Introduction: Creating Christmas Cards Using Lightburn

About: I am a student of mechanical engineering and like to work on small projects.

There are many different types of greeting cards to buy, whether on the Internet or from local retailers. However, either the choice is limited, the delivery time too long, the cards quite expensive or there is simply nothing for your personal taste.

So, the advantages of making your own greeting cards are obvious:

- They are cheap

- They are directly available

- They can be easily personalized to suit everyone

However, what cannot remain unmentioned, self-designed cards require either a skilled hand or are time-consuming. Unless you have a laser cutter at home and want to use it. I belong to the second category.

Step 1: The Setup

I recently bought a Neje Master 2, 7W Laser Engraver. This is an absolute beginner model. The relatively low laser power of 7W is suitable for engraving most materials that absorb the laser light. Bright white paper or shiny metal are already a problem for the laser. However, the problem no longer arises as soon as a slight accent color is on the paper, such as a light gray or beige.

With the Neje Master 2 a program is delivered which leaves many wishes open. Only by using a different program did I discover the few functions of the program that comes with the Neje Master 2.

This brings us to the program I currently use, Lightburn. This is a paid software, which is priced at 35 Euro. This price is fair in my opinion and I can recommend the software to everyone. If you are not sure if your laser is compatible or if the program meets your requirements, you can use a free trial version for 30 days, as I currently do. And I am sure to purchase the program after this time. Now back to the essential.

Step 2: The Material

When creating greeting cards, you want to make sure you choose the right paper. It should not be too thick, so it doesn't look too stiff, but if it is not thick enough it doesn't feel good anymore. I use 135g/m2 paper for layer greeting cards, which consist of an outer cover and an inlay, for simple cards like a postcard which should not be folded the choice of 270g/m2 is the best. To have a suitable selection I bought sheets with a choice of 25 different colors.

Step 3: Creating the Shape of the Card

There are many different tastes, so you can't create a guide for the perfect greeting card. Personally, I like two-colored greeting cards very much which have cutouts in the front where you can see the second color. Therefore, the tutorial should focus exactly on these cards.

My Laser Engraver has a working range of 170mm*170mm, this is unfortunately not enough for the standard format A5 (210mm*148mm). My greeting cards are therefore a bit smaller, but I keep the format and so I end up with 170mm*120mm.

With my cards I always start by inserting the outer contour of my card, because I must cut out the format as well. To do this, I first go to the Rectangle in the left bar and drag a Rectangle of any size into the laser area. Then I can enter all important values in the mask at the top of the program, such as the position (0mm;0mm) and my dimensions (170mm;120mm). At the bottom I can now assign a color to the Rectangle and then assign the correct parameters to this color in the window on the right. Which are the right parameters you can look up in step 6.

For easier folding of the card I use a perforation in the middle of the card. To do this I first draw a line with the pencil on the left from the bar and adjust the parameters (85mm;0mm) (0mm;120mm). For this I choose a different color than for the frame and then double click on the color in the right interface. There I select the perforation mode and apply the settings (2mm;2mm).

Step 4: Creating the Shape of the Motive

For the theme I use the search function of Google, so if I want to have a Christmas tree on my card I search "Christmas tree" accordingly, to get a better selection of results I search for "Christmas tree drawing" because these images are usually easier to make with the laser cutter. If I have found a nice picture, I copy it (right click copy, Ctrl + C did not work for me) and paste it into Lightburn. Now I can scale the image a little bit smaller to get a better overview. With a right click on the image you can now select the option "Trace Image". Now a separate window opens where you can define the captured outlines. With the help of the sliders below you can change the captured contours. Now select the option "Delete Image after trace" and you can close the window with an OK. The contour is now shown as a dashed line. To remove closed areas, right-click to dissolve the group and then click to delete the desired group. The same parameters can be selected for the contour as for the outer contour if cutting is desired.

Step 5: Creating the Shape of the Inlay

Different variants can also be selected for the inlay. It is important to choose smaller dimensions for the inlay than for the outer card so that the inlay does not stand out later. In general, the same procedure can be followed for the inlay as for the outer card.

For this Christmas card I liked the idea of a border in the shape of a holly, so that the simple card can be opened to create another nice effect. Corresponding templates for explicitly this case are hard to find on the internet. Therefore, I was only looking for a general shape of a holly. I converted it to a contour like the Christmas tree. To get a complete outline for the map I duplicated the leaves of the holly until the card was outlined once. Now, as there are many contours left that are not desired, the shapes are merged first. To do this select 2 contours (keep shift pressed) and then click on the function “Boolean Union of two shapes”. This is done until the many individual contours are merged into one. Now you can ungroup them again and remove the excess contours.

Step 6: Getting the Right Parameter

With a Laser Engraver you can't generally say "It can cut red paper, then it can also cut white paper" like with scissors. Important for the laser is the degree of absorption of the paper, this is different for different colors.

For each paper type/color I laser a test file. This consists of different speeds (mm/s) and laser power (percent). With the help of this test file you can then select the optimal parameters. Also set an overcut of 1.5mm so that the laser cuts through the paper at the entrance.

Step 7: Take Care

A laser is not a toy, so it is always important to protect yourself properly.

Step 8: Getting the Two-piece Puzzle Together

Fold the two parts at the perforated line. Then take the part of the inlay and pull the bent side once over a glue stick. Now place the inlay in the outer card and weigh it down briefly. After drying, the card is ready.

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