Etch-A-Sketch Review

by Julia DeKorte | 01 Nov 2023

Book Reviews

Etch-A-Sketch Review



Etch-A-Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy that allows players to draw using twisty knobs. It consists of a thick, flat, gray screen in a bright red frame, with two white knobs on the lower corners. Twisting the knobs moves a stylus that moves around aluminum powder on behind the screen, leaving solid lines behind. The knobs create lineographic images. To make vertical lines, twist the right knob, and to make horizontal lines, twist the left knob.


The toy is a kind of plotter. The inside surface of the screen is coated with aluminum powder that is scraped off with a stylus controlled by the white knobs, which leaves a dark line behind. Users can create diagonal lines by moving the knobs simultaneously. To erase the picture, all you have to do is give the toy a good shake.


For any age, an Etch-A-Sketch is tons of fun—especially for independent play. Children and adults alike focus in on creating pictures using knobs rather than a utensil. It is very simply a classic, timeless game.



Etch-A-Sketch was invented by André Cassagnes, a French electrician, in the late 1950s. He called it L’Écran Magique, which translates to The Magic Screen In 1959, he brought his idea to the Nuremberg Toy Fair, where Ohio Art Company decided to take a chance on the toy. They renamed it Etch-A-Sketch, and it became the most popular drawing toy in the industry.


The toy was launched in the United States in 1960, just in time for Christmas season, and had a television ad to go with it. It sold 600,000 units in its first year and is one of the best known toys of that era.


The original Etch-A-Sketch featured a glass screen rather than a plastic one, but in 1970, the Consumers Union filed a petition with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking for action under the Child Protection and Toy Safety Act.



One variation includes the Etch-A-Sketch Animator, which debuted in 1986. It used the same two knobs to create drawings, but there were also several buttons that could be sued to manipulate the drawings, and even included sound effects.


Another variation is the Etch-A-Sketch Color, which, like it sounds, allows player to draw in six different colors. There’s also the Etch-A-Sketch ETO—Plug and Play Drawing System, also known as the Etch-A-Sketch Wired. It involved hand-held controllers that connect to a television and work like a regular Etch-A-Sketch, but on a television screen and with colors and sound effects.


Reception & Awards

The Etch-A-Sketch is a classic toy that was found in households in the 1960s as often as it is found in households today—it seems like everyone has an Etch-A-Sketch. It has sold over 100 million units worldwide. In 1998, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and in 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Etch-A-Sketch one of the 100 most memorable toys of the 20th century.


The Etch-A-Sketch was featured in the 1995 film Toy Story, which significantly increased sales. It was featured again in Toy Story 2, and 1999 saw a 20% increase in Etch-A-Sketch sales because of it.


Many professional artists use the Etch-A-Sketch to produce breathtakingly detailed pictures and make them permanent by removing the aluminum powder.


To learn more about Etch-A-Sketch, visit their POP profile and André Cassagnes’ POP Profile.


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