Meet Pankraz Piktograph, the portrait-drawing robot

The Pankraz Piktograph is a self-contained portrait-drawing robot that takes a photo of its user at the press of a button. The image is then stylised and translated into a vector representation that the robot can draw with pen on paper.

The robot has mastered various drawing styles, so every drawing is a unique piece of artwork. You could end up with a speedily created fast minimalist line drawing, or a finely rendered detailed portrait.

Makers Joris and Felix designed it for use in settings like trade fairs, museums, and parties, giving guests an unusual party favour to take home. They wanted the creation of the image to be entertaining in itself, unlike with the usual photo booths you get at events, so all the workings are out in the open and models get to watch the robot artist draw their portrait.

portrait drawing robot

How does it work?

Raspberry Pi 3 is the heart of the drawing robot, controlling a 3.5″ display and a Raspberry Pi camera.

After the user takes a photo of themselves using a wired remote control, Raspberry Pi generates a vector-based graphic using the photo as a template. It transmits those vertices to a Teensy microcontroller, which makes the robot’s drawing arm move using stepper motors.

portrait drawing robot

Here is a really detailed explanation of how the software turns the photo into an artistic rendering, and how the makers got the robot arm to be able to control the pen delicately.

Meet the makers

Felix Fisgus and Joris Wegner created the Pankraz Piktograph as their Master’s thesis. They were inspired by historical drawing automatons like Maillardet’s automaton and more modern inventions like Patrick Tresset’s Paul the Robot.

portrait drawing robot

Cheers for all the ace photos, Joris! We borrowed liberally from your project page.


Anders avatar

The evolution of Etch-a-Sketch.


Great. Do you intend to sell this as a unit or pieces? Or at all?

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