Don't fear Adobe Illustrator! April 26, 2016 12:30

I'm all excited about our upcoming Laser Cutting session with the awesome Hub Workshop, but that also means I'm also going to have to overcome my distrust of Adobe Illustrator and all things "vector".

Whether you're a newbie to digital image stuff or you're confident in Adobe Photoshop but baffled by Adobe Illustrator, we've hunted out some tips to get you on track.

First the basics....

Laser cutting is the process of using a laser to cut shapes out of sheet of materials like plywood, plastic or metal. Sadly you can't just pick up a laser gun and use it to freehand zap out the shape you want. Instead you'll need to tell a computer what you want to cut and the computer then guides the laser. So far so good. But how do you turn your lovely line drawing into something the computer understands?

Well, you need a vector file.

Sounds super technical. But it just means a file that's made up of lines, like a pen drawing. (Photoshop is made up of blocks of colour, like a painting.) A vector file is a bit like a dot-to-dot drawing:

 

Dot to dot

You create anchors (the dots) and then join them up with lines. You can make the lines between the dots straight or curvy. The lines are called "strokes", as in pen strokes.

And that's it.

To make vector files you need Adobe Illustrator, which you can get from Adobe.com on 30 days free trial. Once you've done that, I REALLY recommend half an hour spent on YouTube with the fabulous TastyTuts. If you're a 100% beginner, check out their full beginners guide here. It's 19 episodes (eek), but get as far as Episode four and you'll get the basics on vectors. If you want to cut to the chase and just learn about vectors, jump to episode four here. These are really clear tutorials that don't assume any previous knowledge, so you may as well go through the whole course and finish up with some serious new Adobe Illustrator skills!

The best way to learn is to get on and try it out - so what are you waiting for! If you are coming to our Laser Cutting for Crafters session and you don't get time to do this first, don't worry. We'll be supplying the files for this session, and will be topping up your Illustrator skills as a group after the session. You'll be just like Buzz Lightyear in no time!

Laser cutting for crafters

 Laser cutting in action (but sadly not with a handheld laser gun...)