Using the Passthrough with Illustrator (Beginner's version) 🤔

Awesome tutorial @Jules! Thanks for doing this writeup.


Wonderful tutorial. This will help so many with Illustrator, and even the process for other software.


My pleasure gang…this information was already out there, I just finally got it organized into somewhat semi-coherent order. (Which I’ve been meaning to do for a while.) We also have the writeup for the Inkscape Passthrough process if anyone is using that program, so we should be pretty well covered now. :slightly_smiling_face:


Your efforts do not go unnoticed! Thank you once again @Jules

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Snapmarks. What a nice idea that I never got to use.

We have to do this with the Snapmarks too. :slightly_smiling_face:

I know everyone who didn’t get to test them thinks that Snapmarks “hung the moon”. But even if you have them, you still need to understand this process for creating the files, so there’s no reason to wait around forever to use the passthrough. It’s why I posted this. I think folks might benefit by getting comfortable with the “cutting up the files” process, because we might still have to do that once the passthrough software is released.

The part that the Snapmarks eliminates is the need to be exceptionally careful to keep the material pressed up tight against the edge of the tray. And that’s about it. The marks you are creating in the file here serve the function of indexing marks, which is all that Snapmarks are.

Anyway, I’d like to encourage everyone to try it using this method a few times - just so you’ll be ahead of the game when the Passthrough software is released for the Pros.

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Jules, thank you for the fine tutorial. It was much easier to follow. I finally tried to cut a longer piece with the pass though slot. The item is a spar for a model airplane that I imported from a pdf. It is about 23" so I made a 24" box around the drawing and segmented into three pieces. The scissor tool added a node at the intersection, but it did not break the path, so I could not separate and color differently in the first drawing. I had to cut and paste the selected sections into separate files. I am a novice a illustrator, so I may have been doing someing wrong. I spent a lot of time getting the upper right corner at the same position on the 12x20 board. I eventually was able to get that corner within 0.002" for the three if the illustrator position readouts are correct. I was under the impression that when the drawing is at the same position when on the 20x12 board, it will be cut a the same location each time. I was able to get the alignment lines to lineup with the side scale in only a few attempts. However, when I cut the second part, the location was correct on the side scale but the lines did not match left to right.

I stopped the cut and nudged a couple of steps to the right. The end result is is reasonable.
The third cut did not go as well. It was too far to the left so I stopped the cut and nudged up one and to the right two steps.

The end result is serviceable, but not what I call accurate. If I had some vertical alignment scores, it could be tested before cutting. I had checked that the arm carrying the laser optics is square with the side rails a few months ago. I did the camera calibration this past weekend. Do you have any suggestions on how to get better results?

It’s hard to tell without seeing the file…you might have had some trouble with the initial Illustrator setup of the files…it’s very important to follow the instructions in that order so that the rectangles wind up underneath the pasted copy of the word on top. Otherwise you might place the cut on the rectangle instead of the word path. You also need to Ungroup the parts once you’ve made the cuts.

That part is important because the rectangles and the parts of the design on top of it have to stay perfectly placed relative to each other once you start copying it into the new individual files.

Did you cut the boot stabilizers and lock the tray down? (That can help to align the tray perfectly square.) It’s also critical that the material is pressed tightly against the side as it’s fed through…looks like the variation was on the horizontal axis, so it might have shifted a little and you might not have noticed. (It’s pretty easy to do, I’ve done it many a time.)

It actually looks pretty good for a first pass, and you managed to make some adjustments to it to correct it, but you shouldn’t have to do that if it works the way it should. You might want to try a few practice runs on some cheaper material like cardboard or mat board to get comfortable with the way it works. (Mat board actually works a little better, cardboard can deform a little because it’s softer, but practice is going to help, because there’s a lot to remember.) :slightly_smiling_face:

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I did use the boot stabilizers. They work very well. I used magnets to hold the material against the guide. I think that a cut parallel to the index guide may not be perfectly parallel. This could lead to an offset. The rectangle layer is below the drawing layer so the line being cut is above the red rectangle. I uploaded the file. If you are able to please review for any deficiencies. (1.1 MB)

No magnets, use the Honeycomb pins or tape. (The head can interact with magnets if they are strong enough, and anything strong enough to hold down wood is strong enough.). I’ll take a quick look at the file later this morning when I get downstairs.

Okay, looking at the file, I see a couple of areas where there might have been some issues introduced, and it has to do with getting comfortable with Illustrator mainly, so that’s going to go better next time.

  1. First …looking at the overall file…it appears that you left off a couple of end cuts on the spars.

I’m mentioning it because if you were planning to just run that up all the way to the edge of the board, that’s not the best idea…it presumes that the end cut is perfectly square to the side cut on the sheet of material, and in my experience on non-PG material, that doesn’t always happen. It’s best to close the cuts to keep from introducing yet another squaring problem to work around. (On the other hand, if this was just an early version of the file and you added the cuts later, that’s fine.)

