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December 6, 2020

Glowforge Software Tutorial: A DIY Christmas Ornament

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Using Glowforge to create a DIY Christmas Ornament is very easy. Easy is especially true if you purchase the design files from one of the many online stores available. Their propriety software is very intuitive and easy to use.

What takes this up a notch in difficulty level is when you need to modify your purchased design files. At first, you may think that "what the heck" I paid for a finished product?

In our case, I purchased the Christmas Laser Svg File- Ornament Digital Download from one of the Etsy shops named LunashCreativeCo. They are an excellent shop that has received multiple 5-star reviews in the past seven days. As of this writing, they only sell LASER SVG files for download.

My wife chose this one as she loved the design. It also has one very personalized feature; you can add someone's names to the ornament, making it a very personalized gift.

If you think about this from the designer's perspective, there is no possibility they could anticipate or customize all the different options. They would need to sell these at a higher price. You would also need to pay multiple times for a similar design.

This Glowforge software tutorial sets how to show what skills you need when purchasing design files like this.

What Do You Get with a Laser Svg Download Purchase?

I think that just about every Etsy shop I've visited for Glowforge laser files has the following disclaimer very prominently displayed:

"**IMPORTANT** Please note that NOTHING will be mailed to you. This is a DIGITAL CUT FILE for those who have a laser machine (Glowforge, etc.) This is NOT something you will receive in the mail**"

The only reason I could see the need for this disclaimer is that someone thought they were purchasing the physical product. That would be an excellent deal, considering the laser cut files cost versus the physical product.

In my case, the DIY Christmas Ornament purchase I received a ZIP file that included three different files.

  • Name Ornament Read Me.pdf
  • Name Ornament.pdf
  • Name Ornament.svg
DIY Christmas Ornament Laser Svg Download Files

The Read Me file contained basic instructions on how to use the Laser SVG File.

I've already written about ordering the steps in the Glowforge software. The shop owner clarifies you need to perform these steps in the following order: Engrave, Score, and Cut. The Cut operation is almost always last, as this frees the design from the rest of the material. You risk losing alignment once this happens.

DIY Christmas Ornament Glowforge Instructions

The PDF file is a rendering of the file without having to use an SVG editor. Most browsers will render the SVG file if you double-click on it.

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. I wrote about the difference between raster and vector images in a separate article.

How to Cut the SVG File Using the Glowforge Software

The simplest way to personalize and cut your new SVG DIY Christmas ornament is using only the Glowforge software.

There is one "catch" to this method, however. It does require you to have a subscription to Glowforge Premium. You can read about the features in the link I've provided.

My take on this recently added service is that it makes it easier to use a Glowforge if you don't want to be a designer. The simple tasks, which follow, can be done without learning vector editing software. However, if you've already guessed that a subscription means paying them money, you would be right.

I purchased it during the initial introduction at a much lower price. So far, I feel it's worth the value.

The first step is to upload your newly purchased SVG file.

Glowforge App Upload New Design

Once imported, the Glowforge app shows three different steps, corresponding to the design's three different colors. The last step will need to be moved to the middle and changed to a score operation instead of cut.

Glowforge App Workspace for the DIY Christmas Ornament

At this point, the Glowforge app offers an Insert Text icon you can click. The icon indicates Premium, I guess, so you know you're getting what you paid for the service.

Glowforge App Premium Option to Add Text

You can enter your text and also have the option to change the font. There were quite a few choices for the font, so I just picked one.

Glowforge App Add Text Font Selection

I didn't see any alignment tool in the Glowforge app, but this DIY Christmas Ornament personalization was pretty simple. So I eye-balled it.

Glowforge App Align New Text

I had some cherry-wood I was already using for these ornaments, so I aligned the customized drawing and was ready to start the laser.

DIY Christmas Ornament - Mom and Dad

The laser cutting process took about eight minutes. Most of the time involved etching the three different text areas. The scoring and cutting operation went relatively fast.

The finished product turned out pretty good. However, I felt I used too thick of a font. Oh well, lesson learned.

Finished DIY Christmas Ornament - Mom and Dad

Using Vector Editing Software to Customize the DIY Christmas Ornament

The industry standard for working with vector images would be Adobe Illustrator. However, it's not free but subscription-based. If you purchased your Glowforge for hobby use only, you might find it hard to justify the cost.

As mentioned in my Glowforge software article, their app supports PDF files from many image editing software tools. From a vector perspective, you'll find that Illustrator and Inkscape are the two most commonly endorsed in the community forums. Inkscape is a free option.

One of my end goals with Glowforge is to design my files. I've decided to use Adobe Illustrator. The different software tools I use for software programming already have a subscription-based model. So this was not a big issue to overcome.

Unfortunately, when learning something new, you need to find online resources to aid in the learning process. I know where these sites are for software development, but I am still trying to locate the best vector image editing ones.

Step 1, Import the SVG File

The first step is easy, import the SVG file for our DIY Christmas Ornament into the Adobe Illustrator software.

Adobe Illustrator Open DIY Christmas Ornament SVG File

Step 2, Add Text Using the Type Tool

The second step is also relatively easy, add the text to the image. The animated image below shows the process. I'm using the Charcuterie Cursive font, which is a premium font from the Adobe Creative Cloud.

All I'm doing is adding the name text, setting the font size to 50px, and then roughly centering the text inside the design shape.

