A customer asked me this last week as we discussed her new product ideas and how to add detail to cut out shapes.
The answer? Yes, you certainly can raster engrave using vector artwork, but there’s one major pitfall to avoid.
There are two ways to create vector lines with any thickness. One works really well in all situations and the other works in some scenarios, but not others. I’ll show you why.
The problem: how vector lines are seen by laser software
This is the biggest thing to get your head around. Vector lines can be created and then made to look a certain thickness, anything from hairline to 2.5mm.
If you view the artwork as a simple wireframe, you see what my laser cutting software sees – a hairline line, however thick you may have made it appear. To raster engrave to get the same effect, I have to follow these steps.
Step 1: To raster engrave the area, I’d select the artwork element
Step 2: Convert the selected lines into bitmaps while leaving other lines as vectors. This keeps the lines at the thickness shown on the screen so they doesn’t revert to hairline thickness at step 3. All the other lines for cutting and vector engraving need to be in that format.
Step 3: Export the artwork with the different elements to my software that tells the laser what to do with the artwork.
This can work for simple designs, but it can be a nightmare with more complex ones. Following my fool proof method below avoids all these problems.
Fool proof vector artwork for raster engraving
Kate decided that she wanted to add raster engraved details to her laser cut goose shapes. Raster engraving was the look she wanted.
I asked Kate to imagine a thick black line, say 40mm by 5mm. To have this line raster engraved, I told her she’d need to create a box 40 x 5mm using vector lines. I’d instruct the laser to raster engrave that rectangle.
If each element she wanted raster engraved was outlined by a surrounding line, the areas inside those lines could be raster engraved. This is how I’d treat the green feathers in the artwork above. Or if Kate wanted them vector engraved, the outline lines could be line engraved. It’s an easy and flexible method.
As it turned out, Kate wanted children to paint the geese. I suggested that the raster engraved feathers could be lost under the paint. It would be a shame to make a more expensive product with detail that could be lost. Vector engraving would be cheaper than raster engraving and would create outlines that the children could paint in.
This was a perfect solution for Kate. She’d given me foolproof vector artwork, so all I had to do was code the feathers for vector engraving. The results are shown in the picture above.
Other artwork blogs that might be useful: