Any seasoned graffiti writer will tell you, it's only partially about the love. In reality, beneath every commissioned wall piece on the underside of a Soho streetwear storefront, there's still one part vandal's tendency to wreck shit, one part narcissist's desire to write your name as big as humanly possible. Many will openly admit to the addiction, the rush that comes from seeing your name in lights—even if it means sometimes those lights are flashing red and blue. Maybe more than will admit to the dirty little secret in every veteran's black book: it takes practice. Tons and tons of practice.
Combining the urge to get up with the need to up your handstyles is Fat Tag, an app that lets you draw graffiti on your smartphone using photos from your library and an array of different settings, including cap styles, ink flow, and more. We had two vandals and a dev guru explain how, while an app might sound like a fun way to toy around, to not let its simple premise fool you. Fat Tag is a sketching tool by and for active writers, allowing you to not only draw up your plans before you execute them, but to keep yourself occupied in situations where you can't casually fool around with paint cans.
"Honestly, it's a tool for criminals," New York writer KATSU, drone graffiti mastermind and one of the app's co-creators, with Theo Watson, tells The Creators Project. "If you want an app for making pretty drawings, there are hundreds of other apps to download. If you are an actual graffiti vandal you will understand what this app is and how it is designed exactly for you."
It all comes down to the interface. "[Fat Tag] was designed to keep up with the speed of tagging and the rapid deleting you need to tag and tag and tag and tag," KATSU explains. A key component is the sheer pace Fat Tag allows. One tap and you're writing, two taps and you're already onto your next tag.
Writers like Fat Tag because it feels real, right down to the uncannily accurate gesture control Watson programmed. "It's another form of paper to practice styles and concepts," Rehab tells The Creators Project. "I see it as a typography tool or design app like [Adobe] Illustrator. It does help with your personal hand style and flow, and lets you produce concepts faster and more smoothly." While Rehab doesn't necessarily agree with KATSU that Fat Tag is like "graffiti methadone"—KATSU also calls it "a digital nicorette patch," and a "girlfriend mute button"—he believes it's important to "keep your hands moving with the tools needed to."
"A lot of the initial feature requests came from KATSU, but after I gave him early versions of the app to test he would show it to other writers and give me feedback from them as well," says Theodore Watson, Fat Tag's developer. "One of things that surprised me was how quickly writers would do their tags over and over again. I tried to change the 'clear tag' to a button hidden in the menu, but that made the process of writing a new tag much slower, so I switched it back to the double tap to clear."
"One of the really nice features of the app is it lets you take photos with your camera and make it the background that you can write over," Watson continues. "However a lot of things you might want to tag in your photo can be at funny angles and perspectives. So we made simple tools that let you rotate and scale the tag in virtual 3D space, so that it can lineup with the perspective in the photo.
"Fat Tag also allows you to upload your tag as the open format GML (Graffiti Markup Language) to blackbook. This allows you to see both the image from Fat Tag, but also the way the tag was drawn. So far we've had over 40,000 tags uploaded. A couple of years ago I made a visualization of all the GML tags uploaded sorted by most prolific."
Even longtime writers like KATSU and Rehab have used the app to learn new things. "Sometimes you're on a train or bus and don't want to practice on paper, so the convenience factor helps," Rehab explains. "Also I feel some of the various brushes most people wouldn't use in real life, 'cause most writers like to stick to what they are used to and wouldn't experiment with new or unfamiliar styles on the live streets at the risk of looking toy."
"I learned that I'm really good with a chisel tip and can surprisingly do decent Philly hand style," he adds.
It's an app with as much clout as potential. Speaking with KATSU, Watson, and Rehab, it sounds like a lot more could be added to turn Fat Tag into the digital writing suite of your wildest inhalant-induced dreams. Ideas including an animated tag recorder, gestural tagging, geo mapping, a live feed, a glass scratching feature, a head-to-head tagging game, and even the ability to link the app to drones are all bouncing around, promising to make Fat Tag so much more than the perfect digital black book. Maybe they'll even add "a fuckin stylus," KATSU chides. "So wack, why did I say that?"
Click here to download Fat Tag from the App Store.