The Laser Studio
We cut and engrave your files.
Monday – Friday
9.00 am – 5.00pm
Quoting Your Job
Before we can quote you for your job we need some key information from you.
- A laser ready file – please follow our file creation guide below, this will give you all the information you need to set up your file correctly. Until we have your final vector file we are unable to give you any quotes.
- The material and thickness you would like your job cutting from.
- Whether we are supplying the material or you are supplying your own.
- The quantity. Costs may vary depending on the quantity of each piece you require.
- Whether you would like to collect your job from our Manchester store or have your job delivered.
File Creation Guide
The most important part of a successful laser cut or engraving project is your files. Accurately drawn files will reduce your costs and speed up the process. The laser cutter requires vector files and the software we recommend is Adobe Illustrator ®. The following guide provides the necessary information to create laser ready files.
If you don’t have a vector file at this stage don’t worry we can create it for you. Prices start at £30 for file creation.
CREATE A NEW DOCUMENT
In Adobe Illustrator ® go to File>New – create your document the size of the material being cut from up to a maximum size of A1 (841 x 594mm) Units should be millimeters. Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm. Draw your file at actual size. Colour Mode should be RGB.
DRAWING YOUR FILE
When creating your file it’s a good idea to nest your objects as economically as possible. This will ensure you maximise the use of material and hopefully save you money. Small details should be no smaller than the material thickness. We can cut thinner pieces than this but the part will likely warp and be very fragile. Please leave at least a 5mm border between your work and the edge of the material. We have a full range of perspex to choose from. All laser-able materials can be seen here. Below you will see the result of the hexagon file above being cut from an A3 piece of 3mm transparent red 4401 Perspex. The cutting time for this file was 7 minutes. To give you a guide price including materials this would cost £7.00 for cutting plus £5.00 set up charge and £4.17 for materials. Total: £16.17.
DEFINING CUT LINES
We define various laser processes using RGB colour. Black fill for engrave (raster engrave). Red 0.001 stroke for light cut (vector scoring). Blue 0.001 stroke for inner cut (see below). Green 0.001 stroke for outer cut.
All cut lines need to be a 0.001 strokes for the laser to recognise these are to be cut. Any engraves have to be either a fill or a thicker than a 0.001 stroke. The machine will engrave the parts that are coloured and uses the greyscale to determine how deep the engrave goes. The depth changes for all materials and generally does not go any deeper than 1mm. The examples below are cut from 3mm laser ply.
- Laser cutting (outer cut): Green 0.001 stroke/lines: RGB: R=0, G=255, B=0
- Laser cutting (inner cut): Blue 0.001 stroke/lines: RGB: R=0, G=0, B=255
- Vector Scoring (Light cut): Red 0.001 stroke/lines: RGB: R=255, G=0, B=0
- Engraving (raster): Black fills or strokes above 0.001: RGB: R=0, G=0, B=0 these colour values will produce the deepest engrave, if you require a lighter engrave increase the values keeping each value the same as the others. We advise that you do not go above R=190 G=190 B=190 as anything further you will not be visible to the naked eye. The values in the image are as follows from top to bottom: 1st example (Full black) R:0,G:0,B:0 – 2nd example (dark grey) R:63, G:63, B:63 – 3rd example (mid grey) R:127, G:127, B:127 – 4th example (light grey) R:190, G:190, B:19
Below is an example file that utilises all our laser colours.
You will notice a blue layer (RGB: R=0, B=255, G=0) on the file. We refer to this as inner cuts. There is a chance of slight material movement during the cut process. We put ‘inner cuts’ on a separate layer so we can process this layer first. This ensures your files cut accurately and there are no miss cuts. Below is the result of the above file being cut in 3mm laser ply.
If your file is set up with different colours you can easily convert them. First select any line with the colour you want to change. Go to Select>Same>Stroke or Fill Colour. This will select all lines with that colour value. Now follow the steps above in ‘defining cut lines’ to apply the right colour value. Please double check the black values as well, often it will look black but the RGB value is wrong.
USING IMAGE TRACE TO CONVERT YOUR FILE INTO A VECTOR
We are not big fans of ‘Image Trace’ as it is far better to draw your file from scratch, but If all you have is an image .jpeg, .tiff or .png that you want cutting not engraving then one option is to ‘Image Trace’ your file. First you must place your image in a blank page. Go to File>Place.
then go to Object>Image Trace>Make and Expand.
