Graffiti can be divided into three broad categories: tags, throw-ups and pieces. Tags are basically the writer’s stylized signature done with a marker or spray paint. A throw-up consists of quickly executed outlines and fill. The term ‘piece’ describes a more complex graffiti painting. All three types of graffiti appear in many styles varying with the writer’s skills. Each writer’s aim is to gradually develop their own recognizable style.
The core element of graffiti is usually a signature or word around which the piece is constructed layer by layer. The writer often does a sketch on paper beforehand, as the onsite painting must be executed quickly. A classic piece consists of the letters’ outlines and fill, background and various highlights.
Tools play a big role in graffiti. Different effects can be achieved with spray caps of varied widths. Spray painting is a special skill; it takes practice to know how close to hold the nozzle, how to angle the cap, and how quickly to move the can to achieve the desired effect. With patience and practice, spray paints can also be mixed to create new shades.
Ghost Bastards: Atomic War, Herttoniemi, 1986 © Photo: Heikki Jääskeläinen