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Laser Engraving and Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

What is Color Mapping?

  • Available at: All locations
  • Pre-requisite knowledge:  RGB color values

Color mapping is a method of assigning different speed and power settings to different parts of an image based on colors. For example, you could make all red pixels engrave at a much higher power than blue pixels, which would make the red areas of your design much more pronounced. This works with both engravings and cuts, so you could have a single job cut through some areas and use a weaker setting to create outlines or perforations.

When to Use Color Mapping

Color mapping is useful in two situations - you want different settings applied to different areas of a design, or you want to control the order that sections are engraved/cut.

In the first situation, color mapping can be used to save time by not needing to set up multiple jobs. For example, in the below project, there are three different levels of shadings for the stars, due to each type having their own speed and power settings. Additionally, vector edging is used to create a border around the stars, while a different vector setting is used to cut out the entire object.

The design was created with the intention of using color mapping, so each piece was colored based on what setting was going to be used.

Raster settings:

  • Red stars (RGB 255/0/0): 100% Speed, 20% Power
  • Green stars (RGB 0/255/0): 70% Speed, 70% Power
  • Blue stars (RGB 0/0/255): 40% Speed, 100% Power

Vector settings:

  • Magenta edges (RGB 255/0/255): 50% Speed, 30% Power
  • Yellow border (RGB 0/0/0): 20% Speed, %Power

The project could have been completed without color mapping, however it would have required at least three separate images (one for each type of star) and four jobs (one for each engraving & edging, and one more for cutting out the square).


In the second situation, you assign color to your design based on the order that you want them engraved. In the below project, we can save time by engraving each of the columns one at a time (see Raster Optimization for why this happens). This works because the laser goes through each mapped color in order, one at a time.

This works well for vector lines as well since you can use color mapping to cut interior lines first and then the exterior cutout last.

Important Notes About Color Mapping

There are two thing to keep in mind when setting up a color map:

  • First, any color pixel or line that has not been mapped will use whatever settings are specified in the General settings tab. Therefore, it is very important to double check that all colors are properly mapped. Improperly mapped colors could be potentially damaging and or dangrous if, for example, you want everything mapped to low power, but the default is at a high power. As a precaution, you can set the power in the General settings to 0%.
  • Second, Color Mapping is an exact match, and there is no tolerance. If a setting is mapped to pure red (RGB values of 255,0,0) then a red with RGB values of 254,0,0 is considered a completely different color and will not use the mapped settings. This is very important when working with raster images, as many graphic editors create gradients around the edges of objects. The blue dot shown is comprised of several different blues, so the blues on the edges would use the default settings if only the blue in the majority of the dot was mapped. This is less of an issue with vector lines and a line is a single color throughout. It is still important to make sure that it is the exact color expected. If you have six or fewer lines, it is recommended to use colors where each of the RGB values is either 0 or 255. Note that pure black (RGB values of 0,0,0) is not available for color mapping.
RGB Value Color
255/0/0 Red
0/255/0 Green
0/0/255 Blue
255/255/0 Yellow
255/0/255 Magenta
0/255/255 Cyan

 

Setting Up a Color Map

Before you being, you will need to have your image colored appropriately. Once the images are ready, lay them out in the software as needed and then open up the Epilog print driver settings.

  1. Load the preset for whatever material you are using. Even if you are setting custom power and speed settings for everything, loading the preset will load other settings that are important for the machine to properly function.
  2. Select the Color Mapping tab.
  3. Check the Color Mapping box.
  4. Delete any preset colors by selecting them and pressing the minus button.
  5. Set the [R]ed, [G]reen, and [B]lue color values for the color.
  6. Set the Speed, Power, and Frequency (if applicable).
  7. Choose Raster or Vector - you can have it do both, however it is very rare for you to want the same settings for both rastering and vectoring. Air Assist should be left on in most cases.
  8. Press the Plus icon to add it to the list of mapped colors.
  9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 for any additional colors.
  10. Return to the General tab and set any other options as needed.
  11. Press OK to close the print settings dialog.

If you need to edit a setting, select it on the list, change the settings, and then click the right-arrow below the plus icon to update the setting.

It is very important to double check your settings before sending a color-mapped job to the laser. The most common errors when trying to use a color map are:

  • Not checking the Color Mapping box in the upper left
  • Not clicking the arrow button to add a new color to the list
  • Not mapping all colors or using proper settings for non-mapped colors