Introduction: How to Make Halftone Vectors for Lasercutting (Method 1)
Recently I sought to create interesting lasercut vectors for a personal project of mine. In the process, I worked out the kinks of creating halftone vectors from general images, so I wanted to share what I learned with the Instructables community! "Halftone" refers to an art style meant to simulate continuous tone imagery through the use of dots, similar to stippling; it's often used in comics and has its own unique look (read more here).
Step 1: Choose Your File!
I wanted to go with a impressive, artsy looking design, so I chose a front facing lion head to work with. So far I've only handled graphics with very defined blacks and whites, though I'll probably make another Instructable in the future for processing images with much more shades (such as personal photos)! I originally found the file on Pintrest (see here) and have unfortunately failed to find the original artist; if you know them, please let me know.
Step 2: Onto Illustrator!
There are two primary methods that I have used to produce halftone vectors; both are done in Adobe Illustrator, since it's the software I am most familiar with for producing vectors and since our Makerspace's laser cutters primarily process .ai files. Create a new Illustrator file, and place your image into it (File -> Place). You'll want to Embed the image, so that Illustrator can apply more methods to it.
Step 3: Color Halftone
This method uses Illustrator's inbuilt halftone generator, which can be found by selecting Effect -> Pixelate -> Color Halftone... . I will be creating another Instructable for the second method of producing halftone vectors, so keep a lookout for that one!
Step 4: Dialog Box
You'll get a Color Haltone dialog box, and get to choose your settings! The most relevant one for us will be the Max. Radius, since we primarily want certain size vector circles for lasercutting. The rest of the "Color" settings allow you to produce colored halftone images (in our case, I set them all to 0 since we only need a black image) so I encourage you to change the settings around to see what you can make! Press "OK", and viola! We have a halftone image.
Step 5: Image Trace for Vectors
To produce vectors from the halftone image, we'll want to Image Trace it. When you select the image, you should see the option for Image Trace near the top of the window. Since our image is fairly simple and only one color, you can just use the [Default] Image Trace to process it. For more complex images, feel free to check out what other settings can produce! Image Trace is one of the most powerful tools Illustrator has for creating fun lasercutting projects, since it creates vectors out of images. Don't forget to Expand your tracing result, otherwise it won't create vectors!
Step 6: Change the Colors
Now that you have your vectors, all that's left is to change their colors appropriately for laser cutting. This will vary across each machine, and since ours take full red vectors as cutting lines, I adjusted the colors to be red. There you go! You now have an awesome design ready for laser cutting. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I'll include my lion file for fun in case you want to open it to see how it looks.
Step 7: Lasercut!
Here's a look at how it turned out when lasercut ... pretty neat, I'd say! I can't see what you all make.