Spin Draw

Ever since the first time some clever person tied a pencil to the end of a string and drew a circle, we’ve loved to use mechanical tools to draw geometric designs. Mechanical drawing tools like Spirographs are a lot of fun, but they’re annoyingly constrained by pesky limitations like the laws of physics.

Spin Draw is inspired by a mechanical drawing toy called the HOOT-NANNY from the 1920s. Two rods are attached to spinning wheels. The rods meet at a point that holds a pen, and the pen draws on a rotating piece of paper.

The HOOT-NANNY gave you some control over the lengths of the rods and the position of (one of) the wheels. A recent motorized version by Craig Newswanger offers more fine-grained control. Spin Draw unlocks still more creative potential from this simple device: you can control the positions and sizes of the wheels, the speeds of the wheels and the canvas, and the lengths of the rods. It’s lots of fun to explore this endless world of geometric art!

Although it is a relatively simple app, Spin Draw has many useful features:

  • Erase the current drawing, stop and restart the machine
  • Change the overall machine speed
  • Change the colour of the drawing
  • Turn on a powerful “Quantize” mode that forces Spin Draw to create a closed drawing with any desired amount of symmetry
  • Show and hide the machinery
  • Find inspiration in a library of presets
  • Save your drawing to your photo collection, or email it as a PNG or PDF
Here’s a screen recording that gives an overview of how to use these features.



This app will never show you an ad, ask you to write a review, or require you to unlock features via in-app purchases. Furthermore, I will donate half the money I make from sales of this app to charity.  Because I was inspired by a toy for children, my current plan is to donate to the Toronto Sick Kids hospital, one of the best children’s hospitals in the world.




  • 24 October 2012: I’ve submitted Version 1.0.1 of SpinDraw to the app store for review.  This version has been recompiled so that it will work on iPads running iOS 5.  I also fixed a bug pointed out by Chris (thanks!) where some of the machinery would disappear if you enabled quantization when the canvas speed is zero.  (Workaround: if you get into this state, you should be able to get out of it by selecting presets until the machinery reappears.)