Turtle Properties

Once again, let’s create a test turtle called bob and then explore how to change its appearance.

import turtle

bob = turtle.Turtle()
Image showing the default Python turtle shape.

Default turtle shape.

The turtle module contains methods that change the properties of either the turtle object or the screen object. The table below lists some common methods for changing the look of what gets drawn. Clicking on any of the keywords leads to a more detailed description.

Common Turtle Methods
Drawing Pen Control Screen Control
color() pensize() setup()
shape() penup() bgcolor()
speed() pendown() exitonclick()
fillcolor() clear()  
begin_fill() end_fill() reset()  

Feel free to experiment with the methods in the three editors below: drawing, pen control, screen control.

You can find links to a full list of turtle methods in the last section of this appendix.

Drawing Methods

Besides movement commands like forward and left, we can also change the characteristics of the turtle object.

Turtle Color

To change the color of the lines, use the syntax:


Python recognizes a large number of color names, which include standards like red, green, blue, cyan, as well as options like lightgreen, turquoise, skyblue, etc. The best way to tell if Python recognizes a color is to try!

Python also accepts a hex code instead of a color name. A hex code is a 6-character code that describes how to mix different amounts of red, green, and blue to produce a specific color. The code must follow a # character.


The following figure shows the result of giving bob different colors:

bob.pensize(3)                # Set the line thickness to 3 pixels.
bob.color('light salmon')     # Yeah, this is a color.
bob.color('#3c79b8')          # Hex code for smokey blue.
Image showing red, purple, light salmon, and smokey blue.

To see a list of color names that Python recognizes, check out the Trinket documentation, which provides an easy grid structure. If none of the colors shown appeal to you, remember that hex codes let you tinker with the color until you find the exact shade you want.

Fill Color

Turtles can also fill the shapes they draw with a particular color. By default, the fill color and line color are the same, so bob.color('blue') draws blue lines and fills shapes with that color.

To change the fill color, use the syntax:


Just like with the color method, fillcolor recognizes specific color names, and it also accepts hex codes. Note that the line and fill colors are both represented by the turtle image on the screen.


The following figure shows the result of giving bob different fill colors. In each case, the line color is black.

bob.pensize(3)                # Set the line thickness to 3 pixels.
bob.fillcolor('white smoke')  # Yeah, this is a color.
bob.fillcolor('#419f6a')      # Hex code for summer green.
Image showing violet, yellow, white smoke, and summer green fill colors.


We can use the color method to set BOTH the line and fill color by using two parameters instead of one.

bob.pensize(3)                      # Set the line thickness to 3 pixels.
bob.color('black', 'pink')          # Set black line color and pink fill color.
bob.color('purple', 'gold')
bob.color('tomato', 'skyblue')
bob.color('#3c79b8', '#419f6a')     # Hex codes for smokey blue and summer green.
Image showing 4 examples of setting line and fill colors.

Turtle Shape

The Python library offers six choices for a turtle’s shape—‘arrow’, ‘circle’, ‘classic’, ‘square’, ‘triangle’, and ‘turtle’. By default, turtles begin with the ‘classic’ shape.

Image showing the six shape options for Python turtles.

Arrow, circle, classic, square, triangle, turtle.

To set the shape for a turtle object, we use the syntax:


shape_name must be one of the six options, and it must be in quotes. For example, bob.shape('circle') changes bob from its default shape to a circle.

Image comparing the default turtle shape vs. a circle shape.

Classic turtle shape + line vs. circle shape + line.

Turtle Speed

To set how quickly a turtle draws, use the syntax:


speed_value can be set to any integer from 1 (slowest) - 10 (fastest). Setting speed_value to 0 skips the drawing animation and instantly shows the finished shape on the screen.

Fill a Drawing

To fill the design drawn by a turtle, use the syntax:

# Drawing code

Once the drawing code between begin_fill() and end_fill() completes, Python shades the design with the turtle’s current fill color.


