Complete Newb, What Do I Need to Plot?

Hello, I am not sure if this is the place to ask but, figured I would give it a shot. I make digital art as a hobby. Some time ago I had a program made that created a mosaic/grid art piece that with Adobe programs I was able to print in color.

I recently saw an article of a guy using a zenbot cnc and placing a marker where the tool holder would go to make some weird art designs.

What would be needed?

How would I “print” using markers (or another medium) of different colors? Meaning if the digital mosaic piece used 7 colors the plotter would only “dot in” 1 color at a time using the RGB color code?

*I am not looking to really “code generate” any artwork for now. I just want to have my artwork “printed/plotted” out making it look hand drawn.

**Really new to all of this so, happy to give any necessary info.

So, are you looking for a pin plotter with a ‘tool changer’ of pins with different colors?
They are easy to build if you have a 3D printer and some 2040 extrusion and some wiring skills. is one of the easy to build plotters. That is the starting end to building NC toys…

Be warned, DIY plotting is a bottomless pit of both amusement and timesuck.

If you don’t already have a CNC to retrofit, you can get light duty CNC pen plotters on Amazon for as little as $100. Price goes up with quality and drawing area, of course.

I wound up designing and 3d printing all the parts to retrofit my Onefinity and writing my own python library to drive it.


I was looking to buy a plotter. I found a good used “AxiDraw SE/A1” and “terraPen”.

How straight forward is the set-up of the plotting when not “code generating” do I just have to convert my image?

Does the software let the plotter know when another color is needed?

That is my confusion.

Some of the color I would like to achieve.

What are you using to create your art now? Hand drawn or digital? If digital, raster or vector?

Both the AxiDraw and the terraPen look to only support a single pen at a time, so you’re looking at approaching things in layers. I don’t know anything about AxiDraw or terraPen’s expected software toolchain, but one generic workflow I see a lot is:

  • Scan the art if hand-drawn
  • Open the art file in Inkscape
  • Vectorize (trace) it if it’s raster
  • Separate the vectors by color
  • Convert each color’s layer individually to gcode (the language the plotter understands)
  • Manually load the proper color pen before sending the gcode for each layer to the plotter

AxiDraw appears to have an extension for Inkscape, so that may somewhat smooth the process.

I’d recommend getting familiar with the workflows in Inkscape and any relevant extensions before you select a machine. If you’re not interested in generating your own gcode, you’ll likely be more limited by any given machine’s default supported toolchain than by the machine itself.

Sad to say. Unless you are willing to become an Inkscape pro, or an Adobe Illustrator pro, you are going to experiment for years in order to be able to make this style of art with a pin plotter. I built one that works pretty good. It’s only a single pin machine. But I can make emblems and text… but in order to have one draw this is gonna take a lot of work to design the machine and then to ‘slice’ your code…