Copyright 2006-2007 Disarm LLC
Contact the author at plantheplanet (@) for reproduction permission.

DTC burner


Q:  Is graffiti art or vandalism?
A:  That word has a lot of negative connotations and it alienates people, so no, I don't like to use the word "art" at all.


Some people believe that graffiti originated in New York, LA, or Europe.  But actually, graffiti goes back way before New York, L.A., and even Europe.  Graffiti originated with civilization iself.  Perhaps it even pre-dated it.

After all, who were the first letter-writers?  Probably whoever could find the pigments (the oldest pigments and inks were extracted naturally, from indigo plants, blueberries--anything that had a color stain)  would be inclined to use them somehow.  Before any written language developed, isn't it likely that some people invented a mark to put on their property?  Isn't it likely that some of the same people also left their marks wherever they could, such as on others' property?

Human history is closely connected to technology.  I bet there is no historical event of any significance where technology was not a factor.  The technology to mark a surface must have pre-dated the development of written language, because written language cannot exist without ink or similar marking devices.

Which means, there's a good chance that graffiti is the oldest form of written communication. 

It's a little daunting to realize, but graffiti is an ancient practice.  And knowing that, is it still safe to assume that graffiti did not develop as an art form until the spray can was invented?

Unfortunately, this aspect of human history appears lost to the ages, and I'm not going to bother digging through history books to find out. 

But modern graffiti art definitely took off only with the development of the spray can. The detailed history of graffiti is too complex to get into here.  A lot of it intertwines with hip hop and protest history.

Today, graffiti culture seems to be suddenly popular, which means that what happens to graffiti now will probably have a bigger impact on its future than usual. 

Without any doubt, graffiti is the most developed form of art with the fewest amount of educational materials.  As far as I know, there are no graffiti magazines dedicated to useful information (instruction, product reviews, etc) and few videos.  I know someone who taught a graffiti class once, but there are no schools like they have art schools (at least that I know of; I bet Europe has some though). 

This "book" began as a simple web page comparing different fat caps.  I was surprised to find that apparently nobody else had done so before; even online graffiti stores offered simple and often unhelpful description of their caps.  As an art shop keeper, I heard many questions from people and frequently had to give customers the complete run-down of all the different types.  I figured that making a web page would be helpful.

As I put the page together, I kept coming across more and more knowledge that I thought I should share.  People often asked for instructional materials, and I regretted that not one graffiti magazine that I've seen had even a single page dedicated to teaching (unless you count the page in Day in the Lyfe showing you how to jump onto a train).  Eventually the page got so large that I had to give everything headings and break it into shorter pages.  Finally I decided to just write a whole book on everything I know. 

So, where should graffiti art go?  Obviously, the better the artwork, the better the perception of it will be.  The purpose of this document is to help the writer make informed decisions and teach some basic information to get started.  I hope it helps.


Part 1: The Tools of Graffiti

1.1     Protection
1.2     Spray Paint
      1.2.1    Terminology
      1.2.2     Properties of Spray Paint     Can Sizes     Chromes and Fluorescents
     1.2.3     Brands of Spray Paint
      Spray Paint Brand Performance Profiles
      Generic Paint v. Name-brand Paint
      Krylon vs. Rustoleum
      The Two Montanas
      Montana vs. Molotow
      The True Colors of Molotow
      MTN color comparison chart
      The Best and Worst Colors
1.3     Caps
     1.3.1     Disclaimer: Everyone Sees caps differently
     1.3.2     Terminology
     1.3.3     The Caps
     1.3.4     Compatibility
     1.3.5     The Most Popular Caps

1.4     Markers
     1.4.1     Terminology
     1.4.2     Markers
     1.4.3     Improving Markers

Part 3: Reviews

3.1     Paint
3.2     Caps
3.3     Instructional Videos
     3.3.1     Graffiti Verité 4
     3.3.2     The Future of Graffiti
3.4     Action Videos
     3.4.1     War: Fuck the System
     3.4.2     Write and Unite
     3.4.3     The Art of Storytelling
     3.4.4     Graffiti Verité 2: Freedom of Expression?
     3.4.5     Graffiti Verité 3
     3.4.6     Stockholm Subway Stories
     3.4.7     War 2: Based on a True Story
3.5     Movies
     3.5.1     Bomb The System

Part 2: The Techniques of Graffiti

2.1     Basics
     2.1.1     Practicing
     2.1.2     Sketching
     2.1.3     Basic Can Techniques
2.2     Painting Techniques
     2.2.1     Setting Up
     2.2.2     Outlining
     2.2.3     Filling
     2.2.4     Fading
     2.2.5     Shading and Highlighting
     2.2.6     3-D
     2.2.7     Touching up
     2.2.8     Characters
2.3     Tricks
     2.3.1     Making Stencil Tops
     2.3.2     Mixing Colors
     2.3.3     Touch-Up Colors
     2.3.4     Silencing Cans
     2.3.5     Cleaning Caps
     2.3.6     Making "Bling" Marks
     2.3.7     The Stencil Bag
2.4     Stenciling
     2.4.1     Stencil Materials
     2.4.2     Basic Stenciling
     2.4.3     Adding Layers for Better Stencils
     2.4.4     Multi-Layer Stenciling

Part 4: Graffiti and the Law: What everyone should know

5.  Ask the author

Afterword: The Educated Graffiti Artist



The Tools of Graffiti

In this part, we'll cover spray paint, caps, regular paint, protection, and other supplies the artist might use.

1.1     Utilities

Spray paint is toxic, and spray painting is often illegal.  For long-term success, minding one's health and safety is critical.

Respirator:  Yes, you need one.  Laugh all you want about how nice spray paint smells, and about getting high on the fumes.  But in the long term, spray paint fumes are toxic.  Wear a respirator.  It's a critical investment in your future health.  And besides, it conceals your facial features should you have a fugitive situation.  If nothing else, at least wear those cheap dust masks like the dentist wears. 

Gloves:  Often overlooked!  But wizened old graff writers insist, they got health problems on their hands from not wearing gloves.  It's also been said to cause kidney failure.  Paint is toxic.  Wear gloves. Sometimes you can buy bulk packs from restaurants if the owner or kitchen manager is nice.

Clothes: Don't wear distinctive clothes when painting, and don't wear paint-stained clothes when not painting.

Vehicle:  Bicycle

Magnets: The amazing can silencer.  Major hardware stores sell these circular magnets than can fit right on the bottom of the can and keep the ball-bearings ("peas") from rolling around and making noise.  Good for avoiding dirty looks.

Most hardware stores carry circular magnets like those pictured at left.  Most also state the force of attraction, typically between 20 and 40 pounds--more than adequate.

BONUS TIP:  Get a bunch of these magnets,and some heavy cord, and fashion a sort of "cat o' nine cans" with magnets on the end of the cords, so you can hold one handle and tow 9+ silent cans.  Plus it turns your palette into a weapon of self-defense.

Intercom:  An intercom can be helpful for communicating with spotters.

Climbing Gear:  Needed to access high locations. Besides the usual, look for the "home emergency ladder" which has hooks for tossing up and latching to fire escapes, and also works well for getting down from high places.


1.2     Spray Paint

Modern graffiti art would be nothing without the spraycan.  To spray with skill you have to know your cans.  There are many brand choices (subject to availability, of course), and every brand performs differently.  It's best to know as much as you can about the paint you are using before you begin painting with it.  This way you will know what to expect.

There are certain characteristics of various paint brands that you should be aware of.  Within the brands, there are certain products lines and certain colors that are better than others.  Here I hope to give you the best information about that possible.  But first, some definitions.

1.2.1     Terminology

Cap: For clarity, the "cap" refers to the piece that you push down on and the paint comes out of, not the big plastic cylinder that encases the top of the can on the shelf.  That's called the "top."

Top: The plastic shell protecting the cap from being accidentally pressed, see above.

Tip: Another word for cap.  Apparently the official term for the cap is the "actuator."

Nozzle: This term is ambiguous; don't use it.

Ring: Both brands of Montana and Belton Molotow have rings that indicate the color of the paint, designed to stay attached with the top removed (see illustration at right for the Belton example).  Generally Montana rings are less likely to be lost.

Valve: The valve is the hatch that opens when you push down on the cap.  There are different valve systems with properties discussed below.

Propellant: Propellant is compressed gas in the can that makes it spray.  More propellant means heavier spray. 

Base: The base is the liquid that carries the paint's pigment and attaches it to the surface.  A base can be water, oil, latex, alcohol, or other things.  Spray paint is usually oil or latex based.  Markers are often oil or alcohol based.  Water-based paint is good for the environment but not good for resisting drips.

Pigment: Pigment is the ingredient that gives paint its color.  It is an insoluble powder, as opposed to dyes, which are soluble liquids.

Pea: The industry term for the ball(s) inside the can that mix the paint when you shake the can.  Various brands have one, two, or four in each can.

Hue: The "color" of the color (red, blue, etc)

Saturation: The "boldness" or "value" of the color, from pure color to grey.

Lightness (or brightness or intensity): The color's position on a scale from pure light to pure dark.  On a modern computer monitor or color printer, its is thought that every visible color can be defined by its hue, saturation, and lightness.

Thickness: This is a general term for how "thick" the paint seems to be.  It varies by the density and cohesion of the base as well as the amount of pigment in the paint.  Paints that are too thin will cover poorly and tend to drip.

Opacity: Similar to thickness, opacity is the opposite of transparency.  An opaque line leaves no indication what color is underneath it, while a line with poor opacity will be tinted by the color below it.  A more opaque paint can be less thick and get the same result as a less opaque paint.

1.2.2     Properties of Spray Paint


Some paints completely replace any color beneath them with their color.  Other can let the undercoat show through.  "Coverage" means how much area can be covered by a given amount of paint; which correlates to how opaque the paint is, among other things.

Coverage is important because a $4 can of Krylon is no better value than a $7 can of Molotow, if the Molotow can give you twice as much coverage.  Because, for the coverage, two cans of Krylon for $8 is more than the $7 can of Molotow, plus Molotow is better in other ways.

With all brands, certain colors cover better than others; see below for details.

Valve System: Fixed-pressure vs. variable-pressure

There are two valve types; fixed-pressure and variable-pressure.  With fixed-pressure valves (often incorrectly called "high-pressure valves"), the can is either spraying or it is not; with variable-pressure valves (often incorrectly called "low-pressure valves"), the can may spray lightly or heavily depending on how hard you press down on the cap.

The technique for using fixed-pressure versus variable-pressure cans is a bit different; if you're used to one type of valve and try the other, take some time to get the feel of the other system.

The difference between high/low versus fixed/variable pressure

Many companies garble the difference between these two classification of pressure systems.  Variable/fixed pressure distinguishes between having and not having control of the can pressure as described above.  High/low pressure relates to the rate and volume of paint output.

Pressure is determined by a few factors, including:

-How the paint is made  (some brands have more pressure than others)
-How much paint is left in the can
-How much air you let out of the can
-How shaken the can is

If your can has too much pressure, you can reduce it by turning the can upside-down and spraying out the excess pressure.
If your can has too little pressure, use a hi-pressure or fatter cap.  Also, sometimes shaking it will increase the spray. 

High/low pressure varies from one product line to the next; for example, Rustoleum paint is more pressurized than Belton paint.

Also, pressure varies by the size of the can.  Larger cans are higher pressure than smaller cans.

Working temperature

Some brands of paint simply do not work in extreme temperatures.  Montana MTN does not work below the freezing point, while Belton Molotow does.  Check your can, most state their temperature range.


Some brands use more pigment than others, and some colors have more pigment than others.  Most pigments these days are synthetic, as opposed to the olden days when indigo pigment was actually harvested from indigo.  Many colors are blends of different pigments, for example, MTN's Solar Orange is a yellow pigment mixed with an orange pigment.  Paint companies use different amounts of pigment, and the ones that use the most generally have the brightest colors.

Different pigments, for lack of a better scientific understanding, "just sometimes work better than others" and you will find that some colors are just better than others.  The only way to find out for yourself is to experiment.  We will name some best and worst colors later.

Color Selection

Naturally the artist prefers having the most possible choices of color.


Some brands have one or more peas.  Having more peas makes it quicker and quieter to stir the paint around.  Montana MTN Hardcore has two peas, Molotow has four, while Rustoleum and Krylon only have one.     Can Sizes: High-pressure vs. low-pressure

Spray paint is available in a wide variety of can sizes, all the way from 30ml (picture of a shot of liquor) to 750ml (picture a fifth of liquor).

As can size increases, the unit price of the paint ($/volume) goes down, but the pressure goes up.  With a tiny can, you will get less paint for your money; with a huge can, you will be unable to create detailed lines. 

400 ml cans are most common size, and this is a good balance between value and can pressure. 

With 600 ml cans, you get 50% more paint for only about a dollar more.  But, the pressure issue is a problem.  In a 600 ml can, the spray will be very powerful; really only good for fill-ins or bombing.  But most companies offer only black, metallics, and a few colors in the bigger sizes.  Blacks and metallics are not popular fill colors, so your choices are limited.

With a little creativity one can find a good use for the large cans, but smaller 400 ml cans are generally better.

Smaller cans have the opposite problem.  You can do great work with 250 ml cans, but you get less paint out of them.  The lower pressure means you will have more control over the spray (particularly with variable-pressure systems like Montana Alien Art Concept), and this yields a hidden benefit: with lower pressure cans, you can hold the can closer to the surface you're spraying than usual, and thus lose less paint into the air. 

Still, smaller cans are less paint for the money.

Conclusion: The 400 ml can is your workhorse, the 250 ml can is good for touches and effects, the 600 ml can is good for filling in large undetailed areas.

Paint companies determine how much propellant to put in the can by trying many amounts and choosing the one that is the best balance of desirable pressure, and balance of pressure.  Balance of pressure is how even the pressure remains from a new can to a depleted one.  As a can is used, the amount of propellant goes down as the space for it increases, so generally, a new can will spray more vigorously than an almost-exhausted one.  There is a greater change in cans with less propellant than cans with lots of propellant, making higher pressure cans more desirable, but on the other hand, cans with too much pressure cannot do detailed work precisely. 

So, companies try to make their cans with as much pressure as possible, without being too pressurized to use effectively.

Generally larger cans have more pressure than smaller ones.  Big cans are dynamite and small cans can do incredible detail work.  400ml is the most popular size because it seems to have the best/most popular balance of control and size value. 

But remember, this is not the same as fixed-pressure and variable-pressure.  F/V determines the user's amount of control over the flow of paint; H/L determines how much pressure is in the can.  Please use these terms correctly even though the leading manufacturers of spray paint do not.     Metallics and Fluorescents

Metallics and fluorescents look really cool in the catalogs.  The fluorescents appear staggeringly bright, and some metallic paints look great for adding that "bling."

But when you actually use them, problems emerge.

With metallics, the problem is that they cannot be painted over until they are totally dry, and metallics take longer to dry.  I don't know why, but if you try to paint over chrome colors with ordinary colors, the metallic color sort of "eats" the wet color.  This makes metallic paints tricky to use when piecing.

It's a pity, but that's how it is with pretty much every brand of paint.

With fluorescents, the problem is that they don't show up properly on anything except white. And even then, the coverage is terrible.  This is true with all brands of fluorescent paint; it takes like three coats for it to show up well. 

Also, metallic and fluorescent paints smell foul.  But you should be wearing a respirator anyhow.

Metallics and fluorescents may still be used for special projects, but for typical piecing, they do not work well.  Still, you should try them out; you may find them useful.

1.2.3     Brands of Spray Paint

Two brands of spray paint that are available in almost every town in the U.S. are Rustoleum and Krylon.  Additionally there are many "off-brands" one might find at superstores like Home Depot or Wal*Mart for fractional prices.  Then, there are premium brands available in select stores.  The most popular of these are Montana and Belton Molotow.  Also, there are what are called "hobby paints" or "craft paints" which include many brands.

Even many top graffiti artists have totally different opinions about each brand.  Some artists prefer various brands for different reasons: I know one who likes Montana's colors but prefers Belton's black and white.  You will have to decide for yourself what brand you prefer.

Here are some qualities to look for that may help you decide.

Colors:  Nothing matters so much as the color.  Not just the color, but within any brand, some colors cover better than others, some colors resist cracking and fading better than others, and some colors just pop out more than other colors.  Every brand has certain colors that are better than any other brand's.  For example, MTN Medium Yellow and Molotow Melon Yellow are almost the same color, but MTN's covers much better.  On the other hand, MTN Electric Blue and Molotow Shock Blue look alike, but Molotow's Shock Blue lights up the wall much more.  MTN has a unique color, "Cherry," which no other brand has.  But MTN doesn't have any orange-red color such as Molotow Traffic Red.  MTN has the best pink (Erika) but Molotow has the best magenta (Telemagenta).

Availablity also plays a big role in can selection, in obvious ways.

Can performance: Some cans have better pressure control than others.  Some are fixed-pressure, some are variable-pressure.  Some are high-pressure, some are low-pressure.  Some have only one pea, some have three.

Paint quality: Some paint covers much better than others, some paint resists dripping better than others.  Some paints will crack and fade while others won't.  Some come out splattery and some come out even.

Price: Price varies widely from brand to brand, area to area.  This will have a major effect on what brand you decide to go with.  Make sure you take into consideration how paint quality affects the value of your purchase.

Morality:  Some paint companies are good; others are evil.     Spray Paint Brand Performance Profiles

Quality varies considerably from one color and sub-brand to the next.  The "stops rust" black is the best black among the shwag brands.  "Stops Rust" is their all-purpose line.  The colors are somewhat run-resistant and generally cover well.  Rustoleum brand paint works with almost every type of cap out there, though some hi-pressure caps do not work well.  Rusto offers about 100 colors.
Rustoleum: Painter's Touch
This is the better brand of Rustoleum.
Rustoleum: American Accents
Ugly, watery, overspray... all things you will complain about if you use this paint.
Again, quality is not consistent with every color.   Watermelon is one of their best, Tomato and Stonewash Denim are among their worst, as are their yellows and many ugly pastels. 

Also, some of people's favorite colors have been discontinued.  Krylon seems to have fewer colors than they used to.  Discontinued colors sell for big bucks on Ebay.

As quality is concerned, Krylon is not bad, though it is far from the best.  Some colors cover poorly; on a white wall, this will not matter, but when covering previous lines, the color beneath may show through.  This is important, because if you don't want undercoats showing through, you will have to go back over the line again (thus using double the paint and also possibly creating deviations from the original line.) 

One of the biggest concerns (especially for novices, but pros as well) is drippiness.  Krylon is definitely less drippy than generic paint, but compared with premium paints discussed below it is definitely more drippy.

You can make a can of Krylon much better by simply turning a new can upside-down and spraying propellent for about 10 seconds.  (spray cans have a straw that runs from the nozzle to the bottom of the can, so by turning a can upside-down, you spray out the propellent without the paint, thus reducing the pressure in the can).  This will give you much better control of the spray.

Krylon offers many lines of paint, but their "All-purpose spray paint" line is by far the largest with 52 colors, and when people say Krylon, they are usually referring to this product line.

Krylon All-Purpose Spray Paint
This is Krylon's classic line of paint.  It's the best Krylon brand overall.  52 colors offered.  See here for details about good and bad colors.
Krylon Satin Touch Spray Paint
This is a line of mostly pastel colors. It's not bad, but only 13 colors are offered.
Krylon H2O Latex
This stuff sucks.  "Water-based latex."  The name says it all.  20 crappy colors.
Spanish Montana (MTN)

Montana has two primary lines of paint: Hardcore, and Alien Art Concept.

Montana is great paint for several reasons.

The most important is the colors.  Montana colors are bright.  They cover great and they stand out, more than any other brand in most cases.  They also have 124 colors to choose from, more than Rustoleum or Krylon offer.

Another important quality is drip resistance.  Montana paint is very drip-resistant. After getting used to Montana paint, using cheaper brands can be frustrating, because you will be accustomed to paint that sticks to the wall.  On the other hand, when MTN does drip, it drips badly.  The downside is that when MTN drips, it drips bad and if you can catch it you might as well wipe the drip off.

Montana (and also Molotow, below) have a clever system for making it easier to identify your cans, too.  Montana has a ring that fits the cap between the nozzle and the edge of the can indicating what color it is.  If you've used Rustoleum or Krylon, you know how it can be tedious to figure out which can is which once the tops get mixed up.  The ring prevents this problem.

There are two major lines of Montana, the Harcore line and the Alien Art Concept line.  The difference between the two is that the Hardcore line comes in 400ml (standard size) cans with high-pressure fixed-pressure valves, while the Alien line comes in 250ml variable-pressure valves.  Variable-pressure means you can push down a little and get a light spray or push down hard and get a heavy spray.  More about valves here.

The MTN Montana cans also have two balls ("peas" is the industry term) in the can instead of one like Rusto and Krylon, making shaking/mixing faster and easier. 
German Montana
Overall, this paint is very similar to Belton Molotow.  It is said by the company that the cans work properly in extreme temperatures from -38 to 48 degrees C (-36 to 118 F degrees F).  German Montana offers two primary product lines, the "Black" and "Gold" lines.  

Due to the ethical concerns about this company described below, I've only tested a few cans of German Montana--not enough for certain assurance, but good for general comments at least.

German Montana: Gold
At first, it seemed the Gold line performed great.  It has great variable-pressure control, and lower pressure overall than other brands; it can make really skinny lines, and it didn't drip too easily.  The Gold line has 174 colors available at this writing.  German Montana Gold has a matte finish.

Once the paint dried, though, it didn't cover very well at all.  We could see everything beneath the coat.  This was tested with Shock Orange Dark 2020. Maybe other colors cover better, but this one didn't.

German Montana: Black
75 colors available.  The Black line has a constant high-pressure valve like MTN Montana Hardcore.  We tried a can of black and white.  The black performed well but the white had lousy coverage.
Belton Molotow
Premium 400ml
Belton and Molotow are the same paint; Belton is the company name and Molotow is the name of the product line.  But since Molotow is the only line Belton offers in the U.S.A., it's basically the same thing to us.

Because it is a German company, it is actually pronounced "Molotov" like the cocktail you throw.  In German, the "V" and the "W" are the same letter; it is written "W" and pronounced "V".  This is why "wiener schnitzel" is pronounced "veener schnitzel."  Since "Molotov" is consistent with the whole "bombing" metaphor, we say "Molotov."

But anyway, about the paint.

Like Montana, Molotow colors are bright, and highly drip-resistant.  Molotow offers even more colors, now approaching 200 (at this writing, 20 new colors are under development).

Molotow uses a variable-pressure system on all of their cans.  This gives the artist more control over the spray than other brands (Montana Alien paint uses variable-pressure too, but not in 400ml cans). 

One important advantage of Molotow is that the paint works properly in extreme temperatures.  When we were painting our store, it was wintertime and we had to keep the building ventilated because of the paint fumes, so it was very cold in the room.  The Montana cans would freeze unless we kept them on the radiators.  Molotow works in freezing weather. 

As colors go, Molotow is misleading: for reasons unknown, the color charts on the websites of the Belton company and U.S. distributor are inaccurate and unflattering.  Many nice colors are shown to be greyish, whitish, or just plain ugly.

Details about this below.  But, the actual colors are very nice. 

Also, Molotow paint is reported to be more resistant to fading and chipping than the other brands named above.
Belton Molotow Transparents
Belton released twelve new "transparent" colors in late 2006.  It sounded like these could be great for shading.  We tried transparent Ces Violet to see if the stuff was as good as it could be.

Unfortunately, the transparent colors are nothing remarkable.  They are very transparent, going on almost clear.  After re-coating it until it was nice and visible, it broke out into drips.

Spraying just one line over various colors with a New York Fat cap at close range, the line barely showed up over white and not at all over the colors.

The transparents are probably useful for doing very subtle and precise shading, but you would have to go through a lot of it because the color is so thin.   If you can afford that, then the transparent colors can do things you just can't do with other colors.

But if cost is a factor, you probably won't like the new series.     Morality

This should be important to every consumer.  Some companies support graffiti culture, while others support its enemies.  Some companies follow or even exceed strict health and safety regulations, while other companies are apparently trying to kill you.

Fortunately, it seems that the only toxic spray paint is the generic stuff; the brands listed in the table below are all clean.  Yet they still have some serious concerns in other areas.  Here is what we've found about the brands:


The National Council to Prevent Delinquency gave the paint maker the Partner in Prevention award, in recognition of Rust-Oleum's active role in the national Anti-Graffiti project. The project helps local governments and citizen groups prevent graffiti vandalism and restore defaced property. Rust-Oleum's contributions have included paint for neighborhood cleanups, money for retail theft prevention and volunteers for various anti-graffiti efforts. The company has also promoted the Council's Responsible Retailing program, designed to block theft and illegal purchasing of products such as spray paint.

Wooh!  The company promoted an anti-theft campaign.  How self-servingly "philanthropic."

And if the "anti-graffiti" efforts had any real effect, it would have hurt their sales, and they wouldn't have done it.  So they have to know that the anti-graffiti efforts are nothing but Public Relations BS.


"Krylon® Products Group is more than just paint and projects. We care about you and your community. Along with Keep America Beautiful, Krylon Products Group has created a national program called Graffiti Hurts® designed to address the growing graffiti problem in urban areas and small towns."

Krylon's website is the cheesiest shit you can imagine.  Innovation Inspired.TM  It sets a new industry standard for "insipid."

And they have to put a crappy cap on it so you need to buy better ones elsewhere. 
Montana Spain (MTN):

Montana Spain (MTN) sponsors some graffiti artists and contains links to other graffiti sites from theirs.  The company states that it was founded by graffiti writers Moockie and Kapi.  It sponsors many graffiti magazines in many countries.  Montana's sincere dedication to the art is evident in the quality of the product.

"I heard Spanish Montana contains lead and other harmful chemicals, Is this true?"
MTN: "No, this is an unfounded rumor started by our competitor. Our Paint has been sent to the US EPA and they have reported that it is less toxic than some of the well known American brands of paint. They have stated furthermore that Montana Colors (Spain) is well within the regulated legal standards for paint in the United States. Succesful chemical analyses conducted in Europe can be viewed by
Clicking Here."
Montana Germany (Dupli)

The German Montana company committed perhaps the greatest crime in the world of graffiti, and on a massive scale, by stealing the Spanish Montana company's name. 

That says a lot about the company in istelf, but moreover, when pressed an explanation, the company claimed that it did it "for the artists' sake" because the Spanish Montana company put toxic chemicals in its product.

As it turns out, the opposite is true, and the German Montana company is now doing all it possibly can to avoid even mentioning the existance of the Spanish Montana company.

The confusion between the two companies is, as you will see, a huge headache for everybody, and the company really shouldn't be forgiven for this.

The German Montana company is owned and controlled by Motip Dupli, a.k.a. Dupli-color, a multinational corporation primarily in the automotive paint industry.  They feature a slick youth-targeted corporate website, with lots of pro-graffiti tones that conceal the slimy corporate face behind it.

In some instances, such as in the "Write and Unite" DVD, Dupli-Montana seems to be deliberately confusing their brand with the Spanish company's.  This is, in my view, totally opposed to the culture of graffiti.  The brand is a total fraud, good paint or not.

They even stole MTN's color ring.  Sack-asses.
Belton Molotow

The Belton company named their product "Molotow," which is the German spelling for "Molotov" like the cocktail, hence even their name is a reference to rebellion.

Belton sponsors many artists and their paint was developed by artists.  Several of their colors are named for the artists who helped develop them.  The U.S. distributor of Belton sponsor many graffiti magazines in many countries.

Belton's sincere dedication to the art is evident in the quality of the product.
Generic / Other Brands

Read the label carefully.  Many off-brands do not meet the chemical safety standards of the brands above.  Some of them are covered in warnings about toxic chemicals.  If you use these brands, be sure to wear a mask and gloves.

As you can see from the table, Spanish Montana (MTN) and Belton Molotow seem to be the only brands that have honesty, decency, and respect for the culture of graffiti art.     Generic paint vs. Brand Name Paint

The graffiti artist, hard up for money and wanting a greater quantity of paint in as many colors as possible, may be inclined to purchase the cheapest paints available.  But there are hidden costs in cheap paint.

Many "off-brand" paints are simply brand-name paints from batches that failed quality control tests.  So the company slaps a different label on the can and sells it at a lower price.  Other off-brands are just terrible mass-produced cans.  Either way, all super-cheap brands we've tried have produced terrible results.

Drips and bad coverage cost time and paint.  Every drip you have to back over with at least one color, maybe more.  And if the the line you just made can be seen through, you're probably want to go back over it again. And then, if you don't get it just right, you may have to cut back with the adjacent color so you get a clean line.  But you'll have to go back over that line again, too, because that other color won't be fully filled-in either!  By that fourth line, probably there'll be a drip somewhere, and then you'll have to cover that back up, too.  After it dries.  (see Fig. x)

Is it really saving any money when you have to use three times as much paint to get the same result?  Is time not a factor with your work, or would you rather get the job done quickly and efficiently?

Generic paint is not consistent.  Name-brand companies go to great lengths to make sure every can of paint is the same.  Generic paint can vary widely, from watery to syrupy, from high-pressure to low-pressure, even from one color to an off-color.

For all of these reasons, we strongly recommend against using the off-brands. 

About the only thing they're good for is if you have to cover a gigantic area with a fill and you can find 99-cent cans of the cheap crap.  And even then it's tedious and aggravating to need to give it two or three coats to look right.     Krylon vs. Rustoleum

Krylon and Rusto are the two biggest brands of spray paint in the U.S.  Which one is better?  Depends who you ask.  People have really different opinions. 

You'll have to decide for yourself. 

Factors which support Rustoleum:

-longevity; Rusto doesn't fade or crack
-coverage; Rusto is more opaque
-pressure; Krylon is over-pressurized

Factors which support Krylon

-price; Krylon is generally cheaper
-pressure; Krylon is worse than Rusto but this is fixed by inverting the can and draining some propellant

Colors: Krylon and Rusto offer different colors.  Buy whichever you want.

Fig. x

With premium brands:

you spray a line...  

then spray another one next to it and you're done.

With cheap-o brands:

you spray a line...

Then go back over it so it shows up better...

Then add your adjacent line...

Then go back over that so it shows up better...

Then cut back with the background color to eliminate the blended part...

and wait until it dries and re-do the whole thing.  The Two Montanas

There are two completely different companies calling themselves "Montana brand spray paint."  One hails from Spain, the other, Germany.  How are they different and why do they have the same name?  We went over this a little before, but now for details.


They made a video.....       Part 1          Part 2

Unfortunately, this reviewer has only used German Montana a little bit, so I can't definitively attest to its quality or lack thereof.  See for details.

As for why there are two spray paint companies named Montana, the Spanish company says: 

[edited for spelling and grammar from the translation at]:

In 1993, two writers named Moockie and Kapi both from Barcelona Spain decide to open a graffiti/hip-hop shop. They contact a spray paint manufacturer known as "Felton" in Spain for research and to negotiate prices. They discuss the potential of the graffiti art market with the commercial manager at the spray can factory Jordi Rubio who later becomes the owner of Montana Spain. Jordi is fascinated with the idea but Felton is unconvinced of the potential sales in a market for graffiti.

Approximately one year later, around 1994, Jordi asks Kapi & Moockie to help build a brand for the graffiti market. Kapi & Moockie contribute their knowledge of graffiti needs and Jordi contributes his knowledge in the technical aspects of spray cans. In the spring of 1994 Kapi & Moockie organize an event called "Aerosol Art" and invite artists from all over Europe. At this event they introduce the first Montana cans and this is the first time graffiti artists use Montana paint. Shortly after Montana develops the "Hardcore" 400ml can, which we know today, and the "Alien" can in 2001. During the course of 1994, news spreads that there is a graffiti store in Barcelona that sells quality paint very cheap, and artists from all over Europe gather there and take cans back to their home countries in bulk. The artists themselves became the first exporters of Montana. By the end of 1995, these artists began to import Montana into their home countries on a regular basis, at first Italy, then Switzerland, and then France and the UK.

In 1997, Montana grants the exclusive distribution rights for Germany to L&G. Problems begin soon after. By 1997 Montana has become well known and is exporting to other continents. Montana Spain began as and still is dedicated to the graffiti art culture and has remained a small company with about 50 employees involved with their manufacturing facility and distribution. Spanish Montana contends that all their products are made with devotion to quality in aerosol art culture. All Spanish Montana spray cans are hand-made at their own facility as they have been since the beginning. 

In 1996, a distribution company named L&G is founded by Ruediger Latz and Tim Latif (known to us now as German Montana). In 1997 L&G becomes the exclusive distributor of Spanish Montana for Germany. Shortly after L&G also gains the rights to distribute in several other countries in Europe. Meanwhile L&G conspires with Motip Dupli, a multi-national corporation and the largest maker of spray paint for automobiles in Europe (Known to Americans as Dupli-Color), to manufacture and label spray paint cans for L&G with Montana Spain's customers as the target audience.

Mutip Dupli becomes aware of the potential in the graffiti market and makes an offer to buy Spanish Montana from Jordi. Montana Spain rejects the offer and soon after L&G and Dupli begin producing exact copies of the cans labeled as Montana Hardcore and start to distribute them throughout Montana Spain's established market. Mutip Dupli then starts a negative campaign of information and spreads several rumors about Spanish Montana including that the paint allegedly contains lead and other poisons.

L&G contends that product ideas given to Montana Spain during there business relationship entitle L&G to an equal share of the brand name "Montana." L&G and Mutip Dupli initiate a process which results in inspectors coming to Spain to examine their products in hopes of reducing their productivity.

In 2001 L&G and Mutip Dupli run a trademark search for the name "Montana" and they find a company named "Farbo S.A." located in Switzerland who has the name "Montana" already licensed throughout Europe. L&G and Mutip Dupli then offer to pay a royalty for using the name "Montana" from Farbo and succeed. L&G has now gained the ammunition they need to file lawsuits and attempt to take away the name & market that Montana Spain has created. Lawsuits are still pending in several courts throughout Europe.

In 2002 L&G release the "Montana New Generation" can. In 2003 they release the Montana "GOLD" can and the Montana "Platinum" can in 2004. At the same time in 2004 Montana Spain begins to brand some of their cans as "MTNMTN" to try to relieve some confusion the customers are having between the two companies.

The differences between the two Montanas remain unresolved. L&G reports to have about 20 employees involved in its distribution operation. German Montana also claims to have the same devotion to quality and aerosol art culture. L&G spray cans are made with automated machines at the Motip Dupli facility as they have been since the beginning.

And now, here is a press release about the story, from the German Montana company [also cleaned up from sloppy translation], giving their side of the story:

We as a distributor of Montana paint and Aerosol Art paint produced by Motip Dupli AG, distributed by L&G in Germany would like to avoid any misunderstandings about the ongoing business differences between the producer of Montana paint from Spain and the producer of Montana paint in Germany. As It is uncommon to present information to the public when a case is still with several judges to decide about, we decided not to make any comments to these matters until a final decision was made public.

However, as the Spanish producer and some of its distributors have decided to start a negative campaign out in public against the Montana brand from Germany, instead of waiting for the final court decision we decided to go against this in an orderly manner, based on facts, delivered by objective parties and institutions.

The fact is that the courts have difficulty looking into this matter in full detail as this business disagreement is of a very complicated nature. This matter is going through serveral courts at the moment.

Fact is that the company L&G already won cases against the Spanish distributor in the Netherlands, France and other European countries.

To be clear: Objective tests that are in our possession show that the metal, lead, has been found in the paint of the Spanish producer. ( as these test results are in german we do not show them here but feel free to contact us if you would like to see them) This metal is extremely dangerous to men's health. This metal is used to make the paint cover well, especially with the red, yellow and orange colors, which by their nature do not cover too well. There are better and healthier substances on the market that work the same, but these are more expensive. Also the very dangerous substance strontium was found in the paint from the Spanish producer.

Due to this shocking discovery that was made public by the company L&G last year September, we decided to give more information about chemicals that are used to make paint.

Tuolene, Xylene, petrol gases, strontium, arsenic and mercury are some of the chemicals, vapors and heavy metals contained in spray paint and in paint containing such substances their levels come well within official restrictions. Yet the noxious smell emitted from a fat cap shouts "This is doing more harm than good!" Striking a cynical note, when were levels deemed safe by officialdom a guarantee for comfort? On the back of a canister of Spanish Montana cans, the warning reads; "Harmful by inhalation contact with skin. Irritating to skin. Do not breathe spray. Avoid contact with eyes. If swallowed seek medical advice immediately and show this container or label."

L&G Distribution in Germany produce the new safer Montana cans. Montana's original home is Spain and was originally made by Montana Colors S.L. The two companies are currently in dispute over trademark intringement with L&G (German Montana) already winning their cases in France, The Netherlands and Germany. When L&G (German Montana) had the old Spanish brand analysed their tests petitioned that Spanish Montana contained dangerous levels of lead.  Raediger Glatz, managing director of L&G told Graphotism magazine: "Spraycans are detinitely not good for your health, but selling spraycans containing lead and strontium [see below for possible repercussions] as Spanish Montana Colors has is unacceptable." "We work very closely with our manufacturer MOTIP DUPLI, and are able to have a major influence on the ingredients. A company like MOTIP DUPLI, being the biggest manufacturer for spraycans in Europe, does not want to throw any old constituent into their product and they are subject to German regulations, which are very strict and sensitive."

Glad to hear it, but despite the protestations, proteotion from colouring that decorates transport, walls, boards and canvases cannot be emphasised. A qualitv mask, gloves and excellent ventilation is something your mind and body will thank you for. If you still don't believe, here are the effects of five products found in aerosol paint.

[followed by a detailed description of harmful effects of lead, strontium, arsenic, Tuolene, Xylene.]

So these are the two sides.  Which one should you believe?

We side with the Spanish Montana company, for several reasons:

-German Montana admits that they stole the Spanish company's trade name.

-German Montana's allegations that Spanish Montana's paint contains lead, arsenic etc. are not supported.  To say "we have a document but it's in German" is an insult to inquiring minds.  They give no indication as to how much lead was found in Spanish Montana's paint. By Spanish Montana's estimation, it's about 00.0015%, or 15 parts per million.  That's less than levels found in seawater--nothing compared to how much lead was found in paint before it was banned decades ago--essentially nothing at all.  In other words, German Montana is using misleading statistics to defame Spanish Montana.

-German Montana is using "booga booga" scare tactics to discredit Spanish Montana.  They trump up the dangers of Xylene.  All spray paint contains Xylene.

-Listen carefully to what they say: "Toluene, xylene, petrol gases, strontium, arsenic and mercury are some of the chemicals, vapours and heavy metals contained in spray paint and in paint containing such substances their leves come well within official restrictions. Yet the noxious smell emitted from a fat cap shouts 'This is doing more harm than good!'"  So essentially, they're admitting that Spanish Montana (MTN) paint is well within official restrictions, then they say that you should trust your nose, not the testing and regulations.  MTN paint actually has a nice aroma.  That doesn't mean it is good for you or bad for you.  That's why you have tests.  And the tests showed that MTN was fine.

Also, when they so "such and such is contained in spray paint" they aren't specifically saying that such is found in Spanish MTN, so this is a misleading statement as well.

In conclusion, it appears that the Spanish Montana is a sincere, by-artists-for-artists company, and the German Montana is a subsidiary of an Evil Big Corporation that will mislead and steal to make money.  After all, they stole the Montana name and misled to the public about the dangers of Montana paint.

Fan Mail

Date:  Fri, 3 Aug 2007 17:59:37 +0100 (BST)
From:  Carmen Daoust <>
Subject:  german montana range
i would like to say tht ur website is verry biost againt german montana, it may have stolen the name but so wht its a verry good paint and it covers well.i have used it for years and i have verry few complaints.
      you said tht if you use other colours on metallics the chrom "eats it up" well if you use german platnim you and dont have this problem what so ever, they put more tar into the paints, wich has caused me no problems apart from the fact that if you dont shake the black well enough then it can come out a small bit brown.the platnim range doesnt work well with thin caps though but you use it most for quick bombing so you dont use thin caps often anyway.but the paint range works well. and as a bonus the cans look cool.anyway i would love to give more info but i hav to go

Yes, I suppose I am a little "biost" against German Montana. 

You know why, Carmen?  Because stealing someone else's name--especially a company name which many people work hard for--isn't something you just say "so what" to. 

The German company misleads people and diminishes the community by doing so. 

You can make whatever excuses for the paint that you want, but besides all the reasons I've given above and below to prefer Spanish MTN and Belton Molotow, those paints have something else: personality. 

I know the people that work for MTN and Molotow and they're good people.  German Montana is a multinational company and all its slick sponsored events are corporate bullshit. 

You enjoy the "bonus" of a can that looks cool.  I'll enjoy the bonus of cans made with love.     Montana MTN Hardcore vs. Belton Molotow

Legal issues aside, let us return to the question of paint quality, particularly between the two best brands of spray paint, MTN Montana and Molotow.

Some artists like one and not the other, on both sides.  You will have to try both to make up your mind.  There are some definite differences that may help you decide.

Differences favoring neither but according to your preference:

-Montana MTN paint is very different from every other type of paint on the market.  It's characterized by great coverage and really really bright colors.  The cans have a very different feel from all other brands.  Some people will like it, others will not.
-Montana colors are glossy (shiny).  Molotow colors are matte (not shiny).  This actually has a huge impact on how colors look. 

-Molotow cans are lower-pressure than Montana in general.  Narrower, lighter lines.  On one hand this means more control and better paint economy; on the other hand this means that big pieces can take longer. 
-The two brands just feel different.  Depending on what you're comfortable with, you may prefer either one.  For example, these guys who were used to cheapie paint were using Molotow for an outline, and all the joints on the outlines were messed up because they weren't used to the variable-pressure system.  You could get used to either kind of paint or both.  But be aware that they are different.

Differences favoring Montana:

Montana's colors seem to cover better. 
Montana is typically a dollar cheaper per can.
The color chart on Montana's website is fairly accurate; the one on Molotow's website is not.
Belton Molotow cans have a paper wrapper that can come loose and be irritating

Differences favoring Molotow:

Molotow has a variable-pressure system that the Montana Hardcore cans do not.
Molotow works in extreme temperatures.
Molotow cans need to be shaken less frequently than Montana cans.
Molotow paint doesn't clog caps as often as Montana     The True Colors of Molotow

We do not know why, but the color charts for Molotow spray paint are grossly inaccurate.  Not only that, but they are un-flattering: they make good colors look bad, they make bold colors look pale, they make saturated colors look grey, they make popping colors look dull.

In one case, the color "traffic red" appeared as a light, greyish red, while "signal red" looked a little lighter (on the distro's website) and a little darker (on Belton's website).  Yet, in reality, "traffic red" is a bright red with an orange tint, while "signal red" is a pure, slightly dark red.

In another case, "signal white" is shown at to be greyer than "pure white."  In reality "signal white" is whiter than "pure white." 

In this chart here, we show cans of Molotow in three colors.  The color on the butt of the can is the color shown on, the U.S. distributor.  The inset color is the color shown on Belton's web site, And the color on the top of each can is what we've determined it actually is, as best we can.


Everyone's monitor looks a little different.  These colors look different on my home and work computers.  To get the most accurate idea, read the descriptions of the colors down below, and compare them with what you see.  If most are described as lighter than what you're seeing, your monitor is probably darker than ours, so expect the colors to be a little lighter.  Or hold up your own can of Belton to the chart to calibrate it. 

Regardless of calibration, however, the colors shown on our site are more accurate than those found elsewhere, which often portrat colors very inaccurately as shown here.

Molotow True Color Chart

This is the chart above minus the comparisons, so it's easier to tell what color is the one they're looking for.     MTN  -  Krylon/Rustoleum Color-matches

I found this on a cache of an MTN page.  The colors are not exact matches but they are close matches.
Note that some of the Rusto and Krylon colors are no longer available.

Montana colors on left side of equation.

R-1001 Beige = Beige
R-1013 White Bone = Antique White
R-1016 Lemon Yellow = Duplicolor Daytona Yellow
R-1028 Medium Yellow = Krylon School Bus Yellow
R-2003 Pastel Orange = Krylon Popsicle Orange
R-2010 Signal Orange = Krylon Mandarin Orange
R-2012 Caramel = Krylon Terracota
R-3001 Intense Red = Krylon Banner Red
R-3004 Bordeaux Red = Krylon American Beauty Red
R-3007 Cherokee Red = Krylon Mahogany
R-3014 Raspberry = Krylon Hot Pink
R-3015 Pink = Krylon Rose
R-3017 Fever Red = Krylon Watermelon
R-3020 Light Red = Krylon Scarlet
R-4001 Lilac = Rusto Grape
R-4003 Erika Violet = Rusto Berry Pink
R-4008 Signal Violet = Krylon Plum
R-4009 Bruise = Rusto Grey lilac
R-5005 Dark Blue = Krylon True Blue (darker version)
R-5013 Navy Blue = Navy Blue
R-5015 Medium Blue = Krylon True Blue
R-5023 Lake Blue = Rusto Denim
R-6009 Amazonas Green = Krylon OD Khaki
R-6016 Dark Green = Krylon Moss Green
R-6018 Valley Green = Duplicolor Grabber Green [also close to Molotow Cliff Green]
R-6019 Pale Green = Osh Light Green
R-6027 Luminous Green = Krylon Light Sage
R-6028 Jungle Green = Hunter Green
R-6034 Turquoise Pastel = Krylon Jade Green
R-7040 Pearl Grey = Krylon Dove Grey
R-8023 Mustard = Rusto Cinnamon
R-V1 Pale Violet = Krylon Violet
R-V2 Violet = Rusto Lilac
R-V4 Light Green = Krylon Clover Green
R-V6 Light Grey = Krylon Pewter Grey
R-V9 Apricot = Krylon Light Peach
R-V10 Mint Green = Rusto Safety Green
R-V13 Himalaya Blue = Krylon Slate Blue
R-V17 Tenere Sand = Krylon Spanish Brown
R-V20 Party Yellow = Krylon Pastel Yellow [and they are both whack]
R-V26 Cork = Rusto Rosewood
R-V29 Artic Blue = Krylon Baby Blue
R-V30 Electric Blue = Krylon Ford Blue
R-V31 Steel Grey = Krylon Smoke Grey
R-V33 Colored Red = Rusto Farmhouse red
R-V34 Guacamole Green = Krylon Jungle Green
R-V35 Chocolate Brown = Rusto Kona Brown
R-V36 Breakfast Brown = Krylon Warm Brown     Best and Worst Colors

The Color Hall of Fame

These are the best colors that everyone raves about the most.  These colors all get five stars.  They kick ass.

(Note: the colors shown here are the actual colors.  The representations you may find on others' websites are not accurate, if they are different from these.) 

Montana Hardcore Ganges Yellow
This is the best-covering light yellow out there.  Most yellow either covers horribly or it's medium, dark, or orange-tinted.  Ganges Yellow is all yellow, and it's hot.  It goes right over black without leaving a trace.  There is no substitute for this breakthrough color. 

Belton Molotow "Ces" Violet

A great medium, slightly dark purple that's not bluish or reddish but right in the middle.

Montana Hardcore Medium Yellow

With this and the Ganges Yellow, Montana MTN has a lock on the yellow category.  "Medium Yellow" is a screaming orange-tinted yellow.  The color is almost the same has Belton Molotow "Melon Yellow" but this MTN color is brighter.

Belton Molotow Deep "OTR" Black

This is the prize-winning black right here.  It has every quality perfect.  Variable pressure (flow control), low pressure, excellent coverage, perfect black color, long-lasting, all-weather... there is no better black spray paint.

Montana Hardcore Divinity White

This is a screaming glossy white.  Covers almost anything, glossy so it's blinding in sunlight. 

Belton Molotow Signal White

Sorry about the crappy graphic at left.  This is an essential white; with a matte finish, perfect coverage, and the Molotow variable-pressure valve, it is easily the best white for outlining.

Montana Hardcore Cherry

This is a really powerful color.  The gloss and purple stand out, yet it's dark; it makes a really great effect.  Goes awesome with white and navy blue or pink.

Krylon Watermelon

This is probably Krylon's best color available now.  It's an unusually good light red.  It's similar to, but actually better than, MTN Fever Red, which is paler and weaker.

Belton Molotow Telemagenta

Should be called "Hellamagenta."  This stuff is staggeringly bright; it is similar to fluorescent magenta offered by other brands except it isn't fluorescent paint and it covers. 

Montana Hardcore Pistachio
Pistachio is the perfect blend of light green and yellow and it really stands out.

Belton Molotow has a very close color called Grasshopper Green, but it's just not the same.  Grasshopper gets less coverage.  This paint is the shit.  The glossy finish gives it almost a "candy" look.

Krylon Purple

Krylon Purple comes out well and covers well, better than usual for Krylon.  It's a great color with black, white, red, or blue.

Montana Hardcore Erika

Erika is a really bright light pink, one of the best pinks out there.  It is not as deep and red as Molotow Telemagenta, it's really just a great pink, not too light, not too gray, just bright light pink.

Krylon Emerald Green

This is a pretty good middle-of-the-road green.  It's not as wild as MTN Pistachio or Belton Juice Green, but it's a really good color for Krylon.

Montana Hardcore Monaco Blue

This is another one of those "just right" colors.  A great medium-light blue with a hint of gray.

Rustoleum Harbor Blue

This is a really nice blue from Rustoleum, very light yet very bright and it applies well.

Belton Molotow "SEAK" Future Green

This unique green is dark but not too dark.  It's bold and great for 3-D and shading effects.

Montana Hardcore Blue Violet 

This color is dark but striking.  It is not as greyish in reality as it is in the picture.  It's right between blue and violet.  Goes really well with white and is also one of the only colors that looks good with light reds.

Molotow Shock Blue

This blue is just bright as hell.  It's like MTN Electric Blue but covers better, like MTN Medium Blue but brighter.  You have to see an actual can to see how bright it is.  It is the brightest blue.

Montana Hardcore Solar Orange & Alien Art Concept Solar Orange

At first glance it looks pale 'n' stale.  But solar orange is a powerful light orange like no other.  You really have to use it to see how nice it is.  The coverage is execeptional and it goes well with almost everything. 

Montana Hardcore Ultramarine

This is a really good dark blue.  It's more versatile than Navy blue which is closer to black, but darker than the other good blues.

Notes about other colors from Belton and Montana


MACrew purple:
A great reddish purple that goes well with yellow and orange.  Good coverage.
Grasshopper: Very nice very light green. Good coverage.
Brilliant Green: Not quite as nice as grasshopper, but very good.  Very close to MTN Pistachio, but without the glossy finish.
Cliff Green: This Belton color has the best coverage of any Belton green that we've tried, and it's a great shade. 
Juice Green:
This is a very beautiful color.  It is as green as can be, not too light or dark, not yellowish or bluish or grayish at all.  No other color is quite the same.  The only thing that kept it from the Hall of Fame above is that its coverage, while not bad at all, is below excellent.
Golden Yellow: Great coverage, nice medium yellow.
Quince: Belton's equivalent to MTN Ganges Yellow.  Doesn't cover as well.
Signal Yellow:  The basic yellow doesn't cover well.
Melon Yellow:  Seemed nice at first, but comes out a little too orange, and it doesn't cover very well. 
Lobster: This is a great orange.
Lobster Light: This one doesn't cover well.
Linda's Sunset: Not a bad color, but the coverage isn't great.  It looks a little redder on the wall than it does on the top of the can.
Tar Black:  This is a perfectly good color, except that it isn't tar, and it isn't black.  The MTN equivalent is the much more appropriately named "Metropolis Grey."  As with "pure white," the dark-orange color "pussy pink," and the yellow straw-colored "hemp," Belton is in the habit of naming their colors have different colors.  If it's lighter than black, than it isn't black; it's grey.  And the problem with calling it "tar grey" is that Belton offers a very different grey in huge 750ml cans that actually is tar-based.  I bought a bunch of this stuff thinking it would be tar-based black, not regular-based dark grey.
Pure White:  OK look, white is white.  Anything less than pure white is grey.  Molotow Signal White is white.  The deceptively-named Pure White is not pure white, or even just plain white; it's off-white.  Even on  cheap apartment walls, "pure white" is clearly off-white an looks like a bruise over ordinary whites.  To fix the problem "Pure White" should be renamed "Signal Off-White" and the present "Signal White" should be renamed "Pure White."  Then the names would be accurate.

Montana MTN:

Navy Blue:  A very dark blue, goes well with white.  Covers great.
Nostromo Blue: Almost black.  When MTN was out of black for like six months in 2005, I sold Nostromo Blue and Night Red instead of black and nobody complained.
Medium Blue: Covers great.  Very bright.
Electric Blue:  Didn't cover very well.  Similar color to Belton Molotow's Shock Blue.  Also very close to MTN Medium Blue, but doesn't show up as well.
Himalaya Blue: 
Excellent coverage, great all-around light blue, great for shading darker blues.
Aurora Blue:  Excellent coverage, even lighter than Himalaya blue, not so good for shading, great alt for white though.
Lutecia Green: Nice green, great coverage.
Dark Green: Darker than it looks on the can.  Covers well.
Light Yellow: Another bad yellow.  If you want a light yellow the MTN Hardcore Ganges Yellow is what you want.  Pass on this crap.
Medium Yellow: Very good yellow.  Similar in color to Molotow Melon Yellow, but it covers much better.
Orange:  This is MTN's brightest orange.
Colored Red / Colorado Red: Similar to Krylon "Ballet Slipper" but a little darker.  Unpleasant color that covers poorly.

Devil Red: This color isn't red enough to be called red, nor pink enought to be called pink.  "Sickly Zit" might be appropriate.  Poor coverage.
Night Red: Almost black.  Goes great with black and white, really cool effect.  Covers well.
Magenta: Really nice magenta, between Erika and Purple on the chart.  Covers well.
Purple: Covers well.  Nice color, between magenta and violet.


Painter's Touch Hunter Green:  Beatiful dark green.  Makes a bright light green when sprayed lightly.  When stenciling, a light green halo follows the edges.

Krylon's Better Colors

Some Krylon colors are not good enough for the Hall of Fame but are worth pointing out because they're better than the usual Krylon.

Woven Tapestry



Leather Brown

Ultra-Flat Black
is more drip-resistant than usual for Krylon.

Other Krylon Colors

Bahama Sea is a great color, but the paint's not very good. Drippy/poor coverage.
Celery is an OK light color, compared to most of the other pastels which suck.

Rustoleum Black gets an honorable mention for being a good black as well, better than Krylon gloss blacks and equal with Krylon Flat Black.

Ballet Slipper: As the name suggests, this is a color you would never want or need.  Ugly and terrible coverage.

Tomato:  Horrible.  Drippy, bland, poor coverage, ugly.  Ugh.

Stonewashed Denim: A weak bluish-grey that doesn't cover.

Misc comments (to be sorted)

Krylon will never match up to the premium brands for typical types of work (opinions vary). However I feel that there is praqctical application for nearly any kind of paint. If the paint you are using is really runny and thin you can get really cool Shade/Hue effects by dragging that color over many other colors. Let's say you were painting a black and white character and could create varying shades of gray by puting more and more layers of white on top of the black. I have seen things done with 99 cent meijer paint that couldn't be emulated with molotow, because it is too thick.

Almond- I used this in place of white usually as it is much more opaque, has a hard clean outline, and fills in solid with a pink dot.
Bahama Sea- I love this color. Ufortunately it is a little watery. drips quite a bit and doesn't fill very solid. A great teal none the less.
Balet Slipper- Worst Paint ever. period. You'd be better off painting with some pepto bismol
Banner Red- n/a
Bistro- A decent blue paint, a little on the gray side however. medium opacity, I recall the outline splattering however.
Bright Idea- Second Best Yellow put out by Krylon. medium opacity, Unfortunately it is a little light. I really only found it useful for highlights.
Castle Rock-n/a
Celery- Really solid. I have used a ton of these cans.     Conclusions about paint brands

Belton Molotow:            The best paint out there.  Worth the sticker price.  Great in every way.
Spanish Montana MTN:   Excellent paint as well.  More affordable alternative to Molotow
German Dupli Montana:   Good quality paint, lousy evil lying company that sells it. 
Rustoleum:                   An American tradition.  OK paint from an anti-graffiti company.
Krylon:                         For some, Krylon is good enough.  It's not an artists' paint,
                                  but it's available where other brands aren't.


1.3     CAPS

Caps may be the most important tools of graffiti.  Without premium paint, a skilled artist can get by with cheap paint.  But without the right caps, painting can be frustrating and tedious.  Filling in large areas without a fat cap is painful.  Making precise outlines without outlines caps is unbearable: you have to cut back over and over again to get them right, unless you have a good outline cap.  Know your caps; they are essential to good writing.

People's style is influenced, to some extent at least, by the paint and caps they use.  But also, the paint and caps people use influences their style.  When people get comfortable with different types of caps, they get used to the technique of painting with those types of caps, and paint.  And just like a Rusto user will need to adjust to a Molotow can, a Black Micro cap user will need to adjust to a German Outline cap. 

How do you know what caps are good, and what caps are bad?

One obvious answer is to ask people.  The problem is, people tend to provide unhelpful responses, such as this:

Sample cap review (actual forum post)

ny thins - there fatter then u want personally i dont liek um buit some cat sware by them

pro skinnys- i love these caps there probably my second fav for thins

needle caps - there also pencil thin lines but i have never used them im tell u form what i have heard from sick writers that there good for thin lines but they also suck

rusto stock caps- man these caps are SO underrated there fuckin sick for sketches (frst outline) these are my third fav thin caps

montana hardcore stock tips- my fav's there awesome for sketch there SO sick

outline 2s- there better then the first ones

Not very helpful, huh?

So here, I've given as much information as possible, with detailed descriptions of tests with many brands of paint, and compaisons to similar caps.  Hopefully this information helps you choose your preference.

1.3.1     Disclaimer: Everyone prefers different caps

All artists have individual preferences about caps.  Some disagree strongly with one another.  Some have different experiences with the same caps.  It is up to you to decide which caps you prefer.  It's sort of like drummers choosing from the many different sizes and shapes of drumsticks to use; everyone has their own preference.

In many cases, superstition has as much to do with people's preferences as the actual performance of the cap. 

What follows is our test results of various caps with various paint brands.  Use this is as a guide, but for best results, see for yourself which caps you like the most.   Do some tests and write down your findings. 

You'll learn to prefer some caps over others.  And you probably won't agree with everyone else.   Even the pros have major disagreements pver product preference.  You'll have to learn what you prefer.

1.3.2    Terminology

Dot: The dot is the little piece on the front of the cap that the paint comes out of. 

Width: This is the most obvious parameter.  It's how wide your line is. The grey dot is the skinniest; the pink dot is the widest.

Hardness (or, "sharpness"): This determines whether you have a cap that distributes paint evenly across the line (hard), or one that puts more paint in the center and less paint on the edge (soft). The German caps (outline/pro/fat) are the hardest; the "dot" series is the softest. Also, the closer you hold your can to the surface, the harder the line gets. A black dot from 6 inches looks mighty soft, from 1 inch you get a much sharper line.

Soft edges are also known as "feathered" edges.

Weight: This is how much paint comes out. If a cap is too heavy, drips become more likely, but if it is too light, the colors beneath may show through (which is OK, if you're fading or blending). The brand of paint you use with your cap also makes a big difference--some paints can be light and drippy (really cheap brands often are) and some paints can be heavy and still not drip (Montana). But, all else being equal, the heaviest caps are the needle caps (we don't even carry these, they're so bad); Rusto Fats and Orange Dots are on the heavier side while the grey, black, and gold dots are probably the lightest.

Compatibility: This makes all the difference. If a cap doesn't work with your brand of paint, then what good is it? Some caps perform very differently depending the brand they're used with.

Regularity: Some caps with some brands produce funny non-circular shapes.  With calligraphy caps, it's intentional.  But if a cap makes an irregular shape, it's a bad cap.  Many stock caps with generic brands make weird irregular shapes.

Longevity: Some caps clog up more easily than others, and some paint causes caps to clog more easily than other brands.  Generally skinny caps clog faster than fat caps.  MTN paint seems to clog caps a little more frequently than other brands.

1.3.3     The caps

                         = favorites

Special Effects

Let us know if you have any further insight you could provide.  Ultimately, every artist develops his or her own preferences based on experience, and artists of equal accomplishment can have totally different opinions about which caps are better than others (just like musicians and their brand preferences.) The best way to find out which you like the best is to try everything and decide for yourself.

Bonus: A reader sent us the compatability notes for a Taiwanese brand of spray paint!

Writes the author, Beezari: 

Not every Taiwanese spray brand is compatible with any of these caps. In fact only one is - called P.P. Spray (or other, more expensive versions from the same vendor, huang-pin). All the others have "male" connector; therefore you can't get them to work, even if you tune it.

我們這邊有研究過外國賣的噴頭. 想要了解那種噴頭適合/不適合台灣作特噴漆. 所有的噴頭都是用P.P.噴漆試過的. 其他牌子的噴漆根本不適用.

[original article]

P.P. Spray.  What a name eh?!  I would buy it if it were available, just because it's called "P.P. Spray."

MTN Alien
MTN (Spanish Montana)
German Montana
P.P. Spray
(comments by Beezari)

German Outline (a.k.a. Skinny Banana, Sparvar Skinny)
The line is medium-thin, the edge is VERY sharp, the weight is medium.  An ideal outline cap.  Works great with  Krylon and Rustoleum, and OK with MTN.  DOES NOT WORK WITH MOLOTOW or GERMAN MONTANA.  These can be found in three different color schemes as pictured.  Their properties seem to be identical, but many people are superstitious about different colors.  Some artists swear by the grey model.  MTN America says the black ones clog less.  As far as I can tell, they're the exact same.

Doesn't work. Doesn't work.
Doesn't work. Not compatible. 不適合!!
Universal cap
This cap seems identical to the German Outline, except that it works with Belton Molotow and German Montana paint.

"Very good. very good fit."
(outline噴頭, 很好用. 線條很乾淨)
German Pro (a.k.a. German 2, Skinny Pro)  Unlike the German Outline, this cap works with Belton Molotow and German Montana, and for those brands, the line has the same properties as the German Outline above has with other brands.  Used with Rustoleum, Krylon, and Spanish Montana Hardcore, the line is slightly wider and softer than the German Outline. says that the black version is softer than the grey version, but I could not observe any difference between the two in side-by-side comparison tests with various brands.  I believe they are the same cap in two colors.  They make a very even coat, lending well to stenciling and dusting.

Unlike the German Outlines above, the edge is feathered (a little soft).

Rather iffy.  Reported to sometimes cause drips from the bottom of the cap into the top of the can.
"Not compatible"
 å¾·åœ‹æ¨™æº–. 不適合用.
Gold Dimpled Ultra-thin (a.k.a. Super Skinny #1, Super Skinny)  Yes we know it sounds silly to call it the "Dimpled gold dot" because "dimple" is a funny word to say, but we have to because otherwise it would be confused with the other Gold Dot cap described below. 

This is a very thin and light cap.  With high-pressure paint, it is no thinner than the above outline caps, but with lower-pressure paints it can create incredibly thin lines.  It can be used from very close range to get tiny little lines or from a little further for blending.  It is very versatile, but unfortunately, as ulta-thin caps tend to, it clogs easily.

In his movie "The Future of Graffiti," EAZ says that these are the only outline caps he uses.  He also says that the half-clogged gold dot cap (meaning this one, not the other below) is exceptional for getting the finest details.  It works with all major brands of spray paint.

Works poorly with MTN Hardcore for some reason.

Clogs / comes out wide

Very thin line. Good for details.

 ç·šæ¢å¾ˆç³». 喜歡

MTN Alien
MTN (Spanish Montana)
German Montana
P.P. Spray

Grey Dots (a.k.a. Super Skinny #2)  These caps are ultra-skinny like the Dimpled Gold Dot.  Sources disagree about which is skinnier.  It works great with Krylon, Rusto, Montana, and Molotow.  It is really light and thin, very useful all-around.

Compared to the Black Micro, it is about the same in width, but a little softer and lighter, perhaps making it better suited for drippy brands (these caps hardly ever cause drips). 
Black Dots    Black Dots are the same as grey dots, but just a little bit wider.  Black dots make good outline caps for large high-pressure cans, and also low-pressure cans.  Their spray is a little softer than the Black Micro, a little wider than the grey dot.  (untested)
New York Thin.  The New York Thin cap is known by many names.  New York Outlines, phantom tips, thins, micros, and skinnies. They are medium-thin, semi-soft, medium-weight.  They work well with Rustoleum, Krylon, and Montana Hardcore.  IT DOES NOT WORK WITH BELTON MOLOTOW.

A very good cap for fading and dusting. The shape is circular and the distribution is even, but it is not very thin, compared to the caps above.  It is a real middle-of-the-road cap, but it's more reliable than the stock caps on more generic brands of paint.  It works well with the cheapie brands.
Doesn't work. Doesn't work. Doesn't work. untested but probably incompatible
Black Micro (a.k.a. Molotow Super Skinny) works well with Spanish Montana (MTN), Molotow, and also with Krylon and Rustoleum.  With a black finish and a black dot, it definitely is the coolest-looking cap.  It produces a very thin line, but with a sharp edge and medium weight.  Great for doing outlines when you want something thinner than the German Outlines above.  We are suspicious that it might be identical to the Black Dot cap described below; tests are underway. (untested)
Needle Cap TO ANYONE I'VE EVER SOLD A NEEDLE CAP, I'M SORRY.  The needle cap is the worst cap ever made; in fact it's the only cap I hear people describe as "bad."  The spray is neither light nor thin; rather it is huge, ultra-heavy, drippy as hell, irregular, ugly, just plain terrible!

Perhaps they'd be good for making really wide lines, sprayed from afar.  Please let me know if you have a practical use for these caps.

Until I hear of one I maintain these caps are downright awful.  They do not work well with any brand of paint at all, unless you are going for the "ultra-drippy, ultra-sloppy look."

It's been suggested that the needle cap may work for mixing colors (see section 2.992) but I haven't actually tried it yet.

(untested but surely sucks)

MTN Alien
MTN (Spanish Montana)
German Montana
P.P. Spray

Gold Soft Cap (a.k.a. Outline Special)  This cap looks almost the same as the Gold Ultra-thin, but the hole on the dot is smaller.  This is a bad cap.  The spray it makes--with every brand tested, including Krylon, Rustoleum, Montana, and Molotow--comes out a very irregular shape, resembling outstretched talons or a footprint or something.  Other times it makes a "target" pattern.   It's a really weird shape, and while it might be cool for a particular effect, it's generally unhelpful.  Certainly this cap would not be a suitable outline cap, with any brand. It's billed as being "soft spray" but if you're fading or dusting, wouldn't you rather do it with an even cap like a New York Fat, German Pro, or Black Micro cap, held from further away?  This cap seems pretty pointless and also confusing for looking like the Dimpled Gold Dot above.


Silver Super Fat.  This is one of the most versatile caps out there.  It produces a wide line, wider than any of the caps mentioned above, with a sharp edge.  The coverage is an even perfect circle.  But with Montana and Molotow, you can actually make skinny lines with it by holding the can very near the painted surface.  With Rustoleum, the cap still works great for wide lines, but from close up, the line will be too heavy and drip.  With Krylon, the cap works OK, but beware of drips--the Orange Dot below may be a better choice.

Drips easily

Drips easily

"Sweet cap. I like it. Nice feet too." (款的.. 很適合)

Rusto Fat.  This is one of the most preferred fat caps.  The Rusto Fat is named after Rustoleum but works very well with other brands, including Krylon and Montana MTN Hardcore.  IT DOES NOT WORK WITH BELTON MOLOTOW, GERMAN MONTANA, OR ALIEN ART CONCEPT.  I do not understand why these caps are name-associated with Rustoleum; certainly they are not made by or for Rustoleum, though they do work well with that brand.  Compared to the New York Fat cap, it is heavier; better for fill-ins but not as good with slow and careful lines.  Compared to the German Fat cap, it is lighter, producing better results with the cheaper brands of paint.  The edge is soft.
Doesn't work. Doesn't work. Doesn't work. "Not very compatible" 不適合用的..
New York Fat.  The New York Fats produce a medium-wide, medium-weight, semi-soft line, much like the New York Thins but slightly broader.  The caps themselves look a lot like the NY thins, too.  To tell them apart, note the ridges: the Fats have wider ridges than the Thins.  Also, the very center of the dot looks a little different.  But the ridges are the easiest way to tell them apart. Same compatibility as the NY thins, but these caps will work with Molotow.  Compared with the Rusto fat below, these caps are a bit lighter.  They are good for large fades, and for making wide lines more slowly.

