How to lay out artwork

how to lay out artwork

Some projects have very complicated artwork where many intricate pieces are laid out on one sheet of material. The artwork for Four by Two‘s Perspex model for Studio B was a good example of this, and one sheet is shown above. I’ve put together my top tips for laying out artwork like this for laser cutting and engraving in one handy blog. I hope you find it useful!

How much artwork should I put in one file?

If you have large pieces to laser cut or engrave, it’s best to have them in separate files. The laser bed is 1200 x 800mm, so keep each individual artwork file to that size as a maximum. Alternatively, you can use size of the sheet of material we plan to use if it’s smaller.

I have a few pages of artwork. How should I send them?

Separate pages in a pdf work well if you’d like to keep all the files in the same document.

Alternatively, a zip file with separate dxf, ai or pdf files is fine. Dropbox is a great option too. You can group several files in one project folder and share it with me.

Can I group artwork for different materials and thicknesses together?

No. It’s best to group artwork to be cut from the same material, thickness and colour together to minimise material waste. I will only process one sheet of material in the machine at a time.

You could have a file for 10mm clear,  one for 10mm white and one for 5mm red Perspex for instance. It makes it easier for us both and avoids confusion if each artwork file is named after the material, thickness and colour of the material to be cut if you have several.

Then I can cut everything from the same material specification together to maximise efficiency.

laser cut golf bag tags
Golf bag tags laser cut from 3mm plywood

Can I cut to the edges of the material?

I never use the edges of sheets of material as they’re often unfinished or have saw marks. For best results, it’s best to cut all the outlines of the shapes so they all look the same.

It’s best to buy materials with a 5mm margin on each side to make sure that this is possible. If it helps, you can show the outline shape of the material sheet in your artwork as a check that everything fits.

Should I have gaps between cut out shapes?

Yes, but 2mm is enough to avoid wasting material. We don’t want cut lines to be superimposed or too close to each other. It’s better to cut through material once only, or you get flaming and damage to the back of the material. Perspex and wood are flammable, so this is important!

Of course, if you just have a single shape that you want laser cut and engraved multiple times, I only need that artwork file. I can tile it in my software to get as many pieces as possible from the material. In the picture above, you can see the waste plywood remaining after cutting the golf bag tags for Holiday Essentials and Scotland Golf Tours.

If you have any questions that I haven’t answered, drop me a line at or give me a call and I’ll be happy to help.