Want to create a cool, inexpensive and personal birthday card? This tutorial will get you started (and teach you some Inkscape tricks on the way). Use your imagination and give a loved one, the coolest and biggest birthday card EVER.
Inkscape, a free and open source vector drawing program is the only thing you need to design your card.
Tip: Winter is coming (pun intended). So why not make a large Christmas card?
For the laser cutting, find a FabLab near you...
Trotec Laser Cutter (Thanks to fablab Leuven for their support!)
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Step 1: Open Inkscape
If you haven't, download the free Inkscape program. I use the portable version (www.portableapps.com). Make sure you are comfy with the program itself. You might want to follow some tutorials on vector drawing first. It takes some getting used to the "idea", but you can get started with this tutorial as well.
Draw a rectangle, slightly smaller than your canvas (for setting up your canvas first, see last 3 steps), using the rectangle tool on the left. Click on the color bar on the bottom to select a contrasting color. This is easier to work with.
Tip: draw any rectangle and put in the dimensions as you like. You can choose them at the top of the screen, as long as you're in "rectangle drawing mode".
The big idea
Why work this way, you might ask? Well, the idea is to have a big greeting card, where the text is all wood. All the rest are cutouts. To make sure you don't mess it up (at my first go, some letters fell out because they weren't attached to anything). Therefor the easiest is to draw a rectangle, slightly smaller than the MDF. Everything that will be white, will be wood... Get the idea? ;)
Step 2: Write Text
Write all the text you want to use, using the text tool on the left.
Select a nice thick font. You can also find some nice (free) ones on the web (dafont.com for instance).
Select a white color, to get an idea of what it will look like.
Step 3: Edit Text
You want the letters to stick together, so they don't fall out of your greeting card. Use the "letter space align" setting on top to adjust.
Tip: you can also select part of the word (or a letter) and use ALT+arrow to move individual letters around.
Step 4: Adjust Sizes
Press F1 tot select the text object you want to resize and use the arrow that appear to enlarge. If you hold CTRL, the proportions are maintained.
Step 5: Let's Get Personal
Of course, you want to make it personal. Think of hobby's your loved one likes and search the web for some .svg-files or vector files. My friend likes witches and elephants, so i got myself some free vectors at https://publicdomainvectors.org. Just press download and save them to your hard drive (even tho, is says Save As XML-format, just type ".svg" after the file name you want). Then drag and drop the file into Inkscape.
Of course, you can also draw your own stuff...
Step 6: Put It All Together
This step is the longest and most fun part. Put all the stuff you gathered together.
Adjust sizes etc. and put everything on top of the red rectangle.
Everything should be white, so you can get an idea of what it will look like.
Make sure EVERYTHING is attached to something else. Therefor notice the overlap (of the white parts) on the sides! Since the red rectangle is smaller than your canvas, all elements I put in are connected to the outer wooden "frame" of the card. White = wood (remember?).
Save a copy (or 2)
Save a copy of your work, now that you still have all "loose" elements. In case you mess it up or want to make adjustments later, you can always use that file. So do a quick Save As... and carry on (nearly there).
Get it together
- Convert text (ones you're happy with it) with CTRL + SHIFT + c
- Place all elements as you wish
- Click the red box and one of the elements.
- Press CTRL + - (this will substract the element from the red rectangle)
- Repeat for all elements until everything is connected
There are faster ways to do this, but this way, you will be able to check everything and return (CTRL + Z) if you mess it up.
Step 7: Convert for Cutting
Select all using the command CTRL+A
Click the color-dialogbox. Choose "None" as a fill and "Red" as Line Color. For Trotec Laser Cutters, use 0.05mm for the red lines.
Step 8: Group and Rotate
Click your drawing twice with your mouse. Round arrow will appear. Hold down CTRL and rotate (grab hold of one corner and rotate).
Oh yeh, you could also press the rotate 90° button on top, but I thought you might like the extra tip for freerotating (which is the same, but without the CTRL-button).
Step 9: Adjust Canvas Setting
Open the canvas settings on top and choose "portret".
If you haven't adjusted the size, put in 30x60 cm.
Step 10: Final Check
Click your drawing. Click on your favorite color and check for the last time. Is everything connected?
Choose transparant again (=no color).
Step 11: Get It Lasered
Laser away and enjoy your own XL birthday card!