We make your ideas

Drawing resources

Adobe Illustrator CS®

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 CS6 here that you can use for up to 30 days.


How to set up a file in Adobe Illustrator CS


Using our drawing templates

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.

Templates for Adobe Illustrator can be downloaded from the corresponding material page in the materials gallery. Once downloaded, select and open the sheet size that is large enough for your components.

Download_template_illustrator.jpg,

Working with the drawing templates

Multiple files from same material
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 .

Multiple files from different materials
If you want parts cut / engraved from multiple materials, Use the corresponding templates for chosen material

Template sizes
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.


If using your materials or not using a template

  • 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.
Multiple art boards:

  • 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.
measurementsmm.jpg,

Configuring units & colour mode

  • 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
rgb-1.jpg,

Laser cutting lines

For everything you would like to have laser cut draw out your vector strokes in:

  • Red: RGB: 255,0,0
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt

Cutting and speed:
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.

LASER_CUT_RED_STROKES.jpg, LASER_CUT_RED_STROKES

Vector engraving / scoring lines

We have established optimized vector / scoring settings for all our materials to achieve a consistant 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:

  • Blue: RGB: 0,0,255
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt
VECTOR_ENGRAVE_STROKES2.jpg,

Raster engraving lines & fills

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

Arrange parts economically

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. See more on nesting components for raster engraving»

raster-1.png,

Raster engraving standard appearance & depth

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.

Bespoke depths / treatments:

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.

Up to 2mm is considered deep for most materials:

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.


Nesting components & minimum cut widths

Nesting:

  • 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.

Small details / cut widths:

  • 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.
nesting_cut_widths.png,

Maintaining continuous vector geometry

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.

  • To do this, use the Direct Selection Tool and select the open endpoints.
  • Select Object > Path > Join (Ctrl+J) from the top menu
path_join.jpg,

Reducing anchor points / simplifying drawing

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.

  • You can reduce the number of points with the Simplify tool
  • Select the stroke path you wish to simplify and select Object > Path > Simplify from the top menu
  • Adjust the sliders until you have maintained a balance between preserving appearance and reducing the number of anchor points
Simplify_vector_points.jpg,

Using text - outlining your fonts

All text used needs to be Outlined / converted to paths.

  • Select Type > Font > Create outlines from the top menu

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 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.

TEXT_OUTLINES_.jpg, OUTLINE_TEXT_1

Embedding images within a drawing

There are 2 options when working with images in illustrator, embedding and using live 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 or Gimp or any other image editing software.

  • Import your image into your file Select File > Place.* from the top menu bar
  • You can lay vectors over the top of the image for laser cutting of vector engraving

Embedding Linked Images

  • Select the image you placed in the file
  • The Linked File editing tools will appear in the Panel Bar
  • Select the Embed button
  • The Embedded Link icon will appear next to the Linked File in the links window, (Window > Links). Select the icon to embed the link
place_embed.jpg,

Live tracing images

You can also live trace (convert to vectors) the image you want to incorporate within your file.

To do this first select the inserted image, then:

  • Select Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. from the top menu bar
  • Experiment with the tracing options for the desired effect.
  • Make sure your traced shapes are a solid Black RGB 0,0,0
Live_trace.jpg,

Releasing all live paint groups

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.

  • View in Outlines (toggle Ctrl+Y.) This mimics how the laser cutter will “view” and process your drawing.
  • To release Live Paint groups select all vector strokes and fills, Select Object > Live Paint > Release
  • You can then either then trace or re-draw theses areas
  • To merge shapes you can also play around with the Pathfinder. Select your vectors then Select Effects > Pathfinder > play around with the options.
  • Vector strokes can be also be trimmed using the Scissors Tool
Live_paint_groups_release.jpg,

Releasing all clipping masks

You can’t use the clipping mask function to draft a drawing for laser cutting. Clipping masks are an “appearance” tool specific to illustrator.

  • View in Outlines (toggle Ctrl+Y) This mimics how the laser cutter will “view” and process your drawing.
  • To release clipping masks select all vector strokes and fills, Select Object > Clipping mask > Release
  • You can then either then trace or redraw them.
  • To merge shapes you can also play around with the Pathfinder Select vectors, Select Effects > Pathfinder > play around with the options.
  • Vector strokes can be also be trimmed using the Scissors Tool
Clipping_masks_release.jpg,

Cleaning up drawing / removing overlapping lines

When drafting your drawing 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.

  • You can spot duplicates quite easily as the stokes appear darker than other cutting lines.
  • To remove them use the Direct Select tool and delete until you have single lines remaining.

Checking outlines

  • View in Outlines (toggle Ctrl+Y.) This mimics how the laser cutter will “view” and process your drawing.
  • If there are any vectors strokes that you don’t want to have cut or engraved trim using the Scissors Tool.

Purge your file: Clear the all guides and stray vector points:

  • Select Select > Object > Stray Points to delete stray vectors not attached to a path.
  • Select View > Guides > Clear Guides to delete all guides.
cleaning_up_file.png,

Saving your file

  • Select File > Save As
  • Format Adobe Illustrator (ai)
  • Any version.

File name
Save your files in the following named format, replacing the fields with the relevant information:

MATERIAL_THICKNESS_ARTBOARDDIMENSION_DRAWINGNAME

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:

For example:
BIRCH PLYWOOD_3MM_1200x600MM_ARCH MODEL1OF5

Upload your files for a quote»

Save_file.jpg,