Fix Illustrator Issues for Fabrication

Adobe Illustrator is great for graphic design and illustration, but sometimes when we use it for driving laser cutters it is too smart for our purposes. Often when we want to run a simple laser job, it will produce output the laser cutter can’t understand.

This happens especially when using the shape tools for vector cutting – they output a “shape object” that the laser can’t parse as a simple line. As a result the laser either will attempt to raster the drawing or skip over it entirely. This can be frustrating, because it won’t cut, even though line weight and color are set correctly.

Step 0: Check Usual Suspects

  • Document Color Mode: RGB
  • Stroke Color: RGB Black #000000, or known value if using color mapping
  • Stroke Weight: 0.1pt in Illustrator, hairline in Draw
  • Print Preview: Should show your drawing at the correct size and placement in the print preview

Step 1: Check Stroke Alignment

In the stroke menu (window –> stroke –> show options) make sure all three of the options are on the left box: cap, corner and align stroke.

Step 2: Copy / Paste

  • Sometimes copying the problem elements into a new file fixes the problem.
  • Make a new file with the same size, color mode, etc as your original
  • CTRL-C Copy the geometry
  • CTRL-SHIFT-V Paste in Place into the new file
  • With luck, the problem goes away!

Step 3: Inspect Geometry

  • Select the problem geometry
  • If you have the Properties palette open, it might show up as a Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, or Shape. Usually if it shows up as a Path, it will cut ok, and this fix is probably not the issue.

Step 4: Expand Shape

  • From the menu, select Object | Shape | Expand Shape
  • This is also available in the Quick Actions box at the bottom of the Properties palette

Optional: Fallback Approach

  • If that doesn’t work:
  • Set the fill color to none
  • Swap the fill and stroke colors
  • Object | Expand Appearance
  • Swap the fill and stroke colors

Optional: Expand Text

  • Text output issues can often be fixed similarly, by converting from a font to curves.
  • Note that text will no longer be easily editable
  • From the menu, select Type | Create Outlines

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  1. One more thing to try! In the stroke menu (window –> stroke –> show options) make sure all three of the options are on the “outside or left box”: cap, corner and align stroke.