Tag Archives: pixel art

69: Shaped Magnets

The back magnet does the job, but it's hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.
The back magnet does the job, but it’s hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.

For most of the magnets I make for Pixelaser, I use a 1/2″ or 1″ wide roll of magnet cut down to a size that will fit easily on the back of the piece in question. The end result is a magnet that looks pretty awesome from the front but suffers from a significant lip on the back. It can also make preparing magnets for acrylic pieces of more complicated shapes pretty difficult.

The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they're sealed together.
The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they’re sealed together.

One of my laser material suppliers offers a magnet with a cap layer that you can engrave away, and since it’s laser safe you can cut whatever shape you’d like out of it. Unfortunately, the only color options offered are a brushed silver and brushed aluminum—great for some uses, but not great for the icons and dialog boxes I enjoy. But then I found some laser-safe, pre-adhesive magnet sheets that I could stick to the back of any of my acrylics. I knew I wanted to find a better magnet solution for one product I’ve been working on, and this seemed like the right direction, so I ordered some material and got to work!

The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.
The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.

Adhering the magnet to the back of the acrylic was no trouble, but I did have to pay attention to air bubbles and made use of Jennifer’s brayer to flatten the magnet down. In a few spots where air bubbles persisted, I used a razor to cut a tiny incision into the magnet, which made it much easier to squeeze the air out.

A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That's a Super Missile you see!
A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That’s a Super Missile you see!

I had a few different designs I wanted to test with this new magnet backing. One, a selection cursor from Final Fantasy VI, featured a varied edge and would be a good test of how well the magnet can deal with more complicated shapes. Another, a custom magnet design based on a user’s Miiverse posts, is a much simpler rounded rectangle but is much more of an eye-catcher, featuring example Miiverse posts by super artist Drew Wise! For fun’s sake, I also created icon magnets featuring weapons and tools from Super Metroid.

The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.
The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.

Engraving the material worked exactly as it always has, since the top layer is the same acrylic I’m used to working with.  I did have to adjust the depth to account for the new layer of magnet, though, and I had to increase the laser cutting power just a little to power through the magnet. The finished pieces come out pretty messy (nowhere near as dirty as laser rubber) but some isopropyl alcohol fixes that right up.

A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser's Etsy shop!
A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser’s Etsy shop!

Because this week’s project went so well, I’ve gone ahead and made a listing for the custom Miiverse post magnets. If you’ve made some kick-ass pixel art on the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U Miiverse, you can have it made into a physical magnet for only $12! Got a friend with that artistic knack? Send me their NNID instead and I’ll engrave a magnet you can present to them as an awesome personalized gift. Check the listing for more details.

19: Fire Flower Vase

My first attempt at etching glass was a hint of things to come.
My first attempt at etching glass was a hint of things to come.

“Well, that didn’t work,” ended my first foray into laser etching glass. I tried to create a design similar to the mesmerizing microscopic pattern found on the back of the Nexus 4 smartphone, this time on the glass back of a spare iPhone 4 that my nephew graciously donated for the cause. The resulting pattern was too big and the laser settings weren’t appropriate, making each vector line look more like a coincidentally straight shatter line rather than the light-reflecting divot I’d intended. I’ve shied away from etching glass since, and after this week’s project, I’ve realized I’ve still got a lot to learn!

Make sure to level the surface you want to etch!
Make sure to level the surface you want to etch!

While I’m doing general graphic design at Eagle Engraving in St. Charles, IL, my coworker and fellow laser ninja Monica is often etching all sorts of designs into glass. I’ve been envious lately of her knack for making designs spring forth from glass, and while I don’t yet have the rotary attachment necessary to etch round objects—like pilsner glasses—I did have a square vase conveniently made of mostly flat glass. Because the sides of the vase were tapered, I had to prop up the bottom side so that the surface was parallel to the laser plane. I ended up using a box of dialog boxes and a handy level to double-check my work.

The two designs chosen for etching were, perhaps, too many shades of gray.
The two designs chosen for etching are another sign of my Nintendo upbringing.
The lightest halftone didn't etch consistently. It almost looks like frost.
The lightest halftone didn’t etch consistently. It almost looks like frost.

The first etch was cut with the default raster etch density (5) and the grayscaled art above. I went with full power and full speed just to see how it would turn out, and the lightest halftone didn’t play well with mostly flat glass, only mostly etching. Apart from that, this turned out to be the single best contrast out of the set of four etches I made. The second etch, at maximum density, was overkill; the raster lines were so close together that wiping down the surface flaked away a lot of the glass, as shown below.

Etch glass at too high a density and much of it will chip and flake away.
Etch glass at too high an Image Density and much of it will chip and flake away.

 

The lower image density didn't help prevent chipping. Maybe the halftone was too dark.
The lower image density didn’t help prevent chipping. Maybe the halftone was too dark.

My third fire flower was etched at a lower image density. While this prevented chipping, some tinkering with the halftone patterns resulted in even more chipping in a much more widespread way. While the contrast was improved from etch two and nearly as good as etch one, the damaged areas really stand out. Who can guess where many of these tiny glass slivers are?

I had to cut at least one Super Mario World flower.  I settled on the default image density again after the tweaked results were poor, and while he’s still hard to see thanks to haphazardly adjusted gray levels, you can still see how much more personality he has. That just won’t do—he’ll only last another game or two, anyway.

Look at that smug bastard.
Look at that smug bastard.

I might have to table glass etching again for a while; I was unable to achieve satisfactory results on this particular piece. Still, I’ve since had a chat with laser ninja Monica, about her own tricks for getting better results on glass, so you can be sure you’ll be reading more about it here in the future!