Turn Drawings Into Laser Cut Fabric for Custom Fit Garments and Fine Art




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Turn Hand Drawings and Patterns into Laser Cut Fabrics for Custom Fit Fashion, Haute Couture, Garment Patterns, Fiber and Fine Art.


  • Start with ideas from your imagination, find images or textures to trace over, or pick images that you’d like to start with
  • Make a hand drawing in black marker or create a vector drawing
  • Scan @ 300 DPI if hand drawing
  • Scale drawing to fit on body or pattern pieces or skip this step and drape pattern afterwards
  • Fit pieces to laser cutter bed size
  • Open drawings in Illustrator and vectorize to .001
  • Set and test settings for laser cutting fabric
  • Export design to laser cutter & laser cut
  • Present laser cut fabric as is or make into garment or sculpture if desired

Step 1: Getting Pattern Inspiration

If you have an idea of a drawing that you'd like to laser cut then you already have the inspiration. If not and you are looking for pattern inspiration,
look around – what inspires you?

What catches your eye?

What patterns do you find fascinating?

I took a break while writing this Instructable to take a walk on the beach and found these patterns in nature intriguing - inspiration is all around! It can be found perusing books or online - I know a number of artists who have used images from Nasa's free photo library or you could do something like googling "op art", "patterns found in nature", or "art deco jewelry patterns" for example.

Step 2: My Inspiration

I've been inspired by the human body since I was a young girl; the series of garments that I share in this Instructable focus on patterns inspired by scientific models and antique anatomy drawings.

Step 3: Draw a Pattern


Draw from your imagination or from inspirational images to make drawings that you will use for laser cutting into fabric.

  • Iterate! Make numerous drawing.


  • Use black marker on white paper
    • Wispy, sketchy drawings do not work as well,
    • Trace over sketches in black marker if you've used pencil first.


  • You may skip hand drawing and go strait to creating digital or vector drawings if you prefer digital drawing.
  • Work from scratch or try rasterizing and making a vector from an image.

Pick your favorite drawing that you would like to make into a laser cut.

Step 4: Scan

If you've created a hand drawing or are using a pattern that needs to be scanned in, scan at 300 dpi or higher. Crop as close to the edge of the drawing as possible.

Step 5: Adjust Drawing

At this point, you may adjust your drawing in the digital environment as desired, for example mirroring it vertically so both sides match or creating a repeat pattern.

Step 6: Scaling & Sizing

Depending on the pattern you drew or are using, the pattern can be laser cut into fabric as is and then draped and cut afterwards, or the drawing can be scaled to fit in the digital environment before cutting.

Step 7:

Laser Cut Fabric that can be Draped and Made into Garments After Cutting

Pictured here is a design that I made based on an Islamic tessellation pattern that I laser cut into fabric. I was trying to achieve an organic look something like the burnt fabric laces that I made in this "Forged Fabrics" Instructable. For this design, I decided to create a pattern that filled the entire size of the laser bed (36 x 24 inches) so that I could use the pieces that I laser cut for draping and layering on a bust form.

Step 8:

Example: Custom Fit Laser Cut Patterns

These dresses from my drawings inspired by anatomy were made by fitting my drawings to a template measured to my body and 3D scans of my body.

Step 9: Fitting Drawings to the Body

Fit your drawings to the body using a 3D body scan or body measurements and a flat template.

Fit to 3D Body Scan

  • 3D Scan the Body for Custom Clothing Fashion Pattern Making (follow the instructions in my linked Instructable).
  • Open your body scan in the CAD modeling environment (I use Maya, Max, Mudbox, Fusion 360, Meshmixer, Alias).
  • Compare scan dimensions to the real life measurements of the body scanned and make sure sizing is accurate, scale accordingly if not. Scale to match your measurements 1:1 (digital environment:real life).
  • Open your drawing in the same CAD environment as your 3D body scan and scale to fit.
  • Once you like the fit of your design on the body form, flatten the pieces.
  • Measure the length and width sizes and take note of them.
  • Export pieces to Illustrator.