Had a rough edge.

"Suitable. I saw some NY thins which would not be compatible. This one is."

[The reviewer mixed this up with a NY thin--ed.]

MTN Alien
MTN (Spanish Montana)
German Montana
P.P. Spray

German Fat.  This cap produces a heavy-weight, sharp-edge, medium-width line.  It works well with Rustoleum, Montana, and Molotow.  It makes a wider line with Rustoleum and Montana than it does with Belton Molotow.  It works with Krylon, but tends to cause drips because of the output weight. untested

Drip prone

Drip prone
Astro Fat   One of the newest caps available, the Astro Fat is very wide, on par with the pink dot.  It is wider than the Silver fat cap above.  It works best with European brands like Montana and Molotow.  The coverage is uneven with American brands.  It is an interesting cap being clear but the pink dot seems to have it beaten in most respects.

Makes a "target"-like  dot when sprayed

Drip prone

Drip prone

Orange Dots   Orange dots are really versatile fat caps.  They are wider than New York and Rusto Fats, and about the same as Silver Super Fats.  Works well with all of the brands named above.  Compared with Silver Super Fats, the line is a little softer and lighter, and probably a better choice for American brands of spray paint. 

Makes a very irregular spray.  Created little parallelograms instead of circles

Very good fat cap. 線條很款. 超喜歡.
Pink Dots    Pink dots are the fattest cap available.  You can make lines 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in diameter. As you get closer, the weight can get very heavy.  Good for filling in large areas (or making giant paintings).  Works with all of the brands named here.  With cheap generic brands, you still get an even spray, though not as wide for some reason.

Not very good.  Makes a "target" shape and isn't very even.

In my impression, very much like orange dot. maybe fatter. 線條也很款. 超喜歡.
Special Effects
MTN Alien
MTN (Spanish Montana)
German Montana
P.P. Spray

Blue Soft Caps (a.k.a. Smooth Softs)  Blue Dots are made for stenciling. They produce a medium size line, of a regular circular shape, but the weight is not constant-- it tends to fill out the circumference and leave a light center.  This makes them really good for stencils, since you can get edges good without getting overspray.  Strangely, the width is narrow when used with Rustoleum paint.  With other brands, the spray is medium-wide.  Great for stencils, blends, and fills; poor for outlining.  Works with most brands.

Medium line. average quality.
 é©åˆ. 線條普通. 沒有很喜歡
White Calligraphy.  These caps have a special insert that creates a "linear" spray instead of the circular spray that the other caps have.  That is, the spray will be wide in one direction, narrow in the other.  The coolest part is that you can rotate that little insert so the line can be any direction you like--vertical, horizontal, or any diagonal.  Great for signing your name, or just creating cool effects.  This cap works with all of the brands named above, but the width of the line varies from one brand to the next.  It makes a very soft, thin line with Montana, a more medium line with Rusto, Molotow, and Krylon.
Prone to drips
(untested but probably same as Black Calligraphy)
Black Calligraphy.  This cap seems to be exactly the same as the White Calligraphy cap, but maybe a hair wider. 

Prone to drips

Nice. Doesn't dip. very clean line.
"書法" 噴頭. 很乾淨
Red Calligraphy.  This is the same as the Black and White Calligraphy caps, but the line is wider and heavier.  With Montana and Molotow you get a medium line; with Rusto or Krylon you get a very big line.  The two types of calligraphy caps are pretty similar with Molotow; with the others the difference is significant.

Prone to drips

Nice. Strong fat squary line. Dips abit. 紅色的'書法"噴頭. 不錯.線條很特別.

1.3.4     Compatibility

There are a few different valve systems that affect which caps work with what. 

There are "male cans" which have a stem sticking out.  All the caps above are for "female cans" which have no stem.  We've never used any paint with male cans before, so this is all we carry.  Anybody want to expand the segment above to include reviews of "females caps" for "male cans" email me.

Assume that these caps above only work with "female cans."

Of the caps above, some have stems that are too wide to work with some European paint, like Belton Molotow and Montana's Alien Art Concept line.  These include the German Outline, Rusto Fat, and New York Thin caps.  You can modify them with a knife so they'll work, but it'll take some trial and error to get the cut right.

Some caps just don't work well with certain brands of paint.  Refer to chart above.

1.3.5     The most popular caps

Not that it should matter, but as best I can tell, it's the New York Fat, Rusto Fat, German Outline, Orange Dot Cap, German Pro Cap, and Pink Dot Cap.
Of course, there are wide, difficult-to-explain variations from one retailer to the next, so this list may not be accurate.

Dirk - Wars - Kure

1.4     Markers

There are lots of different types of markers for different purposes. 

1.4.1     Terminology

Base: Like paint, markers can use all sorts of substances to carry their color, including water, oil, alcohol, latex, or even xylene.  Some markers use dyed ink, some use wet paint, other are pre-solidified oil paint.

Reservoir: Where the ink is kept.

Nib: The tip of the marker that gets soaked with ink and rub it on the surface.

Flowpen: A flowpen uses a little spring-loaded valve so that the ink or paint only comes out of the reservoir when the nib is being pushed down.  This is good for flow control, and for preventing the marker from leaking and making a mess when not in use.

1.4.2     Markers

On The Run Markers

OTR makes several different types of paint markers that aren't much different.  Just about all of them have a flowpen system and a .6-inch nib, even the ones that aren't called "flowpens."  Oddly, the markers that are labeled "flowpens" are different not because they are flowpens, but because their ink is semi-transparent.  Weird, huh?

OTR's come in two sizes, regular and pocket-size.  The "paint markers" (which are flowpens) contain paint and have little ball bearings in them; the "flowpens" contain dye with no ball bearings.  Both types are alcohol-based, both write great, and both come with great nibs.

The OTR nibs have a wide edge in one direction and a narrow edge in the other, with the edges sloped off so you can create a wide variety of effects easily.  Also, the nibs are the same on both sides, so if one tip gets blown out, you can reverse the nib and use the other one.

OTR's are also refillable.  The nib/flowpen part unscrews to expose the reservoir.

Montana (MTN)  Paint Markers

These markers are loaded with Montana paint.  The tips range from 1.5 to 5 centimeters wide (.6 to 2 inches).  They also have a flowpen system.  They work really well; the ink goes on really thick, but they go through ink fast.  Still, they do amazing work and they are refillable.

Uni Paint Markers

Uni paint markers have small tips, even the "broads" (which are a quarter-inch).  Uni's are oil-based and opaque.  They write consistently on almost anything.  The line is really clean, solid, permanent, and even, which makes them very popular.

Pilot Jumbos

Pilot Jumbo markers are permanent markers with big tips.  The Pilot ink is very strong and one of the most difficult to cover up.  The nib is really tough and takes wear-and-tear well.  On the downside, however, the nib is a very clumsy slanted-square shape that is difficult to make good lines with, and the ink smells disgusting.  There is no flowpen valve system, you just write. 

Deco Paint Markers

Deco markers write really well, but they are xylene based so they have a toxic stench to them.  But, they work great.  For best results see the "improving markers" secton below.

Prisma Color Paint Markers

I've only tried the silver chrome but it is sweet.  For best results fray the tip and squeeze the stem.

Solid Paint Markers

There are three popular brands of solid paint markers: Sakura, Mainstreak, and Markal.  Solid paint means that there is no drying time for the paint.  It also means the coat is heavy, and hard to paint over.  They are instantly waterproof as well.  They show up best on rough surfaces.  Unlike paint markers, the "nib" is the paint itself; the marker disappears as you use it.

Sakuras and Meanstreaks are almost exactly the same.  They have a knob on the bottom for extending the marker, kind of like lipstick and chapstick. 

With Sakuras and Meanstreaks, check the color under the cap before you buy them; a few colors are not portrayed accurately by the cap. There was one color (I think it was red) that looked really wrong.

Markal paintsticks are just like giant crayons.  Compared with the other two brands, the paintsticks are harder.  There is no knob; the casing is just loose cardboard and you just keep pulling the cardboard back as the marker gets used up.  They aren't as clean as the Sakuras or Meanstreaks but they are much cheaper.

1.4.3     Improving Markers

Fray the tip with a knife or key, so it's nice and wide.  Then squeeze the marker so a little dent appears. You can squeeze that to make the ink rush out.  On some brands like Gardencraft and deco, you can jam a needle into the middle of the tip, and the ink will gush.

Prismacolor silver paint marker before and after fraying the tip and squeezing a dent in the stem.

The "failed experiment to turn paint into ink" was from trying to cut open a can of paint and let the pressure seep out, then put the paint into a marker.  It was a disaster.  Spray paint retains that "fizz" really well!



The Techniques of Graffiti

In this part, we will cover some advice about painting your best.

2.1     Basics
     2.1.1     Practicing
     2.1.2     Sketching
     2.1.3     Basic Can Techniques
2.2     Painting Techniques
     2.2.1     Setting Up
     2.2.2     Outlining
     2.2.3     Filling
     2.2.4     Fading
     2.2.5     Shading and Highlighting
     2.2.6     3-D
     2.2.7     Touching up
     2.2.8     Characters
2.3     Tricks
     2.3.1     Making Stencil Tops
     2.3.2     Mixing Colors
     2.3.3     Touch-Up Colors
     2.3.4     Silencing Cans
     2.3.5     Cleaning Caps
     2.3.6     Making "Bling" Marks
     2.3.7     The Stencil Bag

2.1     Basics

2.1.1     Most Important:  Practice

Just as with every other type of art form, there is absolutely no substitute for pracice.  Practice all the time.  Find a spot where you can paint without risk.  Most cities have a few walls where people are always painting.  Sketchbook practice is great but you need to be able to practice painting in a comfortable environment where you're not looking over your shoulder every ten seconds. 

For best practice results, it's like with every other art form: pick something you want to work on, and focus on that.  Then pick something else, and work on that.  Instead of painting with nothing in particular in mind; you'll develop faster if you pick something you want to work on.  This is true with all art practice.

2.1.2     Sketching

Sketching is great both for practice and preparation.  Pieces generally turn out much better if you work from a sketch.  In a sketch you can easily look at the whole piece at once (as opposed to with a wall, you gotta stand back to see it).  There is no paint cost and you can do it in many situations, like riding a bus, in a boring class, at home, wherever. 

Keep supplies around, especially erasers and pencil sharpeners which I often find myself wishing I had.  Sketchbooks are better than regular paper for keeping your drawings organized.  Be very careful not to lose your sketchbook as you don't want it falling into the wrong hands. 

2.1.3     Basic Can Techniques

Before hitting a wall for the first time, it's good to fool around with a can for a bit and get accustomed to the different types of spray you can get.

Can angle:  There are many different ways you can hold a can and get different results.  Here are a few:

(almost) 90 degrees vertical. 

45 degrees vertical

60 degrees horizontal

The angle you hold the can has a big effect on the result.  It's hard to describe, but if you try the different angles you'll see what I mean. 

Distance:  Distance has a huge impact on what appears on the wall.  From close up, you get thin, sharp lines; from far away, you get gradual shading over a large area.  Again, it just takes practice to master the art of hold the can at the right distance, but be aware of how far from the wall your can is at all times, and your feel for it will develop faster.

Outlining:  Outlines are done from very close up.  You must keep the can moving to avoid drips, and you must keep the can at about the same distance from the wall all the way through the line, or else the line will look uneven.  A well-known trick to make outlining easier is to make no outline segment longer than a foot or so; that way you only have to do a little bit at a time and if you screw up it won't ruin the whole thing.  That's partly why graffiti letters always have so many vertices.

Cutting:  "Cutting back" refers to painting back over part of something.  Usually, it's when something oversprays, and you have to go back over it with the color it messed up.  Cutting back over solids is easy:  Your white background overlapped your black outline, so you cut back with the black, no big deal.  With fading and multiple colors though, it gets really tricky. 

Cutting Back: Intersections

When you must fix an intersection, it's better to do the sharpest angles first, then the straight lines.

The original: an intersection of three colors.

Then, you went and screwed it up completely.  How do you cover up this mess?
Obviously you will have to go back over it with all three colors.  But which should you do first?

You should always do the smaller, more delicate stuff first.  Heres why:
Scenario A: Easier line done first
Sceneario B: Trickier lines done first
Here, the artist starts by cutting back with the black.
Here, the artist starts by cutting back with the blue.
The black is followed by the blue. 
After re-doing the green, the green and blue are not even with each other against the black.
But, after re-doing the green, the green and blue are not even with each other against the black.
No matter; it will be corrected when cutting back with the black.
So, you have to go back over with the black again. 
So you see, you can save a step, thus time and paint, by fixing corners
before fixing the edges.  That may sound unimportant now, but in later examples
you'll see why this is a good practice.

Cutting Back: Fades

We start with a fade over black.

But because of an errant outline, now a chunk has to be done over.

You should always do the smaller, more delicate stuff first.  Heres why:

[not done yet]

2.2 Painting Techniques

2.2.1     Setting Up

Permitted walls/paid jobs

How you set up depends a lot on the environment.  If your painting legally, you want a set up that makes everything easy; if you're painting illegally, depending on how hot the spot is, you may be more concerned with making an easy getaway than anything else.  Either way, there is setup to be done and you should take your time getting everything the way you want it.

For legal pieces and paid work, you can keep a little pile of empty cans for cleaning out caps (see 2.995), a trashbag, respirator, several bags for various caps, box of gloves, dropcloth, tape, and box fan if you're painting indoors, tip jar if painting in a public place, boombox always helps the mood... all that shit.  Especially for paid work, acting like you're a professional with your set-up makes the custies confident.

You should also get some exterior latex paint (make sure it's exterior especially if you're painting outside--interior paint will crack over time) and a roller if the wall already has anthing other than one even color on it.  If you're painting indoors, a quick wipe with a dust rag can get a lot of dust off and make the paint stick better to the wall.  Dirt helps cause dripping and also makes little dots.  Get rid of the worst of it.  If you're painting outside it doesn't matter because the wind will just put particles right back on the wall.

If you're painting indoors, make sure all the building ventilation--air conditioner etc--is shut off in your area.  Otherwise the paint fumes will circulate through the system and stink for a long time.  Plus if you live in a building with other people like an apartment, the smell of paint will be fed to everyone else in the building.  If you're in an apartment, turn off the thermostat and set the fan to "auto/off."  Same thing if you're in an office or house.  You don't want your fumes being spread throughout the building long after you're done.  Open up all the windows and put fans blowing out the nearby windows.  If it's really cold outside and your paint is the type that freezes in low temperature, keep your cans in the warmest place you can find.

Painting in dangerous environments

If you're painting in a risky environment, concerns are very different.  You still definitely want to wear gloves and you should take your trash with you if you can.  You'll want to wear something with pockets, and a bicycle is recommended.

Your outfit matters too.  The best word for your outfit should be "ordinary."  This will help you avoid unwanted attention.

It sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but it's still worth pointing out, just to be sure everyone's aware of these precautions.

DO NOT PAINT UNDER THE INFLUENCE.   Alcohol is the leading cause of legal trouble.

2.2.2     Outlining

It's pretty common to do the outline first.
You could read a whole textbook about outlining techniques (if one existed) but here are the basics.  Everything else you'll figure out with practice.

It's best to outline first and last.  The first outline is where you set up the flow of your piece; you have to do it first so you know where your fills etc will go.  After you do the first outline, the fill, background, 3D, touch-ups, etc that you add are going to intrude on your original lines.  All of them will probably do that, so you might as well wait until all the other major parts are done before you re-trace your outline.  Otherwise, it'll be like, you outline, fill in, re-trace your outline, add shading and 3D and background, and then have to re-trace your outline again.  You might as well save time and paint by saving the re-outline for the end.

When outlining it's usually best to hold your can parallel to the wall and really close to it so the line comes out even and sharp.

The first outline is what really defines your piece more than anything else.  Take your time with it.  Work from a sketch for best results.  If anything looks wrong, just re-do it and then you can go back over the bad line with your fill or whatever. 

On the other hand, if you're painting illegally in a dangerous area, just outline with a fat cap and cut back to a thin outline with your fill.  This isn't the best way to do it but it's the fastest.

[not finished yet]

2.2.3     Filling

Filling is really easy if you know how.  The only thing to watch out for is not to mess up your outline by cutting in too badly. 

Use a skinnier cap to get right along the outline, with the cap turned 45 degrees away from it. 
Calligraphy caps can also be useful for getting into sharp corners.  Once you get that done a fat cap will fill in the rest quick.

[not finished yet]

2.2.4     Fading

Fading is blending one color into another.  It's used commonly in fills and very rarely in outlines (fading an outline is really difficult, tedious, and wasteful. 

Basically you just spray from far off the wall, to get a light spray, going over the area more toward the "goal" color than the original color.  You want a smooth transition as possible, you can always dust back with the "original" color if needed.

(this diagram was obviously made digitally, but the idea is the same)

Start with fills basically meeting each other...
Blend in a bit with one color...
Oops, blended a little too much..
Cut back with the other color...
Blend back again...
Once the outline is retraced, it looks tight

As you get better at it, you won't need to keeping cutting back and forth like that. 

[not finished yet]

2.2.5     Shading and Highlighting.

Shading is a similar technique to fading.  The difference is that shading is all about 3D.  You can use a darker color or black.  On white you can use a light color to shade. 

Highlighting is the opposite, you use white or a lighter color to show highlight. 

Highlights jump off the wall while shadows fall behind it.  You don't need to use either, but it looks really good when done right.  It makes things look 3D. 

Use sharp contrast makes the letters look "glossy," while subtle contrast makes them look smooth. 

[not finished yet]

2.2.6     3-D

[not written yet]

Touching up

[Not written yet]

2.2.8     Characters

[Not written yet]


2.3  Tricks

People have come up with many innovative techniques for desired effects.  Here are a few of them for your benefit.

2.3.1     Making Stencil Tops

You can turn the top of your can into a powerful new writing technology: An ultra-tiny yet bold line.  It is made with stencil technology.  An illustration pretty much explains it:

Basically, you turn the top of the can into a little stencil of a small hole, allowing you to make really tiny details.  Cut off the top of the top so you can press the cap.  Leave the whole circumference at the bottom so the top will still stay on the can.  For best results, use a light or bold but definitely skinny cap.  A fat cap will waste lots of paint.  Black dots, Black micros, grey dots, gold ultra-thins, and German Outlines all work well. 

Make sure you wear gloves though, because all the paint caught by the top can add up and drip on your hand.

2.3.2     Mixing Colors

1. Take some cans of paint, a "recipient" (which will receive the new color(s)) and any number of "donors" (which will be added into the recipient can).  The receipient must have sufficient empty room for adding the paint. 

2. Freeze the recipient. 

3. You need a tube to connect the recipient to each donor.  You can buy special "mixing caps" made for this purpose, you can use a needle cap, or you can just use the straw inside of a cheap pen like a Bic. 

4. Remove the caps from both cans.  Put the warm donor can on the ground and invert the cold can above it, and connect the tips via the pen tube.  Warm paint will shoot into the cold can.

5. Repeat with more donor colors if you want. 

6. When the frozen can thaws, shake and use.

2.3.3     Touch-Up Colors

Take an empty can, drain the pressure out for a while, then cut the top of the can off with tin snips, and you will find a little bit of paint left in the can that you can save and use for touch-up with a brush.  If you've ever worked at a restaurant cook, you know about using a spatula to get all that extra stuff out of tomato sauce cans and mayonnaise jars?  It's kinda like that. 

Even if you don't do brush touch-up (most people don't), you can surely still find some use for that leftover paint, right?

If nothing else, put that salvaged paint in a balloon and throw it at something.

2.3.4     Silencing Cans

Put a magnet on the bottom of the can to eliminate the sound of the peas rattling around.

2.3.5     Cleaning Caps

Just turn a can upside-down

Save a few dead cans of paint; they usually still have plenty of leftover propellant.  Just spray the propellant through a wet cap to clean it.  This way you don't waste paint as you would using a can that still has paint in it to clean your caps.

2.3.6     Making "bling" marks

You tap a can against a wall at a 90-ish degree angle so that the cap hits the wall.  It makes a quick little spray that makes a tiny line on the wall.  Then you turn the cap a bit and do it again, until you have little "bling marks" around the spot where you tapped the can.  Experiment a bit to get it to work right.

2.3.7     The Stencil Bag

This one was shown in the movie "Bomb the System."  Basically the stencil is the bottom of a shopping bag, so you can spray your message on the ground while appearing like you're just reaching into the bag (the smell is a giveaway, but it works well in suburban places where there aren't many people right near you all the time). 

Since it's hard to trace and cut out a stencil on a shopping bag, use a normal material to cut your stencil, then cut off the bottom of the shopping bag and tape your stencil onto the bag to replace it.  Nobody will notice that the bottom of the bag is different.

2.4     Stenciling

Stenciling is a whole other world of graffiti techniques.  Some graff writers look down on stenciling, but realize that this is just closed-mindedness.  You can do really cool stuff with stencils.

2.4.1     Best Stencil Materials

If you get your stencil from the Internet, print it on paper; otherwise, draw it on paper or the medium below.  If on paper, tape the paper to the medium below, and cut it out.

Precision-cut steel:  If you can get this, this makes the most rugged stencils of all time.  But you probably can't.  Still, if you know someone who's into welding, hit them up.

Machine-cut wood:  On a citizen's budget, probably the best you can get is a router with a jig that lets you move the router with control in any direction you want, for carving stencils into wood.  Again, this is something you probably need easy access to; building a machine like this is expensive and difficult.

X-ray paper:  For hand-cut stenciling, this is the best stencil material, period.  It's thin, but clear and really tough. I got some from someone who worked in a hospital, but you can probably contact X-ray paper companies.  HERE I found
25 sheets of 14"x36" (big!) for $50. Two bucks for three square feet of ultra-primo paper ain't bad.

Corrugated cardboard:  This is commonly used, but it's hard to cut clean lins through thick material.  They're durable but they don't make for intricate stencils.

Folderboard: That's my word for those "manila" folders.  These are probably one of the most common types of stencil material.  You can get 100-packs from office supply stores for cheap--$0.10 per folder or so. 

Cardboard (eg cereal boxes): similar folderboard above.

Nothing as flimsy as paper will last more than one or two applications.  Do not use paper for your stencil.  Cardboard is OK, tough paper is better.  Lamination material (eg transparency paper) makes great stencil stock.

2.4.2     Basic Stenciling

Basic stenciling is really basic.  You just cut out what you want to appear, on a piece of stencil paper.

Here on the left is a typical simple stencil.  With this stencil, you cut out the black parts, leaving the white parts remaining.  Then (duhhh....) you spray through the holes and voila!  Your stencil worked.

2.4.3     Adding layers for better stencils

One of the most common problems with stencils is that they get worn out and are no good anymore.  Often this happens because certain parts of the stencil are weak.

Here's an example of how you can solve this problem with layers.

Let's say we want to stencil this:

(Design from them out)

Now this stencil is black-and-white, but you know there's a problem.  The white flame goes all the way around the black flame and stick figure within, so if you cut it out, it would just fall out.

