To celebrate the release of the new THE LEGEND OF KORRA: TURF WARS PART ONE comics (check it out!!) I wanted to make acrylic coasters to give to the illustrator. Acrylic is a bit different from wood, so though this will be similar to my Instructables for Star Wars Birch Coasters, there are a few extra steps you'll have to do.
Step 1: Adobe Illustrator
I used Adobe Illustrator to process my images and create vectors from the designs I found online! These coasters feature: Earth, Fire, Air and Water by johnnygreek989 (the avatars bending the elements), the beautiful vector image Blue Korra by Tyler-W, a graphic created by static on Tumblr of Asami Sato, a bit of art from the preview of Turf Wars, and the Avatar the Last Airbender logo (inb4 someone comments about it, I only chose the AtLA logo instead of the LoK logo because the images I found of the Legend of Korra logo were too blurry to process well).
For more information on processing designs for lasercutting, please check out my other Instructable on making wooden coasters! I mainly just Image Trace-d the downloaded files and did some further editing in Illustrator.
Step 2: Image Processing
To isolate the images I wanted, I sometimes had to use Adobe Photoshop as well. In that case, I would use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to select the parts of the image that I wanted, then right click and select Layer via Cut, you will create a new layer with just the parts you selected with the tool. Then, you can change the visibility of the layer by clicking on the eye (or just delete the layer, either is fine). Then, when you're done processing your image in Photoshop, you'll want to File -> Export -> Export As... a png or a jpeg based on what your lasercutter can handle.
Step 3: Scoring Lines
You'll notice that some of my lines are blue; on our lasercutter, these are scoring lines, or vectors that are directly carved (instead of rastered, which is being carved layer by layer). This will provide a more defined outline of your images, just to emphasize some designs over others. I included these around the Korra vector image, and also around each individual nation's symbol in Earth, Fire, Air, Water.
This should be a simple matter of changing the colors of your strokes appropriately! If desired, check out this helpful guide on creating offset lines for your shapes in Illustrator (I've used this technique a lot)!
Step 4: Reflect
In my design I wanted to have the acrylic engraving be on the back of the coaster, so that cups and the like wouldn't be placed on an uneven surface. This will produce a particularly nice result for clear acrylic, since you will be able to see the design easily through the transparent material while feeling a very smooth surface.
To do this, select your design, right click and select Transform -> Reflect... and in the Reflect Dialog Box make sure it is reflecting vertically.
Step 5: Lasercut and Wash
I lasercut the acrylic with Deep Engraving to cut through the plastic layer protecting the acrylic. Lasercutting acrylic will get acrylic dust all over your design, so I put all my coasters under the sink to wash off the dust and clear away the coating as well. I've included my files if you'd like them!
Step 6: Final Product
Ta-da! It was a bit hard to get a nice photo of the coasters since they're transparent and reflective (so the glare is real) but they turned out very nicely and were even cooler than the birch coasters! I highly recommend working with acrylic, it just looks really great when you're finished. Can't wait to see what kinds of designs you guys come up with!