Hi, I’ve had a Glowforge for a couple weeks ago and did the tutorials for the ruler, gift tag, and box, and I’m stuck. I want to start a business (and have before in woodworking) but have no design experience - I’ve watched a couple YouTube videos on Inkscape (and downloaded and played with Inkscape), but feel overwhelmed and don’t know the next step. I feel like I’m in over my head. Anyone else feel this way? Any suggestions?


The best start is to pick something you like and recreate that. Learning design software has a learning curve to it but there are hundreds of tutorials on youtube or buy into one if you can’t find a beginners course in your software. I can’t draw for shit or come up with new and creative ideas. I can however copy any- and everything. I’m not a master in illustrator, but over the years I’ve picked up some cool tricks. And the internet is full of free vectors. Start out with redrawing your favourite logo or image. Look up some cool laser cut projects and change something on them. Be it dimensions or just ad an engraving!

Good luck!


Project based learning is usually the best way to go. You can learn how all the tools in the garage work, but you really don’t know them till you start working on the car.

I learned by doing a lot of How to make a thing you probably don’t care about! tutorials. Every time you make something with a project tutorial, you learn a new tool, or feature, or sometimes it just helps you learn where all these weird named things are located.

When I was trying to learn photoshop, I spent an entire weekend doing this photorealistic coke bottle tutorial. I had no need for a photorealistic bottle, but I needed to learn from somebody with the skills to create something that complicated. It would take me 10min just to find the first tool he was talking about.
Pick a project tutorial and just run with it. You might not end up with a cool lasered thingy, but you will end up with some tool skills that lead to a laser thingy down the road for sure.
Make a Donut, or a cartoon version of your face. A compass thingy for a lasered box, or a spirography thing. Make anything really. It’s the best way to learn a tool.


Okay, everything above plus this. Start simple. Grab something out of the free design section or thingivers and modify it to your liking. Do this several times then design something simple from scratch.
I won’t suger coat it, teaching yourself to design is a big investment in time. I think it is well worth it though.


Thank you so much. This is really helpful. - I’ll do some tutorials over the weekend!


I hear you, loud and clear. I not only didn’t I know how to design, but I didn’t know a doggone thing about lasers, either. I was a blank canvas…but, I’m beginning to feel a lot more comfortable and confident and loving every minute of time that I spend figuring stuff out. Everyone here who gave you good advice, support, and ideas are the best of the best. It was all of them who helped me get where I am, now. Their advice to just start tweaking some things is an excellent idea. Eventually, you will gain lots of insight into exactly how a file is put together and you’ll be able to wing it on your own. Welcome to the forum and have fun!


Thanks so much Xabbess. Can you tell me what helped you the most to get you on your feet?

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I feel your pain. I’m overwhelmed - and I do know some programs like Gimp relatively well - but the who ‘engrave versus cut’ thing has me scared. Just unpacked mine btw


I’m right there with you! I’ve had mine for a couple of months, and I definitely go through emotional rollercoasters of excitement when I am able to do something, and downtrodden when I feel I have no ideas. I’m starting to pick it back up again. What did I do?

First tutorial I did to make something cool was right off this forum. I battled my way through the voronoi pencil holder, and when it was done was so happy and impressed with the results. Voronoi pencil holder in Inkscape

Then came a lull, but then I thought, let’s make some coasters. I saw the coaster design in the shop, but the problem with it is that I can’t customize it because I couldn’t get the files, so I attempted to recreate it. I really had to go do some lessons on Inkscape in order to be able to create the holder for the coasters. Eventually, I nailed it and was so excited! I quickly ran and cut it out and assembled it, only to realize how difficult it was to glue 3-4 layers of semicircles together accurately that I ended up scrapping it. That is a good lesson, not everything will turn out the way you want, and that’s okay. I had a win by being able to design it, and then just tossed it once I realized I didn’t like the outcome.

I started making more coasters, and then bought some acrylic paints to paint the engraved parts. After I had painted a few I decided I wanted a color chart, so I quickly mocked up a rectangle piece of wood with the words for each of the colors engraved out, and then painted the words to match the colors, so now I have a nifty color chart and I know which ones work well and which ones don’t.

Another thing I did is start asking friends what they would like to see. This got me all sorts of design ideas that I could go tinker with and try and create. When I succeed at one, I give them the piece and it’s great to see how happy and appreciative they are. We both win :slight_smile:

Lastly, I spend a lot of time reading community posts here and on Glowforge related facebook groups. This helps get the creative juices going for sure!

For Inkscape training, I have access to Lynda.com through work, and there is a pretty good class on there, but if you don’t have access to that or don’t want to pay for it, just keep searching youtube videos.

As people have said, its best to just pick something you want to make, even if you are replicating someone else’s work, it is a good learning tool. Then you use pinpointed searches to try and discover/learn how to do the things you need in the tools to get a particular piece of it done. Gives you real world experience and more likely to stick that way :slight_smile:

Good luck! Don’t be discouraged! Many of us have NO skill in this stuff what-so-ever. Persevere.


Thank you so incredibly much! This is extremely helpful advice. I appreciate your taking the time to write it. So much good stuff, I plan to start by taking that inkscape tutorial and try that pencil holder, and see where that takes me. Thank you thank you!

I actually got my GF a few days ago and immediately felt overwhelmed. Now, I’ve done all types of design work from web development to big city/ Gov posters. There’s something about the raw power of this machine that is just so intimidating. I’d first start off by making a list of things that must be done before thinking about what to cut. It’s VERY easy to get side tracked.

  1. Start learning design software. You don’t need to be an expert (that’ll come with time).
  2. Start recreating things that already exist in order to see what the capabilities with whatever software you’re running is.
  3. Create a folder for all the finished and ready to print designs. This will eliminate clutter and delays. I don’t like to have my GF running for long periods of time while I’m sifting through designs I want to print.
  4. Experiment- Safely of course! Knowing what your GF can and can’t do is crucial to your advancement. Once your skills surpasses the GF’s capabilities that’s the “sweet spot” in which you can then create with accuracy and speed.
  5. Have fun! Invite like minded friends and family to share the experience, they may have ideas that you’ve never considered.

Remember, we’re all learning together.


What helped me the most?..no particular thing, really…but the ongoing support, tips, and tricks from those in the know. Quite frankly in the end, it was me who got me to the point that I’m at today, because I was amazed and in the land of bliss learning how to design/create files for things I wanted to make and having such an incredible time doing it. Just enjoy the learning curve and don’t begrudge the time and energy it takes. It’s all part of the most funnest thing I’ve gotten to do in a very long time. :grin:


I could create a small landfill with all the ‘mistakes’ I’ve made…and I’ll never see the time again that I’ve spent making poor choices of one kind or another.

BUT…I would not be as accomplished, pleased, and as happy as I feel today without all of that happening first. And you will be there, too. I can’t think of a more enjoyable place to be.

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