Laser Cut Shirt




About: I like building things, and teaching people to build things [although more of the latter than the former. This came up at the hackerspace the other night. Helping people with their projects just means I ge...

My sister and I headed down to heatsync labs in Mesa, AZ this morning to try out the laser cutter on some t-shirts!

(By the way?  Do you think this is cool?  Do you think huge LASERS are cool?  Check out this contest that instructables is running right now:  -- Grand prize is a laser exactly like the one we used on this project!  My favorite machine in the lab!  <3  Enter that contest!)

The effect is really cool, like a lace, except part of the shirt itself.  We found that a 5% polyester/95% cotton blend worked best.  The polyester seems to melt at the edges of the cuts, sealing them against fraying.

Cotton works as well, but care has to be taken not to fray the edges of the cuts.

See: lace.dxf if you want to cut one of these for yourself!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

As usual, first gather up all of your materials.  For this we're using a 5% polyester/95% cotton blend t-shirt.

We also grabbed a piece of cardboard out of the scrap heap to keep the shirt rigid while we cut it.

Step 2: Cover the Collar With Something

My sister's pattern would transit her shirt's collar with the laser on, which is a problem.  Rather than try to custom fit the pattern to the shirt, we decided to just cover the collar with something that the laser wouldn't cut through.  (Cover the collar with something so the laser couldn't touch it)

Our first thought was plywood.  The problem with this was that our laser has a "whisker" for zeroing the z-axis.  Unfortunately, the whisker travels really close to the material while cutting, and this meant that it would catch on the plywood.  NO GOOD!

Instead we decided to cover it with LOTS of tape (5 layers) and hope it worked.

It did.  If your laser has room for it, do plywood, otherwise tape will work.

(You can see the tape in step 4.  We forgot to take a photo of it, OOPS!  In it's place, please enjoy this photo of me operating a bandsaw.  This was for the piece of plywood we didn't end up using.)

Step 3: Tape the Edges of the Shirt

Stretch the shirt so that it is tight against the cardboard, and tape the edges back.

Step 4: Load the Laser Cutter

We taped the cardboard/shirt down so that it wouldn't jostle around, and set the laser to work!

Our settings were:

Speed: 50mm/s
Power: 16watts

This seemed to work really well!  Our 5 layers of tape also protected the collar!  Hooray!

Step 5: The Result

The result was really nice.  Towards the top right, unfortunately, we cut the collar a bit :(.

Oops!  This was because we started the cut at much too high of a power!

Step 6: Try It On!

Here's the final result!

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    43 Discussions

    Trotec Laser Canada

    5 months ago

    Great laser cut feature. Have you ever tried enraving the fabric as well?


    2 years ago

    Thanks for including the pattern! Making one tomorrow.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    this is really cool! I pinned it for my ideas board to try when I get my GlowForge laser cutter, soooo excited!

    If you haven't heard of it, check it out, it's a desktop laser cutter currently available for pre-order at a super affordable price, $2400 for the basic model. It just completed it's 30 day launch where it hit over $27 million in sales, making it the most funded crowdfunding project ever! You can get $100 off if you order one with this link


    3 years ago on Introduction

    An old thread... but perhaps someone might have a response for me. I'm trying to lasercut in silk, wool, linen and cotton... and it often seems that we're burning the material too much or smoke-damaging it. (without seeing smoke). Design looks clear when I take it from the laser bed.. then I rinse the burn smell and singe out... and it shrivels up like camo-netting. (It's an intricate design.) We just spent some time to get our settings right on small pieces (30 sec cut time)... and I rinsed them afterward and they were perfect. Then I moved on to larger pieces (15 min cut time) ... didn't rinse right away and * sigh * they are all shriveling up again and the fabric is degraded. I'm working in wool at speeds of 200 and power 20%/70% and in silk at 100 and power 80. The silk is not cauterizing. ... Anyone had issues with thin fabrics? Or has it been easy-peasy for You? Thx, CK

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hello, maybe you are still using too much power. Perhaps try to set it at 30%/50% and adjust the speed. You might allso try increesing OR taking away the airflow...


    4 years ago

    Hey I'm a product design student and I'm doing a project of which I'm looking into designing a clothing laser cutter for consumer use in homes for the next 5 years time .
    I'm wondering if you have any tips or advice that you might have.
    from using it is there any aspects of the process that would benefit being made easier for use.
    Thank you,

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure how you could make it easier. This was REALLY easy! Maybe some pre-cut forms of cardboard backing?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for replying back to me,

    I just have a few questions

    does the laser cut deep into the cardboard?

    what software did you use to design the pattern to be cut out?


    5 years ago on Step 2

    Seems like you could also adjust the image to avoid the top of the shirt. Of course that will require some registration but almost everything on a laser etcher does...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi very nice job, compliments.
    Would you contact me at
    I need to make some object with laser cut and want to have an estimation


    6 years ago on Introduction

    with the pieces that are cutout, you could apply them to other 't shirts' in a free form design, one could use iron on adhesive tape to iron on a design from the cutouts..

    hope this make sense,,

    trying to get as much use from the laser as possible, the cutouts will also have their ends melted..

    you guys made a fantastic 't'

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    DO IT! :-D

    I guess lasering on cloth is actually really common in production. You can stack many layers of cloth on top of each other, then laser cut them instead of using shears.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I've done that before with great success! Want to make several of one pattern? Check, done, perfect. It's awesome.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I particularly like this idea because I love sewing but HATE cutting patterns... Sadly I'll have to stick to relatively small patterns for now, as the cutter I have access to only has a 12" x 24" bed, but I do see several murloc hats in my immediate future.