Tutorials + FAQ


Laser Cutting & Etching

Which programs do we use?

Adobe Illustrator CS4, CorelDRAW X3, AutoCad 2007, Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe InDesign CS4. Our best preference for 99% of our work, is Illustrator, followed by CorelDraw X3.

Template Download

Click here to download a sample laser etching and cutting file.

Colours and Functions

Refer to the above template - your file should be in RGB mode - confirm this by going to File/Document Colour mode and making sure that RGB is checked.  Next, when you set your colours, you should be using the RGB colour palette, not the CMYK one.

Values need to be absolute.  Ie; Black is R0-G0-B0.  Blue is R0-G0-B255.  Red is R255-G0-B0.

Black is for etch.  Blue is for vector mark/etch.  Red is for cut.

Laser Cutting and Etching Guidelines

Note our maximum panel size is 600x300mm. Allow at least a 2mm margin on your artworks, ie; maximum cutting/etching area should be 596x296mm. Set up your artboard on Illustrator as 600x300mm. If using another program like AutoCad, you will need to draw a rectangle of this size around your work, and dimension it as such so that it can be rescaled correctly when we import into Illustrator.

Fonts

Always convert your fonts to outlines. Do this by simply selecting all text, then going to the Type menu, then selecting "create outlines".

Multiple Artboards in Illustrator

When you have multiple panels - for example 4 panels of 400x300mm, simply create 4 artboards of this size, and lay your work out accordingly. If you're using an older version of Illustrator which doesn't support multiple artboards, then simply draw 400x300mm rectangles around your work and use an unused colour such as green as the stroke colour.

Intersecting/Overlapping Objects and the Pathfinder Tool

When you have two intersecting or overlapping objects, you need to "unite" the paths, otherwise when lasercutting, they will cut over each other. Instead of 1 shape, you could disappointingly end up with a few smaller shapes.

To unite paths, you must select the overlapping shapes, then using the pathfinder palette, click the "unite" button - which is the first in the top left corner. Confirm your action by quickly switching to "outline preview" mode and back.

When we laser cut your file - remember that ALL lines in the file will be cut - even if they aren't visible simply because you have covered something with a solid object.

For this reason we recommend that you always use the "outline preview" mode as your final check before submitting your file. You can access this preview mode in the view menu or via keyboard shortcut ctrl+y on a Windows computer. If you can see the line in this mode, it will be cut.

Custom Shapes/Objects

Do you have your own object? Let's say for example that you have fabricated an acrylic object or had it custom fabricated. Simply draw the object with the exact 1:1 dimensions, using a green outline (R0-G255-B0), then for your text simply type it up in the exact position you want it, make sure it's in RGB black, then convert the text to outlines and you're done. We'll then be able to accurately position and register your text as per your file.

Vinyl

Types of Vinyl

Cast

Cast vinyls such as Avery 900 Super Cast offer maximum durability as well as conformability. Rated for up to 10 years in Australian/NZ environments. Available in 163 colours.

Cast vinyl can also be used in wide format digital printing, usually used when it needs to be applied to irregular surfaces such as cars and vans. Available in clear or white, and can be laminated for UV and physical protection.

If you require a durable vinyl which doesn't need to go on irregular surfaces, then a polymeric vinyl is most likely an adequate material choice.

Polymeric Vinyl

Polymerics such as Avery 700 series premium vinyl, offer up to 7 years durability in Australian/NZ conditions. Available in 120 colours.

Well suited to window shop signs, panel signs, awning signs and many other uses where a durable vinyl is required.

Polymeric vinyl can also be used for wide format printing.Available in clear or white, and can be laminated for UV and physical protection.

Monomeric Vinyl

Avery 500 series is a monomeric vinyl. This is a budget vinyl used for short term applications such as exhibitions and events or for promotional signs - however is rated for up to 3 years outdoor durability in Australian/NZ conditions. Although rated for this long, we do not recommend this vinyl for outdoor mid to long term usage, as there is noticeable shrinkage over months due to its monomeric characteristics.

Available in a variety of colours and in clear or white for wide format printing - which can also be laminated for further UV protection and resistance to scratching and wear.

Vinyl Cutting

Cutting Files


Vinyl cutting is performed by a computer controlled machine. The data which drives the machine needs to be a vector file. If you are unsure what this is, you can contact us to see if your file can be used, or if you require a vectorisation service to convert your file.


If you would like to supply a cutting file, we prefer Adobe Illustrator CS4 or earlier in PC compatible format. If you use text in your design, make sure it has be "outlined" to avoid font issues. In Illustrator, you can convert your text to outlines via the "type" menu.


To check your file in Illustrator to see exactly what will be cut, switch to outline preview in the view menu. Make sure that you correct any intersections which can be fixed via the Pathfinder palette.


Also note, that overlapping lines are not allowed. If you have overlapping lines, then the machine will cut twice, meaning that your job will be ruined.

Bleed

If your design requires cutting with bleed, then you will need to supply at least 2mm bleed on your artwork.  An easy way to achieve this on Adobe Illustrator is to apply what is known as an "offset path".  You can find this in the path sub-menu.

Weeding

Once your design is computer cut, it is removed from the machine, then hand "weeded".  Weeding is the process of removing all of the parts of cut vinyl which are not required.  This can only be done by hand - as there is no automated way to remove these sections.  Depending on the complexity of your design, weeding time can increase significantly.

Trimming

After weeding, your job is then trimmed to size - cutting off all the surrounding unnecessary areas of backing paper and the such.

Taping

Once the vinyl has been cut, weeded, and trimmed to the desired size, it is then taped with a transfer tape, so that it can be lifted off the backing paper, and transferred to the final surface with a squeegee or mounting machine.  This tape is then removed, to leave the final graphic on your surface.

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