Ideas for experimentation

  • Try different kinds of paper, and pencils. Mechanical pencils are great, but require a little more work. Check for more information.
  • Place a copper coin (like a penny!) on the drawing and use that to make contact with the graphite - it will make the surface area larger and reduce the resistance of the drawing.
  • Hold hands with someone and 'draw' on their skin with the pencil.
  • Wash and lightly dry your hands to make them a little more wet than usual, this will also affect the pitch.
  • Use graphite slugs, available at an art store, instead of a pencil.
  • Just hold on to both sides and try twisting and pressing to make different tones.

How to use!

The Drawdio is simple to use. Simply grip the pencil in one hand so that you're making good contact with the copper tape. Then draw a circle on the paper and touch it using a finger from the other hand.
This allows your body to act as the sensor. The voltage is very low (about 1 volt) which is very safe. As long as you stick to the single battery, there are no health risks.

Using a copper coin between your finger and the graphite will improve the conductivity. Washing your hands and then drying them will also help, especially if you have drier skin or live in a dry climate.

Choosing a pencil

The 'softness' of the pencil lead will affect how thick the drawn lines are and thus the sound of the pencil. Experiment with hard and soft leads as well as sharpening or blunting the point to see how that affects the drawdio sound.

Mechanical pencils also work well. However, you may have to put an insulative layer (like packing tape) on the lower section of the pencil if the body is completely metallic.

Attaching to a pencil

You can mount the drawdio to your pencil. Place the PCB on the flat side of a pencil, and thread the zip tie through as shown and tighten it. You'll want it about an inch or less from the top of the pencil. The higher it is the more pencil you'll have to sharpen but it may be a little more unbalanced.
Next cut a 1.5" piece of copper tape using the diagonal cutters. Don't use scissors as the metal tape can damage them. Peel off the paper backing. The copper tape is conductive, sticky and flexible which makes it perfect for wrapping the pencil.
Wrap the tape along the top of the pencil so that the beginning is at the silver metal tab on the PCB, as shown.

Then take the thumbtack and gently push it into the end of the pencil. You might have to twist it back & forth a little to get it all the way in. The thumbtack will grip the copper tape and also make contact with the graphite in the middle of the pencil to make the first half of the drawing sensor.
Next take 3 or 4" of copper tape and start wrapping around the bottom of the pencil, starting with the silver tab on the PCB and ending an inch before the end of the pencil. This will make contact with your hand and provide the second half of the sensor.
Finally, insert a battery into the kit. Then grip the pencil with one hand and touch the point of the pencil to your other hand. You will be able to hear the drawdio make noise!

Alligator clips

You can crimp on alligator clips to the end to allow attachment to all sorts of things like fabric, paper, clothing...anything but skin! Click on the photo for a larger version.


You can also use a brush. We suggest paint or water with a little bit of salt dissolved in it, to improve the conductivity. Since the brushes have a plastic coating on the metal collar, you need to wrap the copper tape around the bristles themselves, as shown here. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Inspirational videos

And some from happy & noisy customers!

This guide was first published on Apr 21, 2013. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Use it!) was last updated on Mar 07, 2013.

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