Ponoko

Starter Kit: Adobe Illustrator

Starting your design

Adobe Illustrator (R)

How to design smaller things (using a laser cutter)

Starting your design

You must use our design templates when creating your design.

After downloading, open your chosen template in Illustrator as you would a normal file, ensure File > Document color mode is set to RGB, then create your design.

You can design for laser cutting on our three different material sheet sizes:

P1
181 x 181 mm7.1 x 7.1 in
P2
384 x 384 mm15.1 x 15.1 in
P3
790 x 384 mm31.1 x 15.1 in

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How to design for lasers

The color of the line you draw determines what the laser cutter/engraver will do.

For example, if you draw a bird with a blue outline, the laser will cut out a bird ...

And if you made the same line red, the laser would engrave the bird into the material. And so on.

It's that easy.

Now, here are the details ...

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Cutting lines

The core of your design will be the shapes you want cut out.

The easiest way to visualize how this translates to your design is to imagine laying the pieces you want to make on a sheet of paper, then drawing around the edges before taking them away. Your design should look like the lines left on the paper.

To make a cutting line, draw a line or shape.

Then set the stroke weight to 0.01 mm:

And set the stroke color to blue with RGB values of 0, 0, 255:

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Vector line engraving

Vector line engraving works in a similar way to cutting, but instead of slicing right through the material, the laser just marks the surface.

The laser will trace along the engraving line you draw in your design package. There are three different strengths available: light, medium and heavy – with corresponding depth and darkness. All three are very thin – approximately the width of the laser's beam.

Stroke weight

Vector line engraving needs a stroke weight of 0.01 mm:

Light vector line engraving

Set the stroke color to magenta with RGB values of 255, 0, 255:

Medium vector line engraving

Set the stroke color to green with RGB values of 0, 255, 0:

Heavy vector line engraving

Set the stroke color to red with RGB values of 255, 0, 0:

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Raster fill engraving

Raster fill engraving must ALWAYS be indicated by using a fill color - never a stroke color. To turn a black/gray/white stroke into a filled shape in Illustrator, select your line and use the Object > Expand command, with 'Stroke' ticked in the options box that appears. If you want a very thin engraving line, we would always recommend using vector line engraving instead of raster fill engraving - as above.

The strength of the raster engraving ranges from black as the heaviest, down to very pale gray which is the lightest (or white, which is none). You can actually use any strength in between these two, as long as all your RGB values match. Make sure you only use solid, single color fills – no patterns or textures.

To give your raster engraving a clean edge, combine it with vector engraving around the outside of your shape.

Light raster fill engraving

Set the fill color to light grey with RGB values of 230, 230, 230:

Medium raster fill engraving

Set the fill color to medium grey with RGB values of 128, 128, 128:

Heavy raster fill engraving

Set the fill color to black with RGB values of 0, 0, 0:

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Using text

Any text you use in your design file needs to be converted to outlines. This way the laser cutter will follow your design correctly, regardless of whether or not it has the font installed.

This is as simple as selecting your text and then choosing Type > Create Outlines from the top menu. You won't be able to edit the text once you've done this, so do it last after your spell check.

You can create text using raster fill engraving, vector line engraving, or a combination of both.

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Using images

Our making system only registers vector artwork. It will ignore images inserted in other formats (such as .jpg or .bmp).

To get around this, you'll need to trace the image you want to incorporate into your design. You can do this by selecting the inserted image and using the Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options command. You'll see there are several tracing options so try out a few until you find the one you want. Make sure your traced shapes are a single solid color.

Next, you'll need to use the Object > Expand command. If the trace has worked correctly, vectors should appear around all of the individual parts of the traced image. There will also be a clear rectangular box around the outside of the traced image – select this with the ‘Direct select' tool and remove it.

Finally, to choose the level of raster engraving you want to use, select all the elements of the traced image and adjust their fill color.

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Removing double lines

If you place objects directly beside each other, it's likely you'll end up with cutting lines sitting one on top of the other.

You should be able to see these quite plainly as being a darker blue than your other cutting lines. You need to change these double lines into a single cutting line – or as we call them, a shared cutting line. Otherwise the line will literally be cut twice – which is not the best for your material, or the machine.

To remove double lines, select them using the ‘Direct select' tool, then hit delete once or twice. This should leave behind another line, paler than the one you had. By removing double lines you'll achieve a better result.

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Exporting your file

Step 1: Use the File > Save As command and select the format as 'Illustrator EPS':

Step 2: Select the version 'Illustrator 8 EPS' and make sure your final ‘EPS Options' panel looks the same as shown here, then click 'OK':

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How to self check your designs before uploading

See this video to self check your Illustrator designs.



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