Forums/Tutorials/Laser Cutting Tutorials & Tips

How to get the best results out of laser cut cardstock

Yana Skaler
posted this on April 06, 2012 18:05

Both NZ and US hubs now offer several cardstock options.  This material is a wonderful choice for greeting cards, business cards, model making and packaging.

Cardstock cuts slightly differently from other materials in the Ponoko catalogues, so there are a few useful things to know to get the optimum cut quality for your project.  Some of these are mentioned in the material pages, such as designing around small light pieces that can shift during cutting.  We always strongly advise that you carefully read material information to get a clearer idea of what results to expect.  Material samples are another handy reference, although we stress that every project is different, and prototyping is the only way to ensure the best outcome.

Something to keep in mind is that many of the mass-produced, intricately cut card products on the market are not laser cut but stamped out with a die – like a cookie cutter.  A laser cuts by burning, so some discoloration can be expected around cut marks.  This is an inherent part of the laser cutting process and can be seen in the catalogue material photos.

scorching3.jpg

Because cardstock is thin and not particularly durable, it can not be masked with protective tape, unlike other materials.  Protective tape shields the material from heat flare, and no tape means that the underside of the card will have discoloration marks.  These are more obvious on light colored card.  The example below shows the underside marking at its worst, although there is no discernable discoloration on the “design” side – it looks great despite the intricate detail.

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 And the underside detail:

scorching2_resize.jpg

 So with this in mind, here are a few tips to design for laser cutting card stock:

  • Choose black cardstock for a double-sided design
  • Mirror your design, cut right and left and then laminate the two sides with the undersides together to conceal them
  • Line your cut card with a blank sheet of material as a design feature
  • Incorporate raster and/or vector engraving into your design to add detail without cutting through the material

 The black card is an example of lining with a mirror design, while the white card shows contrasting blank lining.

lining_resize.jpg

Cardstock is a popular material in gift packaging, such as wedding favors, etc.  istockpack is a handy resource for free packaging templates.  We will be adding some Ponoko-ready packaging files into the showroom in the future.  When designing anything that requires folding, incorporate score lines into your design.  If you’re using thinner cardstock, medium vector engraving will produce a clean fold.  For thicker card, such as the NZ Box Board, heavy engraving will work better.  Cardstock engraves beautifully – check out the material catalogue photos

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When folded or assembled into a 3D form, card will be much more rigid and stable.  The placeholder below holds its shape perfectly with a clean score line, and it can be cut from any cardstock.  The table that looks like a Madebydan coffee table is, in fact, a miniature version measuring only 66mm square.  The level of detail is impressive, and this will work well with the Box Board.

card1_resize.jpg

One of the great features of cardstock is that you don’t need any specialised adhesives for assembly.  The most useful: double-sided tape, glue sticks and PVA glue are probably something that you have in your stationery supplies already.  Pretty much any water-based adhesive, such as wood glue or craft glue will work well.  Remember to practice your gluing first as it can get messy if you’re not careful.

Photo sources: butterfly favor box, fall favour boxes, butterfly.  Rest – Ponoko.