acid solutions intended for creating frosted glass, such as Etch Bath, to write on windows. In Norway some trains have even been taken temporarily out of service because of the acid tagging, which is potentially dangerous for other people's health.
Fat Cap – a nozzle used for wide coverage, used for the fill of pieces.
Fills – also referred to as "bombs" "throw ups" or "throwies". Fills describe a piece of graffiti that is either filled in a rush or a solid fill. A fill is also the interior base color of the piece of graffiti.
Full Monty – a graffiti form that takes up the entire canvas, wall or area that can be vulgar yet has a very effective message.
Ghost – the mark left after paint or ink has been unsuccessfully buffed.
Graffiti vandalism – unsolicited, relatively ephemeral markings on public or private property. The word graffiti comes from the Italian graffio meaning ‘to scratch’.
Graffiti writer (or just writer) – acknowledges the calligraphic origins of some works and the central place that the written word, or tag has in much contemporary graffiti.
Hip-hop-style graffiti (graff) – so known because of its connection with Hip-Hop culture (associated with rap music) – also known as subway-style graffiti.
Hollows – also referred to as "outlines" and "shells". A hollow is a piece of graffiti that contains no fill.
Hot Spots – places where graffiti regularly appears.
Keyline – the line that runs around the outside of a piece.
Legal – a graffiti piece or production that is made with permission. Writers normatively have to have gained experience writing illegal graffiti in the streets for a considerable amount of time to be respected for legal graffiti.
Lock on – sculpture art in a public space, typically chained to public furniture with an old bike lock. The Lock On style is a "non destructive" form of underground art.
Murals – colourful and complex commissioned work designed for community enhancement and beautification.
Paste-ups – are large paper-based artworks which may be printed, painted or stencilled onto paper and attached to surfaces using a simple wheat-paste glue, like posters. They are prepared in private and quickly applied in public spaces.
Pieces (short for masterpieces) – large, colourful, elaborate, and carefully executed tags or crew names where stylistic qualities are paramount.
Public style – writing that is easily read by the public.
Scratchiti – graffiti made using a scratching technique.
Scribe – Also called "scratchitti," scribing creates hard-to-remove graffiti by scratching or incising a tag into an object, generally using a key, knife, stone, sand paper, ceramic drill bit, or diamond tipped Dremel bit.
Spray-can art – graffiti made using spray cans – increasingly difficult with the banning of the sale of these to young people, but other aerosol implements have been created to substitute.
Stencil graffiti – uses prepared templates to apply messages and designs in public places, usually using spray cans to apply paint to the negative spaces on the stencil. They may be small or large, entirely pictorial or incorporate or consist solely of text.
Stainer – a marker used to tag with, generally with a 12 mm or 20 mm tip. In some countries such as Australia possession of these without a reason can result in an on the spot fine.
Stickers – are prepared in private and quickly applied in public spaces. They are drawn, applied or printed onto material that has an adhesive backing.
Street art – all forms of decoration or inscription that are applied illegally in public places but do not conform to the subway or hip-hop style of graffiti art. It may include stencil graffiti, stickers, paste-ups, three-dimensional sculptures, and paintings on paper, wood or metal that are than attached to public walls.
Subway-style graffiti (graff) – emerged in Philadelphia and New York in the 1970s and early 1980s. Usually skilful free-hand drawing using a spray can on trains or in subways. Also known as hip-hop-style graffiti.
Tags – a quickly rendered stylised signature of a graffiti artist’s pseudonym (street name), using a felt-tip pen or spray paint – often intended as a marker of the writer’s presence.
Toy - Used as an adjective to describe poor work, or as a noun meaning an inexperienced or unskilled writer. Graffiti writers usually use this as a derogatory term for new writers in the scene, or writers who are old to the scene and still do not have any skill or reputation. The act of "toying" someone else's graffiti is to disrespect it by means of going over it (see "slash"/"going over").
Toys - often added above or directly on a "toy" work. An acronym meaning, "tag over your shit".
Throw-ups – large, quickly rendered letters, usually in a ‘bubble-style’, spray-painted in two colours, one for fill and one for outline. They often consist of only two letters, either the first and last, or first and second letters of a graffitist’s name.
Urban art – legitimate art, usually in a graffiti style, in public places – also known as “street art’.
Vandalism (with reference to graffiti) – defacing property without the property owner’s consent.
Wildstyle – an intricate, interlocking type of calligraphy that is difficult and almost impossible to read using computer, gothic lettering or 3-D lettering, blended colours, and cartoon characters.
Footnotes ¹Most of the definitions here are taken from Christine Dew, Uncommissioned Art – An A-Z of Australian Graffiti, 2007, The Miegunyah Press and George C. Stowers, Graffiti Art: An Essay Concerning The Recognition of Some Forms of Graffiti As Art. Definitions also taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.