top of page
  • Writer's pictureKelly Bazzle

From Concept to Creation: Must-Have Tools for CO2 Laser Engraving Machines

As a laser engraving enthusiast, I love crafting unique pieces, from personalized gifts to stunning home decor. But even the most impressive laser cutter needs some helpful companions to turn ideas into engraved realities. So, today, I'm sharing the tools that fuel my creative process and help me brainstorm, design, and bring my engraving visions to life!

So you want to start creating and making things with your engraver, but you're not sure where to start... I'm here to help. As a designer and creator in general, I love crafting unique pieces, from personalized gifts to beautiful home decor pieces. Here's the thing, if you want to do the same, you're going to need special software and hardware to bring your engraving visions to life. Let's dive into it all in this blog post.

File Types for Laser Engraving

First thing's first. You're going to need to know what types of files the laser software can read best. In most situations, it's an SVG file. What's an SVG? Here's a simple explanation:

An SVG file (Scalable Vector Graphics) is broken down into tiny details that tell a computer how to draw a picture using lines and shapes. It's different from other picture files because it doesn't use dots, so it's lighter and can be made bigger or smaller without getting blurry. That's why it's great for making designs for things like laser engraving. Also, you can mix different things like words, shapes, and colors in the same picture. Unlike other picture formats, SVG can be any size you want. People love using SVG for making logos because it keeps everything clear and crisp, and it's like following a special set of rules called XML.

Software and Tools for Creating SVG Files

Do you want to be able to trace objects and turn them into vector shapes? There's a really cool option out there. It's called the ShaperTools Trace.

Trace frame unboxing with Trace logo on box.
ShaperTools Trace Frame

ShaperTools Trace: Inspiration at Your Fingertips

The cool part about this thing? You can use your phone or iPad with it as long as you have a working camera. The Trace frame can turn objects into vector designs for your designs. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Maybe you're walking through a park and you see a really cool shaped leaf that catches your eye. You can lay that leaf in the frame, take a photo, and the app will create an SVG for you instantly. It's used to help you create instant digital art that's ready for your engraving projects.

Maybe you want to put your signature on every project you create. You can do that with Trace, just write your signature with the pen that comes with it on a piece of paper and throw it in the frame, snap a picture with the app and you've got an instant vector file you can save and use on all of your pieces.

The Trace frame is $99 and that includes the app and you don't have to pay for a subscription. It works with any IOS or Android device.

iPad Pro & Apple Pencil: A Match Made in Design Heaven

My iPad Pro is my go-to creative canvas. It provides the perfect platform for sketching, refining, and manipulating those traced designs. And the Apple Pencil? It allows me to translate rough ideas into polished designs with precise control. As far as the iPad accessories that help make my iPad Pro the most functional tool, here's everything I use:

Canva: Design Made Simple

Sometimes, I don't have hours to pour into design from scratch. That's where Canva comes in handy. I pay for the premium membership so that I can get the most out of it. This platform is a treasure trove of fonts, graphics, and layouts that I can seamlessly integrate into my projects. Need to add text? No problem.

If you're selling your products, mockups are a huge deal to making your products shine and stand out against the competition.

Canva streamlines the design process, letting me focus on the core creative aspects.

Adobe Illustrator: The Precision Powerhouse

When intricate details and pixel-perfect designs are required, Adobe Illustrator steps onto the scene. This one is a little more intense but there are many youtube videos you can watch to get a hang of the software. Its advanced vector editing tools are great for creating complex artwork that translates flawlessly to the laser engraver. Think clean lines, sharp details, and designs that impress – that's all thanks to Illustrator's precision capabilities.

And Most Importantly, LightBurn: Bridging the Gap from Digital to Laser

a design on the screen of LightBurn Software showing the layers of the design
LightBurn Software in Action

Finally, the most important step in taking my digital creations and prepping them for the physical engraving process is the essential LightBurn software ($119). It works great on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. You can import artwork in a variety of common vector graphic and image formats (including AI, PDF, SVG, DXF, PLT, PNG, JPG, GIF, BMP).

If you have any experience with Silhouette or Cricut software, you'll be able to figure this software out. It allows you to arrange, edit, and even create new vector shapes within the editor, with powerful features like offsetting, boolean operations, welding, and node editing. The software allows you to apply settings like power, speed, number of passes, cut order, brightness & contrast, dithering mode, and much more. You can send the result directly to your laser cutter.

Get Creating

Do you have any tools you want to share or think should be included? Tell me about them! Let's chat!

Remember, this is just my personal toolkit. The beauty of creativity lies in experimentation and finding what works best for you. So, grab your favorite tools, let your imagination flow, and get ready to create some amazing laser-engraved pieces!


bottom of page