Laser Marquetry From a Photo: Kaleidoscope Algorithm




About: Artist, Woodworker, Laser Marquetarian

Kaleidoscope Algorithm is an exhibition of work based on computer image manipulation algorithms translated to laser-cut wood marquetry. This series of 30 artworks is based on images from corresponding top Google search trends for each day in September 2011.  The Kaleidoscope Algorithm exhibition is on display at the Lois Lambert Gallery in Santa Monica, CA through May 6, 2012.

All 30 works and process videos can be viewed on my website,

This instructable is entered in in the "Make it Real" Challenge to win a 3D printer, and votes are appreciated!

I am also a finalist in a contest to win a laser from Hurricane Lasers, and I'd also REALLY appreciate votes for my entry on their site:

I used Adobe Illustrator's live trace function to generate a vector file, then mirrored and repeated the objects in Rhino CAD to create files for laser cutting.  The files were cut from Alder, Walnut, Bubinga, Zebra Wood, Purpleheart, and Wenge paper-backed veneers.

Image to Laser Marquetry Process:
I chose randomly generated images from corresponding Google trends for this project, but you can use any image to turn it into marquetry.
  • Import your image into Adobe Illustrator and use the live trace function to turn it into a vector image (I started with a 6-color trace option then adjusted my settings/constraints to get my desired effect) You want to adjust your settings so the parts are not too small.  Any parts smaller than 1/16" almost disappear when cut.


  • After you've got the image converted to your desired effect, seperate each color into a layer.  These layers correspond to whichever woods you chose for your project.


  • Mirror, copy, or manipulate the layers to your desired effect.  I chose a kaleidoscope pattern.  Nest your parts closely together to conserve material (At this point, I used the Rhino Nest plugin for Rhino CAM because I had lots of parts, but Illustrator works fine as well). 


  • Cut each layer from its corresponding wood on a laser cutter.  Settings depend on your laser's power, and you can find this information on your manufacturers websites and forum sites like  Mostly though, these settings are trial an error to find the best speed, power, and focus.


  • Assemble your parts using blue tape on the back.  Then mask the front with tape and remove the blue tape from the back- the tape you use on the front will depend on the glue you choose.

Veneering Process:
There is a lot of information on the internet for veneering and I would recommend reading up if you've never done it. has great information on veneering and all the tools you need to help you get started. Here are the basics for this project:
  • Find a substrate to glue your parts onto.  MDF works best.  Anytime you glue veneer to a substrate, you need to glue front and back so the piece doesn't warp.  Use the same thickness veneer on the back side.


  • Glue the parts to a substrate.  Make sure you uniformly clamp the piece.  I recommend using a pressurized vacuum bag. 


  • After the glue dries, sand and finish as desired. 

Good luck!
I've included the pdf cut file. If anyone tries the process, I'd love to see pictures and post them on my website. 
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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Your process is awesome. I am new to marketry but I have been laser engraving and cutting for over 6 years... I am inspired by your work and I hope to create some great work myself very soon.I will vote for you. I hope you win!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Christie, I am a traditional marquetarian. I cut my marquetry by hand on a chevalet that I built and I assemble traditional techniques. In my opinion, you are certainly creating stunning art, and that the melding of technology with tradition is producing work that the masters could certainly have never imagined. Congratulations on your Kaleidoscope Algorithm show, and on creating such revolutionary work.

    I have voted for you, and I sincerely hope you win!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    mnedeljko, is there a website where I can see your work? Encouragement from traditional marquetrarians like you is the most fulfilling for me and helps me keep on making! I was recently contacted by a woodworker that had been doing traditional woodworking for years but had problems with his hands and adopted the use of a cnc router. His story and the way it impacted the way he worked was just amazing! It's one thing to teach a student how to use cnc machines and see the great things they come up with, but when an experienced woodworker adopts technology into their work, it's breathtaking what they come up with. I would highly recommend trying it. I have a friend that does traditional work on a chevalet and a woodworking magazine suggested we do a collaboration for an article. I'm hoping we get to it this year. Blending technology with tradition in woodworking is a fascinating subject for me. Thanks for your vote and complements!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Your's is clearly the work of a very intelligent and clever homo sapien [this the Latin name for humans], who is wonderfully blurring the line between art and technology.

    Your art is at the leading edge of what is art. Ignore the nay sayers about your's not being art. They are just envious. Art starts in the mind, and is expressed in many ways.

    And I have already voted for you.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the vote and you views Imaginable! I wouldn't say that some people (or "nay sayers" as you put it) don't consider it art, it's more the views of a few that hand-cut marquetry is a tradition that takes more skills to master. I don't disagree with that.

    I admire traditional master marquetarians and the skill of hand-cut marquetry very much, and admit that I have nowhere near the skills and talent in wood that has taken them many years to master.

    I propose the challenge that CNC and laser are new tools to master and is an entirely different skill set. I'm hoping as more people try new techniques, there is a renewed interest in marquetry as a craft including both laser and hand-cut marquetry methods.

    Thanks again!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's an awesome machine, but it's not mine. I worked out a trade and only have it for a few months. I've worked with several other machines (industrial and hobby) and this is such a nice machine for such a great price! It's got so many more options and functions than a hobby laser.
    I'm trying to buy one of my own, but owe so much in student loans that its not really an option right now. I am a finalist in Hurricane's contest to win $5000 credit towards the purchase of a machine from Hurricane Lasers, and winning would really help me grow my business!! I hope you'll vote, it takes less than a minute! Thanks!