Introduction: Laser Cut Yoga Mat
If you're into yoga, like go-crazy-if-you-miss-a-day, you also might be crazy enough to laser cut your yoga mat.
This process takes a lot of time and effort -- we're talking over 6 hours of lasering time (though this depends on the pattern you select).
On my mat, I wanted to capture the notation of movement, space, and routine. My design is an artifact of my practice on the mat, along with marking my hands and feet in postures like downward dog and forward fold. But, you can select any sort of pattern to etch on your mat. Either way, you'll end up with a personalized mat unique for you to practice on.
Time: 12 hours (depending on your pattern)
Step 1: Materials
For my particular mat, I wanted to get the marks of my hands and feet so I went for a messy (and fun) process. If you're opting for an organic pattern all made in Illustrator, you can skip part 1 materials and step 2.
Part 1: Painting Materials
- Butcher paper or tracing paper
- Tempera paint or body paint
- Paper towels
Paper: I used tracing paper because it was what I had on hand at home. I would recommend using butcher paper instead, as it would be less prone to tearing when you are in action.
Paint: Dilute the paint to a watery substance so that it doesn't dry so quickly.
Part 2: Mat Jig Materials
- Boxmaker / boxmaker.rahulbotics.com
- 3 3/16" Plywood sheets / 36 x 24 inches
- 2 Dowels / 1.5 x 48 inches
- Lasercutter / Epilog Laser
- Adhesive / Original Tacky Glue
- Aluminum sheet around 24 x 23 inches
Part 3: Prepping / Designing Your Mat
- Natural Rubber Yoga Mat / Jade Mat
- A Vector-Based Program / Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW
You must work with a mat that is made of natural, biodegradable rubber.
Part 4: Laser Cutting Your Mat
- Lasercutter / Epilog Laser
Step 2: Paint + Yoga Practice
I wanted to incorporate my spatial layout and practice documentation as the primary part of my laser cut design, so I decided to channel Yves Klein and use paint to do so.
- Measure your yoga mat and lay down paper to those dimensions. Most mats at 68 x 24 inches, but measure to be accurate.
- Once your "mat" is laid out, set up a paint station and a clean up area. It's also helpful to have a friend there to help you!
- Apply paint to your hands, knees, and feet, or anywhere where you might touch down on the paper.
- Do whatever yoga sequence you are in the mood for and see how it is recorded on your "mat."
- Shower the paint off!
Step 3: Make Your Jig
Up next is making a jig for your yoga mat when it is inside the laser cutter bed. I wanted my jig to do a few things:
- raise the mat off the laser bed (and itself)
- keep the mat taut
- to be able to roll the mat I was not directly lasering
What I came up with:
For simplicity sake, I devised an open sided box that would fit just within the laser bed, with two dowels that would turn the mat underneath the top surface. Because my laser cutter bed was 36 x 24 inches, I made my box 28 x 23 3/4 x 6 inches. There were two dowel holes on the each of the shorter sides, I made the dowels 30 inches so I could turn them outside the box. I also added a strut to the middle of the box for extra stability.
- Make a box that is 28 x 23 3/4 x 6 inches using BoxMaker. This will quickly generate a PDF file based on the dimensions and material thickness that you enter, allowing you to quickly laser cut the components.
- Open the PDF in Illustrator or CorelDRAW and separate the components onto art boards the size of your laser bed. The laser bed that I used was 36 x 24 inches, so I made three artboards and laser cut onto three 36x24 inch sheets.
- Laser cut the box components onto sheets of plywood 3/16 inch thick.
- Assemble the box and glue the joints.
- Let it dry.
- Insert dowels into holes.
- Place aluminum sheet on top of the box as another layer or protection against the laser cutting process.
- Voilà, the yoga mat jig is complete!
Step 4: Get Your File Going
Whether you drew your own pattern, or opted for my route, open your file in Illustrator (or CorelDRAW) so you can prep the file you will be laser cutting on your mat.
How I did it:
- Open your image in Illustrator, whether it is a photo of your yoga "painting" or a pattern you drew. If you generated your pattern in Illustrator, skip step 3.
