Dover Books: Royalty-Free Laser Cutting Resources

My current favourite resources and inspiration for laser cutting designs. Dover Books royalty-free illustrations.

Dover Books: Royalty-free laser cutting resources

Dover Books: Royalty-Free Laser Cutting ResourcesLaser cutters are so versatile that sometimes it’s really easy to get sidetracked, and think “I wonder if I could…” and then start on a whole new series of experiments. That’s how I ended up the other day wondering if I could create a birthday card with fairies on it. I’m not brilliant at drawing though, so I needed to try to find some royalty-free images that I could use as a basis for the designs, where I wouldn’t be infringing copyright and/or stealing someone else’s idea. At times like this, I usually turn to the brilliant Dover Books. They might just as well have “Royalty-Free Laser Cutting Resources” written all over them.

These books are absolutely great to use with art and design projects, including (of course) laser-cut and laser-etched projects. The books are specifically created for artists and craftspeople, to allow them to use the designs in their own projects. Once you have bought the book you may use the designs without having to pay royalties, and – more importantly – without breaking copyright laws.

As it says in the front of most of their books, “You may use them for graphics and crafts applications, free and without special permission, provided that you include no more than ten in the same publication or project…However, republication or reproduction of any illustration by any other graphic service, whether it be in a book, electronic, or in any other design resource is strictly prohibited.”

In other words, you can make artworks which include these images, but you can’t (e.g.) copy the images and sell them as stock images yourself.

The books used to just be in physical format, but in recent years they have included CD-ROMs with the artwork on them digitised as vector images and ready for you to incorporate in your own projects. (And now an increasing number of the books are available in eBook format.)

So I ordered a copy of Fairies and Elves Vector Motifs (Dover Electronic Clip Art) from Amazon, and it arrived the next day.

I found three images where I liked different parts of the fairies, and then combined them into one single fairy and added some “Birthday Wishes” text:

laser cut fairy birthday card

Finished design for the laser-cut birthday card:

laser cut birthday wishes fairy card

laser cut birthday wishes card

Here is a link to the “Fairies & Elves Vector Motifs” book.

…and here are some other similar books, but they maybe don’t have vector-format images:

Fairies, Elves & Gnomes

Cupids, Cherubs & Nymphs

Children

 

William Morris Style Laser Cut Birthday Card Designs

William Morris alphabet birthday cards. Card toppers. Laser cutter ideas and inspiration.

William Morris Style Laser Cut Birthday Cards

This week I’ve been developing William Morris-style laser cut birthday cards.

After a couple of days’ tinkering, I ended up with some really nice filigree designs of card toppers:

William Morris style laser cut birthday card: E
Birthday card design: E
william morris style laser cut birthday card F
Testing a gold “F” design

Where to find images and inspiration for your laser cutter

For the letters shown above, I bought the extended licence from Dreamstime, which is a website where you can buy royalty-free photos and vector-based illustrations.

Here are the art nouveau alphabet images that I used. Alternatively, you can enter your own search terms in the box below, to look for specific resources. For example, type “Art nouveau”, or “William Morris alphabet” in the box, and then click the ‘search’ button.

Stock Images

Another great resource that I’ve found for royalty-free designs is Vectorstock.com. They seem to have forgotten to use an apostrophe in the link/banner below, but they still do a brilliant range of illustrations. And because their files are all vector-based graphics, that means that they are usually very straightforward to cut with a laser cutter:

And at the moment (April 2018) both sites are even more useful if you have your own laser cutting business, because they can provide a little bit of extra income on top of your actual laser-cut products. You can either upload some of your own original designs and allow people to buy licences to use them, or can sign up as an ‘affiliate’.

For example, with Vectorstock I uploaded my elephant design so that other people with laser cutters can use it in their own designs. Then every time someone purchases a licence for the elephant, I receive a few cents, but there is no extra cost to the purchaser. Win/win!

Similarly, with affiliate links and referral schemes, you can also receive small payments just for pointing people towards something that they are already interested in. As another example, if you include the banners/ads for these services (like the ones shown above) you could receive a small payment each time someone signs up and/or purchases a licence.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to say ‘hi’ via the contact us page, or to tweet me @LaserSister if you’ve tried any of the above ideas or if you’ve got comments or questions.

Swirly Filigree Valentine

It’s that time of year again, so I’ve been designing a swirly filigree heart for lasercutting.