Adobe Illustrator Add Text Type

Step 3, Change the Text to an Outline

For Glowforge to correctly engrave the new text, you need to convert it to a shape. It would be best to have a "shape" object to align it in the center. Text types do not align very well.

The process to change is shown in the animated image below. Keep in mind, though, that it will no longer be a text element once you change this. You will no longer be able to change the font.

Adobe Illustrator Change Text to an Outline

Step 4, Prepare the Image for Aligning

My next goal is to align the text exactly in the center of the "rectangle like shape" in the middle of the DIY Christmas Ornament.

 Illustrator has the Align Objects tool that makes this task easy. There is an "Align To" option called "Align to Key Object." I found some Illustrator online tutorials, which made it look real easy using simple shapes. However, each time I tried, the software did something unpredictable.

I finally figured out that the rectangle type shape in the middle is in two nested groups. The two groups pulled together all the magenta objects. Once I ungrouped it, the rest of the alignment was easy.

Adobe Illustrator Ungroup Rectangle Shape

Step 5, Align to Key Object

Once I had ungrouped the rectangle shape, the Align to Key Object worked perfectly.

You then need to immediately click a third time on the rectangle shape, which will mark it as the "key object." You'll know it's right when it turns bold.

Adobe Illustrator Align to Key Object

Step 6, Change the Color for Engraving

I wanted my new text shape to match the existing text's color to be engraved with this final step. Changing the color is not a required step. Leaving it as is would create another processing step in the Glowforge app.

I've seen where the color only has to be a shade different, so I copied the color's hex value. This way, I knew it would match exactly.

Adobe Illustrator Change Color for Glowforge Engrave

Finished Product

The final result turned out very nice.

DIY Christmas Ornament - Knox

Laser Cutting Multiple DIY Christmas Ornaments at the Same Time

The wood I was using for these ornaments was 1/8 inch cherry wood. They're scraps from a local woodshop and work nicely for these ornaments. Each piece is roughly 19-inches long by 4-inches wide.

I had individually customized each ornament, but there was no need to cut them one at a time.

To accomplish this, again, the Glowforge app was the simplest. And also, the design software was more flexible.

Cutting Multiple Ornaments Using the Glowforge App

Using the Glowforge app starts the same as always, creating a new design from an upload.

Once the first image is in your workspace, you can add another using the Add Artwork icon in the top center of the work area. You can't miss it, the big, green plus symbol icon.

Create a New DIY Christmas Ornament from an upload

Once this opens, you can do several different things involving artwork. The button we're interested in is the Upload. The upload option will enable us to add additional drawing files.

Glowforge App Upload Additional Artwork Files

The piece of wood I'm working with has room to cut three more ornaments. I've created the design with the first one, and then I upload two more.

The height of the wood is slightly smaller than the ornament drawing. I needed to adjust their sizes slightly to fit them. My only option was to eye-ball its size, which was good enough.

In the image below, you'll notice that each illustration has its processing steps in the left-most panel when importing the design individually. It doesn't matter that each ornament uses the same colors.

Having individual process steps is not necessarily bad. You need to set each one of them.

Glowforge App Cutting Multiple DIY Christmas Ornaments

Cutting Multiple Ornaments Using Illustrator with the Glowforge App

The process of using Illustrator is slightly more detailed but also more accurate.

I had about 14.5-inches of usable wood with the piece I was currently using. Since it was slightly smaller in height than my ornaments, I measure the exact size using the calipers. It was 3.91-inches.

I created a new document with an artboard size of 14.5-inches wide and 3.91-inches in height using Illustrator. The result gave me an Illustrator document having the same size as the wood I was using.

I copied each of the ornaments from separate documents in Illustrator. Once inside Illustrator, I could then use the scale tool to reduce their size by 95-percent. I arranged them on the artboard, aligning their positions, and save it as an SVG file.

Adobe Illustrator Multiple DIY Christmas Ornaments

Once back in the Glowforge app, I created a new design by uploading a file. I used the SVG file with all three images.

The Glowforge app allowed me to move it over my material, and it fits perfectly.

I also had only three processing steps on the left-side panel. I set the details for each of these. 

Glowforge App Create New Design from Upload

Laser Cutting Multiple DIY Christmas Ornaments

It's interesting to watch the Glowforge when printing multiple pieces sharing the same processing step.

The "green" objects are to engrave first. That is the way I configured it. However, I have no control over the order of "green objects." The Glowforge software decides that.

Interestingly, it started with the "2020" at the bottom of the middle ornament.

Laser Cutting Multiple Images

It then moved to the left ornament, and finally the right-most to finish the "2020" text. It followed the same order for the names in the middle.

When it came time for the "Christmas" text at the top, it did the left-two ornaments simultaneously and then finally the right side one.

Laser Cutting Multiple Christmas Ornaments
Glowforge Cutting Multiple Design Images

It did the scoring step from the left ornament to the right. Skipping certain elements and finishing those at the end.

It was also at this point I realized the first image was wrong. I initially thought I had a defective Glowforge unit. I then looked at my image software and realized that the Glowforge was doing what I told it to do.

Glowforge Laser Cutting Multiple Image Designs

All three completed. Masking tape still needs to be removed. The first ornament needs a re-do.

Glowforge App Laser Cut Product Finished

More Laser Cutting Designs By LunashCreativeCo

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