Artist, printmaker, needs help

I design my prints to engrave on linoleum and woodcut. I am also experimenting with paper notes, etc. I also like to play with free files but so far only success was a comb. So here’s my problem. I was a nurse, retired and changed my art to full time. I want to take a black and white design and print it, engraving and cutting. The simple stuff I can use a photocopy, and draw an outline, but that greatly limits the possibility by size, etc. I have a pro and would like to use it. My prints are pretty large. Is there a computer dummy simple way to make a vector file from art? Is there a program that will do it for me? Is there another resource on learning other than you tube?

There are tons of resources here on the forum! Your first stop should be the Glowforge Tips and Tricks category, where there are many tutorials written by the community for exactly what you want to do. I won’t point you to a specific one because it depends on what software you are using. But look for tutorials in the Designing for 2D Vector Software section, and maybe the AutoTrace tutorials or “designing cutlines from graphics” tutorials.

By the way, this type of question might be better posted in Beyond the Manual where the community helps answer these types of questions. Problems and Support is more for creating trouble tickets for the attention of Glowforge staff. I’ll move it for you.


There have been posts of prints from engraves. Search the forums for linoleum, woodcut and engraving (careful this one will get you all sorts of stuff.) Also take a look at anything @rbtdanforth posts. I don’t specifically recall him doing an engrave for printing, but he knows quite a bit about engraving with the glowforge.

Other than cutting out a block, I’m not sure how much vector art will help with print design. As cynd11 pointed out, read about vector design apps in the Tips and Tricks section.

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Depending on how simple your designs are, the Inkscape trace will work well. You can simplify post processing, which when working with vectors is eliminating duplicate lines and simplifying nodes, by ensuring you have a good B & W start file with defined edges.

Inkscape’s trace feature presumes you understand some vocabulary for the different ways in which you approach a bitmap to trace.

Here is simple brightness cutoff. It gives you a good representation with simple nodes that you can tweak for more precision.

Here is a simple scan of a black and white bitmap with defined edges. I used brightness cutoff and clicked the option to invert the image. That left me with a fairly good image to engrave as is that I can resize and tweak to make a relief for stamping.

This is the image not inverted that is scanned with edge detection. It leaves you with a reproduction that you can tweak nodes and paths to get the original image but notice how it adds lines at the edges that become thicker shapes.

Here you can see the outline with the fill taken away and how the nodes work. It results in a totally different design.

This is with brightness steps with 2 scans.

Further ungrouping shows that it gives multiple edges that result from the mutliple scans and fuzzy edges of the bitmap.

It gets complicated when you work with complicated bitmaps that have any variation in greyscale. It’s a trade off in chasing down extra nodes and cleaning up the vector versus just designing it from scratch with the vector.

I spent many hours on the Chat Noir image. That is a great challenge because the colors of the image give important detail for the cat. Translating a color image to a two color that is represented by the material and the engrave. You can add a third color with a separate engrave that goes deeper.


Good luck and post your progress.


Almost all I do is bar relief using variable power. This makes nice sculpted effects but the mages for doing so are very specialized.

If you are doing a photograph on wood or tile you would want the dot pattern as each dot will be equally deep and you want it light enough that there is space between the dots so all is not eroded away.

Making a stamp is quite different as you want the inkbearing surface to be flat and everything else not close enough to bleed on to the paper or surface you want to print on. It is also reversed in that it is mirrored and that the dark areas are where you want the ink but will look like light areas in the stamp,

For most things I would use engraves by closed vector rather than a pixel image as you want a binary result either ink or no ink so you fill the “no-ink” areas of the design and set it to engrave those parts away. Vectored art will give many choices and default to cutting, but switching it to engrave is easy as picking that option.

There are other more difficult options like using that dot pattern on a photo as example, getting the ink in all the holes , wiping the rest, and using pressure so the ink in the holes ends up on the paper or the very similar method using score to provide lines instead of dots on your flat surface before wiping and pressing the paper tight enough to pick up the ink in the score lines.

Lots of places to go and I am sure there is a lot more down that rabbit hole. Please post pictures and notes on what you have learned.

For inspiration there is …


Cool article. Thanks

Wow. I really have a lot of Inkscape training to do. I don’t even know the language. I have done the acrylic dry point with a printmakers tool by hand. I have a bad case of carpal tunnel thAt won’t get better till surgery so I was trying to figure out a way to make it on the Glowforge . I have made a few, but one of them came out great with everything being on the same level. It was definitely because it was black and white only, but I used dots >. I am going to try the score. Thanks

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Vector art will not help with my designs. If I could make files, then I could upload instead of trace. Wood and acrylic work well for prints, I see a laser rubber mat that looks like it could replace linoleum. I hear linoleum in the Glowforge in bigger than stamp is a disaster, mess.

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Do you have an iPhone or Android phone?
If so, give the Adobe Capture app a try to see if it’ll do what you want. I think the “Shapes” function might be what you’re looking for.

You’ll need to create a free Adobe account to use the app - do not worry, that doesn’t mean you have to sign up for any of their paid subscriptions.

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I’ll give it a try. Thanks

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