What types of files will allow cuts?

I am new to Laser cutting and attempted to engrave and cut out a design that I created from a .JPG file. I converted the file to a .svg. It allowed only engraving. What type of file to I have to create so that the Glowforge will also cut out the parts that I want to cut?

Thanks for your help with this :wink:

What program did you use to create the file?

We have some tutorials that explain the difference between creating an engrave, and creating a path for cutting, but it would help to narrow things down on the suggestions if you are more familiar with one over another.

If you want to learn by doing, there are some step by step walk-throughs created by Glowforge that will explain how to create simple cut lines in Inkscape:



Photoshop. And then converted to SVG using an online converter. Am using the Glowforge in an educational setting and want to find the easiest workflow for my students.

1 Like

Photoshop is a raster based program - did you create vector cutlines in it?

Computer graphics come in two broad types: bitmaps and vectors.

  • Bitmaps (also known as raster images) are a bit like a piece of graph paper where you can fill in each square with a color, but you have to fill it exactly and you can’t draw lines or do anything else but fill in squares. (Each square on the graph paper is called a “pixel” in computer jargon.) Digital cameras capture photographs as bitmaps; a 12 megapixel camera creates a grid of 12 million tiny squares and colors each one with a single color to make up the picture.

    Bitmaps can only used for engraving on the Glowforge. (The laser will move back and forth across each horizontal row of squares, adjusting the power of the laser to reflect how dark the color in the square is.)

  • Vector graphics are more like drawing lines with a pencil on a blank sheet of paper. You can draw any shape you want.

    The Glowforge will move the laser to follow the shapes of those lines, allowing you to score or cut out shapes.

JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, and similar file formats can only store bitmaps and thus can only be used for engraving images on the Glowforge.

SVG and PDF can contain both vectors and bitmaps. Any bitmaps contained in one of those files can only be engraved, but vector shapes can also be cut or scored.

When you copy and paste a bitmap image (e.g., a JPEG) into an SVG it’s still a bitmap. You need to use a vector editing program (Inkscape, Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Corel Draw, etc.) to draw your vector shapes.

Some programs have an “auto trace” mechanism that will look at a bitmap and try to find the edges of shapes and turn them into vector lines for you.


Thanks so much!

how do I do that?

I only asked because although it is possible to do it in Photoshop, it is anything but easy, and definitely not part of a workflow that you want to have your kids learn.

If you want to create cut lines, you need a vector drawing program. The two most commonly used are Adobe Illustrator (which costs a lot) and Inkscape (which is free.) Alternatives are CorelDraw and Affinity Designer, and those are mid-range in price.

I’m going to give you a list of tutorials that might help you to put together a plan of options…most are just a couple of pages, but they explain how the Glowforge interface works and what it is looking for from the design side.

Here you go:

Then if you want to get them started doing their own stuff quickly, the Matrix has a lot of tutorials and video links showing the best of the tips and tricks for individual design programs:

For using the Glowforge:

For Using Photoshop, GIMP and Paintshop:

For using Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDRAW and Affinity Designer:

For using Fusion 360, OnShape, Openscad, Rhino, etc.

Have fun! :grinning:


Thanks Jules!

1 Like

Recommend doing simple and working your way to complex. Draw a rectangle in Illustrator or Inkscape, save as an SVG, and try to cut it. Don’t try a complex design until you know how it should work.


It’s likely within all the training docs, but the line thickness helps differentiate between a cut line (usually thinnest it can be in your software) and an “image” for etching.

And sometimes you can change from a cut to score or etch.

Being an array of pixels and each pixel has a whiteness value (it is good to convert color image to grayscale to see it as the program will) as the laser goes over where that pixel is that value can tell it how hot the laser should be.

Where you have a closed vector you have an area that can be engraved. In that case the area will all be engraved at the same amount. In some situations one is a better way to go in other situations the other is better.

Experience will show the best way to do what, and reading through this forum you can learn from others experience which is often the preferable way.

1 Like

That’s a confusing statement. Line thickness (or stroke size) doesn’t matter. It can be a 5” stroke and it will cut the same as a .008” stroke. The stroke is an appearance - you have a single vector path that is actually cut.

1 Like

Just speaking from my very limited experience & what I’ve seen get selected automatically when I upload a file.

For practical purposes a score is the same as a cut that does not go through. You would use different settings so it is a good idea to keep them separate colors so you can use different parameters in the UI. Any vector that is a closed loop can be either a cut or an engrave if it is just lines such as you get with boxes.py can only be a cut because that is many lines that do not enclose any area.

Thanks–it is a good practice. Already do it–guess just out of habit w/ working w/ Autocad & layouts for various things… (though color by laser operation vs. “layer” on a drawing).

Thanks for the help everybody. I’m going to close this thread.

Welcome @rabsmo! As you come up with more questions, go ahead and post new topics.