Inkscape workspace settings

Using Inkscape to design for laser cutting

Inkscape is powerful graphics program that is completely free and suited to creating files for laser cutting. You can use it to create files in a format that laser cutters understand known as ‘vector’ graphics. This type of file is made up of straight lines, curves, and nodes that join them together. Laser cutters use this information to tell the cutting beam where to go. 

In contrast files such as jpeg (regular pictures) and bmp (bitmaps) are composed of pixels of different colours which we see as images but they don’t provide the laser cutter with information about where the beam should go, although they can be used for producing engravings. 

This is a basic guide to setting up Inkscape so you can produce good quality images that can be used to turn your ideas into reality.There are many good Inkscape resources out there which you can call on when you go beyond the basics, just google what you want to do and chances are that someone will have the answer.

Getting Started
After installing and starting Inkscape this is the basic window, mousing over things gives tool tip pop-ups. Also watch the bar at the bottom of the window as it changes when you use different tools and will tell you if you need to press a key to do things. If you’ve used other graphics packages then many things are familiar.

Inkscape primer 1

Setting up your workspace
 Now you will want to change a few settings to make like easier for yourself. I make extensive use of guidelines to ensure things line up perfectly. The other thing that is very useful is ‘snapping’ which means that when certain items get close together they line up perfectly on top of each other. For example if you wanted to create a ring from two circles snapping means that the centres will line up so everything is even. The same goes for all other shapes, lines and text.

Inkscape primer 3

Using guidelines
Guidelines are very useful and I would recommend using them all the time. It costs nothing to create and delete them as you go along and it ensures things line up nicely. You only need to click and drag from the vertical or horizontal ruler until they are where you want them. If you’ve followed the settings above number (6) means they will snap to any of the other things you’ve selected. Once you’re done with them select them and hit delete. 

Inkscape primer 2