How to Make a Custom Shape

Final image of all the designed layers next to the original bear head vector shapeThere 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 your own Custom Shape. You will need to  translate these steps into your specific application.

With the purchase of an Etch Glow Kit, you have access to some popular shapes that have already been designed.  

Basic shape vectors available for free download for making etch glow signs

These Shape Files are just a few of the infinite number of shapes you can design and are good examples you can refer to.

The first step is to setup your design area for the size of the kit.  This example is 6” wide x 8” tall.  

6 by 8 inch blank design area

To keep a comfortable margin of error with your design, stay in from the margins a tiny bit to be safe - noted by the red dashed line.

Every shape needs specific cutouts for each layer of material. Insert the Main Cutout object in your design area approximately where you want it.

Etch glow design area with layer cutouts

The Key below tells you what the colors represent:

Table with labels and images communicating which colored layer corresponds to which component of the design

DO NOT resize this object. The Cutouts are properly sized for the lightboard, screws, and legs.

Insert your custom shape into the design area. In this case, we are making a children’s bear head:

Cute bear head shape in design

Make sure this object and the Main Cutout are centered on the page.

Since the light from the light board needs to travel through acrylic to reach the shape, we need to connect the custom shape (Bear’s Head) to the Main Cutout object with some sort of shape.

We do this by adding another shape. This can be any shape. Here we have chosen a simple Trapezoid: 

Bear design with a trapezoid shape overlaid to create a base

Send this shape (trapezoid) to the back and you can see the final shape and some pieces coming together. 

  • The combined shape will become the outline.
  • The Brown area will become the design area for etching.
  • The Blue area will become the front and back pieces of the base.

Make sure the Blue area stays within your overall piece margins. Also check the Red Holes (screw holes) to make sure they are not too close to the edges.

Make sure the Purple slots for the legs are lined up on the bottom of the base as seen here:

Trapezoid base moved to back layer with bear hear and other cutout objects visible

Once you have reached this point with your custom shape, make 2 duplicates of this entire design so that you will have 3 copies total. We will use the duplicates to make the individual pieces, ensuring everything will line up properly.

With one of the duplicates, select the Brown object and the Blue object and Merge them together so they make one solid piece:

Left side of image shows the bear head and base selected, and the right side image shows the two combined shapes as one piece

Set the fill of the new shape to NO FILL and the line to RED. Make the line width appropriate for your laser to recognize it as a cutline.

Master Cutout

Leave the Main Cutout alone at this point. We will come back to this later.

Use the second duplicate to make the Front and Back shapes from the blue area. To do this we select the Blue shape and then the Brown shape and Subtract the Brown from the Blue.

Left side of image shows the bear and base shapes selected, the right side of image shows the resulting base shape after the overlapping bear head has been cut out

That will take the original Trapezoid and subtract any part of the bear head (brown) that was overlapping it. 

Set the fill of the new shape to Black and the line to RED.  Make the line width appropriate for your laser to recognize it as a cutline.  

Black base shape with read outline

At this point you can also delete the Main Cutout object.

Copy the new Black shape on top of the outline you made with the first duplicate. Send the black shape to the back. 


Main cutout design

All the basic cutout design elements are complete on this one design. We now need to separate this design into its component pieces with the proper cutouts from the Main Cutout.

Make 3 duplicates.

With the first duplicate we’ll make the Main Clear Acrylic Slide:

  • Delete the Black Shape
  • Delete the Blue and Black objects from the Main Cutout

On the left image is a duplicate of the main design, the right shows the resulting clear acrylic piece after the prescribed deletions are made

Take the remaining objects from the Master Cutout and subtract them from the other shape. This now becomes the template for the Clear Acrylic Panels.

Resulting clear acrylic bear cutout once the subtractions of the cutouts were made

You will use this when you design the etching portion of your Etch Glow.

With the second duplicate we’ll make the Backer - Cardstock:

  • Delete the Black Shape
  • Delete the Green and Black objects from the master cutout

Left image shows Main Cutout, right image shows cardstock backer after deletions are made

Take the remaining objects from the Main Cutout and subtract them from the other shape.

Cardstock cutout final layer
This now becomes the cutout for the Backer piece that is made using the Cardstock material in your kit.

With the third duplicate we’ll make the Front and Back pieces that are made from the Black Acrylic material in your kit.

  • Delete the Red bear head shape outline

Left portion of image shows Main Cutout, the right shows the base image results after deleting the outline

Copy this shape and slide to the top of the design area so that both copies are within the design space. The top will become the front and the bottom will become the back.

Front and back base stand duplicates on one design area layer

Both of these pieces will be made from a single piece of Black Acrylic in your kit.

On the top shape or Front, delete everything from the Main Cutout except the Red circles. The screw holes are the only thing needed for this layer.

Front and back base pieces with color coded cutouts shown

On the bottom shape or Back, Delete the Green, Blue, and Purple objects from the Main Cutout.

Take the remaining objects from the Main Cutout and subtract them from the corresponding front and back shapes. 

Set the fill to NO FILL.

Front and back final base cutlines all in one design area

This now becomes the cutout for the Front and Back piece that is made using the Black Acrylic material in your kit.

The Legs for the Etch Glow Light Displays are the same for all designs. The designs for these are included in all of our Shape Files and can be duplicated into your design files.

Stand legs (2) cutout on one design area

The Legs are made from the Black Acrylic material.

You now have all the components you need to make an Etch Glow Light Display with your own Custom Shape.

 Final design components from this tutorial next to original bear head vector image

See our tutorial on Designing Your Own Etch Glow to learn about etching your designs.