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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 the graphic design profession and is 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 patron use at 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). 
  • Library 21c: The full Adobe Creative Cloud suite is available on the 6 Edit Bay computers near the makerspaces and the first 6 PCs in the Petriz Learning Lab.
  • Sand Creek: Adobe can be accessed on the Edit Bay computer and select machines in the computer lab.
  • All PPLD makerspaces have a computer connected to the laser that features Adobe Illustrator.

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 (login link below). These tutorials cover 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 gives users 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. resizing an image) are easy to do.

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 the Makerspace during Open Hours.
  • Library 21c: GIMP is installed on the first 16 computers in the Petriz Learning Lab, the 6 Edit Bay computers, the computers in Make, and the laptops in Make II.
  • Sand Creek: Access GIMP on the Edit Bay computer and the computers in the lab.

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 (login link below). 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 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 and 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 and most effective available.

Cons: Because vector images are a completely different way of creating images than raster, 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 or imported to Adobe Illustrator before sending to the machine.

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 Edit 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 for free directly from their website:

Learning Inkscape

A video tutorial series on learning the basics of Inkscape is available through Lynda.com (login link below). The tutorial covers 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 in both written and video format.

CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW is an advanced layout and publishing 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

Pros: CorelDRAW is a powerful software for graphic design and other creative endeavors. This software also speaks to the laser directly, so CorelDRAW designs do not typically need to be exported to another software to be sent to the laser.

Cons: CorelDRAW is a paid software program, so it is not available for free. It also works differently than other software programs, so may have a steep learning curve.

Accessing CorelDRAW

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

Personal versions of CorelDRAW can be purchased from Corel's website. Note that files created in newer versions of CorelDRAW may not be fully compatible with the X7 version available at Library 21c.

Learning CorelDRAW

A variety of video tutorials are available through Lynda.com (login link below). These cover 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. It works well for basic shapes or lettering. The major drawback is 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 complex as GIMP or Photoshop.

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

 

XnView MP

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

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