It’s that time of year again.

So I’ve been trying to develop a heart design where I can fairly easily insert people’s names, or phrases or dates, etc. This is how far I’ve got:

swirly filigree valentine heart for lasercutting

swirly filigree valentine heart for lasercutting

… and this is what my latest experiments look like when I’ve cut them out:

valentine red heart swirly filigree papercut
valentine red heart papercut
valentine silver filigree papercutting
valentine silver filigree papercut
white valentine filigree papercutting
white valentine filigree papercut

A is for Alphabet: Laser Cut Initial Letter Door Plaque

Tutorial on how to laser cut a child’s door plaque

laser cut door plaque initial
Small laser cut door plaque

This is a quick and easy way to make a personalised door plaque for children (or yourself!).

As mentioned previously in an earlier post, this is the start of an “A-Z” resource of laser-cutting business tips and information. We’re starting with ‘Alphabet’ because there are so many ways to personalise objects with a laser cutter, and this is a great way to start earning money with your laser machine.

If you’re interested in creating your own designs then Pinterest  is great for picking up inspiration from the different types of door plaques …

search results for alphabet door plaque
Pinterest search results

… but in the meantime here is a quick project if you are looking for instant gratification 🙂

Basically,

1) Download the free .pdf file below, of “Alphabet Door Plaque”. (If necessary, copy or import the designs into your blank file ready for cutting.)

alphabet door plaque – LaserSister 20171113

alphabet door plaque - laser cut initial shield
screenshot of “alphabet door plaque” file

2) Create your required (capital) letter of the alphabet in whichever font you prefer. (The “K” in the sample file happens to be in a Jasmine font, but please do experiment with your own; maybe the child you have in mind deserves a more delicate, refined-looking font, or perhaps they are more of a straightforward sans-serif person?)

laser cut initial letter free project
e.g. of selecting different letter and font

3) Make sure the letter you just created has got a “hairline” width of outline, and preferably no colour filling (this is a lesson I’ve learned from accidentally etching a lot of items instead of just cutting them…)

laser cut initial letter door plaque free project
“S” with hairline outline and no colour fill.

4) Check that the initial letter will fit inside the frame of the plaque. (This is down to personal preference, really, but as a guide the inside of the frame on the .pdf design is 50mm wide, and the “K” example letter is 35mm wide so it fits nicely inside the frame.)

initial letter S door plaque - free laser cutting resources
trying out different font sizes

5) Decide how big you would like the whole plaque to be. The example in the .pdf sample file is 60mm across, but you might like a bigger or smaller version. (Remember to change the size of the backing piece as well as the frame piece, if you are making the design larger or smaller.)

laser cut door plaque initial
Small laser cut door plaque

6) Decide whether you would like to include a hole in the piece, for hanging it on the door. If so, then keep the red circles in the cutting design. Otherwise, remove the red circles before you cut the pieces out.

free laser cutting resources: initial letter door plaque
red circle/hole is optional

7) (Optional) Cut out the blue circle as a test piece, to make sure you have the correct settings for the laser.

free laser cutting resources: initial letter door plaque for children
Optional: cut out test piece

8) Cut out the plaque pieces

laser cut MDF letter and door plaque
Individual pieces cut out

9) Glue the frame and letter onto the backing.

laser cut initial letter door shield plaque
Assembled plaque

10) Paint/spray/decorate/sell the plaque.


 

If you have found this useful (or if you’ve got any suggestions for making the resources better), or if you’ve created a door plaque yourself, please comment, tweet @LaserSister, or share your photos on instagram.

 

The A-Z of Laser Cutting

This is what the LaserSister blog will contain in future…

I’ve had a VERY busy couple of months, since attending Autumn Fair! Here are some of the most recent items I’ve made:

Worthing fridge magnets - seagulls
Recent work: seagull fridge magnets

But now November has sneaked up on us, and that means the Christmas rush is about to start…

I’ve got several orders that I need to work on this week, but in the meantime I need to also think about re-stocking my etsy, ebay and folksy shops. And ordering some new business cards. And re-stocking actual physical shops and galleries where I sell my work. And approaching other shops and galleries where I’d like to sell things. And taking photos of products. And updating my website.

In the meantime, it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The idea is to spend 30 days writing a 50,000 word novel. But rather than write a novel, I might use the time (and words) to update this blog, instead.

