Laser Engraving Software
There are many options to choose from when deciding on software to run your laser.
One of the things many new users struggle with is how to set their power and speed for their machine and the material they are cutting or engraving. A good way to get some static from forum or Facebook group users is to ask how to set your power and speed. They will tell you every machine is different. And they are right HOWEVER everyone needs a place to start from and they are not being helpful when they give you that kind of feedback.
Here is a great start guide from Thunder Laser – https://www.thunderlaser.com/laser-download . These may not be exactly the settings your machine needs but it is a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to keep a log of your optimum machine settings as you go.
You will need to make sure the software you choose is compatible with your controller in the machine. Here are a few of the more common options to consider:
LightBurn is layout, editing, and control software for your laser cutter written for Windows, OSX, and Linux. It offers many ways to import artwork a variety of common vector graphic and image formats (including AI, PDF, SVG, DXF, PLT, PNG, JPG, GIF, BMP)
You can also arrange, modify, or even create new vector shapes within the editor and apply settings like power, speed, number of passes, cut order, and more. You can send the result directly to your laser cutter with lightburn. Some software packages require you to save the file and upload to the machine via cable or USB drive. Lightburn makes it easy to directly control your laser.
You can see how it works with their video tutorials . https://lightburnsoftware.com/pages/tutorials
Lightburn currently supports most Ruida, Trocen, and GCode based controllers. They are constantly working on new drives for various controllers. They even state download it and try it even if yours isn’t listed because it may be in the latest version.
K40 Users please note that LightBurn does not support the stock M2-Nano board. This board does not offer control of power through software - so they recommend upgrading the board to take full advantage of LightBurn.
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Freehand, or Xara X. It has good tracing options in it allowing you to trace a raster (think photo) and turn it into a vector (think line drawing). This can be useful when trying to engrave a logo or other graphic. Inkscape is completely free. It should be in everyone’s computer toolbox.
You can download it at https://inkscape.org/
Adobe Illustrator / Photoshop
Adobe products have been the mainstream for graphic design for years. It becomes a useful tool for maker equipment as well. Illustrator has the ability to trace and outline graphics so they can be imported into your laser software. There are even ways to laser full photographs so Photoshop can also be used to tweak the settings such as contrast, convert the image to black and white or greyscale, invert the image by swapping what’s dark with what’s light so it looks correct on the material.
It can be pricey but they do offer a monthly subscription and free trials. We include it here because many people already own older versions which will certainly as well.
Corel Draw is another mainstream program that has been around a long time. The author doesn’t have any current experience with it, but remembers how unstable past versions were. There are some machines that are coming with branded versions of Corel optimized for that machine. It is one of the more expensive options out there
RD Works comes with many of the machines for free. There is a huge following for this software even though many YouTube channels recommend dumping it for other options.
There is a full featured forum for this software and looks to be supported by Russ Sadler (famous Youtube guy that has done a lot for this industry). You can view it at https://rdworkslab.com/index.php
As we stated above, many times this software will come on a USB drive or CD with your machine. You can also download at http://en.rd-acs.com/down.aspx?TypeId=50074&FId=t14:50074:14 . WARNING – this software originates in China and could have viruses and other problems. Use at your own peril.
Laserworks is the software that comes with the Boss Lasers and appears to be proprietary for their machines. You can download it at https://www.bosslaser.com/laser-software/
This is by far not a complete list. There are many machine branded software packages that are specific to that machine. One thing to remember is you need software to package up and send the instructions to the laser, but there are many ways to edit and format an image before you reach that stage. So there are many software packages you can use to get it to that point. Just about any graphics program will help you do that including Windows paint. Our best advice is use what you are comfortable with and works for you.