  1. Second …you want to make sure to print an indexing mark at the top and bottom of each section…the one on the far right doesn’t have a top mark. (Again, if you added it later, that’s fine.)
    The camera view out at the far edges of the bed always requires more compensation, so it’s a good idea to use Set Focus near the marks when you are positioning the design, and you need one at the top as well as the bottom when you are shifting everything up and down. (The scoring iterations correct for that anyway, but you need to correct for both, each time. It will require fewer iterations.)

  2. One complication is in the design itself, and it’s because the cuts are not at the intersection of the rectangles. (While theoretically, they don’t have to be exact, I usually find that hitting the intersection exactly helps a lot with the alignment, especially if you are using the jig. It’s just one less alignment issue to worry about.) The Smart Guides make it easy to cut them once and get a clean cut, so I’ll show how to use them below:

Click on View at the top and check Smart Guides to turn them on.
Click on the Scissors tool, Zoom in and hover the cursor along the top path. When the scissors is exactly over the intersection with the rectangle underneath, the word “intersect” will appear in tiny green letters. While that is showing, click once with the mouse, and the scissors will cut the top path exactly at the intersection.

The picture above is zoomed in a lot more than you’ll probably need, but it’s hard to get a screen capture of that word…it’s tiny. But there will be a lot of zooming in and out to move around, so plan on that.

Okay having said all of that, (which will make it easier overall on your next try), …I still think the reason that shifted over on the bed horizontally might have been the magnets, so try it without them next time. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thanks for spending so much time on the file I uploaded. Especially since the first two deficiencies that you see in your view are correct in my view! I must an older version of Illustrator, so that may account for the difference.
I may not have had the Smart Guides turned on when I did this iteration of the design as I did in others.
I think that I will remove all of the cut lines and add them back to start over. I am making these spars for someone else, but I really need to get proficient at getting this method of using the pass through slot working. We purchased the pro model for the auto pass through alignment feature, but I have not yet used our Glowforge for cutting long pieces. Doing the breaking apart of the design is getting faster, but it is still tedious in part due to my lack of experience with illustrator.
I usually use Inkscape running on Linux, but there are definite differences between the Linux and Windows versions so I have been following your tutorial for illustrator.

Thanks again for all of your efforts and contributions to the Glowforge Forum!


I use magnets recovered from hard disk drives.
When i decommission a hard disk drive, I disassemble them to recycle the metals, collect the magnets and make any remaining data unrecoverable.
The magnets for the galvanometer movement are designed to have a field on one side only.
They also have a metal piece on the back which can also be used
to apply pressure to the material.

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Good Morning @Jules. This is some great information and I really appreciate it. I was have been killing myself trying to get it to work. I feel like I am missing something maybe. Once I cut my image in half and have them overlap, it does not seem to keep the correct sizes. My cuts are still off. I went into Illustrator and move the top back up to line the images up, and they are off. Am I missing something? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

This is a very difficult process to pull off manually now that the Glowforge Passthrough software is being Beta tested. I believe it has been re-opened for sign-up, and while it might take a while for them to get you access to it, it will be worth it. The Glowforge software does all of this for you so you don’t have to be so careful.

The sign up for the Beta testing is here…if you do sign up for it, make sure you have run the Calibration program first to calibrate your machine, and read the instructions for the Beta testing.

If you don’t choose to sign up to test the Passthrough software, or if they already have enough testers for it, all I can tell you is to be extremely careful with how you are cutting the sections and placing the indexing marks. Precision is key.

Oh…and if you are working on some SVG file that you purchased or downloaded that might have been created in some other program besides Illustrator, it WILL introduce sizing errors into the design. Each program has it’s own default export size settings, and they are not the same in Inkscape or Affinity Designer or Illustrator. That makes sizing errors with SVG file types very common. When in doubt, always copy the file contents into a new 20" x 12" file and work from that. Check that the size is accurate inside the design program of choice, then when you save the SVG file for use in the Glowforge it will come across as correctly sized.

That’s usually what causes size issues and it happens before you get the file into the Glowforge interface. :slightly_smiling_face:

Can someone please help with using the scissors in Illustrator. Whenever we try and cut the text at the line it doesn’t cut and there is no option to ungroup, instead it makes weird lines and only gives a group option

Text has to be converted to outlines first. (Select it, right click > Convert to Outlines.)

The Scissors tool only works on Paths (Outlines). (Text is a different critter.)

Also…if you cut a path at a point, it attaches a new end node to each spot where you cut. In order to remove a section of a path, you cut the closed path in two places.

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So we’ve got all the way to Step 6 under Part Three. I just tried selecting the text to right click and convert to outline, but that option is greyed out. I’ve wasted almost 10hrs trying to do this and still can’t get it to happen.

Is it locked? (Check the Layer palette.)

And have you signed up for the Beta test on the new Passthrough software? It does all the heavy lifting for you.

I ended up drawing a box to the dimension I needed, putting it over an area of lettering, moving that layer just under the text layer, selecting it, and then copy and pasting that selection into another tab. I then removed the lines of the box. It worked for what I needed. We have a basic, but I think I figured out a way to make up to a 28" long one piece sign. My prototype worked for the most part, hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a finished product. I don’t know why the scissor tool wouldn’t work, but I figured out another way to separate the text at lease.