View Full Version : Software for Lasers

Keith Outten
02-28-2003, 10:12 PM
My list of software isn't very long, the primary reason is that specialty software tends to be very expensive, at least to me anyway.

Corel Draw - I currently own Corel Draw version 10, this is the software I use for almost 90% of all my engraving work. Corel Draw supports both raster and vector objects, vector objects and lines are cut by the engraver and raster lines are burned or engraved. Although you can use almost any graphics program to send a file to the engraver Corel has the best feature set for sending the final file. Another nice feature of Corel is their graphic library, many are vector graphics and I use them often.

PhotoGrav - This is a specialty program that is used to process a photograph for engraving. Basically you use the photo editor of your choice to adjust the size of your file, convert it to grayscale, make any adjustments you feel are necessary and save the file. Finally you open the saved file in Photograv and it will make about ten thousand decisions for you and adjust the photo for final engraving. After you save the file in PhotoGrav you must then open it in Corel Draw and send it it the laser.

Paint Shop Pro - PSP version 8 is an inexpensive photo editing program. I have ben using PSP for web graphics work for years and I'm comfortable with it so most of the photo manipulation I do in PSP.

IntelliScribe - I purchased IntelliScribe so that I could send files to my engraver across my network. The engraver does have a parallel port but it is painfully slow and not an option for very large files. IntelliScribe is necessary for Windows 95/98, Windows 2000 and up have built-in support for network printing and 2000 is much faster sending large files.

Turbo Cad - My laser will accept files directly from almost any CAD program. There are situations where CAD programs are the best choice for certain types of jobs. Cad programs are easier to design precision projects and have the capability of setting line widths at any thickness. My engraver interprets any line that is less than .003" thick as a vector line. I registered version 7 but have not kept up with their upgrades, they are overly expensive and I am not fond of the software.

Scanning software - I have an old HP 5p SCSI scaner and I use the HP driver native to Windows 2000. I scan directly into either PSP or Corel Draw.

This is my current software list but I am considering purchasing another program designed to reduce the time it takes to convert graphics to vector objects. Although Corel Draw has this capability it is a very slow and tedious process.

Charles McKinley
03-01-2003, 1:21 AM

You mention using the image library from one of the programs. Are these images protected? Other than scanned photos and original designs you make where can you legally get material to decorate you work?

Thanks, this is an awesome forum.

Aaron Koehl
03-01-2003, 1:35 AM
Most of the Corel graphics are royalty-free. Some,
however, are not, and require permission from the
publisher-- these are specifically denoted in the manual.

I mostly create graphics from scratch- I try to stay away
from any material that requires me to have to go
through the hassle of getting permission. :)
Even then, that's only when they're for commercial use.


Paul Kunkel
03-01-2003, 11:16 AM
Aaron, I've been following the Laser forum closely with great interest. Is there any support for Mac software?

Keith Outten
03-01-2003, 8:22 PM

There are tons of graphics CD's available that are excellent resources for Laser engraving. Years ago I bought the 100,000 graphics CD set for use doing web design. The graphics were terrible for web design so we never used them. Last year when I started Laser engraving I revisited the 100K CD set and found lots of graphics that are perfect for engraving because there is plenty of line art which is really hard to find.

I found a really nice source at CarvingPatterns.com (http://www,carvingpatterns.com) , the art work at this web site is perfect for engraving. I purchsed their whole library.


The manufacturer of my laser doesn't support Mac's to the best of my knowledge. I think they only support Windows and I asked about a Linux driver but was told no way! This is very unintelligent on their part, there are other alternatives to Windows and some are much more reliable. Aaron and I discussed creating our own Linux driver and were told by a salesman that if we used a driver other than the one provided by them that it could void our warranty. I expect much more when I spend almost 18 thousand dollars.

Aaron Koehl
03-01-2003, 9:20 PM

Unfortunately, the company from which we bought our laser
doesn't make a print driver for Mac. However, there are
several popular Windows software emulators (virtual machines) that may allow
the driver to run without a hitch-- haven't needed to try it
yet, as we're full of PCs here!

