Inkscape® (free software)
The following guidelines give a detailed step by step overview of how to set up your drawings for us using Inkscape drawing software. You can download a free copy of Inskcape here.
How to setup a file in Inkscape®
- Using our drawing templates
- If using your materials or not using a template
- Configuring units & colour mode
- Laser cutting Lines
- Vector engraving / scoring strokes
- Raster engraving strokes & fills
- Nesting components & minimum cut widths
- Maintaining continuous vector geometry
- Reducing anchor points / simplifying drawing
- Using text - converting to paths
- Embedding images within a drawing
- Tracing image bitmaps
- Cleaning up drawing / removing overlapping lines
- Saving your file
Using our drawing templates
If using our materials, we recommend downloading our drawing templates. They help to verify scale and material type. Materials come in all different sizes depending on the maximum sheet size supplied from the manufacturer.
Templates for Inkscape 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.
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
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.
If using your materials or not using a template
You’ll need to resize the page to the size of your material.
- Set art board to match the size of the material in mm
- Select File > Document Properties > Set width / size
- Allow 5mm from the border of the material.
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 within the template
- Make sure you are working in RGB mode
- Select File > Document Properties > Colour Management
Laser cutting Lines
For everything you would like to have laser cut draw out your vector lines in:
- Red: RGBA: 255,0,0,255
- Stroke weight: to 0.010mm
Vector engraving / scoring strokes
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 lines to:
- Blue: RGBA: 0,0,255,255
- Stroke weight: to 0.010mm
Raster engraving strokes & fills
While we can raster engrave thin vector lines, 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 line into a filled shape in Inkscape:
- Set strokes to a minimum of 0.40mm (anything thinner wont engrave)
- Select your line and select Path > Stroke to path command
- Set all fill colours to: Black: RGBA: 0,0,0,255)
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 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. Our standard engrave is approx 0.25 microns (depending on material) and has excellent legibility.h4. 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 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
- 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:
- The laser burns away a portion of material which ranges from 0.1mm – 0.4mm depending on a lot of different factors. This means any areas in your design where cut lines come closer than 0.5mm together they could burn away entirely. Any details narrower than 1mm are likely to be very fragile and in some cases can cause the material to warp whilst cutting. You need to be aware of this when drafting your drawing:
- 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 we can’t be held responsible if you your components become fragile for you application. You can browse the minimum cut width tests in the materials galley.
Maintaining continuous vector geometry
Try and make sure that all your vector paths are continuous. If a lines are constructed from more than one path, make sure that you join / close the nodes.
- To do this, use the Use the Edit paths by node tool. The nodes will appear as grey diamonds
- Select the nodes you want to join holding down the shift key as you select them. The diamonds will turn blue
- Select the Join selected endpoints with a new segment button
- The nodes will join together and the path will be in one continuous vector line
Reducing anchor points / simplifying drawing
Draw with the least amount of nodes possible without sacrificing the appearance. If you can reduce them, we suggest you do. The machines will read your drawings a little easier. Too many nodes can also have an affect on quality.
- You can reduce the number of nodes with the Simplify tool.
- Select the stroke path you wish to simplify with the Edit paths by node tool.
- Select Path > *Simplify. Repeat if necessary until you have maintained a balance between preserving appearance and reducing the nodes
Using text - converting to paths
All text used needs to be converted to paths.
- Select text, then select Path > Object to Path
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 here, 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.
Embedding images within a drawing
There are 2 options when working with images in INKSCAPE, embedding and using tracing to bitmaps. 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: File > import
- When prompted select Embed from the link or embed image notification
- You can lay vectors over the top of the image for laser cutting of vector engraving
Tracing image bitmaps
You can also trace the image you want to incorporate within your file to convert it to vectors. To do this first select the inserted image
- Select Path > Trace Bitmap
- Experiment with the tracing options for the desired effect
- Make sure your traced shapes are a solid Black RGB 0,0,0
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.
It’s also worth viewing your drawing in outline mode just to make sure you don’t have any white fills that are obscuring any hidden vector strokes. To do this:
- Select View > Display mode > Outline. This mimics how the laser cutter will “view” and process your drawing
Breaking nodes with in paths
If you have placed components directly beside each other you are likely to have parts of the vector shape with duplicate lines. In this case you will need to break apart the nodes manually so that they share the same line. In the examples the middle line between the rectangles will be broken and shared
- Select all vector strokes and fills. Select Path > Object to Path to convert to nodes
- Select one of the shapes using the Edit paths by nodes to show nodes (grey diamonds)
- Select the node on one side of the line to be broken. (It will turn blue)
- Select the Break path at selected nodes button
- Select the node on the other side of the line to be broken from the path. (it will turn blue)
- Select the Break path at selected nodes button
- Select the middle of the line you have just broken from the shape and press delete
- One of the rectangles is now sharing a stroke from another. If you move the rectangle aside you can see this more clearly
Saving your file
- Select File > Save As
- Format Inkscape SVG *.SVG)
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 page size 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