Reverse Graffiti and Subtractive Drawing

Today's project was inspired by a fascinating article about reverse graffiti. Read it, then come back.


Pretty amazing, right? I love the idea of taking a dirty surface and creating a work of art by cleaning it. If only all graffiti were like this! (Fun fact: the singular form of 'graffiti' is 'graffito.') Kids can do a simplified version of reverse graffiti, also known as subtractive drawing. It's fun and will give you an idea of just how talented the featured graffiti artists are!


Reverse Graffiti

Materials: (affiliate links)


Cut the white paper to your desired size. I'd recommend no larger than an index card for beginners. Put the cut paper on a second piece of paper (so that you don't dirty your work surface). Use the charcoal pencil to completely cover the paper. 

Find a design you'd like to make. You can sketch your own or print out a picture. I chose a birthday hat that was on a printable gift certificate from Amazon. Center the design on your charcoal-covered paper and trace it with the pen. 

This will transfer the design to your charcoal-covered paper.

Using the guidelines, start erasing the design. I started with a kneaded eraser to pick up most of the charcoal from the hat. 

I switched to a block eraser to erase the fine details. 

Here's the finished project.

The next step is to practice for several hundred hours, working your way up with size and intricacy, then go find a dirty surface, and create your own reverse graffiti!


  1. Reverse graffiti sounds very interesting.

  2. That is sooooooo cool!! I love it!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Loved reading and seeing reverse graffiti! It is absolutely amazing. I definitely learned something new here, my friend! And your little craft looks like so much fun. This reverse graffito is adorable and looks like so much fun to make!


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