Note how the placement of drawing commands between begin_fill() and end_fill() affects the coloring.

bob.circle(100, 180)    # Draw a half circle.
bob.circle(100, 180)    # Draw another half circle.

bob.circle(100, 180)    # Draw a half circle.
bob.circle(100, 180)    # Draw another half circle.
Image showing completely filled vs. half-filled circles.

Making a Stamp

The stamp() method leaves a print of the turtle’s shape on the page. Compare the results of the two code samples below. Each turtle draws a line that is 200 pixels long.


Image showing a stamped turtle line.

Notice how the second line shows where the turtle mae left an imprint (a stamp) on the drawing before moving to the next position.

Try It! (Drawing)

In the editor below, use the color, shape, speed, stamp, and filling methods to do the following:

  1. Change the turtle shape, line color, and fill color.
  2. Try several different speed values from 0 - 10.
  3. Move the begin_fill() and end_fill() statements around to see how their location in the code affects the drawing. Also, feel free to add or remove begin_fill/end_fill pairs.
  4. Leave stamps at different points on the drawing.

Pen Control

Other methods determine how a turtle draws lines or leaves other marks on the screen.

Line Thickness (Pen Size)

To change the thickness of the lines drawn, use the syntax:


value sets the number of pixels, and it can be any positive number. The larger the value, the thicker the lines. By default, turtles start with a pensize of 1.

Penup and Pendown

Two methods control whether or not a turtle draws a line behind itself when it moves:


The penup() method tells a turtle to lift up its tail. Any movement commands that follow will reposition the turtle but NOT draw any lines.

The pendown() method does the opposite, drawing lines behind the turtle as it moves. The pendown state is the default whenever a new turtle is created.

Clear and Reset

To erase a turtle’s drawings from the screen, use the syntax:

# OR

Both methods remove only the drawings made by the selected turtle. clear() keeps settings like color, line thickness, and position the same. reset() re-centers the turtle on the page and returns most of its properties to their default values.


Watch below as clear and reset are applied to two of the turtles.

GIF comparing the clear() and reset() turtle methods.

Which turtle uses clear(), and which one uses reset()?

Try It! (Pen)

In the editor below, use the pen control methods to do the following:

  1. Draw a row of turtle stamps.

    Image showing a row of turtle stamps without connecting lines.
  2. Draw a dashed line.

    Image showing a dashed line.
  3. Make the dashes different thicknesses (e.g. steady increase, steady decrease, or no pattern).

    Image showing changing thicknesses for a dashed line.
  1. Challenge: Bring in the fill methods to try to make something that looks like this:

    Image showing a hexagon filled with 3 different colors.

Screen Control

Several methods adjust the drawing space. To use these methods, we must first define a screen variable.

Just like we defined bob as a turtle object, we can define the screen variable to control the drawing space.

import turtle

screen = turtle.Screen()

Set Up

To set the width and height of the drawing space, use the syntax:

screen_name.setup(width, height)

Both width and height must be integers, and they each represent a number of pixels.

Sometimes width or height will be larger than what a device can display. In this case, the drawing window will include scroll bars to allow the user to view the entire area.

Background Color

To change the background color of the drawing space, use the syntax:


Just like the color and fillcolor methods, Python accepts color names and hex codes for color_name.

Exit On Click

By default, Python closes the turtle window immediately after the program ends, which means any cool graphics get lost before we can fully appreciate them. To prevent this, add a statement at the end of the program that tells Python to pause before closing the window.


exitonclick() causes the turtle window to stay open until the user clicks somewhere inside that space.

Try It! (Screen)

In the editor below, run the program as-is first, then use the screen control methods to do the following:

  1. Change the background color of the drawing space.
  2. Change the width of the drawing space. For your device, how large can you make the width before a scroll bar appears?
  3. Change the height of the drawing space. For your device, how large can you make the width before a scroll bar appears?
  4. Note the default starting position for bob with each new screen size.
  5. Note what happens when you click inside and outside of the drawing space.