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Preparing Artwork for Laser Cutting

Our Laser cutter is a 40W CO2 laser with a roughly A4 sized cutting area.

It can cut most plastics and organic materials, but will not cut or mark metals directly. These rules will apply to all CO2 based laser cutters.

Good materials

  • Paper and Card
  • Felt and cloth
  • Acrylic sheet
  • Laserable rubber (for stamp making)
  • Interior or Laserable Plywood
  • MDF and other solid wood sheets
  • Anodized metals - can be engraved by burning off the anodized layer

Bad / Forbidden materials

  • PVC - Forbidden - Produces chlorine gas
  • Rubber Foam - poor quality cuts, edges melt and retreat from the cut
  • Polycarbonate - may discolour around the cutting/engraving point
  • Metal - will not cut/mark, laser is totally reflected

Two main modes of operation Cutting and Engraving

  1. Cutting works by vapourising the material in order to cut through it, the laser follows the vector path / outline of the work
  2. Engraving works at lower speeds and vapourises the surface layer of the material leaving an engraved effect, the laser follows a rasterised path, scanning back and forth across the area being worked.

File Formats for Artwork

Whilst technically we can handle any image format that Inkscape can load, the laser cutter software itself is quite fussy so it will greatly speed up operations on the day if you can follow the guidelines below and produce the correctly formatted files beforehand and bring them in on a USB key.


Artwork should be in vector format (Enhanced Meta File .EMF) for preference, The laser will cut an outline of any black or coloured items in your drawing.



Do not be tempted to supply outlines to cut, there is no standard for what counts as a hairline and you are likely to end up cutting the line twice (inside and out) or not at all (too thin). Instead you should provide solid shapes with appropriate cutouts.

When saving the artwork, first shrink the page size to the size of the area to be cut, ink inkscape this is done with Document Properties -> Resize page to drawing or selection

If the sizing of your artwork is important, then please save the total saved page size in the filename. eg. myartwork-50x50mm.emf

This makes it much easier to ensure the artwork is scaled to the correct size when it is loaded into the laser cutters software.


This method is used to etch or engrave shapes into the surface of a material, this is typically used to make rubber stamps, to engrave artwork into clear acrylic, or to burn artwork into wood or similar surface.

The process involves a raster scan of the artwork, and so the source material can be bitmap or vector in nature.

Files should be: EMF (vector), or BMP (bitmap)

If you want to achieve greyscale type effects, for best result use your chosen bitmap graphics program to generate a high resolution (300dpi) 1-bit depth mono dithered image of your artwork.

Software Update

We have updated the control software to use K40-Whisperer , this gives us much better control over the cutter, but comes with slightly more complex setup for the artwork.

Please follow the 'Creating Input for K40 Whisperer' guide on the K40 Whisperer Documentation website.

In Summary:

  • SVG or DXF file only
  • Red = Vector cut this shape
  • Blue = Vector engrave this shape
  • Black = Raster engrave this shape
  • Use halftone / dithered mono images to raster engrave pictures
- Last change February 26, 2018, at 04:52 PM
- Registered in England and Wales 08777436