Glowforge's Trace Functionality

In my experience so far I am using a laser for accuracy beyond what I can achieve with my hands. I use a laser when I need perfection. It seems a lot of emphasis is being placed on the trace function, which is cool, but sometimes its hard to see where it would be actually useful beyond the gimmick.

Here are the things I have run across where it would have been helpful:

Templated/repeatable cloth/leather pattern cuts for wearables, especially synthetic fabrics. I had to make 6 deadpool masks and additions for my girlfriend and her friends. We had to hand draw out the pattern on a piece of paper laid over each girls head/figure to get it exact. I then scanned in the drawing and got it to size, then laser cut it.

The reason we used the laser was that the fabric was really hard to cut by hand, but also because the fabric was synthetic, so it melted the edges together preventing fraying.

You can see here the masks and added color sections down the side of each girl.

Another time I would have used this feature is when a friend of mine sent me some of her artwork to laser cut. She does line art similar to keith haring, but much cooler and darker. Using the trace function to grab this image and repeat it on other materials would have saved me a little bit of time here.

Another example was when I wanted a larger version of this sticker, but laser cut, in foam:

I scanned it, traced in illustrator, enlarged, added a border, then cut. A little time could have been saved here if I had the forge. Not sure if I could have done the border though. Is the native software going to have an add border function @dan?


Great stuff!! Really, have you ever worked for the movie industry in effects or costuming?

I love the idea of a border function. That would be pretty awesome, almost as awesome as your creations. I mean, holy wow! Thanks so much for sharing.


Thanks Becky with the good hair! lol

No I havent worked in the movies, its just a hobby for the time being. One day once I get my processes down I might turn it into something more, but for now we just like making things so we can go to cons and have fun!



Trace is interesting. But at best it cuts a couple of steps out of my process - scan (or take a pic) and trace it in Corel. The GF does it in one step.

But if I’m going to do anything to it like adding borders, cleaning up the image, smoothing, etc. the GF actually doesn’t reduce steps because I’m still going to be in Corel or AI. There’s actually an added step because I can “print” straight from Corel to my laser now - I don’t need to export to SVG and upload it to the cloud.


yup. I prefer to handle all that stuff myself to make sure it comes out EXACTLY the way I want it to.


Ummmmm…I need to party with you :smiley:


man… you should definitely come to dragoncon then. its AMAZING. a week long party where everyone nerds out together. I got to hang out with so many amazing prop makers and costumers. I would post more photos, but they definitely aren’t G rated lol

Your friend’s art kind of reminds me more of the style of Adventure Time!

1 Like

One of the uses I’m looking at is with kids and cardboard/other light board. For that, the trace takes you from “way too effing annoying and fiddly” to “draw it and zap it”.

Of course, I could be terribly wrong.


This is an interest of mine as well. And, with cardboard, accuracy can drop a bit. If something is off a tad you can do a slight bit of smooshing without any severely ill effects.

I like chipboard for stuff - vs cardboard. It’s consistent in thickness, finish and quality so it cuts nicely. Doesn’t have weird glue issues. It’s pretty cheap and comes in good sized sheets (you’ll need to cut it to get it into the GF). I use it for the first iteration(s) of almost everything I do that I have a question about how it’s going to turn out.


I like the idea of being able to add a border to the image. Or even better, to be able to scan the thing, and export the .ai or whatever format, so you can clean it up, and add stuff, before cutting.

There are lots of people who will prefer to use a flatbed scanner, import it into photoshop to clean it up, import it into vector software to vectorize and make changes, and finally send it to the Glowforge. If that sounds like a great idea to you, then it probably is and you should do that instead of trace.

If taking a drawing and directly engraving it on your wallet sounds amazing, you’ll probably love trace.

It gets a lot of airtime from us because it’s the only way we know that you can go from zero to finished product in five minutes without assuming prior knowledge, so it makes a great demonstration. :slight_smile:

That said, when we first cooked it up we figured it was just for demonstration purposes, but now we find ourselves using it all the time!


Other than the simple demonstration drawings, I’d love to hear what cases you find yourselves to be using commonly.


Yep, that’s a perfect use case. And something unique. The camera/vision stuff you’re doing to enable that is likely to find uses in other ways over time.


Ha! My kids were into that for a little while. Funny stuff.


You know, reading this thread made me think of feature I’d really like to see in the raster lasing part of Glowforge support: offset cutting of pre-drawn material.

In other words, say I draw a cartoon or other shape on paper, and tell the GF I want it to automatically cut an outline around it 5mm from the edge of my inked material. Has this been thrown in the software hopper?


Uh, yeah… Me too. Kids.

Ok, I admit it. I watch more cartoons than some children.


Stay tuned. When we share Maker Faire demo plans you’ll see some neat stuff. :slight_smile:


Why not just draw the cutline while you’re at it? That works already, and it’s how we do it (all the time).