New to laser cutters - wondering how to get ready

Quite honestly, peruse the forums. There are a lot of great people here who have gone through tutorials and explanations and all kinds of stuff. The pool is super-deep, so be ready for a prolonged read… but it’s worth it. Welcome.

That said for graphics and imagery, Photoshop. Gimp is a good alternative that is free.

For vector designs, Adobe Illustrator. The free option (what I use) is Inkscape.

If you want true dimensions with a bit more ease, something like AutoCAD is great. Inkscape can do it, but it takes a little more.

Finally, for 3D designs, Autodesk Fusion 360 is awesome, and free. Another free option is OnShape.

Have fun!!!


First, you have made the right first step being here.

Now looking from the perspective on myself just before I got my first smart tool. (the GF will be my third after a cnc router and a 3d printer)Think about what you want to do but be aware that this may well evolve after you receive your glowforge. If you want to make things that are 3d, learn to use a 3d modeling program. I am\nd many others here love Fusion 360. If you desires lean more toward 2d art, be getting to know a program such as Corel draw or Illustrator.


Hi Glowbabe,

I m in a similar position.

To start training myself. I’ve bought a 3D printer and start a MOOC (on how to use software as inskape, freecad,…). It’s not exactly the same with a laser cutter but it’s a similar way to think creation.

I also read many tutorials about laser cutting: instructable, youtube… and I read most of the posts in this forum. It’s quite interesting.

And there are some posts with excel files which gives many links about laser cutting. I don’t find it right know but some of us can surely reminds those posts.

Marc from France


My background is in jewelry design and sculpture, so learning 2d design is a challenge for me. That said I’ve constructed a plan of attack for my self.

1: learn a 2d program. I chose Inkscape, but there are solo many options to choose from for any budget or skill mindset.
2: generate ideas. For this I use Google search and Pinterest .
3: find projects. Instructables and make magazine are excellent resources for projects others have done in the past and usually also have plans and instructions that you can download.
4: familiarize yourself with what can and can not be done. I like pushing the envelope, but I also like staying safe. That means research in to lasers, materials and side tools that you will need for each project like glues, paint, sanders, stains, electronics and anything else your project calls for.

This forum has been a fantastic resource on many many of these things. We also have experts in so many diverse fields that its always amazing when an answer CAN’T be found… So, after all that, remember to have fun!


I think this is the link @marc.simon1 was talking about. It a compilation of links people on the forum put together.

Link Repository - collection of links

Also, here are all the tutorial tags.

Otherwise, I think what everyone said above is great advice. The only other thing I would add is don’t be afraid to ask questions here. We’re a friendly bunch who are more than willing to help!


For now, start with this link:

Some of the folks who are familiar with the programs are putting together some little tricks to get folks started quickly.


Don’t try to compete with people on the forum. We’ve seen a wide array of talents and craftsmanship that continue to inspire. Pick one thing that excites you and figure out how you want to approach doing that thing. The first thing will lead to the next and you’ll keep figuring out things as you go.
The laser is just a tool that you’ll use to help achieve whatever you’re creating by either engraving, scoring or cutting fully through your materials. Just make sure that the materials you want to use are laser safe, and that you have a well ventilated, environmentally friendly (internet, temperature, etc) area for your laser.


Welcome! Youtube tutorials are your friend. I use Inkscape (which is free) for design, and there are tons of Youtube tutorials about it. Here’s a really good basic one for how to design a simple box:


This, this so much and for sure.
Somehow I have become the leading expert (of people that post and are outside the company) on the handibot but that is just a fluke of history in that several people with more talant than myself moved on to bigger machines or they are not the type who post.

I know I’ll never even be in the top half of GF owners as there are some serious engineers and artists here and I stay in awe. Your advice is dead on.


Another approach, if you don’t already, is to start drawing by hand. I think it is a great idea to keep a sketchbook. Going back through old sketchbooks is always interesting, seeing half-formed ideas that were left behind, can often spur fresh creativity.

Don’t think you can draw? You can. I promise. Don’t bother comparing your drawings to other people’s drawings. Just draw stuff. You don’t even have to show anyone if you don’t want to.
There are simple exercises to get the pen moving if you have blank-page syndrome.

A google search for ‘drawing exercise’ brings up lots of good stuff. Here’s a good [beginner] ( ) one, and here’s one for all levels.

I like drawing at college town coffee shops, tons of ‘models’ sitting still, staring at their computers and phones.


Yes, this, my hand drawing is such that to compare it to a 5-year-olds would be an insult to the 5-year-old but as horrid as it is they work as mnemonics of what I was thinking when I was not with my desktop computer and F360


yes, that’s it!

And for just inspiration can check Pinterest boards like laser made and just go from there. Can lose yourself for hours doing that so caution is advised. :wink:


Loads of good advice here, but I’d suggest a bit of a different approach depending on where you’re at and what you want to do.

If you want to maximize the glowforges capabilities and make beautiful things right out of the box, you might want to start with purchased designs rather than starting from scratch. Because, if you’re really starting from scratch, what you make will be limited by your abilities and that can be a frustrating and discouraging place to be. The designs and software are just part of the equation - there’s also the materials and assembling. If you start with a flawed design, that other part gets harder to learn. Not saying you can’t do it that way, just that it may not be as enjoyable. It’s like coloring your own drawings versus coloring someone else’s. Or sewing your own dress versus buying a pattern. There’s no right or wrong way, just different ways.

So, if I were starting from absolutely scratch, I’d personally want to start with someone else’s design. And then maybe I’d learn the software by altering a purchased or free design, customizing, embellishing, whatever. Just like I would do with sewing - altering the pattern to be closer to what I want.

And none of that stops you from also trying your hand at your own things simultaneously. But you don’t have to only start from scratch. It’s okay to start in the shallow end before you jump in the deep end :smiley:


Couldn’t have said it better. Excellent advice. :relaxed:


Wow, this is all such fantastic advice! I have checked out a lot of the links mentioned and watched some tutorials. A lot of awesome stuff actually seems more graspable than I expected thanks to incredible software that is also free. I thought I would have to learn graphic design from scratch!

Two things I’m curious about using with the Glowforge are geometry and photography. I love both and I’m wondering how I can plug these in and really create something worthwhile. My photography includes a little of everything, especially landscapes, people, and abstract details of things around me.

Thanks, everyone, for the incredible advice so far!


In recent forum posts we’ve seen a couple of methods for transferring photos onto wood. Combine that with an engraved calendar done on the GF. We’ve seen custom frames using unengraved plaques as a start so a custom design with the right photo. You could engrave photos onto wood or perhaps other materials. Lots of things to try.


To the op, like some others have said, spend some time reading through the older forum posts and you will be shocked at how much you learn. I’m a total noob too but I find myself (in theory at least) answering many of the questions people are asking in my head and feeling more confident (especially as those with know how chime in and say what Inwas thinking. :smile: )


@m_raynsford’s blog is where I would start. He has a great display of the many possibilities of a laser cutter and engraver. He has many designs that you can download and examine and see how they are put together.


Bookmarked, thanks!

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