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”.
Create a new document in Inkscape and import your raster image. If you use the Edit path by nodes tool (F2), you’ll see that we have no nodes to select. You’ll also notice the edges are a little fuzzy or pixelated. We can fix that!
With your raster image selected, go to the Path menu and select Trace Bitmap (Shift+Alt+B).
In the dialog, set your Colors to 2. You’ll want to adjust the rest of the settings according to your image. I recommend checking Live Preview so you can get an idea of what’s changing. When you’ve got everything dialed in, click OK, and close this dialog.
Your image is now a vector object with paths and nodes. You need to delete the original image. It’s hiding behind the traced version. Select your vector object and move it to the side. You can now delete the raster image.
Select your object with the Edit path by nodes tool (F2) again. Depending on the quality and complexity of your image, you may have an unwanted amount of nodes. You can see that this image most definitely has way too many. The laser follows a map from point to point (node to node). A path with this many nodes is going to slow things down and cause issues. If you can simplify your path you are going to get better results.
Don’t worry, there’s a simple solution for this. Select your object and go to the Path menu. Select Simplify (CTRL+L). This will reduce the amount of nodes.
The next thing you’ll want to do is inspect the edges of your object to make sure things are straight and smooth. This again will depend on the quality and complexity of the image you began with. Zoom in tight and view your image in Outline display mode.
The lines for this object are pretty bumpy and jagged. There are a few ways to clean this up. Select your object again with the Edit path by nodes tool (F2). Along the top you’ll notice there are a lot of extra nodes. You can select them by shift+clicking the nodes you want to target. They will turn blue once selected. Now, you can click the Delete selected nodes button in the top toolbar.
The extra nodes have been removed which resulted in a much smoother curve.
Another way to smooth curves and lines is by adjusting the node handles. Click F2 to use the Edit path by nodes tool. Select a node and grab one of the handles. These will turn red when selected. Moving these handles with adjust the curve of the lines attached to that node.
Once you’ve finished cleaning up your edges you’ll want to check the size of your object and make sure it’s to scale. Using the Select and transform objects tool (F1), select your object. You can scale it up and down by dragging the outer arrows. Holding the CTRL key as you drag will scale your object proportionally. You may also simply type in your desired dimensions in the top toolbar.
You now have a vector image that is ready to send to us for laser cutting. As always, before you export your file, be sure to go though the pre-flight checklist:
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