Numerically Controlled Pen Plotters in Art: Building an Experimental Pen Plotter Allowing for Additional Creative Possibilities

Research output: ThesisMaster's thesis


This research aims at exploring the potential to extend the creative capabilities of a pen plotter. While commercial pen plotters offer limited possibilities for controlling a pen’s pressure or its height in relation to the drawing surface, developing an advanced pen-lift mechanism would allow for dynamically controlling the height of a writing or drawing implement with adequate resolution. These improvements permit using an ink brush or pen with a flexible tip to modulate the stroke weight of the drawn lines.

Designing and building additions and advancements to an experimental pen plotter based on a laser engraving machine allows for practical experimentation, resulting in drawings aiding in validating the claimed improvements. In addition, a theoretical look, based on literature and expert interviews, provides insight to pen plotters, their operation and use, their history, their significance in algorithmic art, and their current revival reflected in an active community.

The experimentation with the improved pen plotter resulted in ten drawings which illustrate the gained potential as a creative tool. Some of which are based on algorithms generating lines with varying stroke weights. Others are halftone images based on photographs and drawn as lines with dynamically changing thickness.

A recent revival, especially in generative art and design, can be observed despite pen plotters having long been replaced by other hard copy devices. This research might encourage other pen plotter community members, which are often driven by innovation while generously sharing their knowledge, to pursue similar experiments.
Original languageEnglish
  • Mäkiranta, Mari, Supervisor
Place of PublicationRovaniemi
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoEC publication typeG2 Master's thesis, polytechnic Master's thesis


  • pen plotter
  • drawing machine
  • pen-lift mechanism
  • algorithmic art
  • generative art
  • computer art

Field of science

  • Visual arts and design


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