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Well, it's my third Instructable and I feel more comfortable: your kind comments on previous ones help me make better tutorials. Thanks to all of you who have enjoyed and contributed to improve my previous (and future) Instructables!

For now, we're going to explore something new: decorating the door of an interior room, especially if it's a baby's room. I must confess I've been offering this as a baby's birth gift at least 10 times last 12 months, at the greatest pleasure of the parents!!!

What we'll see in this Instructable:
  • where and how to find elegant inspiration sources for door decorations
  • how to customize them to your specific needs
  • key elements for making a great door decoration

Material checklist:
  • the current Instructable
  • an Internet connection
  • a vector drawing application (like Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw)
  • a bitmap drawing application (like Gimp, MS Paint or Adobe Photoshop)
  • a sheet of plywood (or any material you want to cut to produce the decoration)
  • a laser cutter

Ready. Steady. Go!

Step 1: First Step: the Base Picture

Let's begin with some image search.

Off course, if you have drawing skills, you can easily skip it. Otherwise, stay tuned!

Up to now, I've always been satisfied with those settings: Google search -> enter keyword related to your search (like "butterfly" in my case) -> Images -> select (in the bottom of the left column) Line drawing (direct link)

Pay attention: what we are looking for (now) are not only nice looking images, but also images that will cut well:
  • clear lines 
  • black & white (or very high contrast)

If you don't catch it, just download one random image, print it on a paper with a printer, then cut each line with a scissor. You'll understand more easily, I presume...

Once you have the right picture (mine here), you'll perhaps have to clean it if it's not 100% usable as is. Take a look at the second image and you'll see what's wrong: some lines make it impossible to cut it properly (ie: without some parts falling apart or the contrary: hanging while they were supposed falling apart). The third image shows exactly the lines that need to be erased.

Here are the steps for converting your raw picture into a proper image, ready for tracing:
  1. Open the file in an image editor, like Gimp or MS Paint or Adobe Photoshop.
  2. Take the eraser tool or the pen, so that you remove the unneeded lines.
  3. You can then also fill the main body of the piece to be cut, so that tracing is easier (see first picture).
  4. Then save the file, it's ready for tracing!

Here we see how to trace your bitmap image and make it a vector one:
  1. Open your file in a vector graphic editor, Inkscape is fine for that!
  2. In Inkscape, select your drawing, then Path -> Trace bitmap.
  3. As the drawing we chose here is full black and white, it's the easiest way for tracing it.
  4. The default settings will work: Mode -> Brightness cutoff -> Threshold: 0.450
  5. Click OK then close the Trace Bitmap window.
  6. You can delete the original bitmap image (in the background, under the newly created vector object)
  7. Now save your document with the SVG format for the next step


Step 2: Personalize It Your Way!

It's now time to make it personal...

In my peculiar case, I wanted to write the name of the newborn baby for whom I was making the decoration.

Here are the steps for putting the letter of the name on an arc:
  1.  first draw an horizontal line from the upper part of one wing to the other (with the freehand tool, F6)
  2.  then edit Path by nodes (F2), click anywhere on the line, then one the icon "Make selected segments curve"
  3.  then click and drag the line up so that it becomes a nice curve that future letter will follow
  4.  select the Create and edit text objects tool (F8), write the letters anywhere on the document and select the whole word to change the parameters of the text (font + size). I chose Love letters.
I found that there were some problems:
  • The font wasn't bold enough
  • Love Letters isn't a cursive font, so letters would fall apart if not connected purposely
So here are the steps I took to solve those concerns (in Inkscape):
A- Making the letters bolder:
  1. Select the text object (click once on it)
  2. Convert the text into vectors: Path -> Object to Path (Shift + Ctrl + C)
  3. Expand the object's contour: Path -> Outset (Ctrl + ")" , don't put the double quotes!)
  4. That's it!
B- Make the letters hang together:
  1. Select the(formerly text) object
  2. Break apart the letters: Path -> Break Apart (Shift + Ctrl + K)
  3. Some individual letters will be broken into several pieces (M, i and a in my case), select the pieces of the same letter and Combine (Ctrl+K) them together
  4. Move adjacent letters so that they overlap slightly
  5. Select all letters and reunite them: Path -> Union (Ctrl+ +) 

Now the end is near!
Delete the arc that is now useless.
Adjust the placement of the word (Milla in my example)  relative to the object (the butterfly in my example)
Select the word and the object then reunite their paths:Path -> Union (Ctrl+ +)

Here you are, congratulations!

Now it's time to prepare the file for laser cutting...


Step 3: Preparing Your File for Laser Cutting

Well, now we have our file that fits our dreams, but we need to make it suitable for the laser cutter...

Depending on the brands, there are different standards to make a file compatible with the driver of the laser cutter.

1- Epilog

It's easy: thin lines are cut (hair line in Corel Draw, about 0.01mm), the rest is etched (colors are converted to shades of gray).


2- Universal Laser

See the manual. Using a thin line (about 0.001 inch or 0.01mm) should be ok for cutting.


3- Other vendors

Sorry, I don't  know, ask your manufacturer, look at your manual or search on their website!


Beware for any vendor (at least Epilog and Universal Laser):
  • convert your texts into vectors (in our case, it has already been done in the previous steps)
  • avoid double lines, which would be cut twice if not removed.

A nice explanation can be found here: http://www.ponoko.com/starter-kits/design-rules-2d

Well, this Instructable is over. Thanks for reading!

Please leave a comment to make suggestions or show me your realizations related to this tutorial.

I read every single comment, and I reply as soon as I can! Tell me which decoration you'll make based on this tut'.
Very nice job. I could see these used on patio screen doors too. :)
Hi canucksgirl!<br> Thank for your kind comment!<br> You're completely right, in fact <strong>one can create this kind of decorations for anywhere</strong>; I just gave my own experience as a first example, but it can also be used for <em>home</em> or <em>office signs</em>, decorating <em>any room</em> in the house or other place...

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