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Maker Studio | Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a software program that can be used to create flat, vector graphics.

Many of the tools in the Maker Studio require an SVG vector file to create paths. This makes Illustrator the ideal tool to use.

The learning outcomes are to:

  • Be able to set colour profiles in your document set up
  • Be able to create outlines, shapes and paths
  • Be able to add text to a document
  • Be able to vectorize images, photographs and drawings


There are three main tools in the Maker Studio that use the SVG vector graphics:
The laser cutter:
  • Trotec Speedy 400  80W C02
The vinyl printer/ cutter:
  • Roland VersaStudio BN-20 printer/cutter
  • Cameo vinyl cutter
The CNC machine:
  • Carvey

Laser Cutter:

Vaporizes particles using accelerated photons, creating cutting paths through material.



The photo on the right is using an engraving process, meaning that it uses less power, and only vaporizes the top layer of the material, rather than cutting all the way through!

The laser cutter can cut:

  • materials (wood, plastic, acrylic, paper, cardboard, lamacoid, felt, fabric)
  • thicknesses of up to 3/4 inch for certain materials (wood)
  • WILL NOT cut metal, and CAN NOT cut vinyl, ABS, or PVC plastics

Vinyl Cutting:

Uses a tiny, sharp blade, mounted on a gantry to cut material out based on SVG vector lines.


The photo is an example of stickers made on the Roland VersaSTUDIO BN-20. They are printed on a large roll of vinyl, and then the cutting tool cuts out a shape, based on a vector line path.

The vinyl printer/cutter can print and/or cut:

  • heat transfer media (prints that go on fabric, clothing or on a glue absorbent material).
  • vinyl media roll in glossy or matte (Stickers, vinyl signs or decals)
  • paper, thin fabric, thin cardboard, thin plastic (stencils)
  • thicknesses of up to 1mm

CNC routing:

Uses a circular router bit, that spins and carves out material based on tool paths ( .gcode).

This design has been created on a CNC machine.

The CNC machine can cut:

  • plastic, wood, acrylic, delrin, foam materials
  • thicknesses of up to 3” without the clamps


Getting Started, File Setup

In order to use Adobe Illustrator, users must have an Adobe account set up

  1. Open Adobe Illustrator on your computer. When it asks you to sign in, click on Get an Adobe ID
  2. Follow the instructions and enter a valid email address. This email will become your Adobe ID, so use one you’ll remember.
  3. Then, click Sign Up. Open your email, and open the email from Adobe. Click Verify Your Email.
  4. To sign in, open on your computer and click Sign In
    Open Illustrator again, and Click Sign In.

Create a new project:

  • Name your project by selecting the name area, and typing in your name.
  • Set your file to Inches.
  • Set the size of the project to reflect the size of the material you want  to process or cut/engrave.
  • Check your colour profile: CMYK for vinyl printing RGB for the laser cutter

Here you see the:

  • Tools panel
  • Artboard
  • Properties panel

Selection Tool: Selects entire objects or groups. This tool activates all anchor points in an object or group at the same time, allowing you to move an object without changing its shape.

Direct Selection: Selects individual points.


Please look on the top right hand side of the toolbar. 

  • Do you see a menu beside ‘Search Adobe Stock’ that says Essentials?
  • If you do, please click on the  ∨  in order to open the other options. 
  • NOTE: Adobe uses this small chevrons to indicate multiple options are  available within ‘bins’, so if you see this, you can always right click( Or regular click) to access the additional options available

Embedding Images in Files

You will need to embed .JPG, .PNG, .GIF, or any other graphic file you are using within your illustrator document that came from an external source.

Otherwise, when illustrator looks for the original file, it won’t be there. These files need to be embedded in order for them to go with your document when you send them to the Maker Studio at MRU or any other place that you are going to be sending the final .AI file you have created. 

Remember to ask your instructor what kind of citation style they would like you to cite the graphic you are using. The library website has links to MLA, APA and Chicago citation guides if you have questions about how to cite an image from the internet, or other source.

To add an image you have saved as a file to the artboard in Illustrator, follow these steps:

  1. File, Place
  2. Select the file in your folders
  3. Click on the artboard to place the file on the artboard

If you drag and drop the file into Illustrator it is not placed in Illustrator, but linked. This will require you to embed the image.

To embed the image follow these steps:

  1. Click on the image to select it
  2. In the Properties Panel at the top, click on “Linked File” 
  3. Select the image in the list 
  4. Click the three lines icon on the right side which will bring up a list of options
  5. Select “embed Images” located half way down on the grey Linked Image menu that appears
  6. The image is now embedded in your file and will open on any computer. 

Vectorizing Images

Vector images are mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If you zoom in to a vector graphic it will always look the same. A raster image has a specific number of pixels. ... Vector graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

Many of the tools in the Maker Studio require a Vector image and so we need to convert .jpg or .png files into vector images.

