How to work with fonts (part 1)

When you laser cut fonts there are a few things to take into consideration to ensure you get the best results.
The first step is to decide what font you want to use. This may sound obvious but your choice has an influence on the final piece that is produced. Certain fonts lend themselves better than others to certain uses. Laser engraving on wood / veneer / acrylic / slate / ceramic or metal (using a special coating) can produce wonderfully crisp results which vary from just the lightest touch to deep marking. You can also cut out letters or words to create free standing items or to provide something suited to back-lighting.

As with everything in the lasering world the key to success is preparation and understanding what you are actually asking the laser to do. It’s pretty straight forward to create your given text and send it to the laser, but sometimes the results aren’t what you initially expect.
Consider the following…
I wanted to make a sign that said “415 Industries” to put on the door of my studio. If I want it engraved it’s a case of deciding on the font I like, how heavy I want the engraving and if I want a vector outline to crisp things up. Send it to the laser and that’s it.
But what if I want it to be a cut out from a sheet leaving spaces where the letters were?

Again I have to chose my font, but there now extra things to think about. These include kerning (space between letters), counters (the enclosed bits of letters like P or B), if my font adds any extra enclosed pieces (handwriting fonts may add some flourishes to certain letters) and if there are overlaps between letters.
Today I’ll cover kerning and counters.



This is the space between letters which is set by either the font designer, your software or your choice of layout (such as justified which can stretch things to fit line width).

You can adjust the space between letters to improve not only the look of the text but also how it will cut out. Rockwell is shown below and you can see the difference in the spacing of the numbers vs the letters.


To adjust the kerning of the numbers select the text and press F10 to open the shaping tool. You can change the distance using the little square boxes before each letter. Now the space between the numbers matches the letters. Some people prefer this look.



In the example above you could add a border and send it to the laser as-is and you’d get a sign with the letters outlined exactly as they appear.


The inside of the ‘4’, ‘d’, and ‘e’ are lost because they’re not joined to anything any more.

In the world of printing they are called ‘counters’ – for reasons Wikipedia doesn’t readily supply –  and I have decided this is because you can count on them falling out of your finished piece. If this isn’t what you intend you have to either (a) find a font which doesn’t fully enclose those areas or (b) edit the font to join the counters to the main body of the sign (using an ‘aperture’).

Luckily it’s quite straightforward to make minor changes to the letters, at least In CorelDRAW.

Complete any kerning changes you want to carry out and then convert the letters to a curve so you can edit them.

Select your letters and use CTRL + Q, or the Arrange menu, to convert to curves.

Now use the shaping tool (F10) and click on a node to edit it. Then right click and choose “Break Apart”. For example to edit the 4 break the enclosed triangle at the bottom right and also the outer piece directly below.


Now you can move those lines and connect the vertical nodes up using the shape tool and then add a two point line to connect the loose ends.




After going through the letters that need attention the output looks something like this.



Much nicer!


As you still have the letters leftover you can make one of these too…



Coming next: Stand-alone joined up writing.