Convert a Paper Pattern to a Laserable File

Introduction: Convert a Paper Pattern to a Laserable File

About: A maker with a penchant for sewing, laser cutting, cooking and more!
When I make corsets I often have to very carefully cut out 40+ pieces of fabric by hand.  It's time consuming and tedious, plus even tiny cutting mistakes can add up to big errors in the finished corset.  Since I have access to lasers at TechShop, I've decided to laser cut everything.  It will be fast and super accurate, and I'll have lots of extra time that I can devote to adding lovely details like flossing the corset. 

But in order to do this, I'll need to convert my hand-drawn paper pattern into something that the laser will understand.  If you want to do the same, you'll need the following:
  • Paper pattern
  • Scanner
  • CorelDRAW

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Step 1: Scan Your Pattern Into CorelDRAW

First you'll have to scan your pattern.  I'm working with one pattern piece at a time for simplicity's sake.  Put your pattern piece face down on the scanner bed and  close the lid.  Open CorelDRAW and start a new blank document with a width of 24" and a height of 18" (that's the size of the laser bed).  In the File menu, choose Acquire Image, then choose Acquire from the pop out menu.  Scan your pattern as a black and white photo and accept the scan.

Step 2: Do an Image Trace

Now you've got your pattern scanned into CorelDRAW, but it's a raster image.  Since the laser needs vector lines with a hairline thickness in order to cut, we'll need to convert the image.

From the Bitmap menu, choose Centerline Trace, then choose Line Drawing from the pop out menu.  This will open the PowerTRACE window.  Give the program a minute to generate your trace.  Check it to make sure all is well and it didn't forget to trace anything you need.  If necessary, fiddle with the controls to get a better result.  Make sure the "delete original image" box is checked, then hit "OK" to accept the trace.

Congratulations, you've now got a vector drawing of you pattern!  However, you aren't done yet.

Step 3:

Your pattern probably has some extra stuff on it that you don't want cut out.  Grain line guides, numbers, and various other marks and guides need to be deleted.  First select your pattern image.  In the Arrange menu, choose Ungroup All.  Now you can select individual pieces of your image and delete them.

Still not done yet though...

Step 4:

Even though this is now a vector image, the laser won't cut it unless it is set to a hairline thickness with no fill. 

On the side toolbar select the icon that looks like a pen and choose Hairline Outline from the pop out menu.  Then select the icon that looks like a paint bucket and choose No Fill from the pop out menu.

You now have a laser ready file!  Repeat this process for any other patten pieces you've got, and don't forget to save!

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    3 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Which materials are good to use a laser on? I would think cotton leaves a singed edge and you probably need a lot of prep to keep the fabric taut somehow in the laser cutter.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    So far I've used cotton, silk and leather successfully. I do several test cuts at various settings until it cuts through cleanly without any smoke damage or char.

    Any natural fiber fabric is OK to cut on the laser. Many synthetics work too, but you need to verify if it's laserable first. (Issues with some synthetics include catching on fire and emitting poisonous gases when burned)

    Prep is easy. I iron my fabric and cut it to 24" x 18". I've got a board cut to the same measurements. I've secured the fabric in two ways so far; both were successful. For the first go 'round I simply taped the fabric to the board at the edges so that it lay flat. The second time I lightly sprayed the board with spray baste (not too much!) and smoothed the fabric down over it. The spray baste held the fabric just enough for the laser to cut everything.

    You can see a video of the laser cutting the taped down fabric here-


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. It seems you've got material for a few more ibles.