How to make Personalised Christmas Tree Decorations Using a Laser Cutter

Step-by-step tutorial on how to create a simple Christmas tree ornament for laser cutting.

laser cut simple wooden bauble

OK, it’s February right now as I write this post, so Christmas is long gone! But that doesn’t matter, because you could be reading this on Christmas Day 2024, for all I know.

Also, if you came here wanting to find out about making Christmas decorations using a laser cutter, then chances are that you will be interested in selling them, too – which means that you will need to start working on them a long time before Christmas, so that your buyers themselves can purchase them in time for Christmas.

This post is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a mega-simple round bauble shape – e.g. that you could cut from a sheet of wood, and then either etch a message/image onto it, or could decorate it by hand (or give/sell to someone else so that they can decorate it by hand).

I’m using CorelDraw because that was the software recommended for my particular laser machine, but most other vector-drawing software has similar commands and effects (although the commands and menus might be called something slightly different).

Step-by-Step: How to Make a Simple Christmas Bauble Shape With a Laser Cutter

Start a new blank document in CorelDraw.
Mine uses millimetres as the measuring unit. If you want to change that, just click somewhere on the blank document and the “Units” dropdown should appear:

Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 01 - changing units

1) Use the Ellipse Tool to create a circle 80mm wide
(Tip: Hold down the Ctrl key at the same time as you are drawing, to make sure you end up with a circle instead of an oval)

 

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 02 - create circle

If the circle didn’t come out at exactly 80mm, you can change it. Make sure that the ‘Lock Ratio’ button is selected, then type “80″ into the width for “x:”

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 03 - Change size of circle in CorelDraw.jpg

 

2) Use the Rectangle tool to create a rectangle 15mm wide by 9mm tall

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 04 - Create a rectangle in CorelDraw.jpg

If you don’t get exactly that size it doesn’t matter, but if you want to use precisely those dimenstions then:

  • Use the Pick Tool to select the rectangle
  • Un-select the ‘Lock ratio’ button so that the x and y measurements can be changed separately to each other
  • Type in “15″ for the x measurement, and “9″ for the y measurement
  • (then it’s usualy best to go back and re-select the ‘Lock ratio’ button)

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 05 - Change size of rectange in CorelDraw.jpg

3) Centre the two objects

Use the Pick tool to select the circle and rectangle. Then press “C” on the keyboard to make sure both objects are on the same imaginary central line
(You can also go via the menu: Arrange> Align and Distribute> Align centers vertically)

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament - 06 Centre the objects in CorelDraw.jpg

4) Move the rectangle

Use the Pick Tool to select just the rectangle.
Move the rectangle until the bottom corners are just inside the circle:

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 07 - Move the rectangle into position.jpg

5) Create a 5mm circle

Use the Ellipse tool to create a circle with a 5mm diameter
(Remember to hold down Ctrl + C to make it a perfect circle instead of an oval)

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 08 - Create a circle with CorelDraw.jpg

6) Create a 12.5mm circle

Use the Pick Tool to select the 5mm circle, then duplicate or copy it*.

Then change the second circle so that it is 12.5mm across:

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 09 - Copy circle in CorelDraw.jpg

*To make a copy of the design, you can do this by selecting the design then:

  • using the shortcut of Ctrl + D
  • … or by copying and pasting (Ctrl + C then Ctrl + V)
  • …or by using the Step and Repeat menu and clicking ‘Apply’. (If you can’t see the Step and Repeat menu go to Edit > Step and Repeat)

 

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 10 - Step and Repeat in CorelDraw.jpg

7) Link the two circles to convert them into just one object

Use the Pick Tool to select both circles.
Then press Ctrl + L to link the two objects together to make a ring (this is important for a Step 12 later, when the ring is ‘welded’ to another shape)

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 11 - Linking objects in CorelDraw.jpg

8) Centre the ring and rectangle

Use the Pick Tool to highlight the bauble and the rectangle.
Press “C” on the keyboard to centre them.

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 12 - centering objects in CorelDraw.jpg

9) Reposition the ring

Use the Pick Tool to select the ring, then move it down (using the cursor key, or hold down “Ctrl” button at the same time as dragging the object down) until the bottom of the circle overlaps the top of the rectangle:

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 13 - Move object in CorelDraw.jpg

10) Make a copy of the design

Use the Pick Tool to highlight all 3 shapes (big circle, rectangle and ring), then make a copy of the design.
(As in Step 6 you can do this by copying and pasting or by pressing Ctrl + D, or by using the Step and Repeat menu and clicking ‘Apply’)

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 14 - Copying baubles in CorelDraw.jpg

11) Use the Boundary tool to combine two shapes

Use the Pick Tool to select a rectangle-and-big-circle pair…

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 15 - Select two object in CorelDraw.jpg

…then use the Shaping Tool to create a boundary
You can find this tool via Arrange > Shaping > Boundary (make sure that you un-select “Place Behind selected” and “Leave Original Object(s)”):

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 16 - Create a boundary in CorelDraw.jpg

12) Weld two shapes together

Use the Pick Tool to select the ring, then click the “Weld to” button
(If you can’t see the Weld To button, you can find it in Arrange > Shaping > Weld)
Then click on the outline of the bauble…

 

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 17 - Weld two objects in CorelDraw.jpg

You should now have a simple bauble shape, ready for cutting!

