Street Art goes Skin Deep with Graffiti Tattoos

Graffiti and Tattoos are art forms that have existed for centuries, as scrawls on the walls of Roman baths and tribal tattoos that mark coming-of-age ceremonies and personal achievements. It is only in the last few decades that street art and tattoos have taken on distinct style characteristics that set the apart from other art forms. Now these two rebellious genres have combined to produce graffiti tattoos.


The spraycan is a symbol of graffiti and street art, being the most common tool used by street artists. Its form is simple and its silhouette recognizable, even when morphed by the artist into a characterful artwork.

Above: This graffiti tattoo depicts both a spraycan and a gas mask (used by some graffiti artists to prevent the inhalation of paint fumes) 

Above: This graffiti piece uses a combination of geometric shapes and curves to create a visually interesting urban art-styled tattoo design. The colorful tattoo inks used in this piece, along with the repetition of recognizable shapes such as arrows, gives the tattoo a friendly appeal.


Urban art is often inspired by the environment in which they are found - cities and transport routes. Using perspective to create visual interest, graffiti artists often incorporate city objects such as buildings, buses, trains and skylines.

Above: This tattoo shows a train bearing graffiti art. Trains are not only subject matter for graffiti artists; often they are also a challenging, illegal canvas for street artists to work upon. 

Above: This graffiti tattoo design combines the words, "New York" with a depiction of the famous city's skyline. The stars used in this artwork further add to the patriotic nature of this tattoo, as stars are a part of the American flag. More Patriotic New York Tattoos

Graffiti Lettering and Alphabets

Although there is no one distinct lettering style for graffiti, there is a variety of fonts that are popularly used by street artists. Graffiti alphabet designs are often warped, with key parts of the letter's anatomy exaggerated or decorated. Depth is created by giving the letters shadows and 3-D shapes.

Above: This graffiti font uses serif in some places, but not in others, proof that the artist is not bound by the rules of consistency usually applied to font design. The capitilized letters bend is if a force or pressure has been applied to them, a technique popularly used in graffiti lettering. The finished result is a graffiti tattoo that spells out the word, "faith".

Above: Some graffiti fonts are harder to read than others, which turns the artwork into a puzzle. The cryptic graffiti tattoos above are indecipherable.

Banksy Graffiti Tattoos

Working with stencil and spray paint, graffiti artist Banksy creates attractive, often controversial street artworks. His urban art mysteriously appears overnight, thrilling British graffiti art fans with both their content and message.

Above: Banksy's graffiti artwork of a girl shooting herself in the head, releasing a swarm of butterflies is tattooed on this girl's hip and belly. Banksy designs work well with the limitations of tattoo art, being clear and simple with elegant silhouettes. 

Above: A graffiti tattoo of the world famous Banksy design, of a man in a fighting pose, throwing a bunch of flowers. Banksy's graffiti art often shows startling contrasts between ideas, in this case, a symbol of love or peace combined with a man in a violent posture.

Above: Graffiti artist Banksy often uses rats as a subject in his artwork, to convey a message about human society. Banksy's rats are highly stylized, and have become a signature of sorts for this graffiti artist.

Graffiti and tattoos are often viewed as being rebellious in nature, as street art is illegal, and tattoos leave a permanent mark on the skin. As a form of self-expression, both styles are quickly gaining popularity, especially as a combination of the two in the form of graffiti tattoos.

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