Designing for Laser Cutting and Etching

What is laser cutting? 

Laser cutting and etching is a precise method that uses a high-power, thin, and focused laser beam to cut through various kinds of materials such as wood, glass, paper, metal, plastic, among others. The process uses a CNC router (Computer Numerical Control, a computer-controlled cutting machine) to dictate the movement of the laser beam on the chosen material according to a pattern.  

Example of Laser Cutting Machine

On this video you can see an example of the laser-cutting process in action. For the cutting, data that mathematically calculates straight lines and curves (also known as vectors) must be used to be read by the software. In short: A laser-machine will cut a vector shape, pattern or drawing in a specific material. 

That is where Gravit Designer comes into play! With Designer, you can create and export the pattern to be used by the laser-cutter. 

Why Gravit Designer? 

Gravit Designer is a versatile and full-featured design app that can be used to design apps, websites, logos, icons, illustrations, for print, and is also very easy to use for laser cutting. Laser-cutting requires vector files for the final design to send to the CNC machine for the cutting process. Gravit Designer also has a full-featured free version and is available for all platforms and can be used by students, schools, and universities. With Gravit Designer, students of all ages, and anyone who wants to create pieces with laser-cutting, can create the drawings for the machines quickly and easily. You can also import pre-made patterns to Gravit Designer (in PDF, SVG, AI, or EPS) and use it to edit them as you like, then export it again to be read by the cutter. 

Creating the file in Gravit Designer 

Now let us get into the creation of the drawing itself. In this guide, we will not get into the specifics of how to use Gravit Designer’s user interface and tools, but you can find all that information and much more in our TutorialsUser Guide, and blog.  

Let’s start by creating a new document. You can use any of the pre-made sizes available, but on this guide, we will use a custom size. You can do that at the top of the Welcome Screen by setting a Width, a Height and setting the unit of the document. Be sure to use a “real world” unit such as cm or mm, because this will make it much easier to have a better idea of the final product. For this guide let’s create a file of 20 x 10 cm (about the length of the long side of a credit card). Click Create! and you are good to go. 

Creating a custom canvas size of 20x10cm Color codes 

This is the finalized drawing we will be creating in this guide: 

You need to use parameters that the software will recognize, and this might vary from machine to machine. The machine modes usually work with a specific color code, and for this guide we will be using the following codes: 

Red (#FF0000) is for the parts where the laser will cut through the material  Black (#000000) is for the parts that will be engraved on the material 

The HEX code can be changed on the Color Picker window for both Fills and Borders, at the left on the Inspector panel, when any element is selected on the canvas. Remember to always leave the color opacity at 100%! 

Fills and Borders on the Inspector panel Color Picker dialog Creating the text 

To create the text “I” and “GRAVIT” from our example, select the Text tool and create two separate text layers for each word. With the text layers selected, check the Inspector panel again and you will notice that the Appearance options for the Text tool will be shown. The font used was Roboto (a free font already included with Gravit Designer), with Bold weight and 78px of size.  

Text tool on the toolbar

On the word “GRAVIT”, add 0,2 of character spacing to avoid that the letters are too close to each other. You can leave the colors, fills and borders as they are for

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