Understanding the mystery and language of graffiti, from I Love Typography:
Have you got that?
The language of graffiti culture, like that of hip-hop culture, with which it is closely allied, is deliberately cryptic. Graffiti is meant to be readable by graffiti artists and enthusiasts, but illegible to the general public. A writer refers to a graffiti artist. A crew is a loosely organized group of writers, who often write the initials of their crew members along with their own name.
A tag is the most basic form of graffiti, a graffiti writer’s personal signature or logo, drawn in one color. The tag might include a character, which refers not to a letterform, but to an iconic cartoon figure. Tagging is the act of writing the tag with a marker or spray paint. A slightly larger and more ambitious version of the tag is known as a throwie or a throw-up. A typical throwie has a background color and an outline in a second color. The interior color of the letters on a throw-up is known as the fill or fill-in. When the second color is only roughly sketched or lined in, the throwie is known as a scrub. The most ambitious graffiti of all is work that is done on a large scale in at least three colors, often incorporating fades or blended colors. This is known as a piece, short for, of course, a masterpiece.
The plastic cap or tip on a spray paint can determines the line weight. The standard caps that come with spray paint are known as sucker tips, and are often replaced with others, such as skinny tips, thin tips, thick tips, fat tips, or flare tips. The largest fat caps are sometimes known as softballs because of the soft round marks they make. Line width is sometimes described in fingers. A four-finger line is, for instance, about as a wide as a hand. Bubble letters, quite out of fashion now, were an early style of graffiti lettering with a rounded shape, and roller letters are large-scale tags drawn with paint rollers. To bomb an area is to profusely cover it with tags or throw-ups. To kill an area is to bomb it beyond a point of diminishing returns.