Graffiti generally comes in 3 incarnations: a tag, a small sticker or initial set (think telephone pole or newspaper box); a piece, or a fairly detailed picture or symbol (these are rare - piece is short for masterpiece); and a throw-up (aka bubble-up), a large scale rendition of the artist's name usually put up in 2 or more colors (these are the kinds seen on the sides of train freight cars).

There is a method to the apparent scrawl in tagging - arrows point in the direction the artist lives. In the Los Angeles area, telephone area codes sometimes accompany the tags to show territory. A crown on top of a tag is letting you know that the artist thinks he/she is hot shit, a 1 in a circle lets you know he/she works alone. A line through a tag shows disrespect, and 187 reveals murderous intent.

If graffiti intrigues you, a good place to learn more is from a magazine - usually found in a local skate shop or head shop.