3D Engrave File types

Didn’t want to clog up problems/support with this:

I’ve read through a few threads talking about 3D engraving and can’t seem to get a couple stupidly-simple questions I have answered. I’ve seen the threads with instructions to help make depthmaps and such, and there’s this quote from the GF team:

You can’t use a regular image for this - you have to use an image that’s been specially created for 3D engraving called a Heightmap. A Heightmap is like a grayscale picture, except that the darker a spot on the picture is, the deeper it will engrave.

So, can someone answer these questions explicitly:

  1. Is there an actual “3d Engrave” setting, or is this just something the GF automatically does with grayscale values?
  2. Does that mean we need a specific file type for a Heightmap?
  3. If you do need a specific file type, what is the file type extension that the GF reads?
1 Like

Yes, there is an actual “3D” setting that shows up when using Proofgrade hardwoods, acrylics, and draftboard.

It’s easiest to show you an example of what the engraving image should look like. The file needs to be a rastor image. The GUI will interpret greyscale in the image and the darker the color, the deeper the GF will engrave. You can use files that look like this. Click the search link below will get you stared. Obviously the images you download off the internet will be low resolution. Buying or making a file with higher resolution will yield better results.


Edited to show the final product


This is actually perfect, because the Glowforge is currently not able to handle high resolution files of any meaningful size. It’s only been in development for more than two years… so far.


So there is no specific “heightmap” file type, it’s just a rastor image. Part of my confusion was that in my recent engrave project, there was no “3d engrave” option, just photo, graphic and dark graphic, plus the two expiring options.

Correct, heightmap isn’t a file type, it’s a method of using greyscale to store a specific value such as how deep to engrave. (Hope that makes sense.)

You should have the 3D engrave option now, but it’s not available for all the material. To make sure you can see it, select a hardwood in the GFUI and upload a rastor image. The 3D option should show up under PF engrave settings.

This is a good basic look at heightmaps.


Oh, I was using PG plywood, maybe that’s why it wasn’t an option?

That’s the issue then. It only works with Proofgrade hardwoods, acrylics, and draftboard and it has to be a rastor image.

Of course, with little creativity, you can hit 3D engraving on other stuff.

Does this mean that you no longer need to use a heightmap to create 3d engravings? Does selecting the 3D engrave setting cause the GF to interpret the colors in a normal grayscale image as depths?

A heightmap is just a black and white image where the designer has used darker colors in places where they want deeper engraves.

You can use any image you want. We recommend a black and white image that’s been constructed specifically for engraving, as typical (photographic) black and white or color images don’t look as good when 3D engraved as they do when engraved with other processes.

1 Like