Tips for a complete novice! Other novice out there?

Hi everybody, I am a complete novice in the field of laser cutting even using the programs like adobe illustrator etc. I just loved the commercial and was thinking about making homemade stuff for a while now. Did anybody else buy one who is a total beginner?
The pros: do you have some recommendations for me how I can prepare, what is important to learn in the next couple months while I am waiting for my glowforge. Thanks for your input. Have a great day!

Never used one myself. Just been Googling stuff.
The best place to start is what do you want to with it? There is a thread on people’s Pinterest pages for example.

That is mine for a place to start looking at all the stuff people do with lasers.
Also helps to know what material you want to work with. It doesn’t make much sense buying stuff for a material you don’t like :wink:

Trotech, another laser engraver company, actually has some pretty good videos on what they make and is pretty comparable to the Glowforge except the thickness of items.


I’m a novice, too…but looking forward to learning as much as possible while I wait for the GF to arrive. Also having some fun thinking about stuff I’d like to make. Cheers!

I’ve never had a laser cutter/engraver or had access to one. I’m not worried about it, though. This finishes my personal micro maker space (well it will never really be finished). I get the impression that to the machine itself; there will be nothing to learn. Can you install and run a laser or inkjet 2d printer?
The web software is not up yet so we can not be learning that, but I don’t think it will be all that complex either.

Now, here is what you/we can be learning. How to use the software that will produce the vectors and rasters that the GF will utilize. Do you plan to do art? Then learn Illustrator or the like, precisely fitted useful items? Learn a good CAD program. Want to make 3d things that are fitted together? Get to know 123 Make.

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Inkscape and Sketchup are free and have loads of tutorials. This will help you get a feel for vector drawing and some 3D. I have design experience but no CNC or laser experience. That’s why I’m most interest in info on how different materials process under the laser. Ive lurked here and read every post and the collective knowledge is phenomenal. Stay tuned in.

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Thanks for all your tips. I started brainstorming like crazy of what I want to do for myself and my family, looking on Pinterest etc. I am excited to get crafty. I definitely want to learn Inkscape.

I looked seriously at Illustrator, but it’s so expensive. I really can’t afford it. If it wasn’t a subscription thing now, I would just bite the bullet. I also downloaded Inkscape. I thought the learning curve was really steep, but maybe it’s just me. I’ve also tried 123DMake. I have a program called Strata 3D Design that seems OK, but I’ve not yet learned that one either. I have another Autodesk app called 123Design and I’ve never read one word on here from anyone who uses or has tried it. I also tried Sketchup…big learning curve, there, too. Perhaps someday, after I’ve learned the concepts of a few things I will feel paying top dollars for Illustrator will make more sense. Got lots of tutorials to start watching! is THE place for tutorials.

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Inkscape and Sktechup are both free and the Glowforge crew use them and will support them heavily.
Tons of tutorials on youtube from beginner to advanced.

I use illustrator and I’m still a novice but I suggest it after trying to learn the free ones. I felt it would be easier since alot of other artists use it. If illustrator not part of your plan, inkscape is a good starter. I have a hobby digital cutter (Bosskut Gazzelle) and use Make the Cut program to cut vinyl stickers. I use illustrator and export to the cutting program. I assume it would be similar as I would be exporting into the Glowforge cloud. So I’d focus on a program you like and learn as much as possible :blush:

I use 123Design; it rocks for some projects and totally fails on others. Wish there was a program that was 123D and Sketchup in one. I guess that is what the pro version of Sketchup is but $700? I don’t think so.

One real nice thing about 123D is it is one click to hand off to 123Make. I have yet to make anything with 123Make, but I have played with it enough to see it has lots of potential.

Oh, and yes, Sketchup is a big learning curve but once it clicks it will pay you back your investment in time.


Fusion360 is another autodesk product, which is essentially replacing 123D. It has a hobbyist license which if I recall (I am academic so it is actually free) that the hobbyist one is pretty close to if not free. There are great tutorials on using it for CAD/CAM, and has tons of power features (but is a tad more complex too). If you watch some of the 3DThursday videos recently over at AdaFruit, you can see them using it a lot. Certainly since I intend on creating things that will include both 3D printing and laser cutting, this is going to be the package of choice since the CAM side supports multiple output workflows on a part by part basis

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I am a total noob when it comes to laser cutting/design, but I am learning alot just from the discussions here on the site…I truly can’t wait for my /Glowforge…gots lotsa plans for stuff…yaaaay Go Glowforge !

Autodesk has so many now that I was not even aware of 360. Thanx, I will download it right away.

Good…glad to hear someone else has tried 123Design. And I agree…it’s nice to have it just one click away from 123Make. I’ve played around with both, but will be doing more as time passes. Last night, I finally spent a bit more time with Sketchup and had some fun. They do have good tutorials.

I had downloaded 360, tried it, and for some reason discarded it. Perhaps I should give it another try, as well.

If your designs are mechanical in nature you might also want to try OnShape CAD, which has a free version and is also cloud-based like the GF software. I’ve been trying that out for several months and find it quite good for what I think of as mechanical stuff, like that candle holder that is cut in one of the GF videos. It wouldn’t be very good for what are often called organic designs with lots of artistic curves.

Thanks for all the wonderful tips. Defintely lots to learn.

The OnShape team if I recall is the team that created SolidWorks (the premier cad/cam package) and OnShape is equally complete. Looks very nice in demos.