Incidently, most of the recommended software for sending
data TO the print driver is Windows-only, as well. :(


Paul Kunkel
03-02-2003, 10:59 AM
I've got Virtual PC and it's not all it's cracked up to be with a lot of programs. I guess(and I've been thinking about it) I'll have to get me a Windows laptop one of these days:D New tool:rolleyes:

Dale Sherman
03-12-2003, 1:05 PM
Hey chuck!
Check out Dover Publications at your local bookstore. They have dozens of books with copyright-free graphics. Some aren't good for laserwork, many are. Some also come with a CD with all the pics available in a variety of formats.

Worth a look, anyways.

Dale Sherman, laser owner-wanna-be

Charles McKinley
03-12-2003, 5:35 PM
Thanks Dale,

I'll check them out. I've seen cards for two shops around W PA but none very close to me. One of the problems of livin' in the sticks, wouldn't trade it though.

I will contact them when the shop gets on its feet.

Keith Outten
03-14-2003, 1:25 PM
Heres a quick pic of a few items we have done, a cross section of the trinkets that are very easy to do and lead to larger and more sophisticated designs like truck signs, wooden inlay projects and precision machining.

These are Christmas ornaments, business cards, decals and badges.

Barbara Gill
12-19-2003, 9:37 PM
Kieth, If I were to buy a program which would enable me to design the pattern for a laser engraver to use, would Corel Draw 11 be the best? Is it cost effective?
How does Corel Draw Graphics Suite 11 differ from Corel draw 11?

Keith Outten
12-19-2003, 10:32 PM

Corel Draw seems to be the most common software amoung laser engravers. No matter which vendor a laser is purchased from it seems that Corel Draw is the primary program that people choose. Corel Draw is expensive, about $500 dollars. Whether it is cost effective is a tough call, if you own a laser you really don't have much choice. If you design part time you could choose from several products and would not have to own Corel Draw. If you plan to purchase a laser in the future by all means buy Corel Draw first and practice.

Corel Suite includes Corel Draw, Paint, Rave, etc. Suite is what I purchased, I'm not sure if Corel Draw includes Corel Trace, a trace program is a must have. You can purchase other trace programs, I also own Euro-Vector which does a great job of tracing small graphics.

Barbara, didn't you ask me about engraving the Naval Academy logo? I have searched everywhere and cannot locate a suitable logo, I'm just about out of places to search.

I found two pieces of mohogany in my shop, one is an African mohogany that has an orange color. I will try to engrave a sample of both of these for you to view this weekend.

Brad Schafer
12-19-2003, 10:59 PM
... about engraving the Naval Academy logo? I have searched everywhere and cannot locate a suitable logo, I'm just about out of places to search.


image quality is weak, but it's a start. i did a google image tab for "naval academy" and got a ton of hits ... the above was on the 2nd page.



Barbara Gill
12-20-2003, 7:09 AM
I don't know if buying the software is cost effective. What I would like to do is to be able to offer commemorative plates, pens, etc. in conjunction with my turning. It possibly may lead to a laser engraver; I don't know. I figured the best way to get my feet wet was to start with the software. It looks as if the Corel Suite contains software for web page graphics which I am not interested in. Right now I am just trying to understand what is needed without spending a hugh amount of money. Right now I don't know enough about the software, etc. to make any type of decision. I am trying to understand my options, cost, etc.

Yes, I had asked you about the logo. I think I might go another direction with that gift. Please don't use your mahogany just as an example for me.


Keith Outten
12-20-2003, 8:57 AM

If you purchase Corel Draw you can't go wrong. Corel Draw is very powerful software especially if you combine it with Adobe PhotoShop. The two programs require lots of time to learn but will provide you with professional capability. Start with Corel Draw and add PhotoShop later when you are comfortable and productive.

You can design your own jobs and sub out the actual engraving work until your product line is proven and income positive. Then you would be in a better position to purchase a laser and most of the worry would be eliminated. The fist month or so is brutal, trying to learn Corel Draw and get acquainted with a new laser at the same time is an uphill battle. I think Steve Krim is probably just now getting over this hump.

The truth is that you can finance the machine and in the beginning the first $25.00 per day pays the payment, anything above the first 25 dollars is yours. If you engrave one plaque per day you are already income positive. If you already have marketing for your existing products it is relatively easy to promote engraving of your existing products and start producing new products as well.

Stay away from trinkets, they are fun to produce but are not cost effective. Engraving your current turning projects will prove to be very profitable and definitely distinguish your product line from others.

Photographs will definitely end up being in your future. Everyone is interested in having a photograph engraved. I sold two black marble jobs just yesterday, two hours of work will pay my engraver payment for the month. Some people can pay off their engraver in six months, I haven't been that lucky but mine is almost 70% paid for now and I should be able to make the last payment by June 2004.

I hope this helps, if you you would like to call me I would be glad to discuss my experience to date with my engraver. Since you are so close you are also welcome to visit my shop in Gloucester County. My schedule from now until the first of the year is full (engraving :) ). I have a major show coming up in late January in Richmond, the Virginia Professional Photographers Association Convention. This is the only show I purchase a table for each year. I will spend most of the month of January preparing new products for this show so there will be lots of engraving going on for you to see first hand.

Todd Burch
12-20-2003, 9:15 AM
Barbara, I've been using Corel Draw since version 2. I skipped several versions and went from 4 to 10 earlier this year. Yes, it says web design, but that's only to keep up with what's hot on the market now. It's a wonderful graphics illustration tool whether you create web pages or not, and just keeps getting better. It's intuitive and you can be productive with it fairly fast. If you find a used copy of Corel cheap, you could probably buy the upgrade for around $225 (or so). They also offer competitive upgrade pricing. Check out their web site.

12-21-2003, 10:00 AM
Hello all...

Everyone - Keith is so dead on in everything he says, it is uncanny!

I am getting over the hump, I have sold my first pieces and delivered them yesterday. I have been using my learning curve to create samples and a couple gifts for family and friends. I did a picture of my kids for my in-laws yesterday - stunning on black marble if I don't say so myself!

I am still having issues with my laser, but, the problems are being worked on - they sent me a new CPU for it. The next day, the owner of the place I bought it from called and asked me to hold off on installing it since they were releasing a newer version of the firmware and I would probably get that. Bottom line is this - I haven't lost any money (except wasted materials) due to this problem and I am comfortable with the steps being taken to correct it.

I am learning to sell this service, slowly but surely, my next set of people to call on will be local photographers, we'll see how they react!

I'll post some pictures once I get some time to take them...

Take care all!

Robert Hensley
02-21-2004, 10:05 AM
The ultimate source for your Naval Academy, as well as 80,000 other vector (.eps format) is http://www.brandsoftheworld.com/
(formerly logos.nino.ru).

It has most of the colleges, govt agencies. But remember about the usage of other peoples trademarks, logos, etc.


Jerry Allen
01-17-2005, 8:02 PM
A suggestion for getting Corel 12 much cheaper:
Go online, eBay, Google, etc. Search for an older (v8-11)unregistered version. There's lots out there. Version 9 should be less than $40--maybe less. At that point you are eligible for an upgrade. That would be anywhere from $150-$200 or better if you surf. Also if you or one of your family members is a student or faculty member with an ID, you can get an "academic" version without needing a previous version for upgrading for ~$96. The only difference is that you don't get paper manuals.
Corel Graphics Suite 12 comes with Draw (vector), Photopaint (bitmap--pretty much like Photoshop--I like it better--it will exchange Photoshop files), CorelTrace, and a ton of fonts and graphics (plus more). Almost all the stuff you need for engraving in one package. You just can't beat it for value. Don't get an older version for a few bucks less. 12 has some pretty handy features that the older ones don't.
I prefer to do detailed technical work in a real drafting program and then import the files into Corel, but you can't beat Corel for all around graphics and interfacing with an engraver, and it will import many types of vector and bitmap files.

p.s. the following link will take you to the Academic Superstore's Corel page:
http://www.academicsuperstore.com/market/marketdisp.html?PartNo=709509&qk_srch=corel+draw They must be ready to release a new version. I paid about $170 a year ago.

http://www.edirectsoftware.com/default/Graphics12.html for a non-academic copy, but still no manual, apparently not an upgrade, so you can forget about buying an older one.