To learn how to vectorize an image that we have either: 
  1. Drawn by hand, and scanned into the computer
  2. Found online
  3. Taken on a camera, scanner, or other photo capture device
These images should first be saved as .JPG, or .PNG. Low colour, high contrast, low detail images work best

Converting a JPEG image to a Vector

In Illustrator, go to: 

  • File > Open
  • And select the .JPG, or .PNG file that you would like to bring into Illustrator. 
    Drag the file from the folder it is in, onto the Illustrator window. 
    File > Place

This will create a new tab, or project, of your image file. 

Select the image you want to trace: Click open

* Note that high contrast, low colour images work best. 


Your image may be too large for your artboard dimensions.

The black line here is indicating that the photo is too big for the artboard.


If you need to resize the image:

First, determine how big your artboard is, and remember these dimensions or write them down. 

  • Click on the Artboard tool.
    • There are two places you can view the size of your art board. 
    • The top toolbar will show you the dimensions.
    • As well as the location, on the side Properties panel.
  • Change the photo to fit the size of the greater of the two dimensions.

With the Selection tool selected: 

  • Click on your photo to select your photo.
    • The blue line around your photo indicates that it is selected. 

  • Now, click on the Properties panel.
  • The chain icon with a line through it shows that your dimensions are not locked. 
    • Click on this to Lock your Aspect Ratio (constrain the proportions).
  • Resize the photo to match the one dimension that is the greater valued dimension.

    • ie. If the artboard is 8.5 X 11 inches and your photo is 20 x 30 inches, resize 30 to 11 and the photo will now fit the artboard (as long as the dimensions are locked).

This photo is now resized. Notice that it fits this artboard, as it does not pass on to the grey background.

Image Trace Tutorial: Create a Cutout

Select your image: 
  • Click on the Selection Tool . 
  • Click on the image. (The blue rectangle around the image indicates it is selected).
  • Click on Image Trace. 
Your photo will Image Trace, but the settings will default to black and white. 
This creates an image trace in the default settings: Black and White.
To change the settings:
  • Click on the Image Trace Panel to open the settings.

    • The Image Trace panel opens. 
    • We need to look at the Advanced settings.
  • Click the arrow to open the Advanced tab.
Image Trace Tutorial: Create a Cutout

The Image Trace panel advanced settings open.
This is the default. You will want to change the mode for color, black/white or grayscale.
Adjust Threshold to find the best Light to Dark Ratio:
Paths: Maximum
Corners: Maximum
Noise: Minimum
Try to find settings that create the best results.
The settings in this slide are suggested, and results will vary. Change as needed for your design. 
Also, click Ignore White. This will leave only the graphic.
Changing Document Color Mode
Our document is now in Grayscale mode. This is because, during Image Trace, we used the Black & White mode, which changes the document color mode to Grayscale. 
To change that:
  • Select the Color bin on the right hand side. It looks like a little paint pallet.

  • Click this button.  
  • Change these settings from Grayscale to RGB.
  • A check mark will move to the one that is selected.
Notice how different these two images are. 
They are the same photo, but using different settings to create an image trace. 
We could edit these two images together, to get the perfect trace for our cut-out.
When a perfect trace can not be created from one Image Trace, it is usually due to too many light shades being too close together. 
Try dark images on a light background, or vise versa.
An engraving can be made on the Laser Cutter with this image. 
Engraving is done with RGB Black, or (0,0,0).
Check your setting by double clicking the fill color. 
Engraving ONLY files for the Laser Cutter are:
  • in only one color: RGB Black (0,0,0)
  • saved as .AI files.
To save your file, click Fille > Save As
Save it as an .AI file.
*If you want to make more than one tone in your engravings or use a raster image for dithering, please see Maker Studio staff for assistance. 

Creating Cutting Paths for the Tools

Vector images as lines are used for cutting. 

To create a path to cut:

  • Select the image
  • Go to the property panel
  • Click Image trace 
  • Click expand

To remove parts of the paths:

  • Select Object from the top menu and then select Ungroup
  • Select the parts you want to delete and the hit delete

To cut the shape on the you need to Delete the FILL by selecting No Fill, and turn the Stroke on. 

  • Select the double sided arrow.
  • This switches their properties around.

  • The Stroke/Fill Icons should look like this now.

These outlines can now be imported into Silhouette Cameo or Inventables Carvey Online software as a cut path.

  • Cut this out with the Trotec Laser cutter by changing your Stroke Weight to 0.0002 and set the line color to RGB Red ( 255,0,0)

*Save your file at this time as a SVG, PNG AND .AI files in order to have flexibility for importing to the cutting tool software programs.

