Converting Raster to Vector in Illustrator for Laser Cutting

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There are times you will need to convert a raster file to vector in order to send us a file that the laser can cut. If you’re unsure what we mean by vector, check out our post “Why We Require Vector for Laser-Cutting”.

Let’s begin!

Converting Raster to Vector in Illustrator for Laser Cutting

Open your raster file in Illustrator. You’ll notice that your image is basically just a square that we can’t do much with. You’ll also notice the edges are a little fuzzy or pixelated. We can fix that!

Select the object you want to make vector. Go to your Object menu. Scroll down to Image Trace and select Make and Expand.

Converting Raster to Vector in Illustrator for Laser Cutting

 Now, when you select your image you’ll notice it is made of points.

Converting Raster to Vector in Illustrator for Laser Cutting

Image Trace will create both the black and white portions of your image. If you use the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow), you can select a white area. Then go to your Select menu, scroll down to Same and select Fill Color. Delete those shapes.

Tips for Raster to Vector in Illustrator

Another trick to make sure you don’t have extra white shapes or empty shapes is to move the black portions of your design slightly and view in Outline mode (CTRL/CMD + Y). Depending on the quality and complexity of your image, you may have an unwanted amount of points. This can cause trouble with the laser. The laser follows a map from point to point. If your design has 180 points on one line, it’s going to slow things down and possibly cause issues. If you can simplify your path you are going to get better results.

Select your object and go to the Object menu again. Scroll down to Path and select Simplify. Make sure live Preview is checked. By just reducing your curve precision slightly you will notice you lose a lot of those points.

Example Raster to Vector in Illustrator

Lastly, let’s make sure your object is to scale. Depending on the image you traced, it may not be the size you intended. Make sure your rulers are set to inches. Now, select your object and look at your properties panel. If it’s not already, scale your object to be the size you want.

Converting Raster to Vector

Now that you have a clean and simple vector object you’re ready to go through the pre-flight checklist and export your file. When designing in Illustrator, please send us your files in .ai format.

File is a two-dimensional vector format file. If you're designing in Adobe Illustrator, please send us your original .ai file.

File is built at a 1:1 scale, preferably in inch-units

All text has been converted to outlines or paths

Cut-out text (reversed text) has bridges or has been stencilized

All stray points, duplicate lines, empty objects and text areas have been removed

No shapes have open contours

All shapes have been united, combined or merged

All objects are on the same layer

All holes and cutouts are at least 60% material thickness

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