There are some bandage methods for solving this problem. 

Here the inside flame has been removed, but there is still an "island" as they call it--the stick figure.  Below we see the figure enlarged, and connected to the surrounding black area:

This is pretty clever for allowing the user to cut out the white parts without losing the burning man.  The problem is that once the white part is cut out, the man will only be connected to the rest of the paper by tiny connecting lines at his feet.  If these don't break right away, they will after a few applications.

The solution to this is multiple layers.

Check it out:
  Layer 1                      Layer 2                       Layer 3

This way you can create the stencil without using flimsy bridges:

   Layer 1                       Layer 2                       Layer 3

Note the "guide cuts" in the stencils for layers 2 and 3, shown here in red:


These "guide cuts" allow you to line up the stencil with pre-existing marks, and paint over them without harming the stencil image.  Being able to line up the stencil like this can make multi-layer stencils look much more precise.

2.4.4     Guide cuts

Guide cuts are very important for two reasons: they make your stencil much easier to line up, and they make it possible to line up your stencil in the dark.

The previous example shows basic guide cuts.  The parts shown in red are being painted the same color they already are--first in white, then black.  The advantage in having them is that it makes the stencil much easier to line up, especially in the dark when it would be almost impossible.

A great way to make guide holes is to simply put two dots in two places, in the same location on every layer.  When you do the first layer you spray the guide holes, then you line up the holes in subsequent layers and the result comes out perfect aligned if you made the holes right.

Two easy ways to get the holes perfect:

-Take an image on the computer that you're going to make into a multi-layer stencil.  Add the two dots to the image and cut them out for each print.
-Take at least two layers of a multi-layer stencil and line them up, then punch two holes with a hole puncher.  Then line up other layers with those and punch holes in the same places until they're all done.

2.4.5     Cutting into upper layers

It's key that you know you can cut out parts of lower layers that'll be covered up by higher layers.

Going back to the Worst President stencil above, we can see many parts that would be poorly attached.  So instead of simply cutting out the black, we do this:

Goal                                        Layer 1

Layer 2                                         Layer 3

  Now let's look at a multi-layer stencil...

2.4.6     Multi-Layer Stenciling

Multi-layer stencils take some thought.  Here we'll look at how to go about making a multi-layer stencil.

Start off with a picture, either something you made yourself or you found on the Internet:

Let's do this picture.

From the looks of it there are 7 colors:  dark brown for the hair and eyebrow, black for the pupil, light brown for the face, medium brown for the shadows on the face, white for the eyeball and pupil reflection, light gray for the shadow on the eyeball, and a light tan on the rim of the pupil.

To save time, we can get rid of the gray by making it light brown, get rid of the light tan by making that light brown as well, and making the black and dark brown the same color.  So we get this 4-color image:

Now we have four colors: white and three shades of brown. 

The next step is to determine the order to spray things.  The rule with stencils is: whatever is an island, the sea must be painted first.  So for instance, the white is what we would call an "island" surrounded by the light brown mostly and also the black.  So it would make sense to paint the white last. 

Using your paint program (most use Photoshop; I prefer Paint Shop Pro) make several duplicates of your image file (use 'Save As...'), then take one and paint over everything except your boundaries so you have a cut sheet:

Then print it out.

Now we've got a stencil for the top layer.  Since this stencil works well being used last, it doesn't matter what's under it.  This is important when we create the stencils for lower layers.

There are three other layers: light brown, dark brown, and black.  What is the best sequence?

It's better to do seas before islands.  Since the dark brown is mostly inside the light brown, we should probably do the light brown first.  Same with the light brown versus black.  The black isn't all "islands;" in some cases it goes to the edge.  But some black is surrounded by light brown, whereas no light brown is surrounded by black.  So light brown should be used before black, and before dark brown.

When we look at the light brown part, we see that a lot of colors are contained within the light brown, and all of them will be added on top of the light brown. 

So making the light brown stencil, we can run over all of the guidelines for colors that will be sprayed over the light brown later.  So we get this:

The light brown part is the part that's cut out.

Really, it isn't even necessary to use this layer.  Since the black and dark brown and white define the boundaries, you could simply spray an area bigger than the stencil in light brown.  But this way it will make a neat square shape.

The next layer: dark brown or black?

We know that light brown should be the lowest layer and white should be the last, but which should be second and third: dark brown and black or the other way around?

It could be done either way.  But remember that layering is best when done back to front.  The eyebrow and the hair are casting the shadow, so doing the darker brown first is to paint the image back-to-front .


The stencil, complete

(white patches are paint program error...)




Here I review some graffiti products.

3.1     Paint

See somwhere in Part 1...

3.2     Caps

The caps are reviewed above in section 1.3.3

3.3     Instructional Videos

It's truly appalling how little instructional materials there are for spray paint art.  I haven't seen even one graffiti magazine that features one single instructional section.

This is a million-dollar idea you will probably steal. Just remember to thank this document for the idea, asshole.

3.3.1     Graffiti Verité 4

About the best thing I can say about this video is that it's the first instructional video released to my knowledge.  That's about it though.

The film is directed by Bob Bryan of the GV series, or as he insists on being called, "award-winning director Bob Bryan."  He didn't win any awards with this film, which features almost a full hour of SANO "teaching" techniques.

SANO is a total pussy who sounds like he's never painted a piece without permission in his life.  He says he's from Cleveland.  I can't believe he hasn't been shot. 

His techniques, in a nutshell:

-Sketch something first.
-Wear a respirator.
-Always paint legally.
-The "stencil top" trick in section [number].

It's hard to imagine an instructional video being less instructional.  Mostly it's just SANO talking about how cool he is and what you can see him doing.  He hardly analyzes his technique at all; aside from really basic stuff, like painting your outline first.  He doesn't talk about stroke techniques, he doesn't talk about tools (other than the stencil top), and he doesn't talk about letter style except to explain that the crappy letters he paints are called "semi-wild-style."  Nothing about how he designs them, not that anyone could have learned much with such crappy letters. 

He spends the first part of the movie painting a piece with his name, and an atomic bomb explosion on the left of it, and a female character with weird sci-fi wires coming out of her on the right.

He talks about "artistic inspiration" like an idiot.  Which is what you'd expect, since his "burner" makes no artistic sense.  Atomic bomb-->SANO-->black woman with exaggerated lips.  Really fucking deep.

The dumbest part is SANO talking about his "classical" influences, where he cites "Leonardo Da Vinci" and "Michelangelo" first.  Somehow I get the feeling he's talking about the ninja turtles. 

After painting his piece--which doesn't come out all that bad, apart from clichéed graphics and boring letter style--he shows you how to paint on a canvas.  Great!  Like graffiti writers want to learn how to paint on canvas. 

For his work he chooses a black-and-white portrait of Tupac.  He screws up the eyes and points out the screw-up and never fixes it.  He does make a cool bandana using the stencil-top trick.

You can learn more about graffiti with 20 bucks worth of paint than with this video.  Leave it alone.

3.3.2     The Future of Graffiti

Now THIS video is BAD ASS.  EAZ is such a G one might forget to pay attention to all the lessons he covers.  He made the entire film--writing, directing, painting, narrating, soundtrack, and computer animation.  What a bad motherfucker!  He covers a lot--sketching, letter style, caps, preparing a wall (unlike SANO he explains what paint and rollers are good and what isn't), outlining, linear perspective 3D, drop-shadow, dusting, cutting back, characters--everything.  And he does it with attitude, unlike that pussy SANO who can't paint without a respirator.  Everyone I know who's seen this movie made badass sketches right after watching it. 

As if the hour of good instruction wasn't enough, he also throws in another hour of interviews with the hottest writers in New York. 


3.4     Action Videos

Plenty of these...

3.4.1     War: Fuck the System

Graffiti and titties.  Also some skateboarding and bumfights.  Even if that's what you're looking for, everything this film has "War 2" does better, so you might as well get that instead. 

3.4.2     Write and Unite

Lots of really nice pieces from all over the world featured in this video.  This film does a great job of capturing the global graffiti scene, with footage from everywhere and everyone.  Mostly shots with little live action, but the pieces they capture are phenomenal.  Dozens and dozens of burners.  Good soundtrack except every chapter has the same footage and sound sample to introduce it, which gets annoying fast. 

What put me off was that the film was sponsored by Dupli-Montana, who as I explained earlier is the biggest criminal in the world of graffiti for stealing MTN Montana's name.  Not only does Dupli-Montana feature prominently in the film--including many shots of the paint being bottled at their plant--but they show footage of deliberate attempts to confuse the two brands.  In the worst shot, Dupli-Montana has put out posters with MTN Montana cans on the posters! 

Because of Dupli-Montana's copying, the two companies are both spending money on court battles, which contributes to the price of the cans that we all pay.  Fuck Dupli-Montana.

Aside from that, this is a pretty good movie; short on knowledge but very nice on the eyes.  (70 minutes)

3.4.3     The Art of Storytelling

Almost entirely live-action footage in New Jersey.  Gets into the history of NJ graffiti culture, shows lots of people writing, good soundtrack as well.  Not very good pieces, lots of guys just scribbling shit.  It's alright, but not very attention-keeping unless you're into New Jersey graffiti history.

3.4.4     Graffiti Verité 2: Freedom of Expression?

The first 15 minutes of this movie, I thought my stereo was broken.  You know why?  THERE'S NO FRIGGIN SOUNDTRACK.  The film consists of artists pontificating about how great graffiti is, mixed with shots of their artwork.  And if nobody is talking, there is no sound.  I couldn't stand the film until I put an instrumental album on another stereo to fill in the background.  After that it wasn't so bad. 

There are some great pieces, but the interviews with the artists are terrible.  Most of their opinions are well-articulated pointlessness; I swear there was not one piece of useful knowledge expressed in the entire film.  Combined with a total lack of soundtrack, this film is just awful to watch. 

There are some burners in the film; I'll give it that.  But it's not worth the price.

3.4.5     Graffiti Verité 3

No live action or narration, just shots of pieces and occasional quotes from big-name writers.  What makes this video good though is the soundtrack.  The music is very enjoyable and yet all obscure artists you haven't heard of, making it all the more interesting.  Apparently after GV2 everyone told the director he was an idiot for not putting any music on it, so he had to make a comeback.  This video might be worth the price just for the soundtrack.  Not very informative, not informative at all actually, but pleasurable to watch.  60 minutes.

3.4.6     Stockholm Subway Stories

This 53-minute masterpiece is 53 minutes of subways, with almost all of it shot live.  It features crews of 6 and more just covering subways and stations.  Entire trains are just covered in paint.  No crazy burners, some simple characters, but mostly gigantic crew pieces.  You also get to see some great fatcap action; lots of really big lines going up fast.  This one's worth the watch.

3.4.7     War 2: Based on a True Story

Graffiti, skateboarding, and titties:  that's about 90% of this movie.  The rest is people doing drugs.  There is no narration and rarely does anyone talk to the camera; it's just street life (one type of it, anyway) on film.  It doesn't glorify or condemn anything; it just shows what some people choose to do. 

There is a mix of time-elapse live graffiti footage and burner shots, and of really good graffiti and mediocre graffiti.  The skateboarding footage is shot really well; there aren't crazy tricks like you see in some skateboarding videos but this film is more about just capturing the moment as it happens.  Nothing is staged.

The soundtrack is excellent; it's got great tracks from a wide variety of genres and it always seems to fit the mood of the action on screen.

Overall this is a very good film and fun to watch, except the drug abuse shown in the film (not the drinking or smoking herb, but shooting heroin and dealing coke) shouldn't have been in there.  I'm not into censorship, but I'm not into bad taste.  It's like, first you see someone doing something cool, and then they're shooting dope.  It's sad.

Plus, the subtext that "this is what hard graffiti writers do" doesn't belong; if anything people should be trying to get hard drugs out of graffiti culture.

As for the graffiti, it's mostly shot after the painting is already done, but it's great stuff. 

The film is pretty cruel to women, as only "bitches" are in it (except one who is a writer). 

Graff Life 2

No special feautres.  Really good soundtrack.  64 minutes.  Not very good.

War 3
Exactly the same as War 2

Fuk Graff 2: Keeping It Moving  [no stars]

Now this is a shitty graffiti movie!  This is easily the worst film it has been my displeasure to review.  Everything about this movie is terrible.  I barely know where to begin.

Fuk Graff 2 has no interviews, no narration, little else but people painting with hip hop beats in the background.

What makes this video so shitty, more than anything else, is what they paint.  Toys, throw-ups, and scribbles are pretty much it.  There are a couple of characters but no burners, and all of the live graffiti is amateurs painting ugly black-and-white bubble letters.  No creativity at all, except for a couple of primitive characters and facile political statements. 

The soundtrack is hip hop beats, and nothing special in that respect either.

There's about one minute of writers talking about what they write, all of it totally inarticulate.

In the middle they throw in a couple of shots of sloppy tags on some girls' breasts, because after all, what graffiti video would be complete without objectifying women?

The film also has lots of technical glitches, especially with the soundtrack which skips from time to time, and on a few occasions the cameraman appears to be having seizures.

My recommendation, if you come across someone trying to sell this movie, is that you ask them, "Have you seen this movie?  Why would you sell this movie?"  If they say they have seen it and that they see nothing wrong with this movie, that is a sure-fire indication that the person you are talking to is dishonest.

The graffiti is dog ugly, the soundtrack is weak, the message is non-existant.  There is nothing original in this film at all, and again, I can't stress enough how bad the graff is.  Six-year-olds draw better.   Almost everything is black-and-white bubble letters.  The saddest thing is that they also show you some people's sketchbooks, indicating that they actually needed to put planning into their throw-ups.

The film is about one hour long and the only special feature is a 13-minute FOX News clip, minus the audio.  No voice, no music, the whole audio is missing on the special feature.

This video is phenomenally shitty.  I really didn't think anyone could get away with releasing a video that sucked this bad.

Piece by Piece

This video is among my favorites.  It's all about the San Francisco scene and Cali to a lesser extent, but the story is really well told by people who were there.  It's certainly more intelligent than most videos out there, and it comes with a great little full-color book too.  Something like 50 pages. 
The film covers murders of Dream and Tie (Tie killed by photographer who was exonerated by jury),  crackdowns and resurgence, wars with the city... it's a great film.  Lots of nice flicks as well.

3.5     Movies

3.5.1     Bomb The System

Ugh this movie SUCKS.  Our Hero is this guy named "Blest" whose big brother was killed by the cops.  He falls in love with a girl who makes stencils of "political" statements like "bomb the system" and his black mentor/friend gets killed by the cops in the end.  The film plays on every graffiti stereotype and "Blest" is a wasted loser and I forget if he keeps the girl by the end are loses her, but I don't care because he's a sad sack, as are all of the characters in this lousy movie. It took me a minute to think about it and realize how much this movie sucks.  If this is considered "glorifying" graffiti culture, I'm out.


Graffiti and the Law: What Everyone Should Know

If you spray paint at all, and especially if you choose to paint illegally, understanding this material is likely to make your future a lot better.  Yes, even if you strictly paint only legally, being found in possession of spray paint may lead to police harassment and possibly wrongful arrest or rightful (but avoidable) arrest. 

Know your rights and how to defend them.

More than any other part of this page, study this section well.  Memorize everything up to the part about court; you can go back and read over that later, if and when you have a court date coming up.

Getting busted is bad for your life, your career, and it's just plain humiliating.  If you write illegally, remember, "safety first" at all times. 

Obviously if you don't live in America the rules are different, but even still there are some tips here that apply everywhere.

Mandatory Disclaimer: "Since this concerns illegal activity, this information is for entertainment purposes only and I am not liable for you or your actions.  This is not professional legal advice."

4.1     Pre-Test

Before we begin, here's a quiz to see what you know:

1.  You're busted painting your usual name.  The police say they recognize the name all over town and if you admit it to them, you'll probably get a better sentence than if they have to bring it up in court.  What should you do?

A) Not say anything
B) Admit only to what you were busted doing
C) Tell them you won't confess now, but may after speaking to your attorney
D) Tell them you didn't do anything else
E) Confess but grossly lowball the number of tags you've actually done
F) Tell them thanks but you're not the one they're looking for

2.  The arraignment is your first chance to speak with your judge.

True or False

3.  You're pulled over and you realize that your backseat of your car has a dozen spraycans littered about and you have a bag in your pocket.  You know you were speeding but aren't sure if that's why you're being pulled over.  The officer is coming toward you; you crack the window and he leans toward you.  What do you say?

A) Is there a problem, Officer?
B) What can I do for you?
C) How fast was I going?
D) Hi.
E) Wait for the cop to say something

4.  You should NEVER run from the police.

True or False

5.  If the police fail to read you your Miranda rights, you can probably get your case dismissed if you do it right.

True or False

6.  You're facing one count of vandalism and plead "not guilty."  The judge says you can either hire an attorney, or if you cannot hire one, the court can appoint you one, or you can defend yourself without an attorney. 
You don't want a trial; you just want to get off with a minimal sentence.  You can afford a lawyer but you don't want to pay the cost.  What should you do?

A) Hire your own lawyer
B) Get the public defender (the court-appointed lawyer)
C) Go it alone

7.  If you've been pulled over, an officer can search your vehicle at any time.

True or False

8.  Your school security guard searched your bookbag and saw your sketchbook.  He showed it to the principal, who's now blackmailing you with hard detention under threat of informing your parents and the police.  What should you do?

A) Do what the principal demands, and don't get the police involved.
B) Call the police and tell them your psychotic principal stole your sketchbook and is blackmailing you.
Tell your parents that your psychotic principal stole your sketchbook and is blackmailing you.
D) Challenge the legality of the search with the superintendant and threaten to sue.
E) Defy the principal and let him do what he will.

9.   If an officer asks in a demanding voice to see your ID, you should give it to him.

True or False

10.  Pleading guilty at your arraignment will get you a lighter sentence than changing your plea later.

True or False

4.2.1     Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

produced by the Flex Your Rights Foundation
and the American Civil Liberties Union

This film is essential.  Everyone in America should watch this film.  I can't stress it enough.  Watch it.  Watch it.  Watch it.  It kicks ass.  It may save your life.

The film analyzes three scenarios: a traffic stop, a street stop, and a house visit.  In each, the police arrest somebody who doesn't know how to defend his or her rights, followed by an analysis of what they did wrong and then a re-take where they exercise their rights and send the police away.  The street stop features a graffiti-related scenario where a guy gets arrested for having some cans and a sketchbook.

4.2.2     Avoiding Police Encounters

Rule Number One: Do not drive.  If you don't like police encounters, you'll hate cars.  There is nowhere that your rights are at greater risk.   You can be legally stopped, searched, and checked for warrants for no reason.  A car is an investment of time and energy that rarely pays off.  Let your wannabe-baller friends drive you around and drop you off.  Cars + illegal graffiti = stupid:  Car chases always end in disaster.  A bike is a quick and maneuverable vehicle.

Rule Number Two: Know your area.  Note where police will most likely arrive.  Note every feature of the area.  You are a ninja.  Note the environmental factors and what else might be happening in the area.  Police are busier some nights than others, note all possible conditions.  Especially the weather; it is aggravating to paint in rain or snow but you are way less likely to be seen because nobody likes being out in rain or snow.

Rule Number Three:
Do not drink.  Painting While Intoxicated (PWI) is a leading cause of busts.  Don't take this needless risk.

Rule Number Four: Don't dress like a thug.  If you are a thug, wear a college-student disguise.  Dress for practicality.

Rule Number Five: Leaving print-ridden cans, if you've been printed before, is like signing your name on a bag of weed.  Take empty cans with you if possible.

Rule Number Six: Be quiet.  So many people get busted for being loud and obnoxious.  It's so stupid it's pathetic.  I was at a parents-away house party once where people started setting off firecrackers on the deck and of course the police raided the place. 

It may help to use magnets to silence your cans.  Most hardware stores have these really strong O-shaped magnets for only a few dollars that you can put on the bottom of the can.  The ball-bearing in the can will stick to it and make no noise; this is useful if you are carrying a rattling backpack and don't want to sound suspicious.  See 1.1 for the cat o' nine cans.

Rule Number Seven: Plan ahead.  What will you do if a police officer approaches you?  Decide ahead of time. 

Can you run? Should you run?

It depends really.  Sometimes you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by running.  Other times it's the opposite. 

First of all, it depends who you are.  If you have a long relationship with the police, and they know who you are, running will just get you in trouble.  If you live in Philadelphia or Los Angeles and you are black, you could get shot for running.  On the other hand if you're some kid in a suburb, and you have a route planned, or even if you don't, you might be able to get away and not face anything worse if they catch you.

Unless you're a wanted person, chances are the cops won't chase you too hard if you were only caught writing. 
After all, you have much more incentive to get away than they have to bust you.  If they get you, you will probably not get any more charges for running than not running, and even if you do, judges generally sentence people according to their whims and don't care whether it's for one charge or two.

If you lose the race: surrender with dignity and put your hands up.  Fighting back at that point could be multiple felonies or you may even be killed.

Rule Number Eight: Know your friends.  It sounds silly, but if you're going painting with someone else, practice role-playing a police encounter with him/her, with one being the cop and the other being either of you.  Don't joke around; this is important practice.  Also if you paint with someone else, talk for awhile and be sure you're both really clear about what to do in a police situation: if you both get busted, they will question you in isolation and tell each of you "your friend already ratted you out so you better tell us the truth" but they lie.  Know that your friend will respond in the same way as you.

4.2.3     Rules of Engagement: Police

We'll get into police situations, but first, there are some thing you should always keep in mind.

1) Do not incriminate yourself.  If you say anything that could possibly incriminate you, it will be seized upon.  No matter what, never admit to anything they accused you of at the scene.  If you are directly accused of committing a crime, the best answer is a polite brush-off or denial.  If you are asked for specifics, be unable.

Just so you realize how important this is:

I just read a story from a guy who got caught trying to burn down a military recruitment center.  He recounts that he knew the rules about not incriminating yourself, so he had several conversations with the police, and later, the FBI, and he just kept saying nothing except about how he needed to talk to a lawyer before saying anything.  After long enough though, the FBI wore him down and he slipped that he had done it. 

In his article he said he really learned his lesson about doing that: it became a HUGE effort in court later for him to establish that he only confessed under duress.  And he was lucky, he had a hotshot civil liberties activist lawyer, not some court-appointed bozo.  If he hadn't gotten a good lawyer, he would have been fucked, mandatory minimum five years. With his hotshot lawyer he got the charge reduced to "malicious mischief," no mandatory minimum. 

If you incriminate yourself at the scene; you're going to jail for sure.  Don't do it.

2) There are two ways to remain silent, and you must use the right one at the right time.
  Before you are arrested, you can say, or not say, whatever you want.  But saying "I choose to remain silent" at this point would be a bad idea: since you haven't been charged with anything, you don't need to be clear that you're exercising your right.  If anything that would just be suspicious.  The best way to remain silent before arrest is to politely ignore the questions.  "Look, I don't have time, I have to go," you can say that and walk right on your way, and the police can legally stop you only if they have probably cause.