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 18 - Simple Christmas tree ornament for lasercutting.jpg

Now you can put a personal message or an image onto it and make it into a quick gift for someone

LaserSister - Simple Christmas Tree Ornament 19 - Add text to etch onto the bauble for lasercutting.jpg

laser cut wooden Christmas tree bauble

Speaking of Christmas – here is a gift for you! I’ve created a free download below for you to use, if you like. Regarding licences and copyright: please feel free to make multiple copies and to sell any items you create with this shape – however:

  1. Copyright remains with Kay Vincent (me)
  2. Please attribute me as the copyright owner
  3. Do not distribute or sell the actual design or file (e.g. by uploading it to stock image sites or using it in collections of clip-art)
  4. If unsure what any of that means, feel free to ask 🙂

LaserSister – Simple Christmas Tree Ornament

It’s a PDF file, but if that’s no good to you then I have also posted a similar design on Vectorstock.com as a free-for-personal-use file in different formats.

 

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

Step-by-Step: How to Create Hand-Drawn Vectors for Lasercutting

Guaranteed way to get a completely free vector image to use in your work 🙂

Laser-cut hand-drawn flower vector
Laser-cut hand-drawn flower vector

The previous article described how to use ready-made stock vector images for lasercutting work, but sometimes (depending on how the artist created the original image) it can still take several hours of ‘tweaking’ to make them suitable for your own project.

What if you already know the sort of design you want, and could draw it quickly by hand but you’re stuck with using a mouse or trackpad that doesn’t quite do the job? This article will show a quick way to create hand-drawn vector images for your lasercutting projects, that you know will be exactly right for your work because you created them. Plus they’re original and you don’t need to pay anyone for the rights to use them!

You will need:

  • White paper
  • Thick black pen (e.g. a Sharpie, or I just get cheap markers from Wilko)
  • Drawing software (e.g. I use CorelDraw, or you could use Illustrator or others)

Step 1: Use the thick black pen to draw your designs.

Flower shapes for lasercutting, drawn with a thick black pen
Hand-drawn florals: thick black pen on white paper.

Step 2: Scan or photograph your hand-drawn image, and save it somewhere that you’ll be able to retrieve it from your drawing application.

Step 3: Open your drawing software and import the image (in CorelDraw use Ctrl + I, and in Illustrator I think it’s File > Place)

Photo of hand-drawn flowers has been imported into CorelDraw
Photo of hand-drawn flowers has been imported into CorelDraw

 

Step 4: Now you basically need to get the software to turn your photo (millions of pixels) into vectors (hundreds of coordinates), so you’ll be able to create a design that your laser can cut. In CorelDraw you can do this by selecting the image and then go to Bitmaps > Quick Trace. (In Illustrator it’s called Live Trace.) The software then simplifies blocks of colour and turns them into separate objects:

The black parts of the image have automatically been changed into black objects with smoother outlines.
The black parts of the image have automatically been changed into black objects with smoother outlines.

 

Step 5: (Optional) The software doesn’t always get the conversion exactly right, so you might end up with an object made up of a couple of layers of colour (in the case below, there is a solid black flower outline, with some grey petal shapes on top of it, instead of being made of thin black outlines). In CorelDraw it’s easy to ungroup the object (Ctrl + U), and then highlight the group of object (e.g. the flower in this case) and go into Arrange > Shaping > Back Minus Front.

Left-hand flower looks like one object ready for lasercutting, but it's actually made up of a big black shape with six grey shapes on top of it.
Left-hand flower looks like one object, but it’s actually made up of a big black shape with six grey shapes on top of it.

 

Hand-drawn flower vector ready for lasercutting. Grey shapes have been removed, so the flower is now one object made of black lines.
Grey shapes have been removed, so the flower is now one object made of black lines.

 

Step 6: (Optional) If you want, you can copy shapes and/or move or re-size them until you have the design that you want.

hand-drawn florals combined.gif

 

Step 7: If you want to cut the shapes then make sure they have a thin or hairline-width outline, but if you just want to etch the shapes then they don’t need the thin outline:

Hand-drawn flower vectors with thin blue outlines, ready for laser cutting
Hand-drawn flower vectors with thin blue outlines

 

Step 8: (Optional) If you have combined several shapes in one design, you may need to ‘weld’ them together before you cut them. The laser cutter will cut anything that has a thin outline, and so in the example above, the three flowers would be cut out separately. To make sure the laser sees all of the flowers as one design and not as individual objects to cut out, you can use the ‘weld’ function (in CorelDraw it’s Arrange > Shaping > Weld.)

Hand-drawn flowers with one outline, ready for laser cutting
Hand-drawn flowers with one outline (compare the middle flower with the previous picture), ready for laser cutting

The design should now cut properly.

Laser-cut hand-drawn flower vectors
Laser-cut hand-drawn flower vectors (smaller and larger versions)