HISTORY AND BASICS OF TAGS
In order to learn how to do pieces you first need to learn a bit about tags and how they work. For those of you guys newer to graffiti, tags are also known as hand styles and hand styles are the most basic form of graffiti. Tags come in an infinite number of styles ranging from everyday penmanship and script - advanced stylized tags but no matter the style a tag is a graffiti artist's signature. Here are some examples of tags.
Now seeing as graffiti is a font based art form the letters structure is by far the most important part of the art. Without structure you can't have a letter and if you don't have letters then you don't have graffiti. Never let style compromise your letter structure or your letter will look horrible.
Now back when graffiti just started off their were no throw ups or pieces, I mean even the tags were very simple compared to now days. However graffiti artists needed something larger, something more eye catching on the trains so they took those simple tags and made them wider and wider, then filled in these tags and outlined them. Doing this made them into throw ups and pieces. Now we aren't going to get too deep into throw ups but they are worth mentioning. Throw ups are the next level up from tags on the food chain. These were made to not only be larger than tags so you can see them easily on trains but also made to be a quick and easy way to put your name up.
Because of this quick and easy functionality throw ups tend to be rounder, and lack negative space between two letters as well as lack negative space in their letters counters,(negative space within the letter). Throw ups normally replace the counter with a simple line. This suggests the counter and keeps the structure as a result.
Pieces are the next step up on the food chain and just like throw ups pieces started as big renditions of tags. Pieces can range from basic straight letters all the way to advanced wild styles. Here are a few examples.
As you can see Taki 183's piece is a great example of this. His piece is just a larger tag with a fill and outline. Now his piece is what's called a straight letter. This is the most basic piecing style, it's essentially just the base structure of a letter with little to no style added. Gooz and Bones's pieces are also straight letters. So how is it we make a straight letter? Well we do this by using the Basic Boxes also known as the Basic Bars. This term refers to the base structure of a letter, the skeletal system of a letter before style is added. Here are some examples of the basic boxes.
Now many times I'v said that pieces are just larger tags and this is important note because the basic boxes are the equivalent to a line for normal every day writing. So as you can see in the 3rd picture above, it takes 3 lines to write the letter R. This means when drawing the letter R it's going to take 3 boxes to make the letter 'R' in piecing form. Now their are many different base structures for most letters in the alphabet. Some base structures are more advanced than others and some structures have more or less boxes than other structures. It's important to know each structure variation and how each structure works. The reason the basic boxes are so important is because these are the skeletons for your letters, this is what you build your style on top of. If your basic boxes aren't correct, if your structure is wrong then your style is guaranteed to fall apart.
Now you can add style by leaning your letters like Bones did with his 'B', 'N', and 'E'. If you wanted you can even lean the spines of a letter Like Bones B. You can exaggerate boxes making them thinner or thicker. A very common way to add style is to add serifs to your letters. Serifs are slightly different in graffiti because you can add them to the ends of any box rather than just the ends of a letter. With that said, as a new graffiti artist you'll want to keep them at the ends of your letters, because one serif in the wrong spot can break a letter. Aside from all of that you can add and subtract boxes as well to add style. Here is an example of adding boxes to add style as well as an example of serifs and leaning the spine.
These are just a few of many ways to add style to a letter. All of these examples are examples of style added by structure. This tends to be the simplest way to add style but when you become very experienced these methods have the potential to get extremely complex. With that said style by structure is very easy to understand however if you do it wrong you can break your letter As shown below.
The piece reads Ders but he added too many bars in the wrong spot breaking the structure as a result. Now the letter 'S' is no longer an S. It's important to learn the ins and outs of the base structure so you can learn where the key points of some structures are. For example the broken area on the S is a key point of the letter. This is where you can choose if you want a round bottom S, a straight botom S, or a point bottom S. Ders started with a point bottom structure ( yellow) then added a round bottom (red). Combining structures can be done and is done a lot in wild styles but to do that you need to learn the basics first.
If you're just starting out in graffiti and are looking to get better then practice what was in this tutorial.
- Practice basic print font tags.
- Do straight letters to learn structure, not wild styles.
- If you're going to add style, add style by structure, don't focus on crazy extensions and arrows.
- Keep your basic bars in mind when drawing, and when you look at others graffiti try to spot where their bars are to reveal the base structure they used.
Remember, at this point you're trying to master letter structure. Structure is the most important part of letters so you can't develop your style if you haven't mastered structure because style is 100% dependent on structure.
I hope this helped give you guys a better understanding of the fundamentals for graffiti, if you have any questions leave them down below and I'll do my best to answer them.