PDF only engraving and need to cut

I have a simple, one line design. It is actually a tracing of the US. So…as I stated, a single line and no detail. I scanned it in to a PDF but it is saying bitmaps can only be engraved and I want to cut. So I converted it from a PDF to a PNG and its giving me the same error. Color should not be an issue because its ONE. SINGLE. LINE that I want to cut. I’m beyond frustrated. What is going on?

You need to use a vector editing application (Illustrator, Inkscape, etc.) and convert the image to paths. The file will then need to be saved in the appropriate format that supports vectors - SVG, although PDF can also.


Are you stuck with that design for some reason?

You can search for “US map inurl:svg” on google and find literally hundreds of examples that will probably work better.

For example:


and so on and so forth.

Just use your noodle when it comes to choosing a map with appropriate level of detail so you don’t burn your material (and potentially your glowforge) up. You don’t want a super detailed map if you’re cutting a 1" USA… A: all that detail will be lost anyway and B: the laser slows down and heats your material, this is how cardboard fires get started.

As a side note, I totally get wanting to dive right in, but you might want to do some basic research about designing for the laser. Trust me, the time you put in understanding the fundamentals will pay you back 100 times over.

Here’s a good starting point:

Trust me, you won’t regret digging through everything linked there.


Think about it this way…
Bitmap (engrave) = a photo of a piece of string
Vector (cut, score) = the actual piece of string

The bitmap cannot be changed. It is the the image of the string at one particular time. The Vector can be changed at any point. Once you save a Vector as SVG you can still manipulate it.


Welcome cowden! I would try one of the following:

  • Download an SVG instead (as suggested here)
  • Use Inkscape to convert your picture of the US to a vector so you have a line to cut
  • Print out the picture and use “Trace” to scan it, then click the image to create a cutline automatically

Hope one of these works for you!


Basically, it’s not a line, it’s a picture of a line. That’s what this vector vs raster stuff is about. Glowforge needs a vector file to tell it how to move, whereas pictures can only be engraved (regardless of what they’re a picture of).


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