File Prep

Good Files Make the Magic Happen - Outlining Text in Illustrator

Outlining your text is an important step in preparing your file for laser cutting! This is what creates vector paths around the text, what allows the text to be easily scaled, and the best way to ensure your font is included in your file.

Outlining text in Illustrator is actually pretty easy! To begin, you’ll want to create a new document (or work in an existing one). If you are new to creating an artboard in Illustrator, you can read more about it here.

Next, you’ll want to create a text box. You’ll select the type tool (your workspace might look a little different than mine, but the tool will look the same), it’s just the T button. Once you select the type, you can drag your mouse on your workspace to great a text box.

How to add text to an adobe illustrator file using the text tool
How to create a text box to prepare your file for laser cutting.

Once you have your text box, add your text. If you’d like to change the typeface, you can either open the type window or use the type menu. To open the type window, select the window - type - character, and you’ll get the type tool bar. Otherwise you can access the same tools under type - font OR type - size. I prefer to have the type window open, as it’s easier to change things quickly.

How to open the type window in Adobe Illustrator
How to change type face and type size in Adobe Illustrator

At this point, you want to ensure you have the correct text and type face, the size isn’t really important. The text can always be scaled after you’ve created outlines. I SAVE MY FILE NOW! Making edits to the copy in outlined text isn’t easy, you pretty much have to add the text and outline again. Most of the time, this isn’t a big deal if it’s just a name or simple text, but it can be a hassle if you have a lot of copy.

Now you’re ready to outline. You’ll want to make sure you have the text box selected, so you’ll want to switch back to the black arrow by selecting that from the toolbar. Then go to type - create outlines. You’ll notice blue outlines that go around the every part of your text - these are the vector lines.

How to outline text in Adobe Illustrator
Outlined Text in Adobe Illustrator - How to, Tutorial for Laser Cutting

Next, you’ll save the file under a new name (to ensure that you don’t save over the file with the unedited text). This is the file that you’d send to us for laser cutting - it allows us to have the vector paths for the font. Also, if you have a font that we don’t have, this will still allow us to see the font.

Good Files Make the Magic Happen - Illustrator Artboards

Illustrator is a vector based drawing program that can be used to create vector paths for laser cutting. Many of our clients use Illustrator because it’s one of the easiest programs to use, especially for your beginners!

Illustrator artboards are the background in which you create your design on. It’s kind of like a canvas for a painter…you can make it a variety of sizes and have more than 1 for your artwork.

To create an artboard, open Illustrator and select File - New. A New Document menu will pop up. This is where you can select all of the details for the artboard, like the size, orientation, and the quantity.

I always start off by naming my file. Once you’ve named your file, you can select the number of artboards you’d like. If you’d like more than 1, the greyed out menu options will pop up and you’ll be able to change more info about the artboard.

Laser Cutting File Prep Tutorial for Adobe Illustrator.

I typically like to have more than 1 artboard if I’m working on a piece that has a front and back side or if I’m working on several pieces that are very similar. For example, a menu that has a front and back or a set of coasters that will vary in design. Once you’ve titled your piece, you can select the profile, these include options for if you’re using the final piece for the web, print, etc. I normally stick with custom.

Artboard tutorial for Illustrator for Laser Cut Co in Houston.

The following steps will determine the number, the spacing, the layout and the size of your art boards. If you select more than 1 artboard, the greyed out menu area will become active and you can select the layout of these using the 5 boxes next to the number of art boards. Depending on what you’re making, you might want a column of artboards vs. a row of artboards - this is pretty much just personal preference.


The next option you have is spacing. I typically like my artboards to be spaced .5” away from each other, but again, this is just personal preference.

The next option is the size. You can select from a number of presets or you can leave it on custom and set your own. The units box on the right hand side of the screen will allow you to change to a variety of units including inches, centimeters, pixels, points, etc.

I typically work in inches or centimeters because we’re making physical objects, so it’s nice to be able to work directly in the size that we’ll be cutting in.


There is also an option to change the orientation - both vertical and horizontal. Once this is set, click OK and your art boards will appear!

If you want to add or delete an artboard once you’ve started designing, you can use the artboards tool to do so.

Illustrator Artboard for laser cutting file prep.

Once you select this, your layout will change slightly and an artboard tool bar will appear at the top of your workspace. If you select the little page with a corner flipped, this will allow you to add a new artboard. This artboard can be placed anywhere on your grey workspace.

Adobe Illustrator Artboard Tutorial for Laser Cutting.

When you’re finished with your design, you can also choose if you’d like to save all artboards or only selected ones. If you select File - Save - OK, you’ll get to a second save menu. Under Options, you’ll see a checkbox to save each artboard as a separate file, or to just a save a range of art boards.

How to save selected dartboards in Adobe Illustrator