Fit to Measurements

  • Use a tailors tape measure and take measurements of the body that you'd like to fit OR use a universal sizing chart.
  • Use the template file included here or download free templates on Pret-a-template.
  • Open template in Illustrator or Photoshop and scale and transform to match your measurements 1:1 (digital environment:real life).
  • Overlay your drawing(s) on the template and transform until it is your preferred fit.
  • Measure the length and width sizes and take note of them.
  • Export pieces to Illustrator.

Step 10: Fit to Laser Cutter Bed Size

Depending on the size of your laser cutter bed, you may need to break up the drawing into multiple pieces. Keeping the accurate size of your pattern pieces, layout or nest them to laser cut. If the designs are too large to fit on your laser cutter bed, adjust the pattern pieces and cut them up in a way that makes sense for the pattern until they do fit. Add for seam allowances if you broke the design apart and intend to sew them back together.

Step 11: Prep for Lasercutting


Open Adobe Illustrator. (I'm using CC 2016, instructions may be different if you have a different version).

  • Create an art board the size of laser cutter bed
  • file>place>(your file)
  • view>rulers
  • Transform to the intended size. If fitting to the body, double check your notes for sizes
    • Remember the best fit for the pattern on the fabric may be at an angle, like in the above pics showing my 60" long dress piece laid out to fit on a 48" x 48" metabeam laser cutter bed.
  • Open the image trace menu window: window>image trace
  • select drawing you placed on the board
  • object>image trace > make
  • navigate to image trace window
    • mode: black and white
    • adjust threshold until desired aesthetic is achieved
    • advanced > ignore white
  • navigate to the top bar, select "expand"
  • With drawing still selected, in left hand panel where there is usually a black and white box, click "default fill and stroke".
  • navigate to top and enter .001 for stroke weight
  • Start a new layer and make a test design that is outside of the cut region of your pattern. I usually use a few circles and rectangles for this.

Step 12: Pick Your Fabrics

Pick out fabrics that match the aesthetic and concept of your drawings and that are safe for laser cutting.

This can be done at any step before cutting. I usually pick my fabrics out after I have made some drawings but before I digitize them.

Different fabrics will perform differently: generally, leathers and natural fabrics and fibers have a burnt or unfinished edge and the edges or synthetics melt or sear together. Experiment with various types of fabrics, but make sure they are on your safety list for cutting. Remember some synthetics and most polyurethanes and polyesters are toxic to breathe and toxic for the environment and should not be used for laser cutting. Do your research if you are not certain.

Iron your fabrics and cut them to fit the size of the pattern you intend to cut.

Step 13: Test

Lay down your fabric in the laser cutter and smooth out with hands to make sure all bumps are out. Do a small test to make sure your settings are correct, everything is working correctly and the fabric is cut the right amount without flashing or burning. When you are satisfied with your tests, you are ready to laser cut out your drawing!

Step 14: LASER CUT!

Export your drawing to the laser cutter and watch the magic happen as your drawing is transferred into a cut out piece of fabric!

Step 15: Finish Your Piece

Once your piece is cut, you can do many things with it: frame it flat and enjoy it as is as a piece of art, make it into a sculpture, fit it on the body or dress form and make into a garment or wearable art.

Let your imagination run wild and go for it!

Come back & share what you make, we'd love to see it :)

Happy Creating,




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    4 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Oh! What an great art work! Thank you Amy for sharing this with excellent instructions!


    2 years ago

    Great work and thanks for sharing the all creative process, very interesting.


    2 years ago

    simplement magnifique tout particulièrement la démarche de vos recherches. Un vrai travail artistique. Merci de ravir nos sens.


    2 years ago

    Ooh the possibilities! Gosh, I really think I need a laser cutter now. Thanks for sharing!