Picture of Inlay Leaf Design with Laser Cutter
This Instructable will give you step by step instructions for making a nice inlay veneer leaf pattern.

I really enjoy working with the laser cutter at TechShop. I am constantly amazed at the tiny detail it can render. And while it's running the motion is mesmerizing.

I wanted to cut some images that showed off this incredible device, but I'm not an artist. I could use images I find on the web, but those really belong to someone else. I wanted to find a way to make some detailed artistic projects that I could call 100% my own.

Last month I hit on the perfect idea - use my own photographs of nature! The subjects come with infinite detail, and the copyright belongs to me.

I start with picking a leaf from our garden and end with a third clear coat. Along the way we'll use a digital camera, Corel Draw, and the Epilog laser cutter at the Menlo Park TechShop.

You can see my other projects at Shrimpware or read more about me on my web site.

Let's get started!

Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Choose a leaf

Picture of Choose a leaf
I went into our yard and looked for a nice leaf. Angela is an active member of the California Native Plant Society so our garden is all California natives. I found a nice specimen on our native Flowering Current. I placed the picked leaf on a white background for contrast and took a photo with my iPhone.

I added the photo to Dropbox and it magically appears on my PC.

Step 2: Turn the Photo into a Solid Area

Picture of Turn the Photo into a Solid Area
Now I start up CorelDraw; the PCs at TechShop are stuffed with all the latest software.

I create a new project and use File/Import to bring in the photo.

Using the corner handle I resize my large photo until the leaf is about 6 inches across.

Use the Effects / Adjust / Desaturate to get a gray image.

Use the Effects / Adjust / Brightness Contrast Intensity  to set Contrast to 100%.

Now we have a solid black image of the leaf.
jkimball6 months ago

I think this is an under appreciated guide that really covers the process from start to finish very well.

jschrempp (author)  jkimball6 months ago

Thanks jkimball for the kind words! If you do some inlay work, I'd enjoy seeing it.


togo19192 years ago
Nice one Jim!

Thanks for the thorough detail on tweaking the photo in CorelDraw.

I found a copy of CorelDraw 5 on eBay for less than $50 - it's nice to prepare drawings on your own PC before taking them to the shop.