File preparation

So I am a complete noob to laser cutting/engraving. My question is, how do I designate a line to cut vs engrave? I am leaning toward TurboCAD for my design software. Is this setup after uploading the file, or do I need to figure it out in the software?


Hi @kent_gibbs, I’m a newbie to laser cutting too. (Got a little experience on the design side of things.)

I’m not familiar with TurboCAD, but it should be able to export a file type that the Glowforge will be able to work with. If it exports an SVG file type, that would be ideal, but you can also use DXF if it is converted first.

You will be able to tell the Glowforge whether you want to treat a line as a cut or an engrave through the Glowforge software itself. The thing to do when you design is to use different colors for your engraved lines and fills, versus your cut lines. You will assign an action to each part based on the colors.


Welcome @kent_gibbs to the forum. There has been precious little released openly regarding the interface. We have all discussed this issue many times. As much as I can understand it, the file preparation is important in distinguishing what is vector cut, or lightly vector scored, or raster engraved. Different colors on the design file will indicate those differences. Then in the software interface that treats the design file, you can designate what the Glowforge would do with those colors.

I know that file preparation is important to understand, especially if you are doing your own designs. The file format of the design is important. Here is what is on regarding compatibility:

  1. Compatible: Work from your Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, & Windows or Linux computer with JPG, PNG, PDF, EPS, & a host of other file types from software like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Autodesk, & Sketchup.

I hope this helps.You can go to the Free Laser Designs category and read some of those threads. That will give you some ideas about how others are preparing designs and files.


I know the laser house I use specifies blue lines for cutout and red for engrave. Is there and industry standard? Should there be?


Don’t know if there is a standard…I think the Glowie will be able to use any colors. (Which would be good, since I design in many colors sometimes, to set different engraving depths and such.)


Not sure that there is a standard I’ve adopted my own. A black line is a through cut, a blue line is a partial cut and I use red to engrave. I haven’t played with different cut depths or engraving settings as yet, no doubt I’ll add additional colours as I do.

Why black and blue? Long before I bought my Chinese cheapie I downloaded C4 Labs YT1300 (not the Millennium Falcon) plans and they used black to cut through and blue as a partial cut, stuck with it ever since. I would link to the plans but they seem to be rebuilding/redesigning their site.

Welcome @kent_gibbs


For cut lines, is there a width to set (in addition to making them the color we specify as “cut this”)? I vaguely remember seeing a video saying to set width to .001 px . Will that be necessary in the GF Software?


Don’t know yet. :relaxed:


That is true for alot of lasers…on the Universal, if its not a “hairline” (Corel term) then it will raster the line.
However we’ve seen with the trace feature, how the glowforge can put a cut line around a shape or thick line so it seems either way it may work…


Dug out this topic that is filled with info and a few comments from @dan


1 pt lines work great. I’d recommend against thicker lines as they get confusing (they look like fills).


Thanks to all for the insight. I look forward to learning and hopefully contributing in the future.


what file format is best, i cant even get it to cut. It says can’t cut bitmap. I am so lost.

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Hi Brian,

Bitmaps are a raster style of file, so the interface is going to try to engrave it. It will cut vector files.

There are a few tutorials that can help you out, if you’re willing to take a little bit of time to read through them. It might save a lot of wasted time trying to figure things out.

Since I don’t know your familiarity level with design software, I’d recommend starting with these three, and if you have time, there are a few others that can help too. The link to the Matrix at the bottom has a lot of good tutorials for designing for the laser.

The Matrix:


I will look into it, I have been using CAD software for the past 17 years. I download inkscape, it just seems even if i use a pdf it still wants to raster. I guess that’s because there is a raster image in the pdf. Oh the joys of learning new things.


Exactly right, pdfs can contain either type of file. It won’t take long…just have fun. :slightly_smiling_face:

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