Best Laser Software
There are many great ways to prepare your designs to be cut or engraved with a laser. Some of them are quite basic, but convenient, while others have whole designing programs included. In this roundup, we take a look at the most popular ones to help you decide which one is right for your application.
If you have a machine from Ortur or any other basic laser engraver, you’re probably familiar with this one. It is an open-source project that allows you to easily send gcode to your laser. It also has functionality built in to convert both vector and raster images to gcode, allowing you to cut out shapes, and engrave basic designs, or even full greyscale photographs. The functionality is quite limited though, as there is no way to define different parameters for parts of a design. In practice this means that if you want to engrave and cut, for example, to make a keychain, you need to do those operations one after the other, hoping that everything lines up in the end.
Inkscape is a very popular and powerful free designing software, that can easily compete with Adobe Illustrator. Thanks to the support for plugins, you can also export gcode for your laser engraver directly from it. This is very convenient, as there is no need to export your design to a different piece of software. The options for engraving are rather limited though, with no support for multiple layers, just like in LaserGRBL. However, if you just want some quick designs, it is a very good option.
Also an open-source project, LaserWeb offers a lot more functionality compared to LaserGRBL, as it allows multiple layers, and even has support for z- and rotary axis. It can also be used to control the laser directly, so there is no need for a separate tool for that if your laser needs to be controlled by a PC. The only area where it is a bit limited is that it has no designing functionality build in, meaning that even if you just want a simple rectangle, you need to use a separate program to draw that and export it as a vector file.
If LaserWeb sounded great, but you do want some basic integrated designing tools, and maybe also a library, where you can save presets for different materials, Lightburn is for you. It does cost some money, it is quite reasonable and well worth the investment if you want to do any sort of more serious laser work. For some laser controllers, there are also specific versions of Lightburn that allow you to control your laser directly, but even if your laser is not compatible, you can still export gcode for all common controller types.
While totally overkill for any hobbyist, DraftSight is one of the tools you would be using if you need to control a professional laser, like one for cutting metal. It integrates with Solidworks and AutoCAD and offers extensive designing options. But of course, it is also priced to match, costing you as much as a cheap hobby laser every month.