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Laser Engraving and Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

Graphics & Vector Software

Graphics & vector software is primarily used for creating images for the laser cutters, CNC, and vinyl cutters. Generally speaking, vector files are used for any kind of cutting, as the cutting tool can simply follow the vector paths. Raster images are used for laser engraving and can be vectorized in files that can be used for cutting.

Graphics & Vector Software

Adobe Creative Cloud logoAdobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) is one of the industry-standard software suites for creating media of all kinds. While the Creative Cloud has a large number of programs, the two that are most useful for creative projects for the laser cutter are Photoshop and Illustrator.

  • Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is used for creating and editing raster images.
  • Adobe Illustrator: Illustrator is used for creating vector images, and is the software that is used to sent projects to the laser cutter.

Adobe Pros & Cons

Pros: Adobe is the premier software for graphical design suite profession and incredibly powerful. Additionally, Illustrator is available at all three Makerspaces for use with the laser cutter, so images made in Illustrator do not need to be imported into different software.

Cons: Adobe is not free (although it is free to for patrons use a several PPLD locations). It also has a very steep learning curve and can be difficult for people unfamiliar with the software to use efficiently.

Accessing Adobe

  • East: The Adobe Creative Cloud suite is available on eight computers in the 2nd floor computer lab (computers #35-#42). During open hours, there is also a MAKE laptop available with the full suite.

  • Library 21c: The full Adobe Creative Cloud suite is available on the 6 Editing Bay computers and the first 6 PCs in the Petriz Learning Lab.
  • Sand Creek:

Personal subscriptions can be purchased from Adobe's website. Student & educator discounts are available.

Learning Adobe

A variety of video tutorials are available through Lynda.com, which covers everything from learning the interface to very advanced concepts and techniques. Users new to Adobe products should start with the One-on-One: Fundamentals series.

Additionally, Adobe has detailed user guides for all of their products.

GIMP logoGIMP

GIMP is a free image and photo editor that is available on almost all operating systems. GIMP is an easy way of resizing, recoloring, cropping, rotating and otherwise manipulating images. Additionally, GIMP can work with transparancies, layers, and almost every type of image file available.

GIMP Pros & Cons

Pros: GIMP is, essentially, the free alternative to Photoshop. While it may not be quite as powerful as Photoshop, it will work for most users' needs. Most basic functions (e.g. reszing an image) are an easy process.

Cons: Because GIMP can do a lot, there is a fairly steep learning curve, especially for people new to graphic editing. For people used to Photoshop's layout, a lot of functions require learning a new interface.

Accessing GIMP

  • East: Available on all lab computers as well as the laptops in MAKE during open hours.
  • Library 21c: GIMP is installed on the first 16 computers in the Petriz Learning Lab, the 6 Editing Bay computers, the computers in MAKE, and the laptops in MAKE II.
  • Sand Creek:

GIMP can also be downloaded directly from their website.

Learning GIMP

A video tutorial series on learning the basics of GIMP is available through Lynda.com. The tutorial will cover concepts from learning the user interface and basic functions to more advanced topics such as working with layers and filters.

GIMP.org has a variety of tutorials that cover using GIMP and are categorized by topic.

Inkscape

Inkscape is a free vector graphics program available on most operating systems. Inkscape can quickly create and edit line art, clipart, vectorize images, and export vector files into raster images.

Inkscape Pros & Cons

Pros: Inkscape is a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Creating simple projects is often quick and easy. Inkscape's vectorization module is one of the easiest, yet most effective, ones available.

Cons: Because vector images are a completely different way of creating images than raster editors, there can be a bit of a learning curve for new users. Makerspace machines do not always work well with Inkscape, so often the files have to be exported into PDFs.

Accessing Inkscape

  • East: Available on all lab computers as well as the laptops in MAKE during open hours.
  • Library 21c: Inkscape is installed on the first 16 computers in the Petriz Learning Lab, the 6 Editing Bay computers, the computers in MAKE, and the laptops in MAKE II.
  • Sand Creek: Available on all laptops in the makerspace during open hours.

Inkscape can also be downloaded directly from their website.

Learning Inkscape

A video tutorial series on learning the basics of Inkscape is available through Lynda.com. The tutorial will cover concepts from learning the user interface and basic functions to more advanced topics such as working with layers and filters.

Inkscape.org has a variety of tutorials that cover using Inkscape in both written and video format.

CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW is an advanced layout and publish application that can be used for both the creation and printing of designs. CorelDRAW works well with both simple and highly complex designs.

CorelDRAW Pros & Cons

Accessing CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW (version X7) is available on the CAD computer at Library 21c.

Personal purchases of CorelDRAW can be purchased from Corel's website. Note that files created in newer versions of CorelDRAW may not be fully compatible with X7.

Learning CorelDRAW

A variety of video tutorials are available through Lynda.com, which covers everything from learning the interface to very advanced concepts and techniques. Please be aware that the videos do not cover version X7, so features may be slightly different than on the library's computer.

Additionally, Corel has detailed user guides for all of their products.

Other Software

Microsoft Paint

Microsoft Paint is one of the most basic raster image editors available, but it's good enough in many cases, especially if all you need is basic shapes or lettering. The major drawbacks are that it cannot handle transparencies or high-DPI images.

Paint comes pre-installed with every version of Windows.

 

Paint.NET

Paint.NET is, in many ways, an enhanced version of Microsoft Paint. It offers many features that Paint does not (including transparency and layers), but is not as complicated as GIMP or Photoshop.

Paint.NET can be downloaded for free from getpaint.net

 

XnView MP

XnView MP is an image organizer, but has many basic image editing tools as well, such as crop, rotate, color adjustments, and format converters.

XnView MP can be downloaded for free (for personal use) from xnview.com

 

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