How To Design A Laser Engraved Skateboard Deck
It is important that these custom laser engraved skateboard decks are attainable for the typical skateboarder. While these laser etched skateboard decks make for awesome artwork hung on a wall, I also really hope they will be used for street and skate park riding, being additionally decorated with grind and slam marks. Creating and sharing ready to laser custom artwork plays an important role in keeping the affordable price point of £69. Please follow theses design tools, guidelines and tips to prepare your design files…
Create using Inkscape
Inkscape is a powerful, cross platform vector design software, that is accessible and free (in cost and freedom) for all to use. I use Inkscape to both design my graphics and export the design files into laser cutter compatible g-codes. I highly recommend using Inkscape in creating your files, first because it is free (as in freedom) software and second, it minimises any potential file conversion issues. Inkscape is very well supported and you will find online tutorials on every aspect of it.
Working Area Templates
Below is the design template for the skateboards and grip tape. If it makes it easier to develop your design, then you can rotate the template by 90 degrees. To do this, select everything, then click on the design so the rotate handles appear. Press Crtl so the rotates snaps to 90 degrees. The below skateboard design template is for a standard 32″x8″ deck. I will add 31.5″x7.75″ and 31″x7.5″ at a later date. The design must be within the red lines, as the laser goes out of focus as the kicks go further away from the focal point. I am looking into the best methods of engraving the full deck and will update it here, as and when I can offer this service.
Laser cut grip tape designs can use the whole size of the deck, as the grip tape is cut flat, before being applied to the deck.
Using vectors is the best way to ensure you design is scalable. When using vectors, the laser cutter will follow the lines of those vectors. This is perfect for fine lines and fine text. The laser cutter I use can handle 4 different power/speed settings, via 4 different colours, Black, Red, Green & Blue. It is important that the fill is set to NONE and the stroke to a solid line width of 0.001mm (change to outline view to see lines without zooming right in). If this is your initial design, then I would recommend etching with a single colour, possibly 2.
In order for the laser cutter to recognise text must be converted using “object to path”. To ensure your design remains free, it is important that you use freely accessible fonts. I would suggest that you use openfontlibrary.org. And send me a link to the font you have used.
While you can use colours, the laser cutter will interpret these colours into a grey scale. Convert your design into grey scale, so you can better understand how it looks. Below can be seen how the grey scale will look when etched. Please understand that etching on to wood is not like printing, so there are variations in how it comes out. Greater contrasting artwork and images always come out best.
Where possible design should be released under a CC-BY or CC-BY-SA
Open source your graphic and show your methods. Your art may be made up of combined multiple shapes, or contains text, many of which need to be “converted to path”. Make it easy for others to adapt your design and take it in different directions. Use the space outside the working area to duplicate your work before processing it ready for cutting. This is especially important for text, so other can easily edit it.