4 Tips for Picking Good Fonts for Laser Cutting

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Some of the coolest projects that we cut here at SendCutSend involve personalized designs and messages, small business logos and slogans, and amazing products with the company or product name laser cut within them. To ensure that your parts look and function the way you first conceptualized them, it’s important to pick good fonts for laser cutting.

As we have seen text and type designs go through our full production process, we’ve picked up a few tips to keep in mind when picking a font for laser cutting. It’s important to note that no matter what font you use in your design, all text/type needs to be converted to shapes or outlines. Text boxes cannot be read and processed by CNC laser and waterjet cutters or routers. You can convert text to paths in any design software, including CAD. We have a few tutorials on this if you need some help.

Illustration of "SendCutSend" written in text with a text box around it above the same text but converted to paths with nodes.

Keep reading to learn more about picking good fonts for laser cutting!

Tip #1: The Bolder, The Better

The biggest issue with most readily available fonts is that the lettering is often too thin to laser cut effectively. Thin text cutouts or negative space will warp during machining and processing, small features are more likely to get lost in the laser’s beam width, and ligaturing is likely to snap in half if it’s too thin. Your best bet to avoid these issues is to pick a bold font.

Illustration with a bold font for SendCutSend cut with bridging out of a rectangle, above SendCutSend written in a calligraphic font with no bridging

The value of a bold font is being able to easily ensure that all the geometry fits within our laser cutting guidelines. In general, each cutout in your design should be greater than 50% of the material’s thickness, and never less than 0.015”. All text and features should follow this rule whether they’re reversed cutouts (material removed from a larger sheet) or positive cut.

Tip #2: Avoid “Handwritten” Fonts

Fonts that are meant to simulate handwriting are typically not a great choice for laser cutting for various reasons.

The first reason being that these kinds of fonts have to contain a large number of nodes to achieve the handwritten and personalized feel. When designs contain a multitude of nodes, it can take a significant amount of time to process and will result in a “choppy” cut edge. The laser interprets each node as a new stopping or starting point, so it will cut straight lines between each node, stop briefly at each defined point, and restart. It’s better to choose a font that doesn’t simulate handwriting and make sure yourself that there are a reasonable number of nodes in the design before sending it off for laser cutting.

The second reason that handwriting fonts cannot be laser cut is because they often have very thin areas that are too delicate to machine successfully. As mentioned above, features should be at least greater than 50% of the material’s thickness. Especially with cursive-like or calligraphic handwriting fonts, this minimum is difficult to achieve without scaling up the design by an order of magnitude or compromising the integrity of the font. We recommend choosing a font that feels unique to yourself or your brand without simulating a handwritten quality.

Tip #3: Customize Spacing Between Letters

One often forgotten aspect of laser cut typography is the spacing between the letters. The spaces between letters need to fit within our geometry requirements just like all other features do. The easiest option to adjust spacing is to type a space between each letter before you convert the text to outlines/shapes, but this does not let you really customize the spacing to suit your needs as well as our geometry requirements. 

Screenshot of "SendCutSend" written in Inkscape, converted to paths, with the last "D" separated out from the other letters
Screenshot of the same Inkscape design with a red circle around the "Make horizontal gaps between objects equal" option
Screenshot of "SendCutSend" written in Inkscape with the letters separated equidistantly

What we recommend is to convert the text to outlines or shapes before adjusting the spacing. Once the text is converted, each letter can be manipulated as its own object. You can control the spacing by moving each object independently of the others, leaving room between each letter that looks how you wanted it to and functions for manufacturing. Most software include tools to select each object once you’ve adjusted the spaces which can automatically ensure that they’re spaced out evenly so you aren’t left with a lopsided design or uneven lettering. 

Tip #4: Bridge, Bridge, Bridge!

Arguably the most important part of laser cutting text is bridging. Bridging is used to ensure that internal geometry isn’t lost during the machining process. The following letters contain geometry that can be lost in most fonts:

  • A
  • B
  • D
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R

You can easily add a “bridge” between the internal and external features in these letters to make sure everything is cut properly. Some fonts contain bridging between these features already and are often categorized by software as “stencil” fonts. 

Illustration of "SendCutSend" cut out of a rectangle with bridging in the letters with internal geometry.

Stencil fonts may seem suitable for laser cutting, but oftentimes don’t contain bridging strong enough for machining. You will still need to check the geometry of each bridge if you’re using a pre-made stencil font. It’s difficult to adjust the sizing of these bridges because they’re integrated in the font, so we recommend that you use your chosen font and add bridging in yourself. It’s a simple process and just requires a little measuring, but we’ve created specific tutorials for bridging fonts depending on what software you use:

When In Doubt, Check the Geometry

This just scratches the surface of best practices for picking good fonts for laser cutting. The best rule of thumb is to always double-check your geometry and make sure that your text is converted to shapes/outlines. We have several other helpful articles on preparing text for laser cutting, and as always, check your design against our guidelines to ensure that your parts can be machined. We want to see your parts succeed just as much as you do, so following these suggestions and geometry requirements are in the best interest of your final products and parts!

If your text design is ready, upload it to our website and get an instant quote today!

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