Determine When Raster, Vector, or Both is Right for a Laser Job

Jim Puentes opened COOLaserCraft in 2008, providing his clients with marking, cutting, and fabrication services. Contact Jim at

With a CO2 laser, you can use a vector job in lieu of a raster job for items that have a lot of small lines, like the tick marks on measuring devices. I make a cast acrylic, half-scale carpenter square that includes a lot of tick marks.

Running a raster job with thin lines works well if all the lines are horizontal. Thin vertical lines, however, can be a problem. Depending on the line width of the drawing and the resolution of the print job, they may not even show up at all using a raster job. Running thin lines as vector hairlines assures you that a mark will be made regardless of the orientation of the lines. It’s just a matter of drawing with hairlines and making your settings so that the lines are marked and do not cut all the way through. For the carpenter square, I use color mapping to define the engraved hairlines and separate them from the hairlines used to cut the shape of the ruler. 

The carpenter square can be done as an all raster job (except for the cutting) or an all vector job. It turns out that a combination of a raster job for the numbers and contact information, and vector jobs for the tick marks and cutting the shape, gives the best results. 

—Jim Puentes, COOLaserCraft

The all-raster job (top) has missing tick marks; the all-vector job (bottom) has poorly defined text. The combination job (middle) shows the best results. (Image courtesy Jim Puentes)