Gold deer silhouette card (credit: craftsmanspace.com)
Gold deer silhouette card (credit: craftsmanspace.com)

If you have a laser business it’s often hard to find the time to create new designs when you are already busy with making existing products. One way to save time is to use existing “stock” images, to help fast-forward the design process.

There are many stock image services online where you can find existing vector designs, created by professional designers or independent artists. And each of these websites has a huge range of images, suitable for just about every occasion.

Just do a search for “royalty free vector images”, and you’ll find examples of services like Shutterstock, iStockPhotos, Adobe, Dreamstime, Vectorstock, etc.

Screenshot of search for free vector images for laser cutting
Screenshot of search for vector images

Note: Although these images are ‘royalty free’ (you don’t have to keep paying every time you use them in your own products), the designs do usually cost something to actually buy in the first place.

There are also different types of license that you purchase. It is often free or fairly cheap (e.g. $1USD, or £1GBP per image) to download an image if you are just buying it for your own personal use. However if you want to sell products with these images on them, you usually need to buy an ‘extended’ license, which lets you make multiple copies of the designs and sell objects which include them.

Screenshot of choosing a vector image license in Dreamstime
Screenshot of choosing a vector image license in Dreamstime

Luckily, there are also a few rare sites and collections which include free royalty free images (!) for commercial use. In other words, this is where either the image is out of copyright, or the artist has given permission for other people to make multiple copies of their designs and sell objects that include it.

Examples of some of these sites include CraftsmanSpace, Vector4Free, FreeVectors,  BUT be careful again that the license allows commercial use (i.e. it lets you copy the image and use it on products that you sell).

Screenshot of a free vector on craftsmanspace.com
Screenshot of a free vector on craftsmanspace.com

Once you’ve found a suitable vector image on the website, here are the general steps you will need to follow:

Step 1: Download the image and save it in a folder or system where you’ll be able to easily find it again (e.g. create a folder called “vector downloads for commercial use”).

Step 2: Open a new document in your drawing/design software (e.g. CorelDraw).

Step 3: Import the saved vector into the new document.

Screenshot of free vector image imported into CorelDraw
Screenshot of free vector image imported into CorelDraw

Step 4: Then depending on your laser system: if you want to cut the image, make sure it has got hairline (or very thin) outline, and if you want to etch the image, make sure it hasn’t got the thin outline.

Gold deer silhouette card CREDIT CREATIVE COMMONS
Gold deer silhouette card (credit: craftsmanspace.com)

So that’s it. Instead of spending hours drawing and tweaking your own designs (when you could be doing some lasercutting), just search for a vector that you like, make sure that you’ve got the rights to reproduce it commercially, and download it into your drawing software.

Hope you find this article useful – if so (or if there’s something else you think I should have mentioned), please feel free to comment or use the Contact page. Cheeers.

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