Graffiti machine sprays for you

[Ben's] father was a metalworker and the combination of being around metal fabrication for most of his life and getting a couple of art degrees brought together a satisfying combination of hacking skills. Above you can see a Graffiti Machine that he built, which we’ll look at in-depth after the break.. This isn’t the first CNC machine he’s worked on. [Ben] became interested in rapid prototyping but was put off by the cost of commercial cutters, which led him to build his own CNC plasma cutter.

[Ben's] creation consists of a vertical gantry that houses the motors as well as a carriage for the spray paint ‘rattle can’. He’s using stepper motors and belts to move the carriage and gantry with a controller that he picked up from HobbyCNC. Let’s look at how he put it all together.

This is the can carriage. On the right, above the can, you can see the motor used to start and stop the flow of paint. To the left you can see the timing belt used to move the carriage up and down. Its ends are secured with C-clamps.

[Ben] uses the head of a machine screw to depress the valve of the rattle can.

The top of the gantry houses motors to move the gantry itself as well as the can carriage.

The full gantry is one piece with the can carriage traveling along its length. You can see the timing belt that the gears use to move the can.

The two images above show the belts used to move the gantry along the top and bottom horizontal tracks. A rod travels the length of the gantry, driven by a stepper motor on one end to move the gears of both the top and bottom belts.

This image shows the angle-bracket that is used as a track. This gives the machine horizontal scalability.

This closeup shows a skateboard wheel with a slot cut in it. This keeps the gantry firmly seated in the track as it moves.

[Ben] ties the system together with a Linux box running the Enhanced Machine Controller. He’s hoping to pit man against machine some day in a graffiti showdown. This is a great build [Ben], thanks for sharing the details with us.


  1. Frogz says:


    i need to make a cnc device…donno what it’ll do but i need to make 1 anyway, i was actually thinking somthing like this though, i have a program that’ll re-draw svgs, it can probably be adapted for this

    (my post was 2nd before and i said it was 1st so it got deleted so now its first and i say its 2nd, funny huh?)

  2. Frogz says:

    oh btw, incase anyone wants it, google svg drawer, it was made by the *chan sites so be careful of virii but i’ve been using it for a long time now without problem, v0.0.6c is the last release with a filesize of 122880 bytes, i THINK this copy is clean but dont hold me to it, anyone know who actually made this? it has the advantage of being able to reproduce images the images like a cnc in windows(like for whiteboards and stuff) without having to program the coordinates

  3. tom says:

    “This video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment. It is no longer available in your country.”

  4. Jesse says:

    very cool! Nice to see people making new versions of these!

    here’s an older one:

  5. rng says:

    Granted, I have *never* attempted a build like this but, it looks like most of the hard work is already done… what would it take to add a few more can carriages to get RGB color?

    Love the build!!!

  6. mrgoogfan says:

    i wonder if it could be used for anything else

  7. wdfowty says:

    i knew i’d seen one before this. good to know i’m not crazy :D

    he should really use a different style of can (without the perma-nib), and better tips made for less paint flow. less paint, less drips, more style. graffiti 101 lol. but i’m sure he already knows that.

    on a side note, the finished piece (hello world) was pretty cool. didn’t see that coming.

  8. HIrudinea says:

    Back in my day ya had to draw yer OWN graffiti and robots knew their place dagnabit!

  9. dude says:

    This reminds of Theo Jansen’s painting machine:

    Made in 1981, this has a light sensor at the end of a tube which regulates the paint flow. The machine scans vertically and horizontally until the image is complete.

  10. Rachel says:

    Surely you mean CMYK colour, not RGB.

    I’d like to see a version which only needs two fixed strings for reference and control. It would be very compact, and enable quick deployment.

  11. Jac says:

    “It wasn’t me, officer! it was a giant robot from outer space that came out of nowhere and started painting!”

    Awesome project though, from a technical point of view.

  12. Frogz says:

    actually its neither rgb OR cmyk
    but, as is you can paint 1 color at a time and change cans to paint other colors
    but rgb/cmyk? the paints dont mix, you need individual colors, but unlike rgb or whatever.. you can use cool stuff like SILVER or fluorescent colors, how many printers can do THAT?

  13. anonymous says:

    As someone that does graffiti, that is a joke, the drips tell the machine moves way to slowly, and the style is garbage. I can see this machine painting an entire wall though once configured for a brush and a paint bucket though.

  14. damox says:

    I found this video of another machine to be a bit more interesting: Faster and of a high quality.

  15. MoanMoanMoan says:

    Very nice machine from 2004, i dont see why it hasnt been implemented further?

    i was dissapointed by the original post..
    The idea is to create an image which cant easily be replicated by hand. in this case the guy has just recreated a poor quality tag which is barely readable. MS Paint anyone? iunno

    a monochromatic print of Che Guevara or would have been nicer.

  16. This reminds me of this thing I did a while ago.. Also runs on EMC but uses custom electronics and an airbrush.

    Graffitibot from Bastiaan Ekeler on Vimeo.

  17. captain says:

    There is a scene in the movie “Demolition Man” where a sprinkler-type device pops up out of the ground and sprays graffiti on the side of a wall.

  18. Is this really the future of graffiti vandalism?

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