View Full Version : Software update

mike wallis
04-13-2004, 11:40 PM
I'm starting to get my software arsenal inline and was wondering if anyone had purchased any specialty software for Laser engraving that they could recomend. So far I got Corel 12, and am working on getting Photograv $$.
Keith, in a past post you mentioned on checking out some specialty software to cut down on time, any luck?

Thanks for any info,

Keith Outten
04-14-2004, 4:39 AM

Along with Corel, EuroVector and PhotoGrav I would check out EngraveLab and Smart Designer. Somwhere in the mix is a selection that is probably right for everyone, which programs to buy is the question. Speciallty software is a bit on the expensive side, it would be nice to try all of them but even if you could afford it who could find the time?

I wish we had enough engravers to evaluate all of the software and write reviews, maybe someday.

04-14-2004, 6:58 AM
I only use Corel and Photograv... PhotoGrav is an older but stable product, I havn't had a need for anything else to date...


Aaron Koehl
04-14-2004, 1:51 PM

In addition to the software Keith mentioned, I use quite a few high-end tricks for specialty jobs- most every photo that comes in makes it to PhotoShop. For many photographs, I use a combination of Corel's 1-bit Dithering Function with a lot of pre-work in Photoshop, as a replacement for PhotoGrav. Often I can get better results for high-end jobs by scanning and editing in PhotoShop--but I always compare the results to PhotoGrav. If PhotoGrav gives a good run on the first try, I will always use that first, as it saves time and money. I will probably write a few intermediate to advanced articles soon on pre-processing for engraving.

Scans from magazines, newspaper obituaries, and user submitted photos almost always need custom editing to remove cross hatching, and to increase image contrast (and of course, retouch any scratches or spouse-removal from the pictures) before converting to black and white. PhotoGrav does well at enhancing images that are already somewhat enhanced--it's a good idea to 'help' PhotoGrav out when you can.

I also use MS Image Composer (came with Frontpage, and supports Photoshop Plugins), Adobe PhotoShop, and CorelTrace (with CorelDraw) extensively for non-photo work (logos, etc). The reason I use MS Image Composer (formerly Altamira Composer) is for convenience. When I copy images to the clipboard in CorelDraw, the colors get all messed up when I paste them into PhotoShop directly, but if I paste into MS Img Composer first, it works okay. I think it has to do with the Color Profile settings--but I wish it would just work with the defaults. I guess I'll figure it out when I have time! :D

mike wallis
04-15-2004, 1:39 PM
Thanks all for taking the time to reply. It's nice to see the consistency on the programs used.
As far as Photo/Graphic editors the only programs im familiar with at this point is Macromedia Fireworks (more web based) and Freehand. It's now clear that Photo shop or possibly Corel Photo paint is a must have. Corel 12 comes bundled with Photo-Paint so that would cut on cost's. My question is Corel Photo Paint even worth the time to learn? Photo shop seems to be the preferred choice.


Aaron Koehl
04-15-2004, 2:20 PM

I had a short stint with Corel Photo Paint in the beginning, but I still prefer Adobe Photoshop--but that is because I am quite familiar (and comfortable) with it. I had access to Photoshop (from web design), but I probably would have started using PhotoPaint earlier had I not had access to Photoshop (which is pricy). I'm running PhotoPaint (as of version 11) and it is very similar to Photoshop. (Kudos to Corel!) The menus, tools, layout, plugins, and even many of the the shortcut keys are almost identical. Some of the tools behave functionally different, but you could still produce great prep. work for the laser using PhotoPaint.

I also used Fireworks for some laser engraving in the beginning (and still use it for the web). Fireworks has some nice tools for color correction and enhancement, but they're not as easy to find. Once you find the tools, they are very similar to Photoshop in functionality, but the layout is slightly different though, so it's just a matter of finding familiarity with one over the other. As far as running out and buying Photoshop--this is one tool you probably won't spend the time to learn until you need it for a job, and it is fairly pricy. I say give PhotoPaint and Fireworks and see if you can produce the results you're looking for--it'll save you a ton of time and money. (I still find Photoshop indispensible, but again, it's a matter of familiarity).

I also gave Macromedia's Freehand a whirl when we first started vector cutting. Unfortunately, for all of Freehand's great vector tools, it doesn't have the layout, pre-press, and previewing tools that are present in CorelDraw. I also couldn't get vector lines to print properly to the laser from Freehand--probably because of some incompatibilities with the driver. The good thing is that Freehand files can be exported into a number of vector formats readable by Corel, so if you're already familiar with Freehand, you will probably be more productive with it. Corel is more intuitive for the beginner, but does have some absolutely wonderful tools not found in Freehand. (Not to say you couldn't emulate them in Freehand).

One final plug for Corel- Visual Basic Scripting. They have opened up all of their programs (Draw, PhotoPaint, Rave, etc) with embedded Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) support, which the others don't support. This has come in handy a number of times, particular for production jobs. I have created scripts to radially duplicate objects, automatically generate batch jobs for nametags (dynamically varying the size of the name based upon its size metrics), and more. There are many jobs where scripting (if you know how) can be beneficial, and I'm sure there will be many Corel Scripts coming down the pipe in the future, as it appears to be the primary software for laser engraving pre-press and layout.

George Skinner
04-15-2004, 9:27 PM

I have been using Corel draw and PhotoPaint for quite some time. They both do pretty much everything I need for engraving.
Do you find PhotoPaint to be quite slow?
This seems to be the slowest program I have ever used. I have a couple of Cadd programs and do alot of rendering with them and they are not anywhere near as slow as PhotoPaint.
I am running a Pentium 4 2.6GHZ system with 1GB of ram and an Invidia GForce 2 Ultra video card with 64MB of memory. I just upgraded to the 1GB of ram and that did not help any. Do you think the video card is the problem now?

Aaron Koehl
04-16-2004, 9:25 AM

I haven't noticed PhotoPaint to be particularly 'crawling', but I do find that it doesn't seem to be optimized as well as Photoshop when working with large, high-res images. I'm running Dual-Processors 1.4 MHz ea., 1 GB RAM, and it seems to run fine. However, I probably wouldn't use it on my other machine, where speed is a factor, which is only an overclocked 800 MHz, with 256 MB RAM. I'm pretty sure your video card isn't the problem--I've had Corel's software bug out, go slow and/or lock up on me many times, which surprisingly hasn't yet happened in Photoshop.

There is a feature in Corel to increase the amount of RAM that it will claim for itself-- if you just did a RAM upgrade, I would check it out. Try increasing it substantially to see if paging is the issue. (e.g. Does your HD seem to continuously write when using PhotoPaint?)

I believe it's under the Tools > Options > Memory.