How to Create Graffiti Characters

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Graffiti has a truly unique style all of its own. Graffiti blurs the lines of what is or is not art by being part cartoon, part fine art, and part social statement. One of the ways that graffiti differs from most forms of classical art is in its stylistic depiction of the human form. This style blends pop culture motifs gathered from cartoons and advertisements with the rounded and blended style of airbrush illustration. Exaggerating the form and balance of the human figure can allow you to create compelling human characters in a graffiti style. Once this is learned, it can be a very addictive style.

Create Graffiti Characters
(Illustrations by Andrew DeWitt)

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Black ink pen
  • Kneaded eraser
Step 1

Draw the basic outline of the characters with simple shapes. Use an oval shape for the characters' heads. Add a cross shape inside the head that continues down. This will act as a guideline for the features on the face and help you to place your body shapes. For the female, add a circle under the head for her torso and attach a triangular shape to the base of the circle. For the male, attach a triangular shape to the bottom of the head for the entire body. (Graffiti characters are often created using these triangular patterns that make the figure wider at the feet than anywhere else on the body.)

Step 2

Add the arms with a curved line on each side of the body. Start the curve at the upper right and left side oft eh body and continue it halfway down the entire body before curving back in. Add the nose with a semicircle shape on the vertical guideline of the face, just below the horizontal guideline. Add the hats to the characters by adding a curved line over the top of the heads of the characters and across the horizontal guideline.

Step 3

Add hair to the figures withe curved shapes coming down and out from the left and right sides of their hats. The female should have more hair than the male. Add a curved line for the mouth directly below the nose of the characters. Add the waist of the pants with a horizontal line across the bottom third of the body. Flesh out the female's arms by adding parallel curved lines to the inside edges of the arm curves.

Step 4

Add a "Y" shape below the waist to create legs for the pants. Add a belt buckle to the male with a square within a square on the waistline. Draw a horizontal rectangle on the left side of the belt buckle that continues inward to the middle of the belt buckle. Add the shoes with a large curved line on the the bottom of each leg. Create the soles of the shoes for these characters by adding curved bands to the bottoms of the shoes.

Step 5

Erase any overlapping lines on your graffiti characters. Ink both characters with a black pen. Let the illustration dry for five minutes and carefully erase the pencil lines with a kneaded eraser.

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Tips & Warnings

  • You can make a photocopy of the characters in Step 5 and color them, using art markers.
  • Give the characters have a slightly "squished" look as this is characteristic of many graffiti style people.
  • Let the ink dry thoroughly before erasing or the illustration will smudge.

References

  • How to Draw and Sell Cartoons, Ross Thompson and Bill Hewison, 1985
  • Drawing The Head and Figure, Jack Hamm, 1963
  • Graffitineous' Online Store
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