Graff font

selfbuildtype's picture

This is a first rough draft of a marker tag style font. At the minute the glyphs are illustrator sketches and theyre a bit rough. This is my first attempt at a script font of any sort so any advice would be great.graffiti font draft 1

selfbuildtype's picture

Another letter style >>>> full character sets to follow

muffinmanbrander's picture

The letters are little off, they look.............wack. that N is....ewww! They need to be cleaner stokes because now they are just too rigid and not clean. I'm sorry but I must discourage all of this......graffiti font. Graffiti is part of hip-hop culture, and by doing this you are using another persons culture for gain and/or profit. It is wrong for the world to look at graffiti as illegal but yet corporations can use it in advertisements and their actual appeal (Comedy Central) and make money. It is flat out wrong.

Wes W's picture

Gotta agree with muffinman on this one. The letters are fairly ametur. Seems like there is too much movement in your attempts to show the contrast of a chisel tip.

The one thing that I disagree with muffinman is his discouragement of graff in the type world. I used to feel the same about keeping graffiti on the walls, but then I started to see typographers try to mimic the art. As a practitioner, I feel that 99% of the "graff" typefaces are a disrespect to the culture and something has to change...

hrant's picture

The central problem is that graffiti is lettering, while type is... type!
But OpenType can help.


MekOne's picture

I actually really like these as a handstyle type solutions. I think 'Metalist' looks kinda pretty.

fontplayer's picture

> Graffiti is part of hip-hop culture, and by doing this you
> are using another persons culture for gain and/or profit.

I didn't see where he said he wasn't part of that culture.
Also, I think the right to spoof, mimic, or even ridicule certain things are essential to art, comedy, or whatever. (Since there is so much soapbox preaching around here, I thought I'd climb up to see how the view was).
: )

fontplayer's picture

Btw, I have a friend whose handwriting I admired enough to find someone to turn it into a font. When he sent me samples, he also sent a version of his "cholo" writing from when he was in a gang "back in the day"...

I sent it to someone who was making free fonts at the time (none other than the illustrious Fred Nader of "Apostrophe" fame). And although it didn't really capture the feel of my friends writing, since the samples were not uniform in size, it is still a cool font (imo) and his cholo writing is very legible, compared to many of the current renditions. You can see it HERE

and one of the other versions are HERE:

These two and the neatest version can be downloaded (.ttf & PS) HERE

Jftr, I have no qualms having exploited my friend for his handwriting.

Ampersanderson's picture

I've got to agree with hrant; an OpenType version of this might prove more worthwhile if you are attempting to give this style any credibility. Graf writing is beautiful in that each letter is distinct. The letterforms in static fonts are unchanging. In a graffiti tag the two T's in "letterform" would appear as a ligature, whereas in a static font, they would both appear exactly the same. Think about how you can incorporate ligatures into your idea. Again, look into OpenType.

One other thing: your forms are very clean, obviously edited in Illustrator. How can you soften them to give them a more textural appearance—as graffiti lettering would be?

have fun.

munitap's picture

Real nice, any release date/time for it ?

......'s picture


Wes W's picture

>I didn’t see where he said he wasn’t part of that culture.

I think that Muffin was pointing out how this person hasn't reached the level of contributing to the graff scene. There are many "graff writers" but rarely do you find "good style writers." Picking up a marker is one thing, mastering it is a whole other thing. I think it is those who have achieved graff-greatness that deserve a font. All too often, I see bad graff wanna be lettering on designs from clothes to coporate campaigns that try to be "hip" or "urban" watering down the public perseption and taking jobs away from the people who should be doing this type of design. Then we have companies like Scion who are using the pros to do graff inspired designs.

Style writers and long term practitioners risk alot to put their letters on the walls, including arrest and confrentation with peers...not to mention the harsh critiques from fellow writers.

There is a certain feel to "Field tested" graff styles that cannot be emulated by non-style writers.

Looking at these glyphs again, I can see a few things I wouldnt personally do "on the job." This is coming from a US West coast perspective and may differ in the mecca:

•handstyles are rendered very quickly. With this in mind, I would not lift the pen when doing a letter. This limitation causes certain commonalities to the overall letterforms. Some of these in the above alphabet have wabbly lines that are shunned upon over here (shows you were scared when you wrote your name). and there are like 3 strokes in the "K" not to mention other letters.

