Drawing like a five-year-old

an introduction to code art

Dr Ben Swift

ANU Research School of Computer Science

Who drew pictures as a 5yo?

Your "Hour of Code"

  • https://hourofcode.com/
  • teach the computer to draw a picture
  • learn how to deal with its tantrums
  • share your stuff with the world


  • open up a web browser (e.g. Firefox) and head to https://alpha.editor.p5js.org/
  • (optional) if you want to share your work later, create an account (it's super-easy, and free)

Edit the code

function setup() {
  createCanvas(800, 800);

function draw() {
  // add this next line on your computer
  rect(0, 0, 100, 100);
  • don't forget to hit the play button!

Can you draw the square differently?

  • bottom right
  • tall and skinny
  • short and fat
  • filling the whole top right quarter

New shapes

  • what happens if you replace rect with ellipse?
  • you can have multiple lines of code in the draw function---can you draw a square and a circle on top of one another?



  • put one of these before your rect line:

    fill(255, 0, 0);
    // or
    stroke(15, 180, 0);
  • try changing the numbers around...


fill(255, 0, 0); // each value from 0-255


how do you know what instructions the computer understands?

Use the reference

Dealing with errors

Dealing with errors

  • like a 5-year-old, you need to be specific
  • don't forget any brackets, commas, etc.
  • learn to understand the tantrums:
ReferenceError: sdfsd is not defined (sketch: line 8)
SyntaxError: missing ) after argument list (sketch: line 12)

Smiley face

function setup() {
  createCanvas(800, 800);

function draw() {
  // set colour to yellow & draw face
  fill(255, 255, 0);
  ellipse(400, 400, 400, 400);
  // set colour to black & draw eyes/mouth
  ellipse(300, 350, 70, 70);
  ellipse(500, 350, 70, 70);
  ellipse(400, 500, 120, 70);


  • replace one of the numbers (e.g. a 100) with mouseX
  • replace one of the numbers with frameCount
  • do some maths (e.g. +, -, *, /, %, ...)

What have we done today?

  • programming (like any sufficiently complex activity) uses lots of jargon & technical terms
  • but in the end, it's just about telling your computer what to do in language it understands
  • there's lots more!
  • if you created an account earlier, then you'll have a share tab along the top of the screen

Going further