Trace is.... terrible

Maybe I am doing something drastically wrong here. But Trace is utterly useless in each use case I have attempted. Fortunately my kids are not particularly discerning, so they don’t mind.

I attempted to trace a magnetic car decal from my son’s school to make a coin for him. The decal is circular, so I had to draw a box around where my design was, and then choose the white space to cut away.

Enter the honeycomb. Basically the source of ALL of my problems.

I click the “void” area around the circle, and I get a spotty exclusion of my circle plus random bits of honeycomb.

Okay… I can fix that, put a sheet of paper under the decal.

Now the problem is that there is a shadow around some edges, but not others. Once again, clicking the area outside of my circle does NOT give me a circle border…

Alright, fine. It was tri-color anyway, and there are eps versions of the same design online. I can use those to make coins later.

Next up… I give some proofgrade squares to my four year old. He draws a random squiggle (he tells me it is a road), and he wants to put it in the laser. He obviously puts it at an odd angle. His drawing goes right up to one of the edges.

Now I draw a square around my cut area. Once again, I am forced to include a ton of honeycomb in this square. I do not want the honeycomb to be cut (won’t hurt anything, but will make the job take far longer), but if I click inside parts of the honeycomb, then I lose the entire interior of the black sharpie lines in the drawing that I DO want to save…

Alright, I re-position to get more XY agreement in how the square is positioned. Still not perfect, still some honeycomb. But at least not enough to triple the job time.

Now the small offset issues with the camera plague me. The dang honeycomb is being engraved along the edge of his square, far from where the drawing actually touches the edge!

Ideas for how to fix this…

I am sure the trace would work flawlessly if I was able to avoid getting any honeycomb in the initial square. So if I was working far from the edges of the proofgrade, I would be okay. But I am not. I often will not be.

Maybe if you could allow us to spend more time in the first “Choose where your drawing is” screen? Let us do more primitive shapes than just square, and then re-position, rotate, and maybe even add/subtract (I am thinking basically give us the Square and Circle Selection Tools from Photoshop, complete with the options to hold SHIFT to add to selection, and CTRL to remove from selection)


Kind’a surprised to hear this.
I thought this was one of the main :glowforge: features, the one they showed off at Maker Fairs?


Every time they showed it off (that my terrible memory can call up now), the images were far from the edges of the Proofgrade. So putting a square around what was drawn, and then ditching the white-space surrounding it was pretty easy.


It can be cute and it can be useful but I’ve used my flatbed scanner more than the camera.


Just like @markevans36301 I’ve been using my scanner in any situation. So much better. No distortion from the lens.

I think the main appeal of the trace function was a drawing on a flat surface, like on the surface of a sheet of proofgrade. Either way I find it pretty gimmicky and once I got a scanner I pretty much went that way.


I was actually playing with this a bit today on my guest account.

I’d say put the item on a piece of paper and problem solved. The trace software is looking for your artwork… maybe you drew a honeycomb…

I do like some of your sugestions though and love seeing improvements.


Paper was what I thought would be the solution as well. But even with my car decal, which is a magnet and is quite thin, there was a shadow cast on the paper, and the shadow was dark enough to be picked up as black, so when I tried to exclude it, I also excluded all of the black lines of the decal/drawing.

So to solve it, you need dummy material of the same height which can be placed flush to the target material. Workable for square type shapes, but not for circles and odd-ball shapes.

Scanning with an actual scanner, or just flat out designing digitally in the first place seems to be key. For those cases where you MUST do a drawing (working with youth), you have to remember to leave enough waste material to be able to put a rectangle fully on the masking.

I think that the Maker Faire approach the team used may be the best solution for working with youth. Do not draw on the final material, but rather on a piece of paper. This lets you draw far larger, allowing finer detail to be developed. And it avoids the issue of catching honeycomb or shadow in your camerawork.

But… if those limitations are to remain, then having them mentioned as tips/tricks or best practices would be a good move. Because running in to those limitations and then having to figure out a way around it is not an enjoyable experience.


This interests me. I just finished last night, doing traces of about 8 works of art (black and white line drawings) that my brother sent up from New Mexico to have me engrave on wood. We have done it before, but as everyone knows, not every image is suitable to come out looking great when using the trace feature. The first time he sent images to try, he had printed them out on glossy photo paper and attached them to sheets of white printer paper. Two things happened…the glossy paper reflected the LED lights in the Glowforge…and yes, @jacobturner, they also displayed a thin shadow/line because of them being mounted on a secondary sheet of paper. And, true…the camera saw that as a black line. Though not quite the same problems as you experienced, there was a learning curve that I had to document when I sent the small sample engravings off to my brother in the mail. The ones I did last night were, at my request, simply printed in black on white paper in the best resolution possible, so the two previous problems were eliminated. I found it necessary to draw black bounding boxes/ frames around most of the drawing he sent because of the way the laser sees things.

Here are five of the ones we did…running the gamut from really nice to pretty bad.


Thanks for the suggestions! Will hopperize them.