- Set your Illustrator art board to the size of your mat (24 x 68 inches).
- Do a live trace of your drawing, and test out different "Preset" options until you are happy with the results.
- Select your image and make two more copies of your image in the same file (image 4).
- Create two other art boards and section off three artboards that are 24 x 22.5 inches. (I left .5 inches at the bottom to write my name on my mat.)
- Set your "x" to 0 and your "y" to 22.5"
- For the middle artboard, set your "x" to 22.5 and your "y" to 45"
- For your last artboard, set your"x" to "45" and your "y" to "67.5"
Now its time to prep the file for printing.
- Go to File -> Print
- Select your laser cutter from the "Printer" options
- Select "Setup..."
- Select your printer again and then hit "Preferences"
Within your "Printing Preferences," create your raster settings and set your "Piece Size."
- Piece size: 24 x 23 inches
- Raster settings: 100/70
- Note: I opted to raster rather than vector my mat because I preferred the line work that the raster created -- this process is slower than vectoring.
Return to your general Print settings.
Select the Artboard that you want to laser (I did Artboard 2 first)
Send your file to print.
Now, you're ready to prep your mat to laser!
Step 5: Let the Lasering Begin
A little bit of prep work:
- With a pen, mark your yoga mat at the three art board separations (22.5, 45, 67.5 inches).
- Start with the middle section of your mat. Line up the top pen mark (at 22.5 inches) with the top of the board, and also make sure the bottom pen mark at 45 inches is also on the board.
- Roll the top and bottom under on the dowels until the middle section is taut.
Into the laser bed!
- Lower the laser bed down 7-8 inches so you can slide in your jig.
- Reset your home position to the corner of your 22.5 inch mark.
- Click "X/Y Off" and "Okay."
- Turn on the pointer.
- Slide over the laserhead and the gantry until it is in the perfect spot.
- Click "Set Home" and a message should briefly pop up that the home has been reset.
- Click "Focus" and then "Reset" to make sure it saved
- Set your focus.
- Use your focus guide to get the optimal distance between the laser and your material.
- Grab the focus guide from the side of the laser cutter and place on the laserhead.
- Use the arrow up key to set the focus. You want the guide to just be touching the material.
- Return the focus guide to its home and close the lid of the laser cutter.
- Return to your computer and send the job to "Print."
- The print job name should flash on the screen of the laser cutter.
- Hit "Go" to begin your job!
- The laser head will begin to travel horizontally across the the mat. You must stay and watch the process to make sure nothing goes wrong (I recommend grabbing a chair)!
- Each section will take about an hour and forty minutes, but again, it depends on the complexity of your design.
Step 6: Repeat (x2)
Now that you have finished the middle 1/3 of your mat, it's time to move onto the top and bottom parts.
- Remove the mat and jig from the bed after your have set the focus to be the same as the first section completed.
- Untape the mat and roll the top and middle section under the jig so that your bottom third can be lasered.
- Set the mat back into the laserbed and line up your pre-marked 45" mark to the corner where your previous "home" was set.
- Reset your focus (see steps from previous page).
- Send artboard 3 to print, using the same settings previously used.
- The print job name will flash on the screen of the laser cutter.
- Hit "Go" to begin your job.
- You must stay to watch the laser process and to make sure nothing goes wrong. Get comfy for another hour and 40!
- Repeat steps when the bottom third is done until your yoga mat is complete!
Note: If you are doing this process over a couple days, before removing your mat from the laser bed, tape the top down so that you can reset the focus exactly when you return to the piece.
Step 7: Readying Your Mat
Now that your mat is done with the laser cutter, I recommend giving it a bath to remove some of the burned rubber smell (which jade mats already have the tendency to smell like).
- Find a shower and rinse off the mat.
- Hang mat to dry.
Step 8: Practice on Your Mat!
Now that you've spent lots of hours fabricating this mat, it's time to practice on it!
- Find a quiet space (or not quiet, depending what you're into).
- Practice yoga!