Cutting Paths for Roland VersaWorks

  1. Create or upload your design in Adobe Illustrator. 
  2. In order to have your cutline follow the outline of your graphic you must use a vector, not a raster image. If you are using a raster image you will need to draw a shape around it in Illustrator which will become the cutline or vectorize the image in Illustrator.
  3. To create a cut line around your image first you must download the Roland Versa Works swatch which can be found here. 
  4. To open the swatch window choose “window” and then “swatches”.
  5. Click on the 4 horizontal lines in the upper right corner.
  6. Click on “open swatch library” then choose the “Roland Versa Works”.
  7. The pink swatch is cut.
  8. You can also watch how to do it here:
To cut a frame (eg. circle or rectangle) around a design
  1. Draw the shape you want (eg. Rectangle) around the design
  2. Make sure the fill is turned off
  3. Click on “open swatch library” then choose the “Roland Versa Works”.
  4. Choose the pink swatch for cut.
  5. Stroke must be .25 points.
To Cut around a detailed shape
  1. Open “Layers” window.
  2. Duplicate the layers.
  3. Name the back layer “Image” and lock and hide this layer.
  4. Name the top layer “cut line”.
  5. Select “cut line” then click on “object” in the toolbar and “expand”.
  6. In the Pathfinder window choose “unite”.
  7. In the appearance window choose “stroke”.
  8. In the Swatch Window choose pink for cutting.
  9. Click on “stroke”. Make sure “aligned to centre” is chosen.
  10. Stroke must be less than .25 pnt.
  11. Unlock the Image layer and bring forward.  
  12. Submit your finished file on the MRU Maker Studio website by filling out the form.
  13. You will receive an email when the print is completed. This could take up to 2 weeks. Please pick up your print during open hours.

Creating Clipping Mask

Crop Images with Clipping Mask to fit circles, squares or stroke outlines of other vector images. 

To add a Clipping Mask:

  • Right Click the Rectangle Tool.
  • change it to the Circle Tool.

  • Draw a Circle 

  • Turn OFF the Stroke and Fill.

​To add a Clipping Mask

  • Click on the Selection Tool.
  • Click and Drag to Select the Image and the Circle. 
    • If you’ve done this correctly, there will be a blue line around both objects. 
  • Look up at the top Menu bar:

  • Click Object

    • Clipping Mask

    • Make

Now, your photo should be shaped to fit the mask you created.

  • Remember: a clipping mask must sit on top of the Image (ie. clipping mask be above the image in the layers hierarchy) in order to work properly.

Creating shapes

Creating vector images as lines used for cutting.

  • Find toolbar on the left side

  • Right click on the Rectangle tool

  • This opens view of all tools in bin

  • Click on your Art board (white background)

  • Now, set your ellipse to 4 inch x 4 inch

  • This draws a circle that is 4 inches

You can do this with the other preset shapes

To make custom shapes, use the pen tool


Adding Text to a Design

  • Create a circle 3 inch x 3 inch
  • Now, turn off the stroke and the fill lines.
    • To align it to the centre, click and drag it until a small icon pops up that says centre
  • Select the Text tool
  • Right Click on the Text tool
  • Now, select the Type on a Path tool

  • Select the Type on Path tool
  • Click on the inner circle that you have selected. This will draw automatic text to the path.
  • If the text is black and highlighted like this, you can type your text. Otherwise, click ON the text to select it again.
  • While your text is selected, look at the toolbar above.

  • This is where you will change your font (Size, as well as Regular, Italics, Bold) and typeface ( what it looks like).

  • To move or flip text on a path, position the pointer over the type's center bracket until a small icon appears next to the pointer. Do one of the following: To move text along the path, drag the center bracket along the path. Hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to prevent the type from flipping to the other side of the path.

  • This text is now changed to be larger font, with a different typeface.

Double click the Swatch fill  

  • The text is RGB black( 0,0,0), which means the laser cutter will engrave these 

  • Select the Selection tool.
  • Select the outer circle (it will go blue)

Double click the Swatch stroke

  • Change this to RGB Red ( 255,0,0), which means the laser cutter will cut these lines

Select your outer, red circle

  • Change the stroke thickness to be 0.0025

(Illustrator will make it 0.002, but don’t worry, just leave it)

This will change the line thickness to become thinner, and it should look like this:

To Review

  • Laser Cutter files must have: 
  • RGB Black for engraving lines
  • RGB Red with stroke weight : 0.0025 for cutting lines.
  • is sized for 1:1 real world scale

This vector graphic is what a laser cutter design file will look like.

Manipulating Text to Design a Logo

  • Let’s begin by selecting the text tool, and typing our initials.
  • Now click on the white artboard. 
  • You now see the words Lorem Ipsum.
  • Change this to your initials by typing them in.
  • Notice this is inverted?

  • That’s because it’s selected! 

  • Press V to select the Selection tool, and then click on the text.

  • Change the text size, and character to reflect a text aesthetic that you like using the options on the top bar.

