How should I approach from sketch to cut?

Hi! I am wondering if I can get your expert opinions on how to approach designing my Catan board. I am still in the novice category for Illustrator.

My wife did some preliminary sketches. I think the idea is to approach it as if she were doing a linocut. I am trying to figure out what the process should be.

A) Have her do the final drawing with a thin black sharpie. I will bring it into Illustrator via Image Trace. I am worried about this because my experience with image trace is much of the subtlety is removed. In other words, it won’t look like the lines she drew.

B) Put the drawing on the bed and have GF trace it. I haven’t tried this yet. Am I assuming I will get similar results to Illustrator image trace?

C) Bring it into Illustrator and attempt to trace it myself using the Pen tool. I just broke into a cold sweat just thinking about that.

D) Do it all as a raster? I don’t think this is an efficient way to go.

E) Something else?

I would like to use some 3D engraving to give hills dimension. I would also like to do a version in different woods, as well as doing a colorfully painted version.

What are your thoughts, my most amazing community of generous creators?



Glowforge autotrace does an amazing job, and you can adjust the contrast on the fly. What you won’t be able to do though, is any editing. So if those numbers are not supposed to be part of the tiles, you won’t be able to remove them. If you want to keep the organic pencil drawn look I’m thinking raster engraving is the way to go. You will still have to get rid of the numbers though.


Okay, this involves learning a second sw package but I think it will pay off.

Do your fitting in Fusion 360 or similar and then hand it off to ai for decorating.


OK. So you think I should make the pieces in Fusion, bring them into Illustrator for decorating. That makes sense. So then, if I don’t do the Autotrace… do you think I should just trace the image or should I do them from scratch? Thanks!

Can you describe the operations you’d like to use for this? You mention 3D engraving for the hills, which means that you will need a raster image with some sort of depth ramp, but what about the other lines? Engraved or scored? Clean or more organically hand-drawn?

9 times out of 10 I would choose re-drawing images with the pen in AI (import your image, lock it, make a new layer above and do your tracing on that one – you can quickly flip visibility of the source image on/off to check your progress), but if on that 10th time I don’t need my image to have editable strokes, I will use Image Trace. If I start with a good clean image with plenty of contrast (meaning: have her do the sharpie final drawing on a fresh piece of white paper), I can usually tweak the settings to get what I want.

It’s also important to consider that pen tool & bezier curves generally = cleaner overall look to the art. Sometimes I use the pencil tool instead of the pen if I just want a little organic wobble but still want to keep things vector, but if you’re going for a super hand-drawn look then a scan to Photoshop for cleanup then pull that PS raster into Illustrator to add any score lines or cut lines might be a better choice.


Which version of illustrator do you have? If you have CC, download the Adobe Capture app and use it to auto trace a sharpie drawing, then clean it up/adjust/add to it as you see fit.