If you don't have the nerve to verbally block the police, at least be totally unhelpful: evasive, vague, confused.  "I don't know anything about that" is a good response.  Don't worry if it's proven later that you did know something about it; you can always say you didn't understand the question at the time.

After you are arrested, this is when you say, "I choose to remain silent."

3) The police are not the prosecutor.  The police may threaten you will 999 counts of graffiti, but they absolutely cannot issue such a charge.  Police cannot charge you with a crime that they did not witness.  Only the city or state attorney can do that, perhaps following an investigation.  Understand that the police and prosecutor are totally different, and they don't communicate with each other very much.  Regardless of the police's threats, you will not be charged with multiple counts of graffiti unless the city (or state) does so.  And if they do, you will still have the opportunity to bargain about that later.  Police are not detectives.  They're usually just beat cops.  If you get busted, hold your tongue until court.

4) Do not EVER confess ANYTHING to police.  I'm re-stating this because it's that important.  You confess to a judge, never to police.  Even what you're caught red-handed doing, don't admit to it.  They're going to arrest you anyway, so no sense giving them the satisfaction of a confession.  If they ask questions to elicit a confession, like, "how long have you been writing for?"  instead of giving them a positive or negative response, give them a useless one, like "I'm not an artist!"

The police are out to get you.  Any semblance of friendliness is a fraud.  If they ask you something politely, recognize this as a psychological technique to get information out of you, and react appropriately. 

5) Convince yourself that you're innocent.  Police are really keen about twitches, mumbles, signs of lying, fear, and dishonesty.  When they sense your weakness they get vicious.  What I do is imagine myself as a 50-year-old bourgeois man and react as that type of person would.

Don't just act innocent, be innocent.  This is the Jedi mind trick:  convince yourself that these cops must have you confused for someone else, and make each response from that angle.  This is especially important for dodging multiple counts, which I'll be detailing below.

Deliver vague and evasive responses, and make sure you say them in a respectful, reasonable voice, not a defensive one. 

Talking is bad.  Do as little of it as possible.  Speak only when spoken to and keep your answers as brief as possible.

Be stupid.  You don't understand, you don't know what they're talking about, you're confused: all of these are great responses that you bear zero liability for.  It also makes you frustrating to talk to, and they'll give up sooner. 

Politeness is good.  They know you hate them so there is no reason to show it.  Anger, indignation, even speaking loud will make them more likely to abuse you.

Evasive answers are the best answers.  It's like staying silent but without letting them know you're staying silent.  If the cops push an issue you've tried to evade, give the no.

Specific answers are the worst answers.  Every specific answers gives them a new line of questioning. 

4.2.4     Talking to Police

Read this many times, commit it to memory, and do lots of research about your rights and how to handle a police encounter.  Research is easy thanks to Google.  This is crucial.

-Do not talk to the police.  If they catch you they will pressure you to tell them your moniker, your address, all sorts of information that you do not want to give them and can only work to your disadvantage.  You do not have to tell them anything.  This sounds great but in practice it is not easy to tell big men who have you in handcuffs that you refuse to answer their questions. 

The best way to get around it is to blame somebody else: "Look, I have to talk to my lawyer before I say anything, that's what he told me."  Say this even if you don't have a lawyer; it can not be held against you and the police will immediately be less abusive as soon as they realize that they're dealing with someone who knows how to defend his or her rights.  But, the police will use any line to persuade you to give them information.  DON'T. 

[the rest of this section is yet to be written]

4.2.5     Arrest

After being arrested:  Do not talk to the police on the ride to jail, either.  Do not talk about anything, least of all graffiti.  If the police ask obviously probing questions like "how long have you been writing?" don't give them some smart-ass response like "since I was 5," don't give a defensive answer like "tonight was the first time," just tell them that you're pretty sure that your lawyer told you not to answer questions.  If the police start telling you that your lawyer is giving you bad advice, reply by saying that even still, you need time to think about.  The "I need time to think about it" is a great deflector when used appropriately.

Sometimes police will try to ease you into talking by asking innocuous questions.  The trick is that when they start asking the probing questions, it becomes awkward to suddenly be silent.  The best defense is to either give them boring, worthless answers to all of their questions, or deflect the question completely.  The worst thing to do is give unnecessarily elaborate, revealing answers to their questions.  Some people try this because they think that cops will be nicer if you are friendly and cooperative.  In reality it makes no difference and often works against you.

Bad Conversation
Good Conversation
Them: So, are you in school?
You: Yeah, I'm in college.
[You've just revealed a vulnerability]
Them: You go to the community college, or the university?
[And now you don't want to lie to them or suddenly stop talking, so you give up even more]
You: I go to the community.
Them: That's cool, I went there a long time ago.
You: Yeah, it's a nice place.
Them: Did you think about how getting busted for writing graffiti would affect your academic career?
You: Well, hopefully it won't be too bad.
[Oops!  You have now implied your guilt; this will be held against you if you plead not guilty later.]
Them: So, are you in school?
You: I'd rather not discuss it.
Them: Why not?
You: I just don't feel like talking.
Them: Are you ashamed of saying something?  Did you drop out?
You:  You're making me feel less like talking.
Them: Hey look kid, we're trying to help you here, we want to understand where you're coming from.
You:  Sorry for doubting your concern, but I have to wait until I speak with my lawyer about this.

This "good conversation" is really too brash; really you should just parrot "my lawyer said not to talk" over and over, and nothing else.  You have nothing to gain by saying anything at all. 

Also, the idea that "you have a lawyer" makes the police a little more careful about respecting your rights.

Some police are decent (if brainwashed) people and will be respectful of you asserting your rights.  Others are violent racist dimwitted goons.  If you get beaten up and have any visible marks from them, you should most definitely do anything you can to get photos of yourself before the wounds heal, and plead NOT GUILTY and demand a trial by jury.   It's hard to get photos of yourself in jail; since bailout is rarely a feasable option you will have to come up with something clever.  Anybody you call or write to, mention the wounds in detail and ask them to call every lawyer in town about taking the case.  Some may do it on contingency (free if you lose) if the evidence is available.

4.3 Court

There are so many possible paths to court that it's difficult to cover every scenario.  But there are a few common ways:

1) You get arrested in the act of committing a crime, and you're kept in jail until your arraignment
2) You get arrested at some sort of stop, for having a warrant, and are kept in jail until your arraignment
3) You get caught in the act of committing a crime, and you're given a ticket with an order for an arraignment
4) You are visited at your home and arrested, and kept in jail until your arraignment.

Of all of these ways, number 3 is definitely the best.  Being in jail really sucks, but the worst is that you don't have access to essential resources to prepare for the battle ahead.  Worst of all there is no Internet, plus it's almost impossible to get ahold of anyone.  Even if you get a lawyer to help you, you will still probably come to court with certainty about what will happen.  Typically when you get a lawyer he'll just get all the details of your story and that's the last you see of him until court.  He may think that's OK, but you really need to know what to expect at a court.  Read on.

4.3.1 English and Legalese: Two very important languages

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you master the English vocabulary.  No matter how rotten your education was, being able to say what you need to say is so important in life that you must educate yourself with or without school. 

I once knew a guy who was given a ticket for an "unregistered bike" in a city whose ordinance said that "all city residents are required to register their bikes at the time of purchase."  The guy was from another state, and riding a friend's bike, so clearly this law could not apply to him at all.  Nowhere in the local bike law was it stipulated that anyone had to prove themselves to be the owner of a bike, and there was no law for pertaining to bike ownership for non-residents.  But the cops suspected the bike was stolen, stole the bike from him (hypocrites), and gave him a ticket anyway.  In court, the guy couldn't explain anything--he was a real thuggish type--and he was forced to pay the fine anyway.  Don't let this be you.  If you get fucked over by the cops you deserve to prevail in court, but you won't be able to if you can't state your case.  For your own sake, learn the ability to state your case.

The judge does not speak "thuggish."  Judges only speak Legalese English.  View learning to speak like a privileged white boy as a survival skill.  No matter where you grew or how your friends expect of you, practice talking as articulately as possible.  It's not treason, it's not sucking up to the boss man, it's just being prepared.

Learning Legalese is also very helpful in legal matters.  Legalese is not a huge vocabulary, but everything is very precise, and the meanings of words are very specific.  This is most important when arguing legal matters.

For example, I was once given a noise violation, and ended up in trial by jury.  I was charged with two "either-or" counts, meaning I could be found guilty of one or the other count, but not both.  Weird, right?  I'd never heard of any such "either-or" method of prosecution before, but the judge and the prosecutor treated this like a legitimate practice, so I assumed it was.  My ticket was for one infraction of one subsection of the city noise ordinance.  The prosecutor proposed additionally putting an "either/or" charge for violation of a second subsection. 

Was the "either/or" charge legitimate?  In a way, no, but in a prevailing way, yes.  See, there is no such thing as an "either/or" charge, but the way it's explained is that the noise was a violation of an ordinance, one subsection or the other.  Thus if I was found guilty of violating either subsection of the ordinance or both, it would still just count as one violation of the ordinance.

If that was difficult to comprehend, you see why Legalese is tricky.  In my trial, I had to convince the jury that I could not be found guilty on either of the two subsections of the noise ordinance I was held for.  One subsection forbid any noise that a neighbor complains about, and the other forbid any noise after 10pm.  To defend myself I had to show the jury exactly why I couldn't be found guilty of violating these two laws.

And I couldn't do that without fully understanding what the law said, and being able to explain that to the jury.

Learn these two languages as best you possibly can.  It will make a lifetime of difference for you to be able to defend yourself in court.

The noise ordinance I was charged for violating can be viewed hereNotice how difficult the language can be in certain places.  Section 9:362 says, "
It shall be unlawful for any person to create, assist in creating, permit, continue or permit the continuance of any unreasonably loud, disturbing, unusual or unnecessary noise which annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others within the limits of the City of Ann Arbor."  Quite a catch-all eh?  So to prove myself "not guilty," I basically had to prove a reasonable possibility existed, that my noise wasn't annoying anyone.  I'll talk more about this story later...

4.3.2     If you go to jail

Looking at the four scenarios at the top, scenario 1 is the worst because you'll be presumed guilty for being "caught in the act," and because you'll be in jail up until arraignment.  In scenario 2 and 4, a warrant has been issued for your arrest, perhaps because someone snitched on you or something, but no matter what the case against you will be much weaker since you were not arrested on the scene. 

If you get arrested, obtain a pen and paper as soon as you can and write down everything you can think of that will help your case.  Detail everything you remember for later, as specific as possible.  Names, times, and places are absolutely critical and write down everything as best you can.  DOWN TO THE SMALLEST DETAIL. 

Getting a lawyer?

Unless the police have committed an atrocity, like beating the shit out of you and slapping a "resisting arrest" charge on you, don't even bother.  Public defenders are totally useless and incompetent; good lawyers are more money than they're worth.  You will have to defend yourself.  This sounds harder than it actually is.  If you are familiar with courtroom procedures, you have a good chance at getting the least punishment possible.  In a trial, a lawyer can be helpful, but for what you'll be going through--mostly bureaucratic bullshit--a lawyer is worthless if you know what you're doing.

With your phone call, call someone who can and will do their best to help you.  Call a family friend, not an ordinary friend.  Give them contact info for anybody who could possibly contribute to your case in any way.  If the case goes to trial, your friends may be able to testify on your behalf, if they are willing to.

Words to Keep In Mind Waiting In Your Cell For Arraignment

During your wait for the first court appearance, no doubt your mind will race through endless speculation about what will happen when you go to court for the arraignment. 

Focus on this:

Plead not guilty, ask to be released on your own recognizance, giving every legitimate reason that you can. 

Being released on your own recognizance means that you get out of jail.  This is the ultimate goal of the arraignment: getting you out.

4.3.3    Talking with the prosecutor.

Probably even before the arraignment, the prosecutor (typically the city attorney) will "make you an offer" whereby if you plead guilty, you will get less punishment.  Perhaps the prosecutor will say that you are facing 99 counts of vandalism (since you were caught tagging a moniker that could be found in 98 other places) and offer for you to plead guilty to 5 counts, if they drop the other 94.  Perhaps the prosecutor will say that you will be charged with Malicious Destruction of Property (a felony) but they will drop that if you plead guilty to Vandalism (a misdemeanor, in some places).  If you don't speak to the prosecutor before the arraignment, this sort of offers, known as a "plea-bargain," will probably made at the arraignment. 

It's rare for a prosecutor not to make some sort of plea-bargain offer.  Prosecutors would rather nobody took anything to trial, since a trial is a risk and an expense.  If you're convicted by trial, judges often lower the fine (which the prosecution gets) so that fines plus court costs equals the same amount money that the fine was in the first place.  "Court costs" are kept by the court; they don't go to the prosecution (eg the city), and jail time costs the government money.  Prosecutors are bound, by the rules of the American Bar Association, to represent their clients' (governments') interest, which means they are required to do whatever will benefit the state the most, with no regard for the carriage of actual justice.  This is, of course, totally inhuman, but lawyers aren't.  So prosecutors love making plea bargains: no trial, no fuss, no muss.

However, a plea bargain is just that: a bargain.  Prosecutors are masters of intimidation; do not believe them when they say "we could get you on 99 charges" unless you really think they could.  I have heard from people who were busted in small towns, that even though they were certainly not the only one painting illegally, they were the first ones caught, and the prosecutors planned to pursue charges against them for every single piece in the city, including the ones they weren't responsible for. 

Think very hard about what the prosecutor is telling you when he says "I can get you for 99 counts."  To pursue 99 charges of graffiti writing before a jury means proving each and every charge.  Now first of all, any graffiti done on private property cannot be pursued unless the victim presses charges.  So say 1/3 of the illegal tags the government says you did were on government property, and 2/3 were on private property.  That means 1) The government would have to contact 66 people to ask them if they would like to press charges.  For most business owners, the graf has already been covered up, they probably didn't think to take a photo, and testifying would just be an unnecessary chore.  Just contacting 66 people would take a cop two full-time days at least, plus they would have to take photographs of the damage.  Most business owners don't even report grafiti incidents.  And, the prosecutor would still be basing every single case except the one where they busted you on the tenuous notion that only one person could be tagging that name. 

The government of Queensland in Australia reports that: "
In Queensland during 2000, over 1800 graffiti offences were reported and more than 400 offenders successfully prosecuted."  This means that the maximum possible average number of reported offenses an illegal writer commited was only four.  If any fewer than every single writer in Queensland was convicted, the number only drops lower.  The fact is that graffiti is not widely reported.  If the prosecutor says he can get you on every instance of graffiti in the city, he is lying.

Plea Bargaining Rule Number 1

Do not admit you are guilty during the bargaining.

This can be extremely tricky to do yourself.  You have to be really careful.  The problem is that your plea-bargain chat is admissible, theoretically.  It rarely comes up, but it could. 

The trick is to keep it in your mind that you are innocent and that you would only plead guilty because you don't want to suffer the risk and expense of proving your innocence.

At all times, argue from the perspective that you will not confess to what you are not guilty of. 

So, hopefully your conversation goes something like this:

Prosecutor: "Well son, we've got evidence of your tag in nearly 100 locations around the city.  We could put you away for a long time for that.  But you don't want that and neither do we.  We just want you to learn your lesson.  Tell you what, if you plead guilty on all counts, we can guarantee you a probationary sentence and you'll just have to pay a fine and do community service."

You: "I'll admit to what I did, but I won't admit to what I didn't.  I'm happy to take an offer for a fine and community service, but I'm not pleading guilty to 99 counts."

Prosecutor: "Well, we know you did it, we're making you a generous offer."

You: "You're offering me to plead guilty to crimes I didn't commit.  Since I was already offered probation, the number of counts isn't that important.  I'll plead guilty to what I was charged with, but if you want to go after me for things I didn't do I will take them to trial."

Prosecutor (starting to give up but raising the bet): "Look, you can face serious consequences if you take this to trial and lose, which you probably will.  We're really making you a generous offer here."

[Realize what is happening here.  This is an extremely high-stakes bet and the prosecutor is bluffing.  If you fold, you plead guilty to 99 counts of vandalism.  If you call, the prosecutor will have to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt for each and every count.  The tag above the theater, the side of Tony's... each and every count.  The trial would take several days and the court fees (which the loser pays) could be $30,000 or more.  Plus the juristriction of the prosecutor pays for the attorney.  Say you're found guilty of exactly half of the counts... the court fees are split down the middle and the city still loses money in the long run.  The prosecutor does not want this high-stakes bet.]

You: "I think I made a generous offer when a volunteered to plead guilty to what I was charged with.  I will not be punished for crimes I did not commit.  But I don't want to go to trial.  I'll plead guilty on two counts if you drop the others, but if not I maintain my innocence."

Notice how, in every statement "you" made, you NEVER said you were guilty, only that you offer to plead guilty.  This distinction is very critical.  If you await plea-bargain in a cell, take your time to visualize this entire encounter in your mind, over and over again.

If all goes well, the prosecutor will cooperate or at least make an acceptable deal.  The point is to bargain hard.  If the prosecutor still wants to go after you for more than he can, TAKE IT TO TRIAL.

4.3.4     Arraignment

The arraignment is your first day in court.  Before we even start, some things about court.

Courtroom procedure is not as complicated as they make it look like in "My Cousin Vinny."  Courtrooms do have rules you need to know, but the process is pretty informal.  Almost anytime, you can just go right to the prosector and whisper about whatever; if you want to talk to the judge, just say "Your Honor, may I approach?" as soon as it's appropriate to speak.

Judges range from Fair to Demonic.  Yet the strategy for dealing with the two is almost identical.  But if your judge is demonic, you have to be very careful to always obey the Rules of Court listed here.

Rules of the Court

1. Never, EVER, speak out of turn.  Do not ever interrupt the prosecutor except to make an objection.  Never ever interrupt the judge.  Never interrupt a witness unless you have an important reason to.  Never speak when the judge is talking to the clerks.  Interrupting people is the surest way to piss off the judge, which will lead to being ruled against, and probably to a harsh punishment.  Stay on the judge's good side.

2. Never, EVER, insult the court, or even question its legitimacy.  Saying something like, "well, perhaps you aren't used to hearing stories like this..." or, "I may have broken the law, but I did what I think is justice" or anything like that.  They may be totally true.  And it is truly tempting to mouth off to the court, exclaiming the righteousness of your cause and the evil of the system's.  But this simply does not work.  Not even to the jury.  You will have to come up with more clever way of making those sorts of points.  I'll explain that in a minute.

3. No fancy pleas.  You say either "guilty, your Honor" or "not guilty, your Honor."  This is not the time to explain the extenuating circumstances etc.  If you wish to say anything at all, plead "not guilty."  In fact, plead "not guilty" no matter what, even if you plan to confess.  After the arraignment, you still have at least until the trial begins to change your plea.  As long as you plead "not guilty," you can still plea-baragin.  If you plead "guilty" you have surrendered any leverage you might have had. 

4. Hold your head high.  The courtroom is very intimidating and the people who work there have learned how to smell fear.  Conjure a strong voice.  Do not look guilty.  Look as if you can't imagine why you should be here since you're a good person but you're confidant that your story will clear your name.  Be aware of your body language at all times.

5. Take lots of breaks.  Any time that you feel under pressure to gather your thoughts during trial, ask for a short recess.  Everyone enjoys recess so your requests will almost always be granted. 

6. Do not use insults.  Do not ever talk down to the judge, prosecutor, or jury.  If you must attack the credibility of any police officers, you MUST have some corroborating evidence other than your own testimony.  If you don't, suggesting that the officers committed misconduct will only make you look worse.  I'll get in to handling this situation in a minute.

7. Speak as much as possible.  Never violate rule #1 or #2, but when invited, say as much as you can--anything that may help.  If you are asked a direct question with a simple answer, but you have a related point you want to make, you should make your point first and then answer the question.  If you answer the question first, the judge may cut you off.  But in general, if you do not interrupt others, they will not interrupt you. 

8. Do not beg.  A lot of defendants plead guilty and then just plead for mercy.  This is wrong; it makes you look more pathetic and therefore more punishable.  Plus, any seasoned judge is numb to it.  Judges, like anyone else, are impressed by talent and bravery.  Judges sit in the highest seat in the room because the courtoom is like their own little Coliseum.  It's a contest to them.  They don't like cowards.  Be polite to the judge, but don't flatter his/her "superior judgement" or anything like that because he/she can see right through that.

OK. So, the arraignment. 

Depending on your area, there are two possible scenarios.

1) In some places, the arraignment happens in two stages.  The first arraignment is just where you plead "guilty" or "not guilty" and the prosecuting lawyer may not even be there.  If you plead "guilty," you will be swiftly sentenced.  If you plead "not guilty," a "pre-trial conference" will be arranged and the prosecutor will be there for that.
2) In other places, the "pre-trial conference" is part of the arraignment, and it all happens at once. 

You can tell which you're at by the people in the court.  If you have the two-stage thing, the first hearing will probably be with a magistrate instead of a judge with no prosecutor.  If it's the latter, you will be in front a judge and the prosecutor will be present too.  If you're arraigned from jail custody, you'll probably have the latter.

If you're arraigned with no prosecuting lawyer present, plead not guilty no matter how guilty you are.  You cannot plead guilty until you've at least had a chance to bargain for it.

If you're led into the courtroom in handcuffs to be arraigned before a judge, it's a different story.  Probably you have already bargained with the prosecutor in jail as described above, but if not, when the judge asks for your plea, reply "I want to discuss it with the [city/state] attorney before I enter a plea."  That should get you the chat with the city/state attorney described above.

By the time you are asked to enter your plea, the prosecutor should have said out loud exactly what any agreement made was:

Example 1

Judge: "And what is the city's decision with respect to the charges?"

Prosecutor: "Well Your Honor, the defendant and I reached an agreement, whereby he'd enter a guilty plea to the incident on the ticket as well as for another incident of defacing a restaurant two weeks prior, that we'd drop the other charges and recommend a sentence of probation, so we will be dismissing the other charges."

Judge: "Mr. You, is this correct?"

You: "Yes your Honor."

Judge: "And nobody has coerced you to accept this agreement, and you are accepting this agreement of your own free will?"

You: "Yes your Honor."

Judge: "Then on acceptance of the terms of that agreement, how do you plead to the charges brought against you, Mr. You?"

You: "Guilty your Honor." (You could also plead not guilty and take the last two charges to trial, but it might better to bail out here if you can).

Example 2

Judge: "And what is the city's decision with respect to the charges?"

Prosecutor: "We were unable to reach an agreement with the defendant, your Honor; he insisted we drop charges that we think he's apparently guilty of.  He indicated that he would plead guilty to two of the charges."

Judge: "Mr. You, how do you plead to the charges brought against you?"

You: "Not guilty, your Honor."

Judge:  "Would you like a trial by judge, or by jury?"

You: "By a jury, your Honor."

Judge: "OK, we'll set a jury selection date of ___, and the trial the next week, ___.  Are those dates OK?"

