Introduction: How to Build a Tagtool Suitcase

Picture of How to Build a Tagtool Suitcase

What is a Tagtool?

The Tagtool is a live performance instrument for drawing and animation. It's similar to a music instrument, only it plugs into a projector instead of the sound system. It is operated collaboratively by an artist drawing the pictures and an animator adding movement to the artwork with a gamepad.

What is a Tagtool Suitcase?

This version integrates the controls and the drawing area into a flight-case, but still needs an external computer.

What else do I need to run a Tagtool Suitcace?

You need a Windows PC with the open-source software Nodekit which can be downloaded here.

How to use the Tagtool

The Tagtool works best with a projector, although any monitor will suffice for playing around with it. Usually it is controlled by two people - an illustrator (who draws and uses the Tagtool controls) and an animator (using the gamepad to move the drawings around).

The Tagtool controls consist of 6 faders and a pushbutton. The pushbutton releases a drawing so the animator can move them with the gamepad. There are detailed instructions on how to use the controls here.

To find out more about the Tagtool project, visit

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Graphics tablet
Wacom Intuos3 A4 Oversize
Cost: 535 EUR
This is a good size, but different dimensions should work as well.
This guide assumes that you use an A4 Oversize.
Wacom boards are highly recommended.

eg: from Thomann
Measures according to the schematic - the fourth image (the top panel should be about 63x45cm).
Cost: 80 - 180 EUR
For heavy use a good quality case is recommended.

Plywood board
Measures according to the size of the suitcase.
Any hardware store
Cost: ca. 15 EUR

6 Potentiometers
Sliders 10K, 100mm linear mono (or stereo)
Electronics store, eg. Conrad
Cost: about 7 EUR per slider
High quality faders recommended.

Slider Knobs
Electronics store
Cost: 1 or 2 EUR per button

Piece of Plywood
Measure according to the Arduino board.

1,5m x 5cm x 5cm
Any hardware store
Cost: around 5 EUR

10mm x 3mm, 10mm x 5mm
Any hardware store
Cost: 5 EUR

4 Spacers
3mm + fitting screws
Any hardware or computer store.
Cost: 2 EUR

NG plus USB
eg. Segor
other sources are listed on
Cost: under 30 EUR

eg. Conrad
Cost: about 2 EUR for 100 pieces

Mushroom Operator
eg. Allen Bradley 800FM-MM44 + 2 Part Contact Block 800F-PX10
eg. RS Components
Cost: 5,40 EUR
A fairly big button. It is used quite heavily so make sure it has a nice feel.

Stranded wire
eg. Conrad
Cost: 3 EUR

Ribbon cable
min. 6 wires
Any computer store
Cost: 2 EUR

USB wire Typ A - B
Any computer store
Cost: 5 EUR

eg. Logitech
Cost: 19,50 EUR
Any gamepad with 8 buttons and 2 joysticks.
Wireless gamepads are also fine but we have found them to be less reliable.

Soldering tools and materials
Soldering gun, ribbon cable, shrink tubes, plyers, ...

Step 2: Preparation of Suitcase, Top Panel and Controls

Picture of Preparation of Suitcase, Top Panel and Controls

Preparation of the flightcase
The top panel is supported by 6 pieces of a latch, but you could also use aluminium profiles along the sides. 4 of the pieces need to have indentations, in order to accomodate for the graphics tablet. Glue all 6 pieces to the flightcase according to the picture below. (clamps recommended).

Preparation of the top panel
Use the schematic below (images 2 and 3) to cut out holes for faders, pushbutton and USB wires.The graphics tablet works through the plywood board, so it's not strictly necessary to cut out a square for the drawing surface - although it is highly recommended in the interest of drawing accuracy.

Preparation of the controls
Screw on the potentiometers and fix the pushbutton with the contact block to the top panel.

Step 3: Preparation of the Graphics Tablet, Arduino and Wires

Picture of Preparation of the Graphics Tablet, Arduino and Wires

Preparation of the graphics tablet
Open the graphics tablet (screws at each corner) and drill four holes at each corner of the top panel of the tablet (see picture). Attach the other parts of the graphics tablet to it's top panel, after you fixed it to the top panel of the Tagtool with screws and nuts.

Preparation of the Arduino
Replace the contact covers of the Arduino and screw it to the piece of plywood.

Preparation of the wires
Fix connectors to 6 wires of the ribbon cable and bring the shrink tubes into position. Cut 4 large pieces (ca. 25 cm) and 10 small pieces (ca. 13 cm) of the stranded wire and connect them in this order: 1 long, 5 short, 1 long (use the shrink tubes).
Then repeat this so you end up with 2 connected wires like in image 3.

Step 4: Interconnection

Picture of Interconnection

1) Solder the six wires of the ribbon cable to the Arduino Analog Ins (use shrink tubes).

2) Solder the two prepared strings of stranded wire to the potentiometers and the Arduino.

3) Solder Ground, Voltage 5V and Digital Input #7 to the Arduino.

5) attach Resistor at the 5V wire between Arduino and contact block.

6) Attach the 5V, the Digital In 7 and the Ground to the Contact block.

Step 5: Tagtool Mini

Picture of Tagtool Mini

Congratulations, you finished your Tagtool Suitcase. Next you will need to install the Nodekit software on your Computer.

If you need things to be more compact, or if you don't want to open up your graphics tablet, the Tagtool Mini will be a good alternative. For this you can use any case that has enough space to hold the Arduino, the faders and the pushbutton . You just have to connect the graphics tablet externally.

