Bold Machines

Intro to Pen Plotters


In this online workshop, you will learn how to program machines, called pen plotters, to draw. This process gives you a great foundation to learn how to turn images into machine commands.

You don't need access to a pen plotter to take this class. You will learn how to create digital artwork on your own computer and submit the SVG file to the instructors. The instructors will plot the work, review with students, and mail all the students work to them at the end of class. Or, if you are near by you can pick your work up from our plotter-filled workshop in Peekskill, New York.

Students will walk away from class with deeper knowledge about the history of pen plotter machines and their use by artists. You will also learn how the machines work and how to create your own files that will be drawn by plotters. We designed this to be a foundational course to continue your work with plotters or expand to other machines. Many people get their start with robotics and machine operation by learning the basics presented in this class.

In this class, you will learn:
- How to convert images into SVGs optimized for a pen plotter
- About pen plotting machines including the HP 7550 and the AxiDraw
- History of the plotter artist and pioneer Vera Molnár
- Tools for generating SVGs
- How to work with paths and fills inside a SVG
- Next steps, additional project ideas and techniques to explore to build upon your knowledge

This is a remote class. Instruction will happen using for video conferencing and the Skill School learning platform. Students will learn how to create the digital artwork on their own computer and will submit their SVG file to the instructors. The instructors will plot the work and return it to the students. In the future, we look forward to having in person classes.

This class has a combination of instructor led and self-guided lessons. There are five lessons total, the first and last class will be held online with the cohort and the remaining three lessons can be done at your own pace over the week. Each lesson is designed to take less than 20 minutes to complete. The teacher will be available throughout the course to answer any questions you may have.

------ Class Schedule ------

Mon, 7th - 6~7:30 PM EST
- 1st class (intro, overview & group exercise)
0. Getting started on SkillSchool

Tue, 8th ~ Sun 13th
- Self guided (complete homework for first three lessons on SkillSchool)
1. What is a Pen Plotter?
2. The Emergence of Pen Plotter Art
3. Telling a Plotter what to draw

Mon, 14th - 6~8:00 PM EST
- 2nd class (review assignments, group exercise 'Plotting a Selfie')
4. Plotting a Selfie
5. Wrap Up and Next Steps

Mon, 21st - 6 PM EST
- optional Affirmative Club with plotter friends (share work, share encouragement)


This workshop is open to beginners. This class would be great for anyone interested in design, creating posters or curious about pen plotters.

You do not need to own or have access to a pen plotter to participate in this class but you will need access to a computer with internet access that you can download and install software on to.

Tools and Materials

We’ll meet in google meet so you’ll need an email address to sign into that.

Download and install Inkscape (free software for mac/pc/linux) on your computer -

Download and install the Evil Mad Scientist plugin.

Join our Discord for more conversation about this class and plotter art

Hang on to our contact email for any questions/issues [email protected]

Course Badge

Plotter 101
Bold Machines


  • Getting started on SkillSchool
  • What is a Pen Plotter?
  • The Emergence of Pen Plotter Art
  • Telling a Plotter what to draw
  • Plotting a Selfie
  • Wrap Up and Next Steps