The following guidelines give a detailed step by step overview of how to set up your drawings for us using the Adobe Illustrator Software. You can download a demo copy of Adobe Illustrator CC here that you can use for up to 7 days.
If using our materials, we recommend downloading our drawing templates. You don’t have to use them, but it helps to verify scale and material type. Materials come in all different sizes depending on the maximum sheet size supplied from the manufacturer.
The following templates are set to our machine sizes.
You don’t need to fill the artboard, these sizes are just a guide.
If you want all your parts cut / engraved from the same material, arrange into multiples of the same templates and draw as many as required.
If you want parts cut / engraved from multiple materials, use the corresponding templates for chosen material.
Try and use templates that suit best the scale of you drawings. i.e. if your components can fit within a 1000mm x 500mm template, don’t position your drawing on a 2000mm x 1000mm template with lots of excess.
If you have lots of small components from the same material it’s best to draft these on a series of smaller templates approximately 1000mm x 500mm rather than on one large template. Cutting & engraving densely populated files over large areas can cause the material to warp during the process.
If you have elements of your drawing that will only fit onto a large template but don’t need to use a whole sheet, just leave the remaining areas blank. We’ll only charge you for the amount of material you need.
Set art board to match the size of the material in mm
Select File > New > Set width / size from the top menu
Allow 5mm from the border of the material.
Select File > New > Number of Artboards from the top menu
You can use multiple on one file if setting up different files to be cut from the all the same material and thickness only.
Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm
Draw components at actual size.
If copying and pasting vectors from another file, make sure that they are at the scale you require
Make sure you are working in RGB mode
Select File > Document Colour Mode > RGB
For everything you would like to have laser cut draw out your vector strokes in:
The laser cuts different materials at varying speeds. As a benchmark it generally takes longer to cut thicker materials than thinner ones. The thicker a material the more power is required at a lower speed. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than it is at cutting curves.
We have established optimized vector / scoring settings for all our materials to achieve a consistent result with the best clarity. The depth is very shallow and cosmetic just scratching the surface. The Strokes & Fonts engraving sample (line weight 0.25pt) demonstrates the clarity on each material. These can be viewed in the materials gallery.
For everything you would like to be vector engraved / scored set the strokes to:
While we can raster engrave thin vector strokes, it’s advised that you vector engrave/ score them. All vectors you would like raster engraved must be indicated by a vector fill.
To turn a stroke into a filled shape:
Set strokes to a minimum of 0.40mm. / 1pt (anything thinner wont engrave)
Expand strokes. Select Object > Expand > Stroke / Fill
Set all fill colours to:
Black: RGB: 0,0,0
When arranging artwork for engraving that have a few components on one sheet, it’s best to keep all of the raster engraving as close together as possible and in horizontal row.
We have established optimized settings for all materials. In raster engraving terms the marking is cosmetic, shallow and typically a balance between legibility and cleanliness. The Strokes & Fonts sample on the material pages demonstrates the clarity achievable on each material.
If you would like to achieve a deeper result or an engraving a little heavier let us know your specification. In laser terms depth is usually specified in microns.
It is achievable, but the laser has to run slowly meaning the concentrated heat build up makes the material appear quite burnt / heat scorched. It is also more expensive to process. Raster and vector engraving is not absolute science in terms of depth specification and therefore not suitable for making mechanical grooves or any features requiring precise depths. Achieving a certain depth is a balance in variation between the laser power and speed. A depth of engraving will always be within a tolerance of +/-0.2mm.
If compiling a file with lots of components on one sheet of material, make sure there is a gap of at least 2mm between the components.
As a benchmark, we recommend that minimum cut widths be no smaller than the thickness of the material. E.G. If cutting from 3mm acrylic, its best not to allow cut widths less than 3mm. We can go smaller but things can get quite fragile and in some cases can cause the material to warp whilst cutting. You can browse the minimum cut width tests in the materials galley.
Try and make sure that all your vector paths are continuous. If strokes / closed shapes are constructed from more than one path, make sure that you join / close the paths.
Draw with the least amount of anchor points possible without sacrificing the drawing appearance. If you can reduce them, we suggest you do. The machines will process your drawings quicker. Too many anchor points can also impact quality.
All text used needs to be Outlined / converted to paths.
This is to convert the text to vectors and preserve your font. If you don’t do this and we don’t have your font installed within Illustrator on our computers, the file will open in default font Myriad or Arial.
The middle islands of some letters will fall out when laser cut which can make the text difficult to read. If you would like to prevent this one option is to use a stencil font.
There are 2 options when working with images in Illustrator, embedding and using image trace. In both cases images need to be at least 300 dpi and in grayscale. We recommend you carry out any image editing in Photoshop, Gimp or any other image editing software.
You can also image trace (convert to vectors) the image you want to incorporate within your file in Illustrator.
To do this first select the inserted image, then:
You can’t use the live paint function to draft a drawing for laser cutting or engraving. Live paint is an “appearance” tool specific to illustrator.
Make sure you release all live paint groups. The appearance will not be preserved when saving your file for the laser machine.
You can’t use the clipping mask function to draft a drawing for laser cutting. Clipping masks are an “appearance” tool specific to illustrator.
When drafting your drawing within Illustrator ensure that there are no duplicate vector strokes stacked up on one another. If you don’t get rid of them the laser will cut / score these lines repeatable, ruining the material and damaging the laser bed.
Purge your file: Clear the all guides and stray vector points:
Save your files in the following named format, replacing the fields with the relevant information:
The material drawing templates already have the material category name and art-board dimension by default, you will just need to enter your individual material specification and drawing name. Make sure you give easily identifiable names to your drawings:
BIRCH PLYWOOD_3MM_1200x600MM_ARCH MODEL1OF5