Emjoy and visit the for updates on the development of the Tagtool project!


bakro (author)2009-03-10

hi, im from venezuela. i wanna build a tagtool. i order the arduino, but i wanna order the potentiometers. you know any store in usa with exactly model? thanks

tudgeanator (author)2008-12-21

Sorry to double post but what type of switch is that mushroom switch? Latching? How many poles and throws does it have?

tudgeanator (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

More questions. Can you just use a mouse with the tagtool or do you have to use a graphics tablet?

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

Mouse as Drawing Device is quite complicated to install! Sorry!

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

Never mind.

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

Didn´t know the terms throw & pole! Thy for that!

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

No prob.I'm sure you've been more help to me than i have to you.Going to order my stuff for this tonight (except the arduino-i'll have to get that from another site at a different time cos iv'e spent all my money on christmas)

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

We are using this button (

Here is the data sheet:

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

Thanks alot!That was a really quick responce!

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

We use , Single pole, single throw buttons.

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

And is that latching? I dont think it is but i'm not sure.

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

Cheers,i've got a couple of those hanging aroun in my bits-box.

tudgeanator (author)2008-12-21

I can't find that arduino here in the UK, but can find: a)The Arduino Duemilanove b)Arduino Nano Board c)Arduino Pro 3.3v/8MHz d)Arduino Pro Mini 3.3v/8MHz e)Arduino Lilypad f)Arduino Xbee and g)USB/serial converter. Will any of these work and if so how? I'm a complete novice with arduino's and am hoping to do this as my first arduino-based project,any help will be much appreciated.

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

The Arduino Duemilanove is actually the new version of the Arduino NG. This board will work fine! Send uns pix, as soon as u finished. Actually u will need another Arduino Patch for the Tagtool - write us an email. We will send u the .pde file. happy xmas.

tudgeanator (author)dasgnu2008-12-22

Sorry,but what's a 'patch'?

dasgnu (author)tudgeanator2008-12-22

A little program , u have to upload to your Arduino board. So that your Arduino knows what to do - when you connect your analog sliders & the button.

diegosarl (author)2008-10-14

Hi!I`m diego form Argentina, I can´t find the exactly the same model of the arduino here, so, can I use for example the Arduino Diecimila (it`s the lastest evolution) or another USB model??. Another question...I have to connect the drawing panel and the joystick directly to the PC? and, can I use any usb drawing panel and joystick?? thanks! excuse me, my english isn`t very god!

dasgnu (author)diegosarl2008-11-04

This Arduino is also OK! But you have to get the new Arduino Sketch to upload.

Check out the Google Group herehere to get in contact with the community.

Get in touch!!!

curtisseligson (author)2008-02-21

I honestly can't find any information on how to run Nodekit. I've been looking for weeks and can't find any tutorials, how-to's, or even a manual. The Tagtool site just shows off people using it and the developers section does little more than give you the source code. More info on how to use Nodekit would be much appreciated. As for this suitcase, I'll defiantly make one as soon as I can use the software (IOW, thanks for the tut!).

dasgnu (author)curtisseligson2008-02-21

hey curtis, we are working on some tutorials and a manual, so please bear with us. In the meantime, I hope my collegue could help you by email, and let us know how you're getting on.

curtisseligson (author)dasgnu2008-02-21

Wow, you guys really are on top of this. Thanks a lot for getting back so quickly. I think I'm gonna' hold out for your next version (March I think he said) as I can see you guys are really working on this. Good luck to you all!

georg.unterweger (author)2007-11-14

hi dasgnu! i have an old grafic tablet at home its an "Medion MD9570 USB PC-Grafikpad" may you know if this work as well or i have to buy this one you told from? thanks for any info!

dasgnu (author)georg.unterweger2007-11-15

You can take any tablet. This should work as well. --We choose Wacom, because the pen doesn´t need batteries - that´s one of the big advances if you use the Tagtool alot. Keep us posted if u got any troubles.

pierlo (author)2007-10-24

Nice one! Anyway i tried to link 6 10k potis in parallel as you did with the sliders (but mine are dimmers, the rotatory ones) just as you did here - but only the odd ones work - the even ones output no signal at all! What's the matter? Do you have any clue? thanks!

dasgnu (author)pierlo2007-10-25

Mhhh, pierlo... Hard to tell! Step by Step finding the problem... And you mixed them up - all 6 - and the problem occurs again. Just to check that all potis are working. (If u exchange like 1 & 2 - same problem again.) No signal on the Arduino board? Have u connected all potis correctly to the Arduino. Can u attach a picture? Would help maybe.

pierlo (author)dasgnu2007-10-25

Thanks for helping, anyway i found out ALL my pots were broken... unbelievable but - well - sadly true.

Nabil (author)2007-09-03

Now I Get It.
[[Video(, {width:425, height:350})]
But for me, neither the video o this instructable by themselves explain the concept, together I got a better aproach...

crapflinger (author)2007-08-27

a video of the contraption in use would probably make the concept a little clearer

Ward_Nox (author)2007-08-27

this is cool but im not sure what id use it for

Ward_Nox (author)Ward_Nox2007-08-27

though if your rigged a projector to it.....

swolleneyes (author)2007-08-26

This looks cool, what do the sliders do? what does the big mushroom button do? I saw some videos on but not really sure how the artwork is being "generated" live with this tool. thanks for any info!

dasgnu (author)swolleneyes2007-08-27

Good point... We'll post more detailed instructions on how to operate the tagtool soon! Basically, the faders control hue, saturation, brightness, transparency, line thickness (which is also a function of pen pressure) and fade-out time (how fast, a drawing disappears once it's released). When you press the big red button, a drawing gets released and it can be controlled with the gamepad. Any more questions, hit us.

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