Seeing that Mother’s Day is coming up soon, and I don’t like leaving things till the last minute, I designed a couple of greeting cards to show the process of using laser cutting for card making.
I decided to try something very intricate to test the limits of laser cutting. So here’s a flowery lace pattern. Not really a fan of lace or flowers, but sacrifices must be made in the name of experimentation. As detailed in the cardstock forum post, laser cut card needs to be lined to cover the discoloration on the underside of the design. In this experiment, the laser cut pattern folds over on itself with the undersides together to conceal any marking.
The diagram below illustrates the following important points for consideration: score lines, symmetry and card thickness allowance. I used medium vector engraving for score lines because heavy engraving removes too much of the paper fiber and makes the fold line too fragile. Heavy engraving would have been fine to use on heavy cardstock or for the lace design where structure isn’t as important.
One of the score lines is the mirror line for the lace design. If the distances from the fold line aren’t identical, the cut designs won’t line up, and the card will look pretty messy.
Because the card is folded twice, its thickness has to be taken into account to achieve clean folds. If the three panels are the same width, the first fold will create bulk at the second fold, which will prevent the folded card from staying flat and cause the material to delaminate at the scored line. See the crudely exaggerated folding diagram below.
If you have a look at everyday greeting cards, you’ll notice that the front panel is a mm or so wider than the back panel. This is to make sure that when you fold the card, the back panel edge doesn’t stick out.
Back to the lace card: first it’s folded to check that everything lines up.
At this point, I suggest laminating the lace panels to make them stronger. You may wish to simply run some double sided tape around the margins, but gluing with definitely make the card more rigid.
For a glue job that doesn’t look like lumpy semi-digested macaroni art, you need the following:
clean sheet of paper
Cling film or a thin transparent plastic clear file that glue won’t stick to
Clean paint roller
Plastic tray or a plate to accommodate gluey roller
Damp sponge for cleaning
Start by placing the clean sheet of paper over the folded card and rolling over it with a clean dry roller a few times.
Then open up the card with cling wrap or a plastic clear file underneath and roll out the glue on a tray. The glue dries very fast, so you have to be quick.
Make sure the roller is more or less evenly coated in glue and roll over one of the panels. Be careful that the card doesn’t move on the plastic surface, otherwise any glue that oozes out below will smear on your card.
Once the clue is evenly spread, quickly fold the card and place it between two clean sheets of cling wrap inside the clear file. Keep those on hand before you do any gluing. Press over the surface with a roller – it doesn’t matter that it’s covered in glue as that will peel off the plastic when dry.
After pressing, get the card out and check for any smears. There shouldn’t be any if you didn’t go crazy with the glue. If you find fresh glue marks, you can very carefully dab them off with a damp sponge. This won’t work once the glue dries.
You card is now amazing, and you are now your mother’s favourite child.
The words of wisdom though, aren’t yet exhausted as we’re back at the design stage of the card. Well, a different card this time. One of the most crucial parts of the process is printing out your design on paper 1:1. We hail this as free prototyping.
A case in point below: I drew a faery with a vacuum cleaner. Because as you know, you house gets cleaned by a magic faery, at least in your happy imagination land. When I printed out the drawing, I realised there was no way this would hold together after cutting and modified the design to make it laser cutter friendly. A handy trick is to turn on the grid when you’re doing the vector drawing. That way you’re much more aware of the scale of your design.
Final faery card below: Left before the cuts out are popped out, middle shows the back of the design, and the right hand side if the completed card lined with some thin green paper.
If you’d like even more tips on how to design cards for laser cutting, check out this blogpost on the wonderfully titled “Paper and Fire” blog. Sarah Holbrook of Candyspotting is an expert on laser cutting paper and card and has kindly offered to write these tips to share with the Ponoko community. You can see examples of Sarah’s really cool designs on her site.
Here are some laser cut card examples off the interwebs: