2D Design Resources

All things to do with 2D Design, with a focus on tips and resources for targeting Laser Cutting, CNC milling, Plasma cutting, etc…


Templates and Clipart

Playing Cards


  • Iconian Fonts has an amazing selection of high quality fonts. They’re free for non-commercial use, and $20USD per font for commercial use. Dan Zadorozny, the creator, is responsive and helpful.

Drawing Apps

For CNC/Laser/Plasma you usually want to work with vector, not bitmap art. Read this article if you’re not sure what the difference is.

List of Apps


Excellent. Free.

  • Inkscape’s home
  • Read the tutorials. Really! They’re surprisingly short, and very, very, very (did I say “very”?) useful
  • Make sure you understand the differences between a stroke and a path.
  • Converting strokes to paths, and then combining is a great way to ‘fix’ artwork. Especially program generated stuff that has overlapping lines (e.g. from TurtleJS)
  • Inkscape for Cutting Design Forums
  • Shapeoko