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This is my first attempt at etching denim and I'm officially hooked! My goal for this project was to jazz up an old denim jacket I never wear using the Trotec Laser Cutter at TechShop Pittsburgh.

As a textile artist, I'm experimenting with ways to incorporate lasers and fabric. Here is an example of a 100" square quilt that includes laser cut thrift store clothes: http://mitchcollective.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/cr...

The image for this laser etch came from a reductive screen print I made. I simplified the skull and created a vector file that can now be implemented in many different CNC machines. You can see more of my work at www.sienabaldi.com

Step 1: Testing

After talking to a laser cutter guru about the prospect of etching denim, it was suggested to start out with the settings for paper and go from there. I had a scrap piece of denim to test out different settings. I found that the paper setting of power 42 speed 100 made hardly any image whatsoever so I upped the power.

Test A is two passes at power 60 speed 100 and Test B is two passes at power 80 speed 100. The test piece of denim was lighter than the actual jacket, but I was pleased with the visibility from Test B and opted to give those settings a whirl.

Step 2: Taping

The vector file I created was 8"x10.25" so I masked off that size rectangle in the center back of the jacket so that I knew where to position the laser. This wasn't super precise, but it seemed to work pretty well. In the future I would leave the bottom edge untaped so that there's no chance of the print getting cut off.

Step 3: Loading

To load the jacket into the laser bed I stacked several pieces of wood and a masonite board that was bigger than the image to be etched. The reason for elevating the jacket is so the sleeves and extra material can hang down and out of the way of the laser arm, which needs to move freely all the way across. In the future I would use Super 77 or some kind of spray adhesive to keep the jacket completely flat on the masonite board. The denim was heavy and kept its shape fairly well, but being tacked down couldn't hurt.

Step 4: Etching

Before starting the etch I set the laser just barely inside the upper left taped corner. The settings used were power 80 speed 100 on the TechShop Pittsburgh Trotec Laser Cutter.

I had set the laser cutter to do two passes, but was so pleased with the result of the first pass that I decided to quit while I was ahead. After stopping the laser cutter, all that was left to do was peel off the tape and strut around with my new super cool jacket.

<p>Very cool jacket and you did a great job on it!</p><p>My first attempts at laser engraving denim turned the scraps into dust - or it shredded when any stress was put on the fabric. After I dialed in the power and speed settings I did a vintage jean jacket. The objective was to make it look similar to biker &quot;colors&quot; or a patch jacket. The next step would have been to cut off the sleeves. I think it turned out pretty good for a first try...</p>
<p>Hi! Can I ask what settings you used and what type of denim (brand of jacket, weight of fabric)?</p>
<p>This looks great! Thanks for the great tips on engraving denim... So many do it but this is one of the best quality results I've seen. Great job!</p>
<p>Fantastic, how creative!</p>
<p>This is absolutely amazing; I checked out your quilt on you blog too - definitely rocking the laser - well done! :)</p>
Thanks so much! I'm hoping to share more soon
<p>This is such a cool technique! I love the effect and your design, too!</p>
<p>Thanks! I'm excited to try it out on leather too.</p>

About This Instructable

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Bio: I live through my hands, manifesting phantasmagoric creations as proof of my existence
More by wackymacster:Upcycled Jewelry Display CNC Vinyl Spray Painted Chairs Modular 3D Printed Mold Making 
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