In Example 2, it sounds as if you have just committed to a high-stakes bet.  But fear not: 1, you can always plea-bargain later and end the trial early, and 2, you can change your plea anytime, too.

Important Note:  Always a trial by jury!  Trial by jury, you have a fair chance of winning.  Trial by judge, you have no chance.  Judges are friends with prosecutors, and often they work to make each others' lives easier.  Judges can be totally biased in favor of the prosecutor no matter what the facts.  Not all judges are so immoral, but even still, they all exhibit favoritism to the prosecutor to some degree.  And while most juries take their responsibility to the justice system seriously, most judges are so jaded from years of people lying to them day after day that they totally forget to treat people "innocent until proven guilty."  Get a jury.

-If you plead guilty for plea agreement

You plead guilty and get probation.  Any last thing to say before you're sentenced? 

Most pre-sentence statements by convicts are amazingly bad.  Most either sound pathetic or remorseless.

Qualities of a good pre-sentencing statement:

 -Respectful (but not ass-kissing)
 -Accepting Responsibility (no excuses THEY HATE EXCUSES.  They will appreciate an explanation, but make it clear that "it is an explanation, not an excuse, because that is your [that is, the judge's] decision")

Last words:  When and if you confess, resign with dignity, having admitted to only what you're being convicted of, and ask to a community-service sentence.  Often judges wil sympathize with requests for community-service instead of fines, because it projects the image that 1) you can't afford the fine and 2) you're serious about atoning for your crime

-If you demanded trial by jury

So you've demanded a trial by jury, on all 99 counts.

Seems like you've bitten off more than you can chew, eh?

But don't worry.  What you've done is called the prosecution's bluff.  If, after the trial, you're convicted of some counts and not others, the court costs for the charges you beat must be paid by the prosecutor.  He doesn't want to risk that.  He may be talking tough, but he'd still rather plea bargain.

What you do is, after the jury selection and trial date have been set, pull him aside and ask him if there's a good time you can meet him at his office and discuss things.  Set a time, and meet him.

Bargain more.  If the prosecutor offers something you feel OK about, accept the offer, ask him to put it in writing, and when the court meets for jury selection, the prosecutor will probably bring up the arrangement right off the bat, and it'll go to that.

If the prosecutor is still bluffing, the thing to do is point out that you know he's bluffing, and also be sure that you don't admit guilt in doing so:

"You're really going to charge me with 99 counts?  Are you going to go out and get 99 photos, 99 witnesses?  Are you going to prove each and every one beyond a reasonable doubt?  Do you think the judge or jury will like that?  Be realistic here--"

And now, you unleash the Secret Weapon.  The sentence that practically guarantees you major headway in the plea bargain.  Memorize it, internalize it, use it.  Practice using it on people you are arguing with.

4.3.5     The Secret Weapon

"I'm not going to be bullied or railroaded into incriminating myself; I want my charge resolved so I can get on with my life."

Notice that 1) you don't admit innocence or guilt, 2) you go on the attack, putting the ball in the prosecution's court, and 3) you send a clear message that you won't be fucked with.

Most prosecutors will bend at that, but if you have a raving egomaniac prick for a prosecutor, just tell him you aren't going to decide anything right now and get out of the room, pull out the phone book and look up some attorneys.  Ask them for advice; if they're rude, impolite, or unhelpful, just hang up and call another.  Phone books have TONS of lawyers.  Hopefully you can find one who, for three billable hours or less (<$300) ("Look, I don't have much money but I can pay for three hours if you can just hear my story, give me some advice, maybe help me at arraignment.")  , can hear your story and work out a deal with the prosecutor for you.

-If you find yourself at trial

he only evidence of "your" other "crimes" are that your name matches that of the one you were caught writing.  Call every lawyer in the book and explain the situation.  You will have to pay them some money, but the prosecutor will definitely fold, knowing he has no case against a competent counsel.  If you can't pay a lawyer, if you are on your own, and if the prosecutor won't bargain, take a long time to weigh the potential consequences.  If you totally win, you come off scot-free and the city will have to pay tens of thousands in court costs.  If you totally lose, you may go to jail for any amount of time (rarely a year) and do a lot of community service (probably a lot). 

-Free Advice

I beat a really tough rap myself, with no legal help at all.  I'm no lawyer, but e-mail me if you need more advice:  Give me your phone number so I can call you. 

4.3.6     Sentencing After Plea Bargain

If you've copped a plea, this part is easy.  You basically just nod your head. 

4.4     The Trial

So you've thrown all your chips on the table.  You've demanded a trial by jury.

"Speak Your Mind, Even If Your Voice Shakes"
-Maggie Kuhn (interesting woman!)

(This section has yet to be written.  If you need help, write me at and I can help).

Via email

Kick ass dude.  You did the right thing. 

OK, so here's what will happen next. 

At the arraignment, it might happen right away, or later, that you talk to the prosecutor.  The prosecutor might want to go after you for just the one vandalism charge, or he might threaten you with more charges.  If he only wants to go after the one charge, you're in good shape.  If he's threatening you with more, it's be tough.

Take a moment to ask the judge or magistrate: "what happens next if I plead guilty and not guilty?"  Legally, your right to ask this sort of question is well protected, even now.  What you want to know is whether this will lead to a trial, or a pre-trial conference, or what.

The goal here is that you get to talk the the prosecutor and negotiate.  The best way to do this is to keep pleading innocent until you get into the courtroom with the city/county/state attorney.  Even if you're totally guilty, here's how it's likely to go.

You: [after getting attorney's attention] Can we talk about this?

Attorney: Not really, you were caught red-handed, you probably did other stuff we didn't catch you for...


Since it sounds like you were caught red-handed you probably can't beat that rap.  I don't know how old you are or where you've been charged, but you should look into possible programs to make your life as easy as possible if you're convicted or given probation.  In Michigan they have a thing called the "Holmes Youthful Trainee Act" which lets people caught for first offenses who are under 21 have it taken off their record if they finish probation.  Other places probably have similar things.

The one charge can't be successfully fought.  Period.  You were caught.  If you are only charged with that, great. 

But in case it gets worse:

Where I'm from (Michigan) the arraignment and the pre-trial conference are two separate steps.

The arraignment is usually a pretty short process.  When I went I had no lawyer and neither did the prosecutor.  The magistrate asks how you plead, and ask if you want a lawyer.  (For this you ALWAYS plead Not Guilty).  You can prepare for this without having to worry about surprises.  As for a lawyer, you may be better off on your own than with a public defender.  If you can afford a good lawyer, it's a hefty price, but you will probably get the best possible deal.

The arraignment leads to what's called a "pre-trial conference" which is after you get your lawyer, you enter the plea before a judge and this is usually when you get to bargain with the prosecutor.

In some places, the arraignment and pre-trial conference might all happen at once.  If so, it's basically just like skipping straight to the pre-trial in the paragraph above.  You can tell by your summons: if you're appearing before a magistrate, it's probably the two-step process; if you're appearing before a judge, it's probably the one-step process.

Here's the important thing.  Are you being charged with one count of graffiti, or many?  You may not know until your arraignment. 

The great thing is that you're out and you probably won't be questioned again. 

If you somehow ARE questioned again before the trial, tell the police (or the prosecutor) that you refuse to answer the questions as permitted by the Fifth Amendment.  The Fifth Amendment is the right to be free from self-crimination.  Typically interrogators will turn this declaration against you by saying, "What, if answering the question would incriminate you, then you must have done something!  And that answer is admissable!  AHAHA!" 

To which you reply, "No, you asked the question because you want to incriminate me.  Any non-incriminating answer I give will be ignored.  So not answering your question because I'm guilty of anything, I'm not answering it because I'm not willing or required to help you."

Or maybe somehow say that more politely.

Anyway, you probably won't see a government official until the arraignment, so there's a good chance you'll only have the one charge on your back.

If the prosecutor pulls some shit like, "The colors in your bag matched the colors at such-and-such" or "we recognize your name from such-and-such"  realize that these claims aren't provable, but don't say so.  Instead simply give a completely sincere vehement denial.  If he says "Oh come on it's obviously you" the correct answer is "no it wasn't," not "no it's not obvious." 

If the prosecutor is being a real dick and keeps threatening to charge you with multiple counts, plead NOT GUILTY to each and every single one. 

REMEMBER: You can always switch your plea from NOT GUILTY to GUILTY (and almost always have a legitimate excuse).  You can NEVER switch your plea from GUILTY to NOT GUILTY.

4.6.  People Ask for My Help

Here is some advice I dispensed in  email conversations that you might find useful.


H = he        M= me

H:  I hope this email still works cause I could use some serious help
M: sup
H: wow, it does
 So I guess the first thing would be to ask how many people have emailed you.  And second, do you have an understanding of the legal system
M: Only a few.

 I understand law really well for someone who isn't a lawyer.
 I defended myself successfully ("not guilty") in a trial by jury for a crime that I was clearly guilty of (threw a concert on my roof).

 Law is really tough but let me know the story.  The whole story.  WHat you told who, when, etc.

 I can make some suggestions.
H: Roof concerts are illegal? Huh. How did you win that one?
  So I got caught painting a backdoor of a business with spray paint.
  Some man saw me, then after I was finished, followed me for a few feet then tackled me.
  He pinned me down until the police came and arrested me. They took my bag full of spray paint and then got my information.
  After that they put me in a cell for a few hours then, put me in a interrogation room and asked me to waive my rights and because of your writeup, told them I wasn't going to say anything. After a few more hours in the cell, the let me go because it wasn't a violent crime. Now I'm at home waiting for my arraignment papers.
M: Disclaimer: I'm not a professional, take this advice at your own risk.

 Kick ass dude.  You did the right thing.

 When cops tell you that they can get you a deal in court, they're lying.  But the next step is negotiating with the prosecutor, and this is where you actually can get a deal, if you do it right.

 OK, so here's what will happen next.

 At the arraignment, it might happen right away, or later, that you talk to the prosecutor.  The prosecutor might want to go after you for just the one vandalism charge, or he might threaten you with more charges.  If he only wants to go after the one charge, you're in good shape.  If he's threatening you with more, it's be tough.

  Take a moment to ask the judge or magistrate: "what happens next if I plead guilty and not guilty?"  Legally, your right to ask this sort of question is well protected, even now.  What you want to know is whether this will lead to a trial, or a pre-trial conference, or what.

 The goal here is that you get to talk the the prosecutor and negotiate.  The best way to do this is to keep pleading innocent until you get into the courtroom with the city/county/state attorney.  Even if you're totally guilty, here's how it's likely to go.

 You: [after getting attorney's attention] Can we talk about this?

 Attorney: Not really, you were caught red-handed, you probably did other stuff we didn't catch you for...

 You: Well, what am I facing?

 (See, the prosecutor can either 1) threaten or go after you with more charges, 2) only go after the one charge, but keep insinuating that you should get the worst sentence because you "probably" did more", or 3) just go after you for the one charge.  That's what you want)

 Attorney: (1) (2) or (3)

 Since it sounds like you were caught red-handed you probably can't beat that rap.  I don't know how old you are or where you've been charged, but you should look into possible programs to make your life as easy as possible if you're convicted or given probation.  In Michigan they have a thing called the "Holmes Youthful Trainee Act" which lets people caught for first offenses who are under 21 have it taken off their record if they finish probation.  Other places probably have similar things.

 The one charge can't be successfully fought.  Period.  You were caught.  If you are only charged with that, great.

 But in case it gets worse:

 Where I'm from (Michigan) the arraignment and the pre-trial conference are two separate steps.

 The arraignment is usually a pretty short process.  When I went I had no lawyer and neither did the prosecutor.  The magistrate asks how you plead, and ask if you want a lawyer.  (For this you ALWAYS plead Not Guilty).  You can prepare for this without having to worry about surprises. As for a lawyer, you may be better off on your own than with a public defender.  If you can afford a good lawyer, it's a hefty price, but you will probably get the best possible deal.

 The arraignment leads to what's called a "pre-trial conference" which is after you get your lawyer, you enter the plea before a judge and this is usually when you get to bargain with the prosecutor.

 In some places, the arraignment and pre-trial conference might all happen at once.  If so, it's basically just like skipping straight to the pre-trial in the paragraph above. You can tell by your summons: if you're appearing before a magistrate, it's probably the two-step process; if you're appearing before a judge, it's probably the one-step process.

  Here's the important thing.  Are you being charged with one count of graffiti, or many?

 The great thing is that you're out now and you probably won't be questioned again.

 If you somehow ARE questioned again before the trial, tell the police (or the prosecutor) that you refuse to answer the questions as permitted by the Fifth Amendment.  The Fifth Amendment is the right to be free from self-crimination.  Typically interrogators will turn this declaration against you by saying, "What, if answering the question would incriminate you, then you must have done something!  And that answer is admissable!  AHAHA!"

  To which you reply, "No, you asked the question because you want to incriminate me.  Any non-incriminating answer I give will be ignored.  So not answering your question because I'm guilty of anything, I'm not answering it because I'm not willing or required to help you."

  Or maybe somehow say that more politely.

  Anyway, you probably won't see a government official until the arraignment, so there's a good chance you'll only have the one charge on your back for now.

  If the prosecutor pulls some shit like, "The colors in your bag matched the colors at such-and-such" or "we recognize your name from such-and-such"  realize that these claims aren't provable, but don't say so.  Instead simply give a completely sincere vehement denial.  If he says "Oh come on it's obviously you" the correct answer is "no it wasn't," not "no it's not obvious."

  If the prosecutor is being a real dick and keeps threatening to charge you with multiple counts, plead NOT GUILTY to each and every single one.

 REMEMBER: You can always switch your plea from NOT GUILTY to GUILTY (and almost always have a legitimatexcuse).  You can NEVER switch your plea from GUILTY to NOT GUILTY.

  Now, what will probably happen is that the prosecutor will go after you for the one charge, but will tell the judge you should get reamed since you probably did many more things.

  Whatever you say, the judge is unlikely to believe you. Judges are numb to defendants lying to them all day. Unless you have an Oscar-winning story about how it was your first time doing anything, the judge will probably be rough.

  They are also pretty numb to the whole "I've got people to take care of" plea for sympathy, and they'll throw back, "well you should have thought of that before you vandalized someone's property."  They're also pretty numb to the "peer pressure" sympathy excuse.

  It's really tough to talk to a judge.  You have to be perfectly honest and sincere and respectful while knowing he or she is about to shit on you.  It's tough.

 Here's the thing.  Many people go through court for traffic
violations, drunk driving, etc.  and the rationale is that if someone got a speeding ticket, they probably sped many times without getting caught.  If someone is busted driving drunk, it probably isn't their first time driving drunk.

  But the logic here is completely contrary to the basic tenet of "innocent until proven guilty."  The logic is "guilty once, probably guilty of more"--this completely undermines the premise of the 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments, and the precedent set forth in "Coffin v. United States".

  To argue this, you need to 1) maintain your innocence to other possible charges and 2) challenge the logicality of this assumption as in the paragraph above.
The best thing for an optimal sentence is to offer an
explanation--maybe you had a good reason to deface the business?--and humbly say, "this is not an excuse, just an explanation, and I hope you will consider my circumstance in your sentence," or something like that.

  Judges typically follow prosecutor's recommendations for punishment, unless you can make a good case to the judge orersuade the prosecutor beforehand.

  To summarize:

  Hopefully your arraignment goes smooth and you only get one charge.  If you're offered (by the prosecutor) probation for pleading guilty to the one charge, that's worth taking.  If the prosecutor is out for multiple counts, plead not guilty to them all and get back to me right away.  Ask for a postponement of the arraignment as you will need time to contemplate facing multiple charges.  All but the most inhuman judge will grant this.  If you're only stuck with one charge but the prosecutor is suggesting you be punished for doing more, object to the suggestion and maintain your innocence over any other charges.

  Hope this helps.

H: Another question I have, are the things they take as evidence returnable at their own discretion?
M: Typically they have to give it back to you, either after you're convicted or after you're acquitted or after you're given probation.  But if you ask for it and they refuse, it may be more trouble than it's worth--you might have to sue them to get it back.
H: On what grounds could they not give the things back?

Also, what proof can they use against me other than the tags have a
similar name (thier word against mine)?
M: No good grounds; the justice system is like a poker game; they'll just fuck with you if they can--sometimes.  I've heard of cases where the prosecution just "loses" stuff and you're stuck with it.

 The excuse goes, "well, you did something illegal, so we had to jack your shit, that doesn't make it our responsibility not to lose it."

Whatever happens, you might as well try to get them back...

>Also, what proof can they use against me other than the
 > tags have a
similar name (thier word against mine)?

You mean if they're going after you for other tags with a
similar name?

  If so...

  Proof is in the eyes of a judge first, then a jury.  Either one can dismiss it.  It really depends how you present your case to a jury, and also who your judge is.  If you got into a court battle over other instances that you weren't caught for, you should 1) deny it and insist any connection with other paintings is either coincidence or mistake on their part.  If the prosecutor goes forward, when the judge asks how you plead you should say, "I plead not guilty, and I ask that these charges be dismissed, for clear lack of evidence."  You also have to be careful that nothing you ever say will hint at your guilt.

To that the judge will either question you (in which case
you should explain further, that a painting with letters that "may" resemble yours is clearly no conclusive evidence.  It's common in graffiti for people to write others' names; the prosecutor has no conclusive evidence against you.)  or, ask the prosecutor for a response.  The prosecutor may drop it or keep arguing, if so, say the points above.

If you end up fighting each and every count before a jury, it's absolutely critical that you explain to the jury that similar names is no proof of guilt.

And throughout all of this, it's vitally important that you maintain your innocence.

Many people hear about people that get off on technicalities, so they figure that they can pick on a similar technicality without maintaining their innocence.

  Look, maybe I was going 60, but that 30 mph sign hasn't been updated in twenty years!"  But the judge doesn't care, and you just admitted to going 30 over.

I had a case like this once.  I was in court accused of letting my dog run off-leash in my apartment building's yard (no shit.)  The only evidence against me was the statement of this one resident, Mr. Sadsack.  So when I got on the witness stand, I told my story, that I didn't have my dog off-leash, that Sadsack twice tried to murder my dog, I actually tried to get the cops to help me get my poisoned animal to the emergency room and tried to give the cop a bottle of anti-freeze with Sadsack's fingerprints on it, and he didn't even want it.  So what is that?  I come to the cops with proof-positive evidence that Sadsack tried to kill my dog, and no one listens, but when Sadsack complains about my dog, and I get hauled into court to explain myself?  The is that man?

  So after my tirade, the city attorney (city infraction, somehow, even though the whole incident happened on private property) asks me, "well, uh, did you have your dog off leash in the yard or not?"

And an award-winning "no" brought his case to a halt and I
went home scot-free.  But if I'd been like, "yeah, but that guy's a sad sack attempted-dog-murderer," I'd'a been found guilty.

 Maintaining your innocence is critical.

Finally:  Maybe the prosecutor isn't going after you for a
hundred counts, but has like one more that he's sure he can get you with, he says.

What you do is plead "NOT GUILTY."  Then, before the trial,
you send a letter, certified mail, to both the judge (at the court address) and the prosecutor (look up the city/county/state attorney's office in the book in the government listings), saying that this letter is a motion for discovery.  Include your phone and email so they can get back to you fast, and send the note as soon as you are charged with these extra offenses.

The prosecutor is expected to provide you all of the evidence to be used--photos, officers' reports, all that shit.  It's called "full disclosure" and the prosecutor is supposedly required to give it to the defendant on request.  If you get any lip from them for the request let me know.

 Anyway, hope this helps.  Remember I'm not a lawyer and this is advice based on my experience.  Let me know how the arraignment goes.
H: Thank you very much yet again.
That answered my questions. I still have more though. This really sucks.

I was also wondering what they are doing now? Could I send the police a motion of discovery letter and find out what they doing?
Also, for clarification purposes, I was caught doing a spray tag, but there are nearby bubble throw-ups that don't look similar.  also had a very blurry, very dark picture of one of the throw- up on my phone, but it didn't have me near it (I was hoping the phone would die on them and they wouldn't be able to use it).

another thing that seems really important to me is, how hard do they look for the graffiti?
Full-on comb of the city, or driving through the streets with occasional glances?

>I was also wondering what they are doing now?

Probably nothing at all.  Typically the prosecutor doesn't even look at the case files until the morning of the arraignment, for anything less than a felony.  The only reason they don't arraign you immediately is because the courts are usually booked full a couple weeks in advance.

Could I send the police a motion of discovery letter and find out what they doing?

No, that stuff goes to the court and lawyer, not the cops.

>Also, for clarification purposes, I was caught doing a spray tag, but there are nearby bubble throw-ups that don't look similar.  also had a very blurry, very dark picture of one of the throw- up on my phone, but it didn't have me near it (I was hoping the phone would die on them and they wouldn't be able to use it)

They shouldn't be able to get you for any of that, since
they can't prove anything.

>another thing that seems really important to me is, how hard do they look for the graffiti?
>Full-on comb of the city, or driving through the streets with occasional glances?

They hardly do anything.  In some bigger cities with
"graffiti task forces," maybe they keep a database.  But otherwise, the only time the cops ever really record graffiti incidents is if it's on private property and the owner calls the cops to file a complaint.  Police are always bitching about how they have too much work and not enough time; rarely will they go out looking for your work.

Basically the system works like this:

Street cops are rewarded for the number of tickets they issue and the number of arrests they make.  These cops are not the same cops that handle investigations, who are rewarded for solving cases.  Street cops are only interested in keeping people like us off the streets; they don't really care what happens later.

The prosecutor is rewarded for having a court that runs like an assembly line from ticket to conviction.  Prosecutors aren't bounty hunters or anything like that; really they just want your case to be over so they can on to the next.

When cops say they'll "look for your tag and stick you with more charges" they're just saying that to intimidate you.


