In this tutorial we will show you how to optimize a photograph for engraving with a picture editing program, and which laser parameters to pay attention to. 

 

Tip: Not every photograph which looks good on your computer screen will also look good for your laser-cutter! 

With some photographs you might want to knock our the background (e.g. if it is too noisy or too similar to the main motive) or to adjust brightness / contrast

We recommend to always start with testing a small version of your design on a spare piece of material, to gain quick insights whether the settings are working well for you, especially for the most important parts of the picture (e.g. eyes, mouth, etc.)


 

1. For the engraving in this tutorial we are using laser-friendly poplar plywood, which is available in our material store

2. Open a picture editing program of your choice. In our tutorial we  will show a step-by-step instruction for: 




Gimp (a free graphic program for the most common operating systems)
Adobe Photoshop


2.1. Gimp:

Drag-and-drop a picture of your choice into your working area. Alternatively, use the menu to navigate to File > Open and upload your picture. The photograph in our example is from Unsplash.


Let's begin with adjustments of the picture. In the menu above click on Picture > Mode > Indexed..


You might want to adjust the contrast in order to bring out the most important parts of the photograph, and make them clearly distinguishable from the background. 


A trick for advances users: You can try to optimize the most important parts of the photograph (e.g. eyes, mouth, skin, hair) by putting them in separate layers and making adjustments to each one individually. For example, you might want to apply more grain to hair than to skin. 


OPTIONAL:  Dithering > Colour Dithering choose Positioned. Then click on Convert


Caution: We recommend to apply dithering directly in our Mr Beam software (laser parameters). If you apply dithering in a picture editing program, please make sure not to choose dithering in the Mr Beam software. not to change the line distance, and not to resize or to scale your photograph when it is already on the working area. Otherwise your picture will be recalculated by our software, which will override all your settings with Mr Beam specific dithering settings. 




This is how our edited picture file looks now: 


Save your file under File > Export as... We have saved our picture as a PNG. It does not matter, which bitmap file format you are going to choose - a JPG would work just as well.



If you zoom into your picture, you will see the points which the laser is using for orientation. Your graphic consists of single dots (also known as pixels). These pixels are later interpreted by the Mr Beam software which turns the laser on for black pixels and turns it off for white ones. 


2.2. Photoshop:

Open your photohraph by selecting File > Open


Now we are going to convert our picture in greyscale. Click on Picture > Mode > Greyscale. (If warning message pops up, confirm it by clicking on "Delete" all colour information in the picture.) 


You might want to adjust the contrast in order to bring out the most important parts of the photograph, and make them clearly distinguishable from the background. 


A trick for advances users: You can try to optimize the most important parts of the photograph (e.g. eyes, mouth, skin, hair) by putting them in separate layers and making adjustments to each one individually. For example, you might want to apply more grain to hair than to skin. 


OPTIONAL:  In the next step we want to apply Dithering to the picture, meaning we want to convert greyscale into black and white pixels. Click on Picture > Mode > Bitmap > Method: Halftone raster > Shape: diamond. You might want to experiment with these settings and see what works best for your specific image.


Caution: We recommend to apply dithering directly in our Mr Beam software (laser parameters). If you apply dithering in a picture editing program, please make sure not to choose dithering in the Mr Beam software. not to change the line distance, and not to resize or to scale your photograph when it is already on the working area. Otherwise your picture will be recalculated by our software, which will override all your settings with Mr Beam specific dithering settings. 




This is what our photograph looks like now! If you zoom in, you will see that it consists of black and white pixels only!  These pixels are later interpreted by the Mr Beam software, which turns the laser on for black pixels and turns it off for the white ones. 

Click Cntr+C or File>Save as and save your picture as a bitmap (for example a JPG or a PNG). 


3. Upload your file to the Mr Beam Software. In our example we have chosen plywood in the material settings for Mr
Beam II dreamcut and then the following parameter settings (click on advanced settings in the bottom left corner to see all options): 




4. Our laser job is finished after approx. 1,5 hours. In the end you can clean your engraving with a sponge to get rid of excess soot particles. 



Please note: Every picture is different and every material reacts differently. It is possible that the laser parameter setting from are example won't work for your design 100%. 


We also have a video on this topic (in German) on our YouTube channel.