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How to design laser engraving work

Laser engraving technology helps make it easier for you to turn a drawing into a physical object in a short period of time.

In order to maximize the reproduction of your design and create a better physical object, you should start by making a qualified design original.

Traditionally, design originals are rendered on drawings, and in the digital age, digital artwork design helps us do this.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the finer points of designing laser engraved artwork, covering file formats, software tools to help you better recreate your ideas, and minimizing the unnecessary waste of laser engraved materials.

Follow design principles

Key principles

  • Software: Use design software that creates vector files. These are graphics based on paths and shapes, not pixels, which is crucial for the laser cutter to understand your design.
  • File format: Save your design in a format compatible with your laser engraving machine’s software. Common formats include DXF, DWG, EPS, and AI.
  • Scale: Ensure your design is scaled to the final engraved size. Double-check the dimensions in your design software.
  • Linework: Use clean, well-defined lines for the laser to follow. Avoid fuzzy or rasterized images.
  • Text: Convert text into outlines or paths. Loose text won’t be recognized by the laser engraver.
  • Minimum detail: Very fine details or small fonts might not engrave well due to the laser beam’s width. Adjust details for engraving clarity.
  • Material considerations: Choose a design that suits the material you’re engraving. For instance, very thin materials might not work for intricate details. Research recommended engraving settings for your chosen material.
  • Testing: If possible, do a test engraving on scrap material to confirm everything looks good before engraving your final piece.

Laser cutting file types

Design images are usually divided into two categories: raster and vector.

Raster images consist of a grid of individual pixels, each assigned a specific color. This composition makes them ideal for capturing the subtlety and complexity of a photograph.

However, resizing them larger than the original size may result in a loss of clarity. They are suitable for laser engraving but not for laser cutting.

Vector graphics are created using paths or strokes defined by mathematical equations outlining shapes and designs. Vector images can be scaled to any size without loss of image quality. They are ideal for laser cutting operations.

Two vector formats are especially recommended for laser cutting:

  • DXF (Drawing Exchange Format): Widely used in CAD (Computer Aided Design) and favored for its ability to handle complex and precise engineering drawings.
  • SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics): SVG files are ideal for graphic design projects because of their compatibility with many graphic design software and web applications.

They maintain high-quality detail when scaled and are perfect for designs that include text, logos, and artwork.

From Ideas to Projects

Finding Ideas First

Spend some time gathering ideas and sketching out designs. Preset the items to be engraved and their sizes ahead of time to make it easy to set the accuracy of your design drawings, and you can get inspiration from different online communities and design forums by checking out some of the free laser projects that are already available.

In the following article, you will be provided with more websites that you can refer to.

Creating Design in Software

After sketching on paper, begin creating that design on graphic design software. For example, in CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, and the laser engraving machine brand’s companion software.

Remember to include all details and make sure the design matches your manual design exactly.

Cutting Preparation


  • Import the Image: Bring your image file (e.g., JPG, PNG) into your chosen software.
  • Convert to Black and White (Optional): For some cutting machines, you might need a grayscale or black and white version for better recognition.
  • Increase Contrast: Ensure there’s strong contrast between the foreground (what you want to cut) and the background.
  • Trace or Simplify (Vector Design Software): Use the software’s tracing tools to convert the image into clean vector paths suitable for cutting.
  • Clean Up (Image Editing Software): Use tools like the magic wand and eraser to remove unwanted background elements and refine the outline for cleaner cutting.

General Tips

  • Material and Machine Compatibility: Consider the thickness and material you’ll be cutting and ensure your design elements are compatible with your specific cutting machine’s capabilities.
  • Test Your Design: Before sending the final design to the cutting machine, consider creating a test cut with a scrap piece of material to ensure everything looks as intended.
  • Double-Check: Always double-check your design for any errors or unwanted elements before cutting your final piece.

Best website to get free laser engraving files

To help you get started quickly, here are some common sites to get laser cutting files for free:

  • Boasting over 21,000 free designs, offers a vast library across various categories. You can find files in DXF, CDR, and EPS formats, making them compatible with most laser engraving software.
  • Free Laser Designs: This website lives up to its name, providing a wide range of free files with no registration required. Their collection is well-categorized for easy browsing.
  • DXF Downloads: As the name suggests, DXF Downloads specializes in DXF files, a common format for laser cutting. They offer a decent selection of free designs across various themes.
  • Creativity Falcon: This website curates free laser cutting files from various sources and provides helpful resources for beginners.

Here are some additional resources to explore:

  • Trotec: While Trotec offers some free files, they primarily focus on showcasing the capabilities of their laser cutters. It’s still a valuable resource for inspiration and understanding file compatibility.
  • Maker Union: This online marketplace allows makers to sell and share their designs. While many files are paid, you can find a good selection of freebies as well.


Laser engraving is full of fun and variety, making it impossible to think of anything else, and it all needs interesting design elements to support it.

Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist just starting out on a creative project, this article offers design references that will help you bring your ideas to life.

After exploring and experimenting, you may even feel inspired to create your own design.

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