As well as NaNo, I’ve decided to participate in Jeff Goins’s “500 Words” challenge, where the idea is to write 500 words per day, no matter what. So with the combination of NaNo and “500 Words”, I’m looking forward to writing a lot more about lasercutting in future.

Jeff Goins’ 500words challenge

Over time I’m aiming to create a resource for myself and others, where I can collect as many laser-cutting-business-related links as possible.

Some of the posts will have an alphabetical theme, and will focus a lot on products that can be created with a laser cutter. And some posts will contain a mixture of tips on saving time, saving money, and getting the most (and best) out of a laser cutter.

It’s not just all about me, though! I would really appreciate your help in creating the ‘library’ of resources. So if you’ve found a great article or technique or business/time/design hack, then please share it by leaving a comment, or tweeting @LaserSister. I’ll also look into setting up various other wiki-type resources, that can be added to by the lasercutting community as we all learn from each other.

Along the way I’ll try to create tutorials or articles on how to make money via a laser-cutting business. If you’d like to receive the articles and tutorials via email to make sure that you don’t miss any of them, please subscribe or sign up for the newsletter. That way you’ll be the first to hear about any new tutorials, tips, or downloadable files etc.

Screenshot from LaserSister tutorial
Screenshot from LaserSister tutorial

In the meantime it’s time for me to go and work on some more designs for customers. This week I will mostly be working on family trees for people who have ordered them as Christmas presents. Next week – who knows? 🙂

Save

My Own List of Top 20 Laser Cutting Blogs

Top 20 laser cutting business blogs

Following on from yesterday when I was excited to find my blog in the top 40 of laser cutting blogs, I have been checking out other blogs on the list and here is a digest of my own favourites (along with the country they are in, in case you are looking for laser cutting services):

Gypsy Soul Laser Cuts (USA) is a lovely blog, with regular updates and lots of craft ideas. They sell laser-cut craft items.

Dragon Powered (UK) has got laser cutting files for sale, to save you having to spend hours designing your own. The blog includes interesting and original information, and technical advice.

Nice Cuts (UK) provide a laser cutting service, and have ideas about how you can use laser cut designs for your own business. They also occasionally have guest bloggers, who share their own experiences of using a laser cutting service.

CUT-TEC (UK) are a laser cutting service and they create really varied laser cut items – including in metal.

Mekkit.com (UK) are another company who produce really varied laser cut products, and have some great photos of their work.

The Altered State (UK) have got at least one great big laser and can cut and etch reeeeally big items.

LaserSister (UK) That’s me! I provide a laser cutting and etching service, but the blog also has technical information about laser cutting, plus news and trends from the lasery world. And will shortly include links to cutting files.

MBJD Laser (USA) seem to pick a different font colour and overall style for every blog post, but I forgive them because they are real people and giving real news about their laser cutting service and products.

Laser Flair (UK) have a laser cutting service and look like they can etch metal and giant pieces of wood for you.

Dot Laser (UK) produce really nice-looking and varied work for clients.

Bespoke Laser UK also produce great looking products, and do an especially nice line in laser-etched bespoke rubber stamps.

LASERCUTIT (UK) have a laser cutting service, for wood, acrylic, paper and card.

Just Add Sharks (UK) have got an article on making a totally mind-blowing ‘phenakistiscope’.

CutLaserCut (UK) work with artists and other businesses to make some really original pieces.

Ponoko (USA, NZ) allow you to upload your artwork, get an instant quote, and then cut and ship the item on the same day. WOW.

Reddit (www) has a thriving laser cutting community and this is a great place to browse and/or ask questions. It does contain quite a bit of spam, but you can easily lose hours just browsing if you are really into laser cutting.

MLC (AUS) have a laser cutting service in Australia, and the blog includes latest trends and news from the lasery world.

Able Engraving (UK) have a traditional engraving service as well as laser engraving, and are experts in signs and awards.

Google News (www) chews up and spits out laser-related news for your information and delight.

 

(OK, there are only 19 in my current Top 20 list. But the Top 40 list only had 33, so I win!)

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve Hit the Top 40!

Aaah, the sweet smell of success. (And the sweet smell of laser-cut wood. Mmmm.)

Well, this is turning out to be an interesting (and busy!) week.

Checking out my blog stats, it appears that my laser cutting blog is in the top 40 of a list of laser cutting blogs!

