Introduction: Lasercut Greeting Card
As I have recently discovered the pleasures of the laser cutter, I decided to make a birthday card for my mothers 65th anniversary. This Instructable will explain you how to make your own.
- Panel of wood for cutting. I used 6mm MDF
- 2D design software. I used Inkscape and this guide will also refer to this program.
- Access to a laser cutter
- A nice occasion to celebrate
Step 1: Make a Concept
As always, you need to have a concept before you can start a custom project. Unless your mother turn 65 and your daughter nicknames her "Moeke", you're not going to get far using exactly my files :)
Think about some subjects that make sense for the occasion. You could also consider drawing a sketch, illustrating the overall form and the layout of the piece.
Step 2: Download Assets
It's possible that you'll create the card all from scratch, but I usually download at least something from the web.
- A special font: there's millions of fonts out there and it's very likely that you'll have some wording on your card. Pick a nice font for yourself, I used UglyQua from Front Squirrel
- Illustrations: I'm not good at drawing myself, so I usually download some artwork online. I found Freepik to be a good source of vectorbased artwork. Do note that you don't have to limit yourself to vector-based, I'll explain how you can transform any image into vectors inside of Inkscape
Step 3: Create Your Design
Fire up Inkscape and get ready to create your design. Here are some useful techniques that you'll probably need:
Make sure your design isn't larger than your wooden panel
Sounds obvious, but this should be your first action. Use the "File > Document Properties" and set the page size to match the size of your wooden panel. If not already done, you'll want to set your "Display Units" and "Custom Size Units" to millimeter (mm) or inches (in).
Have some artwork as a JPG/PNG that needs to become a vector/path?
Import the JPG/PNG and then use the "Path Trace Bitmap" functionality to convert it to a path. This obviously works best with pictures that actually contain some artwork and not just a photograph.
Want to create hollow text like in the example?
This is the technique I used mostly for this card. As you'll notice, the text is hollow inside, but has a fat stroke. To achieve this, follow these steps:
- Type your text
- Give it a stroke style that matches the width you want
- Make it the right size, rotate it, etc. This will become harder after the next step
- Use "Path > Stroke to Path" to convert THE STROKE to a path. This is the feature that will maintain the width of the stroke that you just created and actually turn it into 2 separate paths, one on the inside and one on the outside of the stroke.
Imported (or converted) a vector that has too much detail?
I worked on a logo once, which had way too much detail for the laser cutter. Because of all the detail, the cutter would pass very close to previous lines very often and everything would become one big black blur. To fix that, I used the "Path > Simplify" feature, which already removed a bit of the complexity. Next I went on to work manually, deleting nodes where they were too close to each other.
Need to combine multiple paths?
I like to make designs that cut out into a single large piece. To make it all very clear, I use the "Path > Union" tool, which will merge overlapping paths into a single path, thus ensuring that the laser cutter will not accidentally cut along a line that I didn't spot.
Check your work
Whether you'll want to cut out the card or engrave it, it's usually a good idea to check that the result will look nice.
I usually check this regularly by applying a FILL to the path. If the path is nicely closed, the fill will show exactly which part of the cut will remain after all is done.
Step 4: Cut It
This should now be the easiest part of all. I've found that many laser cutters have different software and different approaches. So you should check how your laser cutter is working.
You can export files in different formats from Inkscape, I've had to use DXF, PDF and SVG so far.
You can also prepare your file by applying different colors to the different actions you'll want to do:
- Cut: I use "red" for all lines that need to be cut straight through
- Engrave: I use "blue" for all lines & fillings that need to be engraved
- Write: I use "green" for all lines that need to be cut only slightly
In the attached example, I only use cutting, so everything is red.