Cartocuts: Topographic Maps for Makers

The thing that sold us on the Glowforge initially was the awesome wallet Dan showed and wrote about with the map of San Francisco engraved on it -we were captivated that it was something should try and so we eagerly joined the ranks of Glowforge founder members, paid for the machine and waited patiently for the magic to arrive.

And arrive it did - a few years later to be fair - but magical it was.

But it turns out the process of putting maps on things was not so magical and after trying out and working with the existing methods of getting a good high res map file out of Google Maps or GIS software - we started to look at how we could build our own tool to do what we wanted.

For two years we designed and refined map styles and worked on a basic system that enabled us to design high contrast maps with some customization. The main output was for our laser engraving business “The Cut & Etch” - and our focus was engraving custom maps on high quality maple cutting boards for personalized gifts - something that fast became our primary product offering and focus.

The more markets that we did and the more that we watched people light up with the idea, we decided to double down on the software and make it into a powerful tool that anyone could use to work with the same high contrast, high resolution map files.

We are hugely proud to launch to the Glowforge community our Topographic Map software called Cartocuts - - providing maps for makers


For a limited time we are offering one free high resolution download when you sign up for an account so feel free to look up your location, customize your map and generate a file to do an engrave with on your Glowforge to see how well the two work together.

Here is an example of what a map file output looks like

Additional download credits cost between $5 and $10 a map

Most importantly we would love your feedback and what you do or don’t like about using Cartocuts to make maps for your laser engravings - please get in touch at Support : Support or at

We also have some exciting future ideas for where this software can go so please make sure to sign up to our newsletter on our homepage to keep along for the ride.

And finally thank you to this awesome community for being a constantly inspiring source of awesome things to do with lasers and who have provided guidance, encouragement and technical info at so many steps along the way

Gregg & Angella


Welcome back to the forum! It is nice to find out what you have been up to for these past three years.

Congratulations on your business success and the evolution/solution of the topographic map software. I am sure your hard work will continue to reward you.

I will take a look at your shop and the software.

Don’t be a stranger.


I have such for the Tampa area, but it is not very impressive. Flying from Miami to Tampa the state looks like it is painted on.

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This looks fabulous! I will certainly give it a try. I enjoyed reading about your new ideas and about your new business. Thank you for the one free download…I’m excited to see what I can get from that. You’ve been gone from here for 3 years…it would be great to see you around more often.


Just to be clear, if we buy a map from you and download it and put it on something with the GF, we are then free to sell it as an object (like a cutting board), as long as we are not selling the file? Just asking because almost everything I see posted on GF forums is “For Personal Use Only”


these are only bitmap downloads for engraving, right? not vector files for cutting layers?

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Yes, no vector files for cutting yet, although that is a feature on our roadmap. Currently the output is a high resolution png file intended for engraving


Yes that’s correct, you cannot resell the file itself but can sell items that you used the file to make as long as you are providing the correct attribution somewhere on the product.

The attribution should credit @mapbox @openstreetmaps @cartocuts - we integrate it with our branding on the reverse side of the cutting boards


Thanks! have still been around the forums for last few years but have been passively absorbing inspiration rather than actively posting stuff until now. I look forward to hearing or seeing how your engraving comes out

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well, when you get to vectors, I’m in. i’m able to find/edit/process bitmaps for engraving pretty well myself, but the process for vectors is much more demanding and imperfect, and that’s something i’m willing to let someone else produce for a little $$.


Thank you and I look forward to hearing any feedback you may have once you have had a chance to check things out

Great! I encourage you to try out the files for engraving too as you will find there are a few advantages to doing them this way over the normal more manual methods.

For one you can get topographic lines and elevation data that are hard to generate with other services and you can also customize the output for engravings to hide roads, show trails, hide labels, show contour lines etc to get a look that’s unique for your use case

You can end up with a dense information filled map or an abstract one with only contour lines depending on what your desired outcome is


While it’s certainly possible to make interesting looking maps using city grids and other landmarks, the topographic lines only really work well if there is some elevation in the area you are interested in and if you are quite zoomed in on the area so that the contour data becomes available

The best maps I have found are gray scale. If needed one could get the outline of each color of gray (there are 255 of them) but the gray can be directly applied to a variable engrave and come out nice. was a free source that seems dead for the most part now but I collected hundreds of them when it was working.

Tangram Heightmapper is also great but also a paid site.

Devils Tower is the most challenging location due to hi detail verticals, Shiprock also.

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Agreed! I’ve struggled with Topo Maps in CAD and getting things how I like them. Any kind of cleaned up map (and that’s the KEY) that I can use in CAD is well worth the capital.


Something to consider too is that our map designs are entirely black and white and made for engraving. Different shades of grey do not always translate well to differentiating areas when engraved and we found using halftone patterns to be a more predictable and less char heavy way to indicate things like bodies of water and hillshades on slopes

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That would be a deal killer for me. I would prefer grayscale without lines more than lines without grayscale. Preferably Lines and grayscale on different layers or a layer for each percentage depending on the scale so the layer below is a cut and the layer above a vector engrave as hilly places get crazy if you are doing each elevation as a different layer of wood.

This is one of the last things I got from

To clarify, this tool will not generate files that you can use to deep etch 3D landscapes based on digital elevation maps like the sample shared. This is more about clean, crisp line work on a 2D map.

I have made 3D maps from files like that sample and the workflow for that has usually been to bring the DEM into a 3D program, generate a model from the texture, feed it into Autodesk slicer and output the sheets to cut the layers from that are then assembled by hand. You can get great results from it but it’s time consuming and labour intensive.

Our map design tool was an answer to the problem of how long other processes take. For our business we wanted to be able to produce location based products that were quick to generate design files for and we’re simple to produce.

An engraving of a detailed map on a 14”x11” cutting board takes about 4hrs to complete and then we clean, give a beeswax treatment and it’s ready to go


This is really cool. Well done @gregg

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I downloaded my free trial map last night…it looks great! I made one of a very small community near where I live. I noticed that the place-name showed, but disappeared when I zoomed in closer, so I really liked that I could add the place name myself after I got it to the point where I liked it best. Thank you again very much…