Various patterns etched onto clear acrylic using the heavy raster setting.
Illustrator patterns are an easy way to generate interesting raster fills that can then be etched successfully onto acrylic and wood. I’ll touch on some simple steps you can use when modifying and converting patterns for use within Ponoko ready files as well as suggest some free pattern packs available online that you can incorporate into your own projects.
Opening a new pattern set:
When you want open a pattern set that was downloaded from the internet you start by opening the swatch menu and selecting 'Open Swatch Library/Other Library...' then browse to the location of the illustrator file containing the new swatch set and open it; doing so will add the new swatches onto your workspace.
Rotate, Scale, Move, Reflect, Shear. All the transform options in Illustrator can be applied independently to objects or the patterns they contain. You just have to uncheck the object check box before saying ok.
Hint: Once you transform a pattern, changing the pattern will apply the previous transformations to the new pattern. To reset this, fill the object with a solid color first then apply the new pattern.
Note: Patterns fill an object in relationship to the rulers, not the object itself. If you want a pattern to move with the object, make sure you have ‘transform pattern tiles’ checked in the general Illustrator preferences.
Expand Appearance: Now that you have your pattern re-sized and adjusted just the way you want it, you’ll need to do an additional step so the laser cutter can see the fill properly.
Select the pattern filled object and select from the top menu: Object/Expand... You'll then have the option to expand the fill, doing so will make the pattern compatible with Ponoko's system.
These patterns are for the most part one color and make for easy conversion to the colors required for upload to Ponoko’s system. I've found medium/heavy raster settings contrasted with the natural color of the material works best. Light, Medium and Heavy raster settings lack the contrast to stand apart from each other and using all three in one pattern will often result in a muddled looked.
Note: If you plan to use these for a commercial project it’s always best to double check the license the creators have released a pattern under.
For starters Illustrator has some default black and white patterns you can find in your swatch palette under ‘Open Swatch Library/Patterns/Basic Graphics/’ and you’ll find black and white lines, dots and textures. There’s also some useful patterns under the Decorative sections as well.