Using Inkscape to design for laser cutting

Setting up Inkscape

There are certain settings you can select in Inkscape which make designing for the laser cutter much more straightforward.

Firstly, open Inkscape’s “Preferences” dialog (the keyboard shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+P). Under the Tools section, select “Geometric bounding box”. This means that the coordinates and dimensions shown for shapes you draw will not take into account the line width used. Generally, this is much better for laser cutting patterns.

Secondly, open the “Document Properties” dialog (the keyboard shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+D).

  • Set “Display units” to “mm”.
  • Set the page size to width 600mm and height 300mm.
  • Set the border color to green and disable the border shadow. This is a matter of personal preference, but the default black line is very easily confused with the lines of your drawing.

Display Mode

When drawing designs for the laser cutter, all line widths must be very thin (0.01mm) so they will be almost invisible in the normal display mode. It can therefore be useful to switch to “Outline” mode, which displays all lines on screen as 1 pixel wide, irrespective of their actual line width. To activate Outline mode, open the “View” menu, enter the “Display mode” sub-menu, and click “Outline”.

Checking or setting the position and dimensions of an object

To check (or set) the size of an object in an Inkscape drawing, activate the “Select” tool (the keyboard shortcut is F1) and then click on the object. The x,y coordinates and dimensions of the selected object will be displayed in the toolbar as shown below.

Drawing gears

The info-graphic below provides some guidance on using the gear tool in Inkscape.

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