Photoshop Techniques for Laser Cutting Files

For producing laser cutting and engraving files I would normally use Corel draw or Illustrator. This work shop was looking at ways of using Photoshop’s powerful editing and drawing tools to do specific some general but really more specific tasks which would be harder or unobtainable in Corel Draw. The Photoshop files can then be saved in specific formats or exported to Illustrator from where it can go to the laser cutter. The work shop moved quite quickly and I was feeling pretty awful from my cold but none the less it was a good workshop and I got a lot out of it.

When using image files I normally only use them for raster but the techniques the work shop covered was trying to create vector and raster files from photos or scans, like drawings for example.

First we looked at tracing your photo creating a work path using the pen tool. The work path is then exported in an Illustrator format and then can be opened in Illustrator or Corel Draw for laser cutting.

In Photoshop altering these things in various ways can help with selecting what you want:

  • Contrast – Dramatically changing the contrast can help in most cases where colour exists in lots of gradients, using the levels or curves are the best ways to alter these.
  • Geometry
  • Colour  – Indexed colour – this changes an images colour palette, so changing it to 3 or 4 colours can take away selection difficulties and aid clean selection paths.

Playing with the tolerances on all these things is helpful to achieve your desired effect.

With scans (depending on scan or image quality) the magic wand tool works well and tracing is again generally a good tactic. One technique is to block fill the negative spaces or detail that you don’t want to capture and this can make selections easier and cleaner.

Switching to mask mode shows what is selected and what is not. Its good to toggle in an out of this as you go.


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