H:  i have read your site a few times, but never really paid much attention to the legal section, untill now....well, becuase i got caught.

i wasnt caught actually writing, but there was supposedly a witness, who saw a friend of mine, and me writing on a building we didnt even end up
writing on.

we were out writing, though....and as we were walking to my car, cops pulled up.

i thought, and vocalised how i thought we might want to ditch the paint cans, and mops we had....but then i thought...oh, no worries, we're right around the corner from the car....then the cops showed up.

i forgot that we didnt have to be searched, but i figured (afterwards) that we probably would have ended up getting searched anyhow.

but, he found a can of paint, two extra caps, and a kiwi mop on me....another cop searched my friend, and found an on the run, and a can of paint.

they didnt see us do anything, and i am pretty sure noone really did, but. they say they have a wittness....

we were questioned a lot on the scene, and i kept quiet. doing that whole "i have the right to remain told me that..." thing.  my friend ended up admitting to it, and told them the monikor he was using that night. which just so happened to be the only night he used it.  he didnt say anything about me. so i figure, hes somewhat fucked....and im not sure my standing. they dont really have anything on me, except that i just so happened to have stuff, and be with a kid who admitted to doing stuff.  i forgot that i didnt have to give them all that much information, and i
ended up giving them my address, and phone number, and what kind of car i drive....they sort of slipped those in, and i didnt think about it. my friend also mentioned where we work, because that was part of the story.  i picked him up from work, and we were going to a coffee shop. we had to wait for it to open, so we were walking around downtown. and, when one of the cops (there were 4 fucking cars worth there...)  asked my friend what his name was, we were already in the same car....he told them, then the cop asked me what mine was....i just didnt say anything, and he said..."youre just not going to say anything....the least you can say is 'i dont want to say it'." so, i just, without thinking again....repeated, "i dont want to say it." i think i might be able to just say that i repeated what he said, cause i wanted to just get it all over with, or something. but i dont know.

we were taken to the jail, and we sat there for a couple hours, got our pictures, and fingerprints taken....then we were let go.

courts on the fifth of january, at nine AM.

im planning on pleading not guilty....i mean, they dont even know what name to charge me with im sure, so....i dont know where they'd start, other then to say that the shit that looks like it was written with a shoe pollish applicator was me, or the black spray paint....even though there's at least 4-10 names up downtown right now with black spray paint. considoring my friend admitted, and gave them his name....they might just connect with who hes written next to...but, everyone writes next to each other.  so, i dont know.

i have some friends who went through the whole getting caught thing, and it seems they're willing to give me as much advice as possible. but, i just want to get as much, from anywhere, i can.

i really appreciate if you read all this, and might want to help me out a little...  but anyway....hope to hear from you.
M: I'll call you tomorrow; remind me if I forget.

But if they have a witness they have to tell you all about it before you have any trial.

I think if you had a good lawyer the charges would be dropped immediately.

Without a lawyer, you can still win if you keep your wits.

Your court date, that's your arraignment right?  If so all you do there is plead not guilty and go home.  The rest comes later.  

Anyway I'll try to remember to call you tomorrow.
H:  im pretty sure its my arraignment, but i dont really know anything about all this...
it just says "your court appearence, date, time and location are...1/5/07...0900AM...XXXX county circuit court annex...address."

but yeah, they are charging me with tresspass 2, and criminal mischief 2. i think....they might have me on the tresspass, cause i was in an ally that i found out had a camera in it, but i didnt get up anywhere in sight of the camera, luckily.
but, where the witness, supposedly, saw me wasnt anywhere near there...

thanks for helping, man.
it really means a lot, and im learning so much from your site.

but yeah, im pretty sure i can take care of this one, with a little help from you, and some sense.
M: Circuit court??

Double check and find out if you are appearing in a district court or a circuit court.

It's a big difference.

[Note: district court is for misdemeanors.  Circuit court is for felonies.
H: It says circuit.

I spoke with the person above on the phone for awhile, about what to expect at the arraingment.  Since he lived far away I wasn't sure that the arraingment and pre-trial conference would be separate events as they are in my area.  So we talked about everything for felony trial to plea-bargaining.

At the arraignment, perhaps because of his ability to maintain his rights, the prosecutor offered him and his friend an $87 fine and restitution, no probation or jail time and the incident would be taken off their records when they turn 21.  Not a bad deal at all!

H:  Hey man ive always loved you site and learned alot from it.
  Just asking this question, I live in Australia and the vandal squad is doing a crack down on graffiti artists in particular areas. Basically they go around and patroll an area that is becomming a graffiti hot spot and try to catch people in the act.

  Two of my friends have already been detained (then realeased) because they had cans in their bags and OTR's etc in their pockets. Now i know they you proberly dont know Australian law but basically asking, are you aware if Australian law provides people with an equivanlt of your 5th amendment (freedom to not speak) well i think its your 5th im not really sure.
  All i know is that in Australia police cant touch you or search you without probable course. And if they touch you they have to declare why they have.

  - Brendon
M:  Hey man, glad you enjoyed my website.

I know nothing at all about Australian law unfortunately.

I found a few pages about it though:

Good luck--

H:  Yeah thanks man those sites have helped heaps

Note to readers:  You can find just about any information your looking for with a web search; in this case I just typed in "Australia civil liberties"

H:  aite,

So me and my friend go out wheatpasting. we go inside a highschool n go to some window n put up sum comic pages. (cuz they're good materal) then we head off and go to this bridge. under it, we start put up hella pages. after about 20 min., the cops pull up, pull a tazor gun on me and tell me not to move. they put me n my friend in handcuffs. they search us and i got lockpicks, name tags filled out wit my alias, sharpie, and my blackbook.

They go threw both our phones and i had no graffiti on my phone, but my friend did. The police asked what did the name tag say, and i had told him wut that name was. (let's call it "BULL") I'm being charged with vandalism and graffiti tools. my friend, just vandalism. On one of the name tags on the bottom right conor, it said our crew name. Aite, and for my blackbook, it has my OLD name (call it "JOHN") so inside my BB, it has JOHN and BULL in it. they asked my "what i write" or sumthing like that and i said JOHN. so i told they my old tag and not my new, but they're both in my blackbook. that's the story. if u need more details just ask.

M:  OK, there isn't much you can do at this step.  By saying your name was JOHN or whatever you confessed, and if they're only charging you with one count of vandalism, it won't matter if they can prove any particular incident because they're only charging you with one. 

You should still plead "not guilty" because then you might be able to bargain with the prosecutor for a lesser charge.  Or, you could plead guilty to the vandalism and not guilty to the graffiti tools thing.  At the time that you announce that intention, the city or county attorney will probably ask you why, and you'll tell him that you'll accept one count for what you did but a graffiti tools charge is inappropriate because you are really being charged twice for one crime.  And more importantly, carrying markers and spray paint, without an act of vandalism, are completely legal items for anybody to possess (unless you're from New York I think).  So, what the courts seem to be doing is assuming that they can enforce graffiti laws as though they were drug laws: eg., if you get caught with pot and a pipe they can charge you one count for the pot and another for the pipe.  But's it's an inappropriate comparison between what is clearly drug paraphenalia and what is, in any other context, a completely normal item to possess.  (Everybody has paint).  The simple fact that your "graffiti tools" charge is directly based upon being caught in the act of vandalism indicates that you're being charged for what really is a singular act. 

If you say that to the prosecutor he/she will likely agree to drop the one charge if you plead guilty to the other.  Which you might as well do, since you have no case having been caught in the act. 

However, you should try to contact your local lawyers and just ask them if they can just quickly tell you if there is any sort of deferred or reduced sentence program that you could be eligible for.  (For example, in Michigan any first-time misdemeanor offenders can have their conviction taken off the record if they're under 21, under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act.  Try to find out what programs your state might offer.

Hope this helps--



Hey man love the site. Need some help or adivce though. I'm a pretty smart guy, I've learned alot off your site but here we go. me and a friend are graf artists. Hes also a photographer. On the way home last night he wanted to stop and check out some places to take some pictures at possibly. I just went along because I thought nothing of it really. Well We where about to leave so we walked up near the side of a bridge, a cop drove by and saw us. he went to turn around and we where out of site at that point so we turned around as well to get out of the area. Well the cop came down, long story short we got charges of criminal trespassing on CSX property (train tracks.) its actually Ohio revised code 2909.10 section (d). Here is a link. Its a 4th degree misdemeanor. What do you think I should do. I plan on pleading not guilty and seeing if I can get a plea bargain or should I actually go in and explain the situation. Also I dont know if csx is government owned or what I can  possibly do if I call csx and see if I can explain the situation to them and see if they will drop the charges. The marine asshole cop was trying to throw the book at us it seemed. cocky prick let me tell you. the others seemed like they just didnt want anybody doing any vandalism. We had no paint on us or anything nothing had been commited but its hard to say we where photographers with no cameras... But it was in the middle of the night. I really need some suggestions if possible I would really appreciate it. thanks again man once again I love the site!!!

Hi Ross,

You should definitely plead "not guilty."

Now, from there, you probably don't want to go to trial, you want the judge to throw the case out, or rule in your favor, in an informal hearing, which is what you typically get with minor misdemeanor charges.

Always reserve your right to trial.  If the judge puts you in a position of "either go to trial, or plead guilty," your response should be to the effect of "I can't decide because I have no idea what I'm facing.  All I did was take pictures of a train, and I can't imagine...." and so on.  What you want to do is refuse/sidetrack from entering a plea until you know exactly what your facing and the judge knows the basic story.

As for CSX, it makes no difference, and they have no input on the issue--because the law says "anyone on the premises of a railroad company is breaking the law" it isn't CSX pressing the charges against you, it's the local government (whatever the cop works for--city or county). 

It depends on what kind of judge you get--most are total assholes, but many are reasonable--but you may be able to argue that you had some sort of legitimate reason for being where you were.  Certainly you should emphasize that you are NOT a vandal, nobody who was with you did any painting or had any paint on them, etc. 

Whoever said "ignorance is no excuse" was stupid.  Ignorance is the BEST excuse.  In fact, not knowing that something is illegal is a legitimate defense!  Tell the judge you had no idea that Ohio law prohibited people from taking photos from a railroad, and that you wouldn't have expected the government to be in the business of policing private property.  Give the judge an elaborate story about why you just like photograph trains even though you don't write graffiti.

If the judge has any heart at all, you'll probably get a small fine, and you might get off entirely.  If the judge wants to put you on probation or fine you exorbitantly, you might want to go to trial.  It is possible to convince a jury to acquit you for any reason.  But it is not easy, and not worth the risk if you can help it.

Hope this helps,


4.7   I defend myself

4.7.1.  Leash law ticket

Being a defendent can be a harrowing experience, especially for the average citizen.   Even if you didn't commit the crime, you still have to show ample evidence that you're not guilty, which isn't always easy.   Waiting for my case to be called, three defendents in a row were convicted of traffic violations, despite their efforts.   People who fight traffic tickets rarely win.

But I wasn't here for a traffic ticket.   No, my ticket read "Dog at large--2 nd violation."   The fine would be $240.   For the first violation, a tenant had called the police that my dog was off leash in our backyard, and I was issued a ticket.   I defended myself by arguing that the dog had every right to be off-leash in the backyard, according to our lease.   But the lease was irrelevant; the city of Ann Arbor decided, on its own, that apartments were common areas, and I had to pay the fine.

The complaint resulting in the second ticket was made the same day as the first hearing, by the same person.   The animal control cop came to my door the next day to hear my explanation.   I told her the dog was off leash in the next-door neighbors' yard (they had a house) with their permission, and taken to and from that yard on-leash.

The City Attorney and she didn't believe my explanation, and so I found myself in District Court for a formal hearing on the matter.

After opening arguments, the city attorney questioned the complainant, Mr. Jensen.   Jensen alleged that on March 12 [sic: 11] he witnessed my dog off-leash in the apartment building's yard, and tried to snap a photo but it didn't come out.   Then I saw the flash and when he got my attention he asked me how many tickets I wanted to get, and that I told him to "go to hell."  

Then the city attorney called Animal Control officer Christopher, who recounted the complaint, questioning me as described above, and issuing the ticket.

The city rested at that, and it was my turn to testify.  

I began by flatly denying that my dog was in the alleged place (our backyard), and that he was actually in the neighbor's yard, describing the building accurately, with specific estimates of footage and photographs of the building and area (the prosecution made numerous errors, including citing the wrong street on the ticket, Mr. Jensen guessing the number of apartments in the building incorrectly, 15 v. 17, and the city attorney questioning Jensen using the wrong date, the 12 th v. the 11 th ).

I went on to show, with substantial if circumstantial evidence, that Mr. Jensen had tried at least once, and probably twice, to murder my dog, by planting antifreeze near my apartment at one time and a chocolate cake the following week.   I submitted witness statements that I removed my dog from the apartment building for about two months fearing a third attack, and I would not be so irresponsible as to leave my dog off-leash in the area where the previous two attacks had occurred.   I submitted witness statements canvassed from the building tenants that they had no involvement in either of the poison incidents.

I wrapped up by arguing that it was particularly unfair that, when my dog was ill, perhaps dying, of antifreeze poisioning, and I called 911 and had an officer come to my home, I was informed that the police would not take the bottle of antifreeze fingerprint it, and compare it with the prints of Mr. Jensen, because, I couldn't prove a crime had taken place.   And yet, with the prosecution, having absolutely no evidence that anything had occurred, save Mr. Jensen's allegation, saw it fit to charge me.

The prosecuting attorney questioned me about whether or not I was there at the time the alleged "dog at large" incident occurred.   I told him again: I was there; the dog was in the neighbor's yard.   When the judge asked if they had anything further, the lawyer replied, "Yes, one more... oh nevermind, we're done."

The charges were summarily dismissed.

4.7.2.     Beating a red-handed noise violation

(long story; to come)

4.5     Pre-Test Answers

1.  You're busted painting your usual name.  The police say they recognize the name all over town and if you admit it to them, you'll probably get a better sentence than if they have to bring it up in court.  What should you do?

A) Not say anything
B) Admit only to what you were busted doing
C) Tell them you won't confess now, but may after speaking to your attorney
D) Tell them you didn't do anything else
E) Confess but grossly lowball the number of tags you've actually done
F) Tell them thanks but you're not the one they're looking for

A is wrong because not saying a word will just make the police more belligerent.  You need to say "I choose to remain silent," not literally remain silent. B is wrong because you should never admit anything to police.  In doing so you destroy your shot at a plea bargain.  C is wrong because by saying so you imply that you have something to confess, and that can be used against you in court.  D is wrong because that word "else" implies that you admit doing what you were busted for.  Again, no good.  E is completely fucking wrong because you're confessing to multiple counts that the police probably had no solid evidence for.  Up until your confession, dumbass. 

F is correct because you've been polite, you've given them no information or opinion at all other than declaring your innocence, and you've given a slightly confusing response.  If the cops were to respond, "Well, who are we looking for?  What are we looking for?" similarly vague and useless answers--"I don't know but not me," "I don't know,"  etc.  Just saying "I don't know" over and over is as good as remaining silent.  If later a prosecutor asks "why didn't you know" you can just say you meant that you didn't know if you should answer the question

2.  The arraignment is your first chance to speak with your judge.

True or False

False.  In some cases the arraignment happens with a magistrate.  And even when you are arraigned before a judge, you don't have the opportunity to speak to him or her.  You simply say "guilty" or "not guilty," or stand mute.  You get to talk to the judge later.

3.  You're pulled over and you realize that your backseat of your car has a dozen spraycans littered about and you have a bag in your pocket.  You know you were speeding but aren't sure if that's why you're being pulled over.  The officer is coming toward you; you crack the window and he leans toward you.  What do you say?

A) Is there a problem, Officer?
B) What can I do for you?
C) How fast was I going?
D) Hi.
E) Wait for the cop to say something

A is wrong because the statement invites suspicion.  C is wrong because now the officer can just make something up and give you a speeding ticket and/or use your speed as an excuse for having stopped you.  Or he can use "how come you didn't know how fast you were going?" as a starter for more harassment.  D isn't bad, but "hi" is too simple, like you've got too much of your mind on what you're hiding to come up with a better greeting.  E is wrong because you want to take the initiative in the conversation.  It gives you a little more control. 

B is the best answer because you start the conversation off as friendly and cooperative, and because you make the officer get to the point about why he stopped you right away.  Nothing's worse than when they shoot the shit with you (just to "feel you out" a little) before telling you why they stopped you.  With B you avoid that and don't seem suspicious at all.

4.  You should NEVER run from the police.

True or False

False.  There are some situations where you should, and those where you should not.

5.  If the police fail to read you your Miranda rights, you can probably get your case dismissed if you do it right.

True or False

False.  Miranda's dead.

6.  You're facing one count of vandalism and plead "not guilty."  The judge says you can either hire an attorney, or if you cannot hire one, the court can appoint you one, or you can defend yourself without an attorney.  You don't want a trial; you just want to get off with a minimal sentence.  You can afford a lawyer but you don't want to pay the cost.  What should you do?

A) Hire your own lawyer
B) Get the public defender (the court-appointed lawyer)
C) Go it alone

Unless you're no good at speaking at all, C is definitely your best choice.  A full-price lawyer will cost far more than the savings of your lighter sentence, and a public defender will probably fail you completely (and still charge a little).    Read this document, research law on the Internet, and defend yourself.  I'll explain how in this section.

7.  If you've been pulled over, an officer can search your vehicle at any time.

True or False

True.  The search may not be legal, but if an officer insists, all you can do is refuse to consent to it.  Then the court will decide later whether the search was legal. 

8.  Your school security guard searched your bookbag and saw your sketchbook.  He showed it to the principal, who's now blackmailing you with hard detention under threat of informing your parents and the police.  What should you do?

A) Do what the principal demands, and don't get the police involved.
B) Call the police and tell them your psychotic principal stole your sketchbook and is blackmailing you.
C) Tell your parents
that your psychotic principal stole your sketchbook and is attempting to blackmail you.
D) Challenge the legality of the search with the superintendant and threaten to sue.
E) Defy the principal and let him do what he will.

A is wrong because you can get out of this without being principal's bitch.  B is wrong because the police will not do anything except laugh at you.  D is wrong because they can call your bluff.  The school security is no a cop; he can do whatever he wants and all you can do is transfer or drop out. A lawsuit would get thrown out.  School officials are not bound by the same restrictions as police.  E is wrong because the principal may get the police involved, which you definitely don't want, and if he gets your parents involved, better they find out through you first than from him.

C is correct because you telling your parents will make the principal telling them a non-event and you will have the first chance to explain your story to them.  Your parents can stand up to the principal and win but you probably cannot.  If your parents are ignorant dipshits (unfortunately, most people are), try to find an adult who will take your side and help you. 

Keep in mind, the most important thing you're looking for in a "responsible adult" is that they already know you.  Even a teacher you know and trust, who may not be able to stand up to the evil principal, may at least be able to give you some good advice or refer you to somebody.

9.   If an officer asks in a demanding voice to see your ID, you should give it to him.

True or False

False, unless you're driving a car.  You should not show your ID to any officer unless they have a good reason to demand it--and that's your call, not their's.  Many cops will become hostile should you refuse their "orders."  The best thing to do is be polite and tell them you have to leave and start leaving.  If they try to stop you or follow you, just keep going.  If they physically stop you, you should ask them to let go unless they are arresting you for some reason.  See the "police encounters" section for details.

On the other hand, if you are driving a car, you must show ID upon request.

10.  Pleading guilty at your arraignment will get you a lighter sentence than changing your plea later.

True or False

False.  Pleading guilty at your arraignment will put you at the mercy of the court, with no chance of plea-bargaining.

5.  Ask the author

I get letters....

Hey brotherman.

I have a question: when people paint those MAD burners with detailed characters, sceneries, or 3D graffiti pieces- what kind of cap to they use for their sketches? Because The lines for the first outline are super skinny and look almost like chalk. But if they used German Outlines (the number 2s specifically) their lines would be a lot fatter and possibly drip. Also, I've seen those pieces done really well with just MTN regular, are MTN Alien cans really needed?  Thanks for everything.

Also, I need some sorta moral advice. There are 2 graffiti writers.  One is amazing at graff. But they both front a lot (the kind of guys who wear their pants half off their ass but wouldn't survive a day in the PJs) and have inflated egos. Also, since I've got an awesome girlfriend, I've been clean of drugs for 17 days, but they're those kind of guys who always reek of ganja 24/7. And I wanna keep myself clean.

So, if you were in my place, would you be in a crew with them based on their skill, even if they wouldn't be the best people to be around for lots of reasons?

One way to create a much thinner line than usual is to move the can really quickly, held close to the wall.  The thinnest caps are the gray dots, the gold dots with the dimple in them, and the black dots and micros are also very thin.  German 2s are just not as thin.  You can also turn a can upside-down and spray some air out to lower the pressure.  You really can't use paintsticks or paint markers for your outline because the paint markers will go through several coats of spray paint and paintsticks will always leave that texture.  You can reduce drips by not pressing down on the cap until your can is already moving; most drips are caused when people stop moving their hand but keep spraying, that's why there are often drips at vertices. You don't really need to use MTN Alien paint; it's just easier to work with.

As for joining the crew, it sounds like the only reason you'd have for joining with them is to learn from the one guy.  Might as well give it a try and if it doesn't work out you can split.  As for their habit, I guess it depends on why you want to keep yourself clean.  I know people who just don't like pot and have no problem saying no.  But if you're studying for a drug test, it might not be so easy. 
There are a lot of good things about being in a crew, but if they're people you don't want to be around, maybe you don't want to get involved.

You're really just going to have to decide for yourself.  Nobody can really weigh the various factors better than you can. 

Do you know the best place to find legal walls where you live if you aren't too intact with  your state graff community?

Not really.  In my area there aren't any city-owned legal walls, except under a couple of bridges.

The best thing probably is to ask people who own a wall if they would mind if you painted it.  Typically most businesses rent their property, not own it, and typically their landlords are corporate fucks.  The thing to do is go to locally-owned businesses with their own buildings (as opposed to strip malls) and see if you can ask the owner. 

It's a little tough at first to approach somebody and ask if the owner might be around.  But you'll get the hang of it.

hey, i think it would be a good idea to test out some inks, and determine which ones are the most permanent to put in your graff guide.  me, as well as many other graffiti writers i know, are always trying to determine which ones will be hardest for the local authorities to buff out.  here is a list of some refill inks you can find for sale.  so far, i have tested the krink silver ink, the do 'em dirty outdoorsman ink, and the garvey xt-70 ink.  out of these, the most permanent is probably the garvey, followed close by the do 'em dirty outdoorsman.  thanks,

Afterword: The Educated Graffiti Artist

[Adopted from "The Educated Person," an essay in the book "A Different Kind of Teacher" by John Taylor Gatto.]

Here I've used the old-fashioned "he," but mean both sexes.

1. An educated graffiti artist writes his own script through life.  He is not a character in anyone else's play, nor does he mouth the words of any intellectual's utopian fantasy.  He is self-determined.

2. Time does not hang heavily on an educated graffiti artist's hands.  He can be alone.  He is never at a loss for what to do with time.

3. An educated graffiti artist knows his rights and knows how to defend them.

4. An educated graffiti artist knows the ways of the human heart; he is hard to cheat or fool.

5. An educated graffiti artist possesses useful knowledge: how to find find work, how to build things, etc.

6. An educated graffiti artist possesses a blueprint of personal value, a philosophy.  This philosophy tends toward the absolute; it is not plastic or relative, altering to suit circumstances.  Because of this an artist knows at all times who he is, what he will tolerate, where to find peace.  But at the same time an artist is aware of and respects community values and strange values.

7. An educated graffiti artist understands the dynamics of relationships and how to prevent conflict.

8. An educated graffiti artist does not diminish the work of other artists in a world of virgin walls.

9. An educated graffiti artist is at peace with the passage of his lifetime, and learns throughout all stages of his life.

10. An educated graffiti artist can discover the truth for himself.  He does not need anyone to guide him through the matrix of deceit that is "the system."  He has intense awareness of the profound significance of being, and the profound significance of being here.

11. An educated graffiti artist can figure out how to be useful to others, and in trading time, insight, and service to meet the needs of others, he can learn the material things he needs to sustain a wholesome life.

12. An educated graffiti artist has the capacity to create new things, new experiences, new ideas.