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Should You Buy a Pen Plotter (Such as an AxiDraw!)

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

New to plotting?! Need a pen plotter!? Take 10% off an AxiDraw pen plotter and accessories with discount code DIRTALLEY10 when you buy directly from Evil Mad Scientist, the makers of the AxiDraw!

If you are a generative artist, you may be wondering if you should invest in an a pen plotter (such as an AxiDraw) and try plotting your designs! Here are some of the things I love about having a pen plotter:

1. Marker and ink on paper has a beautiful textured quality especially up close. You can play with fun pens including metallic pens. You can also build up layers of ink for striking effects. Take a look at this design drawn with a white gelly roll pen on black paper.

Where the white pen overlaps builds up into a dense white area that is just lovely.

However, if you create very detailed work, you might lose details, it is a difficult balancing act! More detailed work could also take hours (upon hours) to plot!

2. You can play with the CMYK color process where the mixing and overlapping of cyan, magenta and yellow inks creates all the colors of the rainbow. I love thinking about the application of color in my designs.

3. You can hang your art on your walls and surround yourself with your creations! There is nothing more satisfying than holding your work. Be warned though, your cat might also find your AxiDraw a lovely perch as well.

axidraw pen plotter plus cat

4. You can experiment with different mediums - watercolor for instance. Or try plotting on different surfaces - sand, fabric, etc. You can check out #plottertwitter on Twitter for endless inspiration! There is also a growing community of pen plotter enthusiasts on social media including Instagram where I curate an account to showcase the work of plotter artists @penplotart - you can make new friends! 

5. Lastly, it is really fun to watch the plotter at work drawing your designs! Endless entertainment and quite musical! 

Ultimately though, if the art making aspect of plotting doesn't interest you, then you might find drawing your code art designs with a pen plotter a tedious chore.  Plotting is a back and forth process of testing different pens and plotter settings to create the plotted version of your work. It can be time consuming, and depending on how many plots you make, expensive! I personally love the process but it is definitely not for everyone. 

If you are thinking of getting an AxiDraw pen plotter, Evil Mad Scientist Labs offers great customer support and maintains a comprehensive wiki on the plotter with links to various libraries and plugins you can explore. You can start out using Inkscape with the Axidraw plugin for running the plotter, they also have a great hatch fill control for shading. 

All Generative Art, All the Time

But what if you want to learn more?! Check out these additional blog posts:

michelle chandra of dirt alley designDirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in December of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. In 2019, she began a new project - geometry art created with code and drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new spirograph designs daily 


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