Medal saying 'Awarded top 40 laser cutting blog'
Woo – some automated software has given me an award!

Disappointingly, there are only 33 websites on the list (I am currently number 30) – so it appears that at the moment if you have a laser cutting blog then you are automatically in the list. On the other hand, (1) I only moved to this website a few weeks ago, and (2) at least I’m actually on the list!

I will start to celebrate if I reach number 20 🙂

Free Sample Day!

Today I’m offering sample of laser-cut confetti to local businesses…

IMG_3063.JPGLast week at Autumn Fair I got some really nice comments about my wedding-related personalised items, so today I am going to a wedding fair in Worthing to see if anyone there would like some free samples.

I still haven’t seen anyone else yet who makes laser-cut personalised confetti, so I hope I’m offering a useful service 🙂

 

Using “Sprues” in Laser Cutting Projects

How to fix common laser cutting problems: Add sprues to your designs…

Laser-cut paper shapes with "sprues" still connecting them to the paper.
Laser-cut paper shapes still connected to the paper via “sprues”

What is a “sprue”, and why should I use them with my lasercutting designs?

Sprues are most commonly seen in injection-moulded plastic toys. For a fuller description check out the Wikipedia definition, but briefly:

In the image below they are the little links that connect the plastic toy components. They are created as part of the moulding process, but the useful secondary function of sprues is that they hold the components securely in position within a plastic frame, until you twist or cut the components out. So in the image below, you can see that the actual toy pieces are held safely in place until the user needs them, rather than the pieces just rattling around in a box or falling on the floor and getting lost.

Example of injection-moulding sprues
Example of injection-moulding sprues. (Creative commons image – Please click photo for link to image information)

 

 

In laser cutting projects, you often need to cut small pieces out of a light material such as paper, card, plastic or wood. But if they are smaller than the holes in the cutting bed of the laser machine, the pieces often fall through the holes and are lost as soon as they have been cut. Similarly if the machine blows or sucks air as part of the cutting process then very small pieces can just fly away.

Oh no! 75% of my laser-cut wooden circles have dropped through the cutting bed!
Oh no! 75% of my circles have dropped through the cutting bed!

So we need a way to cut the pieces, but to stop them falling down or blowing away. One solution is to include sprues in the cutting designs. (Generally speaking, they will be useful if the piece to be cut is less than 1cm squared, or if anything is being cut from a piece of paper.)

Sprues can be created very quickly and easily in most vector-based drawing software (e.g. Photoshop or CorelDraw). I happen to use CorelDraw, but the principles are the same for most other apps/programs:

Step 1: Make sure that you can edit curves and manipulate/add nodes on the cutting path of the design. (In CorelDraw it is the “Shape Tool” that allows you to do this.)

CorelDraw shape tool screenshot
CorelDraw shape tool screenshot

 

Note: If you can’t see any nodes to edit, you may need to convert the shape to curves first (e.g. by right-clicking the mouse and selecting “Convert to Curves”):

Screenshot of CorelDraw "convert to curves" function
Screenshot of CorelDraw “convert to curves” function

 

Step 2: Zoom in really close to the object (e.g. so that a 3mm line fills the whole screen), then add two new nodes as close to an existing node as you can manage:

Screenshot of CorelDraw adding nodes to curve
Screenshot from CorelDraw: adding nodes to curve

 

Step 3: Select the middle node of the three nodes that are very close together, and then break the path of the curve. (e.g. by right-clicking and choosing “Break Apart”):

Screenshot of CorelDraw adding nodes to curve
Screenshot from CorelDraw: breaking a curve

 

 

Step 4: That middle node should have broken in two, so take one of the two resulting nodes and drag it about half a millimetre outside the curve. Then do the same for the other new node. This creates a small break in the cutting line, so that when you the cut piece it should now remain fixed in place until you are ready to push or tear it from the material you were cutting.

Screenshot of CorelDraw with broken curve
Screenshot from CorelDraw with broken curve

 

Screenshot of curve with sprue at the top
Screenshot of object with sprue at the top

 

Step 5: Push or pull the object out of the sheet of material that it is fixed in.

(You may need a knife or scissors to help cut it free, and then a file or a knife to cut away any extra material that is not required.)

Extra material at the top of the laser-cut paper flower can be cut with scissors
Extra material at the top of the flower can be cut off with scissors

 

That’s it! I hope you liked this article. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments section, or via the contact form.