Etch A Sketch

An original boxed French-produced Etch A Sketch marketed as Télécran in France, the country in which it was invented.

The linographic drawing toy Etch A Sketch was invented by André Cassagnes and marketed as Télécran in France. The mechanical drawing board is instantly recognisable with its plastic red frame and two white knobs. The knobs are turned by hand to control a vertical and horizontal stylus across an aluminium powder-coated surface which creates solid lines on the screen.

Classic toy

Etch A Sketch has proved an immensely popular toy throughout the 1960s to present times, winning numerous awards like the ‘Toy Oscars’, induction into the ‘National Toy Hall of Fame’, the ‘Century of Toys List’, recommendations by the French Ministry of Education, and character roles in all three Toy Story movies.

Suitable for office cats?

You bet. I asked Wooof to test out our 1980s French version. Several hours later and three spent boxes of Catbizkit Chowbars, here are the stunning results, straight from the cat!


Télécran / Etch A Sketch. 1960s / 70s. France.

Etch A Sketch catalogue entry. Ets De Neuter. 1995. France.

Etch A Sketch catalogue entry. Trampline. 1980. France.

The Toy Story films

Disney Pixar.

Disney Pixar


How does Etch A Sketch work?

Basic mechanism of operating a 2-dimensional plotter. All of the numbered components correspond to those which move the plotter’s stylus horizontally, and the lettered components with those which move it vertically. Device consists of a series of 10 pulleys, 6 cables, 2 rails, and a stylus. 
The toy is a kind of plotter. The inside surface of the glass screen is coated with aluminium powder, which is then scraped off by a movable stylus, leaving a dark line on the light gray screen. The stylus is controlled by the two large knobs, one of which moves it vertically and the other horizontally. Turning both knobs simultaneously makes diagonal lines. To erase the picture, the user turns the toy upside down and shakes it. Doing this causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen with aluminum powder. The “black” line merely exposes the darkness inside the toy. Filling in large “black” areas allows enough light through to expose parts of the interior. – Author: K.D. Schroeder – graphic name.svg from Wikimedia Commons – License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

That’s all for now Etcher-sketchers, thanks for getting doodly with us 🙂

11 thoughts on “Etch A Sketch

  1. I loved my Etch A Sketch when I was wee… carried it everywhere. It was strange when I saw one crop up in Toy Story, cause I hadn’t thought about them in years!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello TVTA (The Very Talented Artists?) I had an Etch-a-Sketch but could never create any decent images, well not within a couple of weeks effort. Thankfully the Télécran inspired digital art so I can just about manage that.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hello again, I haven’t checked but do you have an article about another great drawing “toy” called the Sketch-a-Graph. It was a device which comprised of four jointed arms that attached to a swivel base. At the end of one arm was a stylus pointer and at the end of the other arm was a pencil. As you moved the stylus the arms moved in a scissor-like style and moved the pencil across a piece of paper. By tracing an image with the stylus you could create a copy of the image as a pencil drawing. You could also make larger or smaller scale copies by using other holes to hold the pencil. It was a great toy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sketch-a-Graph was actually a technical drawing aid for draughtsmen but became a fun toy for kids when it’s functions became known. It was produced by the company John Adams in the 1970’s. And I do remember Caset.o.Graph and it’s Spiro-Graph companion.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello TVTA, yep that’s the one! It was fantastic as you could trace over images with the stylus which moved the arms and with the pencil on the opposite end drew a copy. You could also enlarge or reduce the copied image size by using different combinations of holes. I made many posters of aircraft/spaceships to hang on my walls. (It was good for cartoons too)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is awesome thing. It helps enhance’s kids creativity and skills for adults. I have seen this in one of the movies I have watched a long time ago “little rascal” the kid was so good using it, though I know he’s not the one who really makes it. (u get what I mean) I always wanted to try this one. Great post, I enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I agree with what you say. It’s an ingenious little toy and deserving of its accolades. I had one as a kid and it was a lot of fun trying it out again for this post. I don’t know the film ‘Little Rascal’ will have to look that up. Thanks again.


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