• The dot on the "i" is just not cool, 3rd sample is a little better

• The mini serif does not really go with this. Nor does the larger one in the 3rd sample

•The "T, G, B, R and U" really need some help.

•The color of this alphabet does not work. Although graff does not have formal training, letter color is a sign of a solid handstyle.

•OT will not help this. The font should be solid without help, and OT should assist in adding variety in its display usage.

...a tad bit of an anal critique, but its difficult to describe it without. Nothing personal

crossgrove's picture


Thanks for weighing in. You've got immersive and deep experience with graffiti styles and a real connection to graffiti and its graphic potential.

I tend to think no graffiti font will look any good without OpenType. I think of graffiti as a form of performance calligraphy, done quickly. It's all about gesture. Type takes all the gesture out of letterforms by making them tame, so they can all work in any combination. In graffiti, there are so many endings, dots, finishing marks, swashes, etc. It's almost like Arabic in its complexity. I think someone really tuned to graff styles should develop the substitution rules and ligature options for a graffiti font.

And then that graffiti artist should get credit for their work!

selfbuildtype's picture

Holy thread revival!

"The letters are little off, they look………….wack. that N is….ewww! They need to be cleaner stokes because now they are just too rigid and not clean. I’m sorry but I must discourage all of this……graffiti font. Graffiti is part of hip-hop culture, and by doing this you are using another persons culture for gain and/or profit. It is wrong for the world to look at graffiti as illegal but yet corporations can use it in advertisements and their actual appeal (Comedy Central) and make money. It is flat out wrong."

Yeah the letters are actually more like placeholders if you like. The main problem is getting the letters to fit together in a way that looks natural, so on the W for example, the left and right strokes are the most important elements to get working, the 'Innards' of the letter are open to being redrawn at a later date in order to match the rest of the letters. All these letters were drawn in Illustrator using a tablet. Not the ideal way to draw them but the fastest way to put together a 'skeleton' character set that can be quickly duplicated and tested against other letter forms.

I don't think a typeface like this, if it were ever put into production, could ever be described as being produced "for gain and/or profit". The amount of work involved in doing this properly and the amount of income it would make me would most likely make this a 'not-for-profit-enterprise' if you get my drift. I'd say the chances of me becoming hugely rich from doing this are slim to say the least, in fact it would be much more likely to leave me eating toast based meals for the rest of my life. For your average ad agency looking to tack on a bit of street cred to a youth brand, currently stuck with the option of paying a willing artist to get involved or using one of those nasty free graffiti fonts, it would give them another option: spend $39.00 USD for instant cool. This is where the danger lies, as this is where its open to being abused by McStarCola™ and Co. and their agencies. The truth is though that graffiti as an artform is regularly r-ped for profit by large companies. I admit I'm not keen on being an accomplice to that, but there are some pretty acceptable graffiti fonts out there these days, at least to joe average.

I think we can safely give up on ever producing a graffiti font that writers will like.

Regardless of these issues, its the challenge of formalising a handstyle that interests me, as to me, it seems a lot trickier than formalising any other style of handwriting styles. Graffiti fonts have come on a lot in the last few years, but as you know there are many different handstyles out there, so theres room for a few more and still room for improvement.

selfbuildtype's picture

"The letters are fairly ametur. Seems like there is too much movement in your attempts to show the contrast of a chisel tip."

Getting the letter 'jigsaw' to work is initially more important than the individual letters. The whole typeface is more important than any individual glyph, so any letter that doesn't 'lock' properly with the other letters needs to be redrawn. This overlapping of characters is something fundamental to making a handstyle typeface work, something that makes graffiti type different to any other handwriting lettering styles (I think? Any examples welcome!). Drawing final characters without solving this problem would be a waste of time.

"As a practitioner, I feel that 99% of the “graff” typefaces are a disrespect to the culture and something has to change…"

It seems to me that the development graffiti type is stuck. Those designed by credible writers aren't necessarily good typefaces ( and for me sit in the same category as some of the FUSE releases (cool, inspiring, experimental but not very useful). So far we have graff fonts that are as good at emulating graffiti as Tekton is at emulating handwriting. It will take someone with a background in typography to finally crack it, rather than simply compiling a set of letters from Seen, T-Kid or any other credible writer. Any real breakthroughs aren't likely to come from anyone credible artists, because initially it's more about problem solving than style.

selfbuildtype's picture

"The central problem is that graffiti is lettering, while type is… type!
But OpenType can help."

