Artwork preparation tips

For high quality laser cutting and engraving results, we need high quality artwork.

Laser cutting and engraving needs artwork to be prepared in certain ways to achieve the best results, whatever material you choose. A short summary of the different types of laser cutting and engraving are below with some artwork do's and don'ts.

You can find more detailed information about vector artwork in our blogs designing artwork for laser cutting and how to lay out artwork.

And my top tips for designing artwork for raster engraving are expanded in a blog too.

Laser cutting

laser cutting
Tom Pigeon's laser cut formica pieces

Laser cutting requires vector artwork like ai, pdf, dxf, eps and svg files. The lines need to be hairline thickness. Shape outlines must surround the area to be cut out completely. The laser follows the lines to cut materials. Speed and power of the machine are set to suit the thickness and nature of the material to be cut.

Vector engraving

vector engraving
Book of Kells vector engraved lion

Vector engraving, or kiss cutting, is identical to laser cutting except the aim is to mark the surface of the material rather than cutting through.  It too requires vector files like ai, pdf, dxf, eps and svg. If you create an artwork file for laser cutting and vector engraving, code the lines in different colours and make the lines completely separate.

Raster engraving

raster engraving
Laser engraved reclaimed wood sign

Rastering is a fill in engrave. Vector files work, but we can also use png and jpg files if they are print quality @300dpi+. Black and white is best as the laser either engraves or doesn't engrave. Greys are created by concentrations of black pixels like old fashioned newsprint. Pixellated images make engravings look fuzzy around the edges.

Artwork do's

Vector cutting and engraving
  1. Do completely surround shapes to be cut out with a single complete line. If separate lines don't meet up exactly, the shape won't cut out cleanly
  2. Do make lines for cutting and engraving hairline thickness. Remember the laser beam is fine. Making lines thicker can cause problems
  3. Do have a colour code for laser cut and vector engraved lines. Keep them completely separate
Raster engraving
  1. Do send black and white artwork files. Remember the laser either engraves or doesn't engrave. That's pretty black and white, isn't it?
  2. Do send jpg and png graphics of print quality ie. 300dpi+
  3. Do send vector files. They are particularly good as they can be rescaled without loss of quality (eg. unwanted pixellation) unlike jpgs
  4. Do send logos in the largest format you have, not cut down or resized files. Altering them creates unwanted pixellation that will be engraved


Artwork don'ts

Vector cutting and engraving
  1. Don't have lines in your design that you don't want to be cut or engraved. Even if you've hidden lines in layers that can't be seen, the laser software will detect and cut/engrave them
  2. Don't have duplicate lines. The laser will cut or engrave multiple superimposed lines. This adds to production time and increases the risk of the material igniting and causing a fire
 Raster engraving
  1. Don't send coloured images or logos. The laser cannot engrave in colour
  2. Don't send pngs and jpgs under 300dpi, the print quality threshold
  3. Don't send images from the internet. They are only 72dpi, so they are not of print quality. 72dpi looks fine on computer screens, but yields poor printing and engraving results. Try printing one and you'll see
  4. Don't send pixellated images. The unwanted pixellation will be engraved as well as the image required