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.

 

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.