Introduction: How to Make Custom Drink Coasters (Using a Laser Cutter)

It's easy to make custom drink coasters using matboard (that thick picture framing bezel board) and a laser cutter.  They're cool for everyday use, parties, and celebrations.

I made it at TechShop. So, I had access to laser cutters and other cool tools.

See my video for the steps in action.


1. Materials

* Matboard: thick paper/cardstock used in picture framing.  You can find it at the big hobby/craft stores (e.g., Michael's, Hobby Lobby).
* Laser cutter
* Computer with Vector Drawing/Design Software (e.g., Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator)

2. Create your Design

Layout your design in Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator.

Key tips:
* Cut line
  - should be a vector shape, most likely a circle.  Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator automatically draw vector shapes.
  - depending on your laser cutter's instructions, the stroke line will likely need to thin ("hairline" or "0.25 inches") and red (R=255, G=0, B=0)

* Graphics/Image/Design
  - this can be vector or "raster" (any image made of of pixels)
  - make it black to tell the laser cutter to etch instead of cut. Note laser cutter model may vary on the color.

* Size: Most coasters are 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches.  I chose 3-1/4 inches because two fit well on the 5x7" matboard I used.  You always test the shape and size on printed paper before cutting.

3. Make your Coasters

Following your laser cutter's directions and cut your coasters out of matboard.  You may need to use trial-and-error to get the power settings optimized for your laser cutter.

I used a Trotec laser cutter with the following settings for matboard:

Cut (red):
PWR= 68

Etch (black):
PWR= 50

I recommend making test coasters one at a time until you like your laser settings. I often tweak the settings slightly each time depending on the exact matboard.  Once you're comfortable, you can make a bunch of them in batch from larger matboards.