Designing Your Own Etch Glow Light Display

There are many different graphic software packages and many different laser brands. Each will have their own terminology and steps.  This lesson will teach you the generic steps to making an Etch Glow Light Display with your own design. You will need to  translate these steps into your specific application.

Choose Your Shape

With the purchase of an Etch Glow Kit, you have access to some popular shapes that have already been designed. Download all the free outline shape designs here

In this example we will be using the basic circle design:

Image of all the free basic etch glow design shapes

If you want to design and make your own Shapes, check out the Making a Custom Shape tutorial.

The goal of this tutorial is to take a typical Design (a company logo in this case) and separate it into three layers on the acrylic template in the design files so each layer can be engraved and cut. This is the same procedure used in any screen printing operation.

Original logo image and divided layers of the logo transposed onto three layers of acrylic cutout vectors

Working with Vector Images

Let’s start with a very simple logo. This example has 3 colors, and the graphics are clean and crisp – perfect for an Etch Glow Light Display.

Simple example logo of 'Company X'

The first step in reviewing the graphic is to make sure the different pieces of the design are separate objects, or layers, in your design software. Having a vector version of the image will make this step easy. Bitmap versions of your graphic will be more difficult to work with. If you only have a bit map image, we recommend converting it into a vector image using your graphics software first.

Prepare Your Design Area

Start your design with one of the Cutline graphics for the Clear Acrylic Slides in the Shape file. This has the outline of the entire piece as well as the cutouts for the light board, screw holes, and legs.

Cutout and cutlines of vector shape design

DO NOT resize this object.  The cutlines are designed to fit on the material provided in the kit and the Cutouts are properly sized for the lightboard, screws, and legs.

Position the Front – Black Acrylic graphic for this shape on top of the cutout.  We do this to define the design area and make sure the Logo Design is fully visible and won’t be covered up by the Black Front.

Front cutout shape

The remaining area in the shape is now available for your design.

Position Graphic on Shape

Take your entire logo graphic and position it on the shape in the design area. 

Adjust the size of your graphic to fit the shape – never change the size of any of the shape graphics.

Graphic on cutout shape front piece

For now, keep the colors of your logo to note the different layers – we will change them to Grayscale later.

We like to temporarily use a flat black background to simulate the black Backer – Cardstock that will be placed behind the Clear Acrylic panels when the kit is assembled.

Tip: If a different color of cardstock would work better for your graphic, this is an optional customization you can make with your own display.

Black background on example graphic to imitate end product

Once you are satisfied with the position and size of your design, you are ready to prepare the slides for engraving.

Making Files For Your Laser

Remove the flat black background and the Front graphic. This is now your main slide that will be split into the three clear acrylic slices that will be layered in the assembled display: 

Master vector graphic for clear acrylic layers

Make 3 copies of the Slide Master:

Three copies of main design

Delete the objects from each slide that you don’t want leaving only the objects, or layers, you want to display on the different layers in different colors.

Note: These layers can be assembled in whichever order makes sense for your project or graphic.

Three copies with separated layers


Change the objects to Grayscale (some lasers work better using Grayscale than Colors - you can make this decision based on your own laser).

Three clear acrylic layers in grayscale

And that’s pretty much it. You have now taken a simple logo and spit it into 3 layers that are now ready for engraving and cutting. 

Colored logo and end product of grayscale layers ready to cut on a laser

These are the generic steps – professional graphic software packages can work in layers to accomplish much of the same. Regardless, the goal is to make all the panels in a way that the graphics line up properly when assembled.