Laser-cut nautical chart of the Lynn Canal near Haines, Alaska

I’d like to share this laser-cut nautical chart of the upper Lynn Canal near Haines, AK (NOAA chart 17317, if you’re curious). I wanted to create something similar to the other oceanic charts you may have seen online, but much more personalized. Growing up, I spent countless hours studying this chart while on my dad’s fishing boat. It’s half the reason why I have such an interest in maps.

I created this using Adobe Illustrator, both to engrave the design on the draft board, and to cut the various layers of water. I then used watercolor paint to paint the different shades of blue for the different different depths of water. I also had to glue a few islands into place with superglue. Apart from that, everything else is bolted together.

This project really pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with a Glowforge. I ran into problems with the files being too large for the web interface. I also ran into problems with the DPI being too high to process. I also ran into issues with Illustrator losing resolution with its rasterize process. Fortunately, I was able to find a workaround for each problem.

I have even more photos at this album, including several steps along the way.


I am glad you found ways around the obstacles and produced this wonderfully personal project. Combining childhood experience with adult artistic expression worked out really well. Thanks for sharing the photos.


Looks really good! Nice job!


What a wonderful tribute to you time with your dad.


When you rasterized the image did you have the background set to white or transparent? Looking at some of your close up it appears that there is some JPG noise that got engraved. This usually happens when using the white background option because illustrator will save it as a jpg. If you use the transparent option it will save it as a PNG and should prevent that noise.

I am also confused about how illustrator losing resolution when rasterizing? The output resolution is user controlled so you should be able to adjust it match what your need is. I have never had that issue before happen to me. Did you adjust the settings or just use the defaults?

That being said awesome job. Way to stick with it and work out your issues.


Beautiful! :slightly_smiling_face:



Ahh, I didn’t realize Illustrator was doing something different under the hood. I believe I was using white, since that was in the source image. It’s pretty tedious to switch white to transparent if there’s any sort of feathering or anti-aliasing going on.

I initially I didn’t realize there was a resolution setting on the “Rasterize” screen. I assumed it would retain the resolution of the source, or resample to the resolution of the document. I played with the settings a bit to find something that would work. Unfortunately, if the resolution was set too high, the web interface couldn’t handle it.

Additionally, if the SVG itself was too large, the web interface would reject it. I solved this by splitting my map along natural seams and producing 2 separate prints.

Thanks for the compliment!

1 Like

Excellent job. Quite a nice project. :sunglasses:

1 Like

Ooooohhhh, gorgeous! The detail is breathtaking.

1 Like

I don’t believe you would have to adjust your design. Just selecting the transparent option forces illustrator to use a PNG vs JPG. I would just suggest always using that setting.

What resolution was your source material? You will be hard pressed to see anything over 450 in wood. so anything higher is probably just wasted information. But i would highly suggest doing a test of the highest detailed area in your design and print it in several resolutions. I did this with larger run of boxes last year and ended up lowering the resolution way down to 270 because the client couldn’t see the difference without a magnifying glass. Even with the magnification they didn’t see a difference over 340. In the end lowering the resolution saved over 15 hrs of engrave time and you couldn’t even see the difference when they where sitting side by side. It all really depends on the design yours is fairly detailed so you are going to need some extra resolution, but i would guess it is less than you think.


Good tip, thanks for sharing!

The different colors used for the water really make it pop!