Do you have any examples of other letter styles that have been formalised into a typeface? Wouldn't a lot of brush script fonts fall into that category?

For me, the closest examples I can find are comic style lettering. They often rely on overlapping and maintain the dynamism even though they are formalised.

OpenType would be nice but there's no way the final typeface sales could pay for the development of the extra glyphs.

selfbuildtype's picture

I think it is those who have achieved graff-greatness that deserve a font.

I kind of agree with the priniciple of this, though I think too much hero-worship is bad for any subculture that is about coming up from nowhere and making a name for yourself. However I do get what you mean about the innovators and originators deserving credit more than anyone else. Personally I'm more interested in the regional variations in letter styles that evolved pre-internet, and they were rarely (never?) invented by a single writer. Anyhow, we are confusing real-world graffiti credibility with producing a typeface here, the two are different.

Why do I think that top league writers won't be the ones to create a useful graffiti-style typeface? Well for a start, graffiti is not calligraphy. Graffiti is about freeforming using a set of letters. It prides itself on variation, funk, flow and flair, whereas calligraphy is generally much more restrained and repetitive, making it much easier to formalise into type. I would be pretty surprised if a top league graffiti writer can really crack the graffiti-type thing as generally they aren't as restrained or disciplined as calligraphers.

Food for thought (just to confuse things):

P22's typeface based on Cézannes handwriting (for example) is interesting as a comparison. We all realise that P22 aren't in the same league as Paul Cézanne as artists, but likewise Cézanne himself couldn't do what P22 have done, even though he is the undisputed master of his own handwriting style! in 2008 Honda decides to use this typeface to sell their cars to arty types. Cézanne fans around the world gasp in horror, but the use of the typeface doesn't detract from the brilliance of his art.

PS: I personally wouldn't suggest creating a font based on a single writers style, but I hope you get my point.

pu.ej.23.'s picture

Hey, maybe you can write what ever letters are going to be displayed utilizing your own "handstyles" and then scan it in. Just a suggestion.

Graffiti fonts are just plain cornball.

elemcee's picture

All i have to say is that shit is spicy, I dig it! Forget what everyone else is saying you obviously understand the culture and as a writer i got no issues with graff fonts. And to MUFFINMANBRANDER graff culture and hip hop culture are mutually exclusive son! People were spray painting walls long before anyone was spinning on their heads or making beats. Back in the 70's and 80's plenty of graff kids were listening to the Stooges and Ozzy Osbourne! So wise up before you try and wax intellectual on a culture that is not your own. Do you think all Chef's hate the food network? More exposure for OUR culture means someday we might not have to run from the cops anymore. Wouldn't that be dope?

piccic's picture

This is a very interesting thread.
Plus, graffiti has not even remotely started to be considered seriously.

Check the book by Ian Lynam:
And, even more interesting for this thread, in Italy we have a graffiti artists which in his professional growth started gradually to incorporate formal traditional models of previous writing styles, Luca "Bean One" Barcellona (check the various sets):

mattmatthew's picture

As a former graffiti writer, there's nothing wrong with an outsider attempting a graffiti font. That said, please do your research. Great graffiti lettering has more in common with great letter design, than say, random scribbling with a marker pen. And even given the huge amount of variation in modern graffiti, there's still common style elements that define a locale - Los Angeles, New York, Philly, Scandanavia, France, England, Sao Paulo, etc., all have their own distinct style.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Underware has a certain element of highly stylized graffiti:

Tim Jnr's picture

A very interesting thread indeed!! Lots of very valid points being made here.

pu.ej.23.'s comment about scanning your own lettering is one of the most valid I think. I've been almost obsessed by creating a graffiti typeface for a while now (and I'm currently trying).

The main problem is the fact that by nature, a tag is dynamic, each letter creating tension with those around it. The flow of the tag also relies heavily on the way it interacts with it's substrate/surroundings.

For these reasons, creating a genuine authentic tag style "typeface" is nigh on impossible.

And unless the typographer who chooses you use the face is willing to do some serious kerning and baseline shifting, the end result will always look contrived, naive and just plain wack.

This is all coming from a graffiti writer's point of view.

Anyway! Having said all that, here are some of the letters I’ve been drawing. As you will see they are stylized and irregular in shape, so would never really work as a traditional typeface.

But do a bit of tweaking, and you have yourself a fresh lookin’ tag.

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