Picture of Polargraph Drawing Machine

This machine, a variation on the hanging-pen plotter is a conspicuous and wilfully naive attempt to break out of the pristine, pixel perfect, colour-corrected space that exists inside our computers. It's a drawing machine, that takes a pen (a human tool) and uses it to draw in a singularly robotic way, with some grand results.

It doesn't draw at all like we would (though it could), and we would struggle to draw exactly as it does (though we could).

It can draw on things bigger than itself - the question is really "how long is a piece of string?" when it comes to working out it's maximum area.

It's easier to look at what it does, than to explain it, so just have a look.

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Step 1: History

Picture of History

Well there have been lots of new drawing machines doing the rounds lately, there's a real thirst to see devices that leap out of the virtual into the
physical. For me, it's all too easy to produce digital things which are interesting - programming or mash-ups or virtual experiments are devalued because they are intangible, you can run a hundred, a thousand, a million variations in a day - it's the proverbial roomful of monkeys with typewriters. The output becomes disposable, it get's hard to see the value, the craft.

So 3D printers and other desktop manufacturing tools and technologies (laser cutters etc) have got more and more popular, it's hard to overestimate how much hunger there is for a tangible, physical, touchable, smellable product of all this clever-clever digital work.

So this isn't wholly original, check out this prior art for more inspiration:

Hektor - the daddy of all hanging drawing machines
Der Kritzler - the smartest one yet
AS220 Drawbot - the basis for mine
SADBot - Instructable for an automatic drawing machine on the same pattern by Dustyn Roberts

But this is the original Polargraph! The term is a portmanteau word invented for this instructable, and it has caught on. People who don't know their drawbot history often use the word to describe any hanging-v plotter, but it is actually means something very specific: A machine that runs the Polargraph software.

Mostly based on the success of this instructable, I started a little workshop making Polargraph parts, and the next-generation Polargraph gear (PolargraphSD). Couple of links below:

Polargraph website
Polargraph wiki and code
Flickr stuff

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do you think that it will work on android?

Euphy (author)  ChristianE22 days ago
Definitely not.

Hello Windows8.1 control software control software crashes often generated when the queue is often stuck how to solve this problem

Euphy (author)  qu10722470696 days ago
Seriously, this could be anything. The app is exported from Processing 1.5, so you can try googling for problems with exported processing apps. The problems I've had with the controller have usually been generic problems with processing, java environments, that kind of thing.

alan.phan19 days ago

Hi Euphy,

What does it mean by "Have added MEGA as a compilation target" in

Does that mean I can upload "polargraph_server_a1_adafruit_v1.cpp.hex" to my mega using "xloader"?

Euphy (author)  alan.phan18 days ago
Hi, no, the precompiled hexes are for regular Arduino UNOs.

The note refers to these lines that allow you to compile for the MEGA, and access a couple of the features that don't fit onto an UNO.
AxelandsW14 days ago

Hello euphy.

Im litterally in love with this machine, i am actually going to do this to make some art for my institution, i wonder does the pen lift if i use images/vectors ? (not including the beginning and end of the queue) .

im currently getting the 3d printed gears sometime this week and im going to finish this proyect, i will ask if i find any issues, thanks for your work

Euphy (author)  AxelandsW13 days ago

Thanks, no problem! The pen lift is definitely required for the vector drawing stuff. It's less essential for the bitmap work, because that is continuous anyway.

Good luck!


This Is Comming Up Great!... Though... i have this problem where , even if fill the whole board with an image, it cames out REALLY SMALL like an 1:10 Ratio, searching the forum i have seen that increaing weights might help this...

sunfffd22 days ago

Hello! Thanks for all the details.

I quickly hacked around with some hardware on a whiteboard, while i was trying to draw a square image, the output turns out rectangular (width is larger than height). How can I correct this?

I'm using two 200 steps motors with a 40T 2GT belt pulley (~24mm diameter), mmPerRev set to 70mm. And also I have set the step multiplier to 2.

Euphy (author)  sunfffd22 days ago
Hello, you've describe quite a general symptom that can have more than one cause, and I don't think you've given enough information to be able to diagnose it:

What motor shield?
What step type?
Is the width correct?
Is the height correct?
Is the position correct?
Why is the step multiplier changed?
Did you also change the stepsPerRev?
Why is the mmPerRev not 24*3.14 (75mm)?
sunfffd Euphy18 days ago

Hi! Thanks for the help!

I'm running UNO with Adafruit motorshield v1. All with default libraries (AFmotors)
I didnt change the step type (actually I cannot find the place to change it)

The width and height should be correct. I have setup a new test with step multiplier set to 1 and stepsPerRev set to 400, also with 75mm mmPerRev.

The output is much better now. But it seems the proportion of the drawn image is still a little bit off (the height is still a bit short).

