Recommendation for where to start learning how to design

Hi everyone, I’d like to start learning how to design for the glowforge, and have no idea where to start. I currently use Adobe photoshop/Lightroom, not sure if Illustrator would be a good start. Are there free classes ? How did everyone learn?

Read this:

Then search a ton on the forums. Everything you need is there.


Some of that might be a bit basic for you since you use photoshop already. Since you’re an adobe person if you have the suite, I’d say illustrator is the way to go.

Search “illustrator tutorial”, and you’ll also find a ton of stuff.


I started from square one, so you already have a leg up.
@evansd2 advice is solid, my education happened right here with the tutorials and help from all these people who have seriously damaged my ignorance.


Oh, this is the quote of the day! :smile:


What SW packages depend a lot on what you want to do and your budget, but let me run you through a generic version.

  • You have something in your head you want to do.

  • Go to Pinterest and other places for inspiration. Don’t lift the designs just pin them to study on.

  • Watch Youtube videos on how to do what you need to do in whatever SW package you are using. Work along with the videos.

  • Go through the matrix here if your SW is covered. Even if it is not often the concepts are the same between them.

  • Ask questions when you hit a dead end, do as much as you can on your own but we all hit the wall sometimes and need a human to clarify something. You’ll be amazed at how helpful folk are here!

  • Practice, practice, practice.

  • Rinse and repeat.

This has worked very well for me and I think overall it will work for anyone.


A laser cutter is essentially a machine for creating 2D objects. Vector graphics are the heart and soul of 2D design so you need to learn a vector editor (Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel, Affinity Designer.) There is the tips and tricks section of the Forum, as others have pointed out. There is YouTube and the Internet in general. There must be some structured Illustrator classes online, though probably not free. There may be some low-cost community extension classes in Illustrator and/or Inkscape. I taught myself mainly by starting with some free Inkscape tutorials online and then a lot of frustration, but I am now to the point of being dangerous with it. Note that pretty much all of this is going to be orientated towards graphics for printing or display on a monitor, but the basics apply to laser-cut design.

If you want to make things in 3D you need to learn where and how to join things. While a CAD design program isn’t absolutely necessary, you may easily wind up learning one of those as well. But you need to start with a vector graphics editor.

My zen advice is you have to see the parts. Once you see something as being made up of parts, you can figure out how to make each part and how they fit together. This goes for flat objects as well. I don’t see a poorly composed arrow:
I see a triangle, a rectangle and two rectangles that have been skewed 60 degrees.


Man that’s really weird… I see an arrow. :wink:


I see my mistakes


It’s not just you. I don’t see two of the rectangles but did notice she missed a couple of parallelograms. :slightly_smiling_face:


Amen to that! I just accidentally deleted South America - got well into the cleanup before I noticed something didn’t look quite right with the map. :roll_eyes:


Some of the countries in South America are our best customers. Our head of sales is not going to be happy with you. Erasing an entire continent from the Earth, sheesh.


Haven’t seen anybody mention the training matrix, but you could start there:


You don’t want to tick me off. (Or distract me, apparently.) :smile:


One way to begin is to visit the Free Laser Designs category and download a few. Put them in your chosen vector design program and start clicking away to see what happens.


I use my glowforge extensively already, what I want to do mainly is make designs that join together. I’m a woodworker by trade and would like to use my glowforge to joint together designs, and make fitted pieces.

I want to join things, I’m a woodworker by trade, and make lamps, I would like to learn how to design and joint pieces together.

You might want to look at as it is all about making things that join together as fitted pieces.

I made a few pieces till I figured out where I wanted to go with it, and now mostly go from scratch, but it was a good hands on learning tool.

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Here is an Instructable that might help:


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