Outputting for the Laser Cutter (Illustrator)

To begin: first you have to design something in a vector based program. While SVGs do work for etching, you will need vector shapes in order to cut. So in the end, it’s good practice to get yourself acquainted with a vector editing program. We have some listed in our Software resource page that are free, but in the Makerspace we have the Adobe suite and tend to be Illustrator focused.

If you are looking for the Inkscape Version, please go HERE.

If you want to just download our template and start off that, you can download them here: Laser Cutter Template (AI)

This is what the template should look like when you open it:

Now assuming you’ve place your work into that file: congratulations, you now have a vector image to laser cut and/or etch. Hooray! Now we need to make sure the file is prepped and ready to go for the lab manager! Skip down to the Preparing Your File section. Continue if you want to make your own file from scratch.

Creating Your Own File:

First thing’s first: Make a New File.

Make sure your artboard dimensions are 12 by 24 inches. If they are not, change them with the Artboard Tool. (Tools are covered in depth in the Stencil tutorial linked above.)

Next make sure your Color Mode is RGB. You can check that by going to File > Document Color Mode > RGB Color. Because it is a digital print and not ink-based print, it does not need to rely on CMYK!

Now to make guides, Use Ctrl/Cmd + R (or View > Show Rulers) to open up the rules and set guides. (I usually make a 1/8 (0.125) inch bleed off the corner to make a safety space so the cutter may not cut off the bed (it does happen if the X/Y position is off. We do try our best to get it perfect, but laser cutter operators are human after all…)

You can use the Transform panel to place your guides exactly in those places. Window > Transform will open the panel up.

On the X Axis you want one at 0.125 inches and 23.875 inches. On the Y Axis you want one at 0.125 inches and 11.875 inches.

Feel free to resize the piece to fit your material you’re cutting from. You may want to add additional guides for say, your material size. For example, if your material is 12 by 12 inches, you make two more guides on the X Axis at 12 inches and 11.875 inches to give you the proper safety area. If it’s 4 by 6 inches, add two more on the X Axis at 6 inches and 5.875 inches, and add two at 4 inches and 3.875 inches on the Y Axis and so forth.

Preparing Your File:

Etching Settings: Vector MUST be in in greyscale. If only doing one solid color, Black (#000000) etches the deepest. The closer to white (#FFFFFF), the shallower the etch.

Cutting Settings: MUST be a red (#FF0000) stroke set at 0.01 points. Anything else and print will not run. Sometimes a black (#000000) stroke works as well, but not always.

If you are doing both, separate you etch and cuts into separate groups or layers– whatever your preference is. This helps the Lab Manager run jobs more quickly.

If you need to flip shapes into strokes and vice versa, the swap tool does just that.

If you’d like, remove all your extraneous parts/sketches you traced on, etc and put them in a new layer and hide & lock them. It’s also good practice to put your guides in their own layer too.

Next, go to File > Save As and name your file. Save it as an AI file. (If you’re not using Illustrator at home, you may want to save a copy as an SVG or EPS.

Then move the file to a flash drive (to bring in physically) AND email it to the Makerspace Manager when you contact them to make your laser cutting appointment. That way should for some reason the file have any issues on arrival via email, you have a copy they can use.