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.39.02 pm.pngScreen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.55 pm.pngIMG_3599.JPGIMG_3598.JPG
Euphy (author)  sunfffd18 days ago

Is the position correct? Use ctrl+I to show the "INFO" and that shows the mm coordinates (Machine x/y mm...)
Is the mmPerRev correct? I mean have you measured it or just calculated it?
What's with the jaggedy line leading from the home position?
Is the home position correct? Measured from the line between the two axes of the motors?

Remember you can use "draw outline selected" to draw the outline of the selected area, rather than waiting to draw the whole image. It's faster.

sunfffd Euphy15 days ago

The belts tends to skip when the motor is going to travel for a long distance.
I have reduced the motor speed from 600 to 300 and it seemed to solve the problem! It got pretty accurate now, thanks! :D

Photo 18-6-15 2 57 38 am.jpg
Euphy (author)  sunfffd15 days ago

Oh nice and square!

alan.phan118 days ago

Is it just me or are my l239D chips really hot on the motor shield? is this normal? I'm running on 9V 2amps plugged into arduino Uno.

Euphy (author)  alan.phan118 days ago
It might be, yes, depends on how much your motors draw though - the L293D is rated to drive 600mA motors, so if yours are pulling down more, it'll get hot. has more information.
alan.phan119 days ago
just want to say thank you for your help. Love your detail in your instructable and your dedication in answering questions after such a long time.
alan.phan120 days ago

If I want separate power to the arduino and a separate power to the MotorSheild V1. Do I need to remove the "jumper" on PWR on the motorshield?

Euphy (author)  alan.phan119 days ago
From the motorshield documentation (

"If you would like to have 2 seperate DC power supplies for the Arduino and motors. Plug in the supply for the Arduino into the DC jack, and connect the motor supply to the PWR_EXT block. Make sure the jumper is removed from the motor shield."
gliuzzo27 days ago

I have a fastidious problem. I attached a servo and when I try "Pen lift" and "Pen drop" they work perfectly. but if I click these commands after "Set home" the controller shows "BUSY C14, 180"

Euphy (author)  gliuzzo27 days ago
Hello, that is a weird one, does anything else work after you have done your "set home"? Can you drive the pen around with "move to"?

gliuzzo Euphy25 days ago

I don't know because I resolved it. The power supply didn't have enough Ampere..

GowthamV21 month ago

i can't get the software running xloader says upload failed and even the polargraph controller doesn't open up. Somebody help !!!!!

i'm using ATmega 328 arduino clone

adafruit motor shield v1

windows 8.1

gliuzzo1 month ago


E18:47:28 C25,PGXXABCD, END not recognised

that appears when I click upload machine spec?

It's a problem?

Euphy (author)  gliuzzo1 month ago
The C25 is no longer a command that means anything, so it's nothing to worry about :)
GowthamV21 month ago

i get an error as i try to open the controller, i get an error saying javaw.exe notfound

alan.phan11 month ago

Great Instructable! I've ordered the parts and can't wait to put it together. Do you have a SD card addition to this or would I have to keep my computer on for the whole duration of the print?

Euphy (author)  alan.phan11 month ago
Hi, thanks! An UNO-level machine can't have an SD card, but if you have a MEGA, then you might be in luck. I have recently made some changed to the polargraph_server_a1 firmware, and merged in SD card reading features (mentioned at the end of

The bad news is, it's entirely untested, so I'll be a little surprised if it works out-of-the-box! Of course you can buy a PolargraphSD ( if you want a short-cut and have lots of money spare.


Hello! I'm extremely new to this and I'm really like the idea of creating a drawing machine. Would this be a hard project for a beginner? Also, what would all of this cost? Thank you

I spent

$30 for arduino uno

$12 motor shield

$14 for each stepper motor (2 needed)

$12 for the window blind cord

$5 maybe for the pla to 3d print many of the blackest, gears, and gondola

$10 for the servo extension wire

Already had the board, wires, and a servo

Plan on about a $100 total. I spent probably 20 hors building mine, and I'm experienced with arduino and electronics. Good beginner project, but expect to work hard at it.

What would you say took up most of your time? Hardware or software side of things?

I've got exactly the same doubt. Also, could I print more in more than one material using a 3d printer? Thank you!

Euphy (author)  matheus.danella7 months ago

I don't really understand this question, sorry.

Homunyan made it!1 month ago

Amazing project, I learned so much , and still got a way to go.The lack of precision should be solved once I get reliable sprockets printed (currently it's an abomination of furniture wheel caps, cereal box carton and tire tube for grip).

Euphy (author)  Homunyan1 month ago
Brilliant! These drawings look like my first ones, made with sprockets that were hacked-up lumps of balsa wood hot-glued together - those were the days!

sick m8

Magic212 months ago can this be used as the motor?

Euphy (author)  Magic212 months ago

Yep probably will be fine if you can run it at 12v - The machine doesn't actually need a lot of torque because it's counterbalanced, but because dropped steps are so catastrophic (and annoying), I prefer to have more power rather than less! A variable voltage power supply is great if you can afford it.

Magic212 months ago

How much would this project cost and approximately how long did it take you to make it? Nice project btw

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