How to Make Custom Packaging (with a laser cutter)
I am a screen printer… by necessity rather than choice. Really I am a dreamer with a touch of entrepreneur. I have been screen printing t-shirts for my brand “Rock and Ride” for a few years now and have started experimenting with printing stickers lately. My wife and I go to motorcycle events to set up a booth and sell our gear. I thought packaging stickers into sets may help them sell better. However, this means that I need to come up with some packing, and it needed to be both inexpensive, a small number of units, look professional and interesting.
I have a membership to Tech Shop Pittsburgh. With their laser cutters available to me, I thought this could be a cool way to do something. So these hang tags, I made them at Tech Shop. I eat a lot of cereal and frozen pizzas, so there was plenty of cardboard / paper board heading to the garbage. Since it only has print on one side, is sturdy without taking up a lot of space, and free, it was a perfect candidate for the job.
I came up with a design in Adobe Illustrator utilizing the engraving and cutting capabilities of the laser cutter. I remember when billboards along the road started to have extra parts that stuck “outside the box”, and it was cool. I took some influence from that and decided to make the tags where they were cut and folded to give a sticking out or custom shape. I then engraved the brand icon and logos as well as “Sticker Pack #”. Then I could fold the hang tag over the bagged sticker assortments. With a Sharpie permanent marker I labeled them to identify them as pack “1” or “2”… Pack “3” is currently in the works.
Step 1: Step 1:
Design the packaging in your choice of vector base design software. Pay attention to settings required to get a good result from the laser cutter you’re using. I sent my cut lines to RGB red with a line weight of .003 and set the engraving area to RGB black.
Step 2: Step 2:
Output / print the design to your cut software (job cutter) in my case. A couple trial runs may be necessary, so be sure to have extra material available when starting out. Even if you have done your project in the past, the wear on the lens and machine parts can change the effectiveness, so it’s always a good idea to be in the habit or at least expect to make a couple test runs to dial in the settings. Then go ahead and write down your settings in case of a power outage mid-job or to have a jumping off point for the next time you make more. I used the basic paper/cardboard settings, but gave the power a moderate increase and reduced the speed for etching. I like a nice deeper etch and don’t mind the discoloration from heavy burning.
Step 3: Step 3:
Cut and remove from the machine, repeating the process until you have achieved at least as many units as you need. I do recommend cutting a few extra, if you can afford the material and time. (the aluminum plate in the bottom of the photo... is there to hold down the card stock from moving due to the air assist fans)
Fold and staple your new custom topper to the bag containing your product.