Newbie: Raster or Vector better when creating a SVG in Illustrator

Excuse me as this a huge newbie question. I’ve nil experience using laser cutters except my 4 machine hours I’ve spent on it. Illudium Pu-36 is in a temporary home away from me for the next 2-3 months :frowning: so it’s not easy for me to throw things in there to test it out. I want to make sure my SVGs are the best they can be when when I spend my quality time with her. (yes I personified my Glowforge :wink: )

I’m preparing my very first design upload. I use Illustrator I just realised that designing for a laser is completely different designing for illustration prints and cutting decals. I’m starting with s simple keychain with my logo. I created a SVG at 300dpi. The keychain is intended to be 1 x 2.5 inches.

I read @Jules laser design basics and got the idea that we always had to use rasters for things I want and use paths to cut. I placed the logo as embedded PNG and surprised how pixated the logo is:

So read the tutorial again and @Jules didn’t say we had to use rasters to engrave, just said rasters are always engraved (whoops). So, I was quite happy to learn we can use a vector fill:

I can’t confirm this until tommorrow but I’m on the right track for my simple project correct?

Aside from photographs, when would one want to embed a raster image? Just trying to understand when would anyone would use a raster.


Yes, you can definitely engrave vector fills, and they generally give better results than rasters. (You’re zooming down the track!) :grinning:

The one time we need to use rasters is for gradients - the Glowforge interface can’t handle gradient vector fill yet.


My rule of thumb is to always do vector when doing my own design work.

The only time I’ll voluntarily use a raster is as you point out, a photo, and sometimes for a little something I’ve lifted if it is going to as small or smaller than the original.

Nice looking work BTW.


Thanks!! I hope to be good at it one day.

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Thanks! I didn’t realize how steep the learning curve it is for me. That 5 minute project took me 30 minutes and I have even printed it yet :joy:

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If you did it in 30 minutes, you did it quicker than I did the first time. :smile:
(It gets quicker.)


Haha, mine is just a logo in a rectangle. Pretty simple so I got frustrated, I’m sure you could have done that in 10 minutes first try :crazy_face:

Ha! welcome to my world! I have a few folks fooled here that I am kind of sorta good. The truth is I spend hours upon hours doing something that would take a pro minutes. The good news, for me anyway, is that once I’ve had my butt whooped by something and come through it I remember what it took to do what I did.


We all start from somewhere :wink: hope next time 5 minutes will actually be 5 minutes

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Rasters are simpler: it’s just a grid of pixels, and what you see is what you get. If you hand the Glowforge a vector to engrave, it has to rasterize it, which means the software in the Cloud is doing all of the strokes and fills and such to ultimately produce a bitmap for the engraving pipeline. Sometimes that causes more trouble than if you just rasterize it first in your drawing program. Here are some of the reasons you might choose to convert to raster:

  • Vector file is too complex for the Glowforge UI (processing takes a long time or fails)
  • Vector file uses unsupported features (clip masks, gradients, etc.)
  • Vector file has design glitches like overlapping paths, white knockouts, etc. that are more trouble than they’re worth to fix

On the other hand, if you just have a simple black and white drawing that’s already in vector format, you should probably leave it that way because it’s more flexible. You can resize and rotate it in the GFUI, and don’t have to worry about introducing pixelation if you use too low a DPI.


When I first saw #1 I was going to call shenanigans but after thinking about it you are right, I just have not experienced it this way but I see how someone could.
#2 and 3, I run into all the time and for the life of me don’t know why I didn’t think of them when I posted above.
Good post.

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You’re off to a great start!

Illustrator to laser is actually a lot like Illustrator to cutting decals, especially “printed and cut” decals with combined vector & photo. :smiley: As @chris1 mentioned avoid unsupported features like masks and gradients. If you ctrl/cmd Y for wireframe view - that’s what the laser will see of your vector art. Much like a vinyl cutter.

I have a few friends who does animation and it can take a long time to render. I sub-consciously applied that thought to vectors since its using the cloud. That butterfly was originally about 100 paths. I spent 20 closing paths and outling it. It was the first thing I drew and never bothered to fix it until since it’d look the same on paper. Glowforge is forcing me to improve skills