One downside to Image Trace is double lines. You will need to use the Direct Select tool to select them and then press Delete or Backspace key to remove them until only one remains. If you are in outline view it will make it easier to see the double lines. If double lines remain in your file it will increase the price for every extra stroke/line. If every stroke in your design has been duplicated it would double the cost and so on depending on how many times the design has been duplicated. If we notice there are double lines we will send the file back to be rectified as the laser cutter will cut as many lines as it sees resulting in a bad cut and potential fire hazard.
ENGRAVING FROM AN IMAGE
Image file formats for engraving only Grey scale Image files at least 300DPI sent as .jpeg, .tiff or .png.
please note the difference the contrast of your original image will effect your engraving. Front or back engraving – We can engrave clear and transparent plastic on the front or back of the material. When engraving from the back, we will be sure to set up your file correctly (mirror image) so that any text and all images look correct when viewed from the front. Mirrored acrylic is typically engraved from the back (the matte grey side)
Protective masking – We typically remove the plastic masking on acrylic when engraving this avoids the acrylic sticking to the glues in the masking and to make peeling the masking easier for you.
CHECKING YOUR FILE - OUTLINING FONTS
If you are using text within your files it needs to be Outlined this will ensure the font is retained and your file cuts correctly.
- With your text selected go to Type > Create outlines from the menu bar
VIEW YOUR FILE AS OUTLINE
In Illustrator, it’s common to use overlapping shapes to give the illusion of one complex shape as seen in ‘Preview view’ below. This method of drawing will not work with the laser cutter, the hidden parts are seen by the laser cutter software as seen in ‘Outline view 1′. To realise the ‘Preview View’ shape below your file needs to look like ‘Outline View 2′. To spot all of this go to View>Outline or press command (Mac) or ctrl (PC) Y it mimics how the Laser cutter will see your file.
Another common problem with files is paths drawn with a thickness. Our laser cutter only sees strokes as a cut if they are 0.001 anything higher than this will result in it engraving rather than cutting. If you have drawn your file using paths with a stroke thickness one option is to outline the stroke. Go to Object>Path>Outline Stroke. This can be seen in ‘Outline view 4′ below. Again to spot all of this go to View>Outline or press command (Mac) or ctrl (PC) Y it mimics how the Laser cutter will see your file. This usually highlights any problems within your files.
After you outline the stroke you will need to do further work with the shape builder tool or the Pathfinder Unite tool. After using both of these tools you need to check for double lines, you can read how to do this further down the page.
ENSURE ALL LINES ARE UNGROUPED
Select your objects and keep ungrouping until only single shapes can be selected.
REMOVE DOUBLE LINES
If you have used live trace or the shape builder tool you need to check for double lines this is where more than one line is stacked on top of each other. These lines can be hard to see but will effect the way your file is cut and engraved. The laser cutter will see all of these lines and try and cut them resulting in material damage (melting or warping) and possibly a damaged laser bed. A good way to spot these is to zoom right out of your file, the double lines will appear darker. See below. use the direct select tool to remove these extra lines.
CLEAN UP YOUR FILE
CLEAR ALL GUIDES
If guides are left on the file the laser cutter will cut them as well as the design.
RELEASE ALL CLIPPING MASKS
Clipping masks are an “appearance” tool specific to illustrator, you can’t use them to create your file. Release them if you have used them and redraw where necessary.
RELEASE ALL LIVE PAINT GROUPS
You can’t use live paint to create a file that the laser cutter can read. Release them if you have used them and redraw where necessary.
SAVING YOUR FILE
When you are happy with your file it’s time to save it ready to upload.
- Select File > Save As
- Format: Adobe Illustrator (ai)
- Version: Any Version
When naming your files it is very important that you give your file a unique name. It must include: The name of your file. The material and colour/type your file is being cut from. The thickness of the material. Your surname. like the example below:
Don’t use multiple art boards in your files. Please send separate files for each sheet of material being cut or engraved.
If you are using the same file but are cutting it from various materials/colours again please supply separate files for each sheet of material being cut.
Email your file to firstname.lastname@example.org