I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions – sometimes I can be too much of a perfectionist to have it work in my favor. Instead, I come up with a one word affirmation for the new year ahead.
I know it sounds a little hippy dippy, but a one word affirmation is designed to be a positive statement that shapes your actions during the new year. In December, I contemplate the year that has gone by and think about the type of year I want ahead. I pick one, easy to remember word that will prompt me to act and have the year and experiences I want. And because it isn’t a full statement with a measurable goal that I can either fail at or finish (ie I want to visit Mercury or I want to become a breatharian) I can use the affirmation to take advantage of opportunities throughout the year that I might not even dream of in December. (Please let it be noted I’m not going to attempt either of the resolution examples above.)
This blog is about laser cutting, so how does this not-quite a New Years resolution post fit in? I’m showing you how I created the laser cut file to put my affirmation on the wall. Disclaimer – I’m not the trained graphic designer, Ryan is. This is my novice way, but it gets the job done!
My word for 2016 is “Go” which is a little simplistic, so I’ve picked a second word to do the process with as well – Shine.
Type the word you want in a program that makes files readable by your laser. I used Adobe Illustrator, version CC2015. Choose a font – I have used Archer for “Shine” and Plantagenet Cherokee for “Go.” Check if you like the bold versions of the fonts you chose – bold gives you a little more meat to the letters to make more solid connection when smushing them together. If bold is not enough, you can stroke the letters to add weight.
Bring the letters together so they touch. This can be done a couple different ways. The easiest is to reduce the tracking between the letters. Just like you can change the size of letters individually, you can also change the tracking between letters. This worked really well with the word “Shine” because the serifs are so prominent. For the word “Go,” I didn’t reduce tracking, but instead put the letters on different layers so I could move them more freely. Because of the baseline isn’t obvious since g and o are so rounded, I decided to move the o down slightly to nestle it in the the valley of the g – creating visual interest and increasing stability of the final project.
Expand the appearance of the type so the word is no longer type, but instead considered an object by the program. In Illustrator, “Expand” is an option under “Object.” Because the word is slightly stroked, I found I had to expand the appearance twice – the first time expanded the fill and the object, the second expansion gave me the option to include the stroke properly. Once expanded, it gives you lots of different layers.
Unite the expanded layers using the “unite” option under the pathfinder menu. At this point you should have a unified word. You’ll notice I don’t – there is a pesky dot to the i in “shine”. Because it is not attached, it’s easy to just move down. When it’s overlapped enough, unite the elements to make it one.
Resize your vector to final print size.
This step is optional, but it fun to jazz up your words – I overlaid a pattern on the word “Go”. It’s a raster pattern and will engrave over top. This effect is pretty on wood, and looks awesome when engraving through a painted layer, like we did in Week 56: Decorated Clothes Pins. (If you are curious, the design is one I won from Designious – it’s part of seamless pattern pack number 23).
Make sure your design is print ready by setting the colors and line widths as specified by your laser cutter. Save in a laser friendly format such as .ai or .eps.
Cut and admire your unique finished project! And have a fantastic year!
This week I had a challenge that I’ve been dreading for a while now: recreating a greyscale image on a wood surface. While engraving a black and white design results in impressive, high-contrast finished pieces, any images with a wide variety of values can end up looking muddy if you don’t properly determine how the laser’s halftoning process affects the greys in the image in question.
For this project—a memorial plaque for a family member who recently passed on—I was using a picture of a lighthouse overlooking a beach paired with one of his enduring quotes. While the text itself was easy black-on-white engraving, the photograph was a full color piece that I had to do some editing on before it could be ready for the laser.
I’ve had more luck with a smaller amount of grey shades than with a fine gradient, so I used a posterize command to reduce the shades down to three or four (including black and white). That was easy enough, but the tones had too much contrast at first, resulting in most of the greys looking all but identical to black on the wood. A few level adjustments brought most of the greys near the center of the spectrum, which proved after several more test cuts be the right level of contrast for this particular wood.
That’s one of the trickier bits, too: different woods produce different results. This wood is unfinished, and will darken to some degree no matter how much power you throw at it, but some finished woods can actually lighten in color with lower power engraves before burning into the wood with higher settings. Even another unfinished piece of wood from a different type or batch could engrave lighter or darker than the results here. You’ll want to have tight control over the source (and thus consistency) of your material, otherwise you’ll have to fuss with grey levels regularly or suffer through inconsistent engraving quality on the finished product.
As part of a custom order of Ingress badges, I recently had a chance to revisit kiss cutting. I’d played with the process a few times before but not on 52lasers projects.
Kiss Cutting is one of the most popular methods for creating pressure-sensitive labels. During the kiss-cutting process, the perimeter of each label is cut by a sharp metal die or laser beam…but the cut does not penetrate the label’s backing material (liner). – Formax Printing
In this run, the client and I opted to use thin self-adhesive acrylic stickers to allow for adjustable agent levels, saving on badge reprints when agent levels change. Each badge was to receive its own accompanying sticker sheet with options for sixteen levels. Because it’d be just plain silly to have that many separate stickers to keep track of, using a kiss cut to carve stickers out on a rectangular sheet made a lot of sense.
With our 40w laser, I cut the sheets out of the LaserLights material at full power and 80% speed. The octagonal stickers themselves were kiss-cut at 35% power at full speed. It took a little nudging of the numbers to end up at that point; earlier kiss cutting attempts weren’t cutting all the way through the adhesive transfer paper but they were still scoring it enough to make removing stickers tricky.
While the stickers turned out great and will perform their function admirably, the aesthetic clash between silver foil/black stickers on fluorescent transparent green acrylic is stronger than we’d like, so future runs are likely to utilize a different adjustable level solution.
Recently, a potential client handed me a nice thick piece of finished hardwood and asked me to see how it looked when laser engraved. The goal is to create a higher quality look than the simple ink stamp he had used for these barrel-shaped plaques previously.
I prepared some engraving tests on the back surface with several power and speed settings to determine how much power the wood needed to get past the stain. As it turned out, no matter how much power I pushed at it, the deep stained grain made the logo and company name illegible. It was a perfect opportunity to try out some color fill paint that Jennifer and I have had for a short while but hadn’t used yet.
I previously used some acrylic paint to fill in an engraved picture frame, but the way the acrylic paint attached itself to the transfer tape made pulling the tape away into a meticulous, time consuming affair. We even needed to touch some areas up after removing the tape because the paint had come with it! Thankfully, this new color fill paint was made specifically to work in tandem with laser engraving. While it’s primarily made to be used to fill engravings on acrylic, my material was a grainy wood. Because I wanted to avoid paint sticking inside that grain, I put down transfer tape before engraving.
I ran two tests, one for a “titanium white” color fill and one with standard black. While the white was immediately and clearly visible, that also meant that some tiny bits of paint that got into the grain underneath the transfer tape were also very noticeable. I could probably prevent that by putting down a clear coat first, but I’d have to make sure to get a clear fill material that wouldn’t adhere to the transfer tape like the acrylic paint used on the aforementioned frame.
The black test is a little harder to read on the already dark wood, but any leaks into the grain were also undetectable and the black filled engraving more closely matched the client’s previous ink stamp design.