  • Now click on the object menu option, and click on Expand. 

  • This blue square represents the text object ‘AB’ is selected. 

  • This opens the Expand window. You will want the object and the fill checked.

  • At the bottom, Click OK.

Now, with your object selected,  click CTRL + SHIFT + G This will ungroup your object. Or on the top panel click object, ungroup. 

What ungrouping means, is that you can select each letter Individually because they are no longer grouped together. 

Grouping helps manage design objects so you can select them together with one click.

Press V on the keyboard, and give it a try! Select one of your new objects. 

Now, we are going to scale our object to a uniform size. Click on one corner of the object (the square point), but careful because you can stretch the image. To keep it from stretching, hold shift while you grab the edge and scale it. 

  • Click SHIFT + CLICK + DRAG
    This will scale your object evenly.
  • Now, press the A on your keyboard. 
    We have just selected the Direct Selection tool.

With these two tools, the Selection tool and the  Direct Selection Tool,  you can modify and move any vector objects into any shapes and forms you want to make


  • With this tool, we can change the paths of vector lines. 
  • With this tool selected, click on an object and you will notice now that the view is very different.

Each one of those square dots is an anchor point.

  • With the Direct Selection tool you can grab anchor points.
  • Anchor points represent any place where the path of the line changes. 
  • All lines are straight, until they meet an anchor point! Those are the blue
  • squares. 

If you grab (click on) a point, or hold SHIFT and click multiple points, those points become selected. 

  • You can click and drag those points into any formation to get the shapes you want. 

You can change your logo until you are happy with the design. 

This is a vector graphic, meaning it is infinitely scalable! 
We are now going to optimize this for the laser cutter. 

Remember: The vinyl cutter, the Carvey CNC and the Vinyl Printer/Cutter all rely on following vector lines. If you learn these basics, it will apply to
the other machines!

The basic idea is simple. All machines need to follow cut paths and different software will create these paths but for the most part, you are designing with Outlines in mind. 

The Outline becomes the cutting path and the machine can perform the process based on this information. 

  • Press V and this will select the Selection tool.
  • Click and drag over your graphic. You will see a light gray square draw out around the object. 
  • Release and you’ve selected your artwork. 

While the artwork is selected, open your menu option Window, and pick Pathfinder. 

  • Then, you can choose one of the options you have available in the Pathfinders: section to merge multiple objects into one object. 
  • We recommend using the Unite tool if you have overlapping paths, like in this graphic!

Now, we are going to create a cut path!

The laser cutter can perform two processes:

  • engraving
  • cutting

The laser cutter knows how to do this because we will change our objects or graphics to contain information, or SVG line values that it recognizes.

  • Notice how this object is now connected, with no breaks in between the A and the B?
  • We can change the Stroke values of this object so the laser cutter will cut out around the letter, but leave all of the black area engraved only. 
  • Press Z to select the zoom tool (or the magnifying glass icon on the toolbar).

  • We will now zoom into the graphic you have created.

  • Click on the graphic to zoom in.

  • To zoom out, hold ALT and click

  • Now, double click on the Stroke.

  • This will open your Color Picker.

  • We need to always set the value to RGB RED, or (255,0,0) in our RGB color Values.

  • Enter into your R: 255.

  • We have created RGB RED.

  • If you add any values into the G: section or the B: section, the file will no longer be able to be recognized by the laser cutter.

  • The laser cutter will treat it like those lines do not exist.

  • The Stroke around our object is now RGB RED.

  • But this isn’t enough information for the laser cutter. 

  • We also need to set the Stroke weight, or line thickness to 0.002 pt. 

  • Click on the Stroke while your graphic is selected, and then choose 0.002.

  • Notice that your line thickness has changed and it is barely visible.

  • We can now submit our laser cutting file to the Maker Studio!


Saving Files

  • To submit the file, first save this as an .AI file.
  • Click on menu tab File.
  • Click on Save as…
  • And now, name your file, save it to the desktop and you can upload your file when you submit it online.
  • To find our Print Submission forms, Google search” Maker Studio MRU” or enter URL:


File Types

Laser Cutter


Vinyl Printer


Vinyl Cutter


CNC machine


Next Steps for the Tools & Additional Resources

To design for the vinyl cutter, please download Silhouette Studios (design software for Cameo vinyl cutter) and follow the instructions or come into the Maker Studio to use one of the computers with the software on it and get any help you might need.

To design for the Laser Cutter OR the Vinyl Printer/Cutter, create your files in Illustrator, and submit them through MRU Maker Studio online print submission forms.

To design for the CNC Carvey, create an Inventables Easel account through their website. You can practice designing from their website, or use the Maker Studio computers and plug into the CNC machine in the Maker Studio.

If you would like to learn more about Illustrator, please see the tutorials shared here: