Picture of How to create a laser cut file in Illustrator

Interested in laser cutting but intimidated by the software required to make a file? You're not alone! This Instructable will demystify the magic of laser cut files and get you on your way to your first project.

I make most of my laser cut files using Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector based program that outputs laser cutter friendly .ai files. It includes a lot of tools and shortcuts that make putting together a file more efficient.

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Step 1: Open the program and create a new document

Let's start by opening the program and creating a new document.

File > New

The hot key for this is crtl + n

Enter the document name and dimensions

Step 2: Basic tools

Illustrator is a powerful program with a sometimes overwhelming number of tools. Here are a few tools that can get you through most basic projects.

As you make more files, you'll get more comfortable with the program and experimenting with new tools. For now, try to keep things simple until you have a basic understanding of how to use these tools.

Shape tool

Line tool

Pen tool

Selection tool

Step 3: Cutting and etching

Laser cutters can do more than just cut, they can etch (or burn) the surface of material as well.

This can be controlled with the fill and stroke tool.

For most laser cutters, anything with a stroke weight of .001 pt or less will be a cut line and anything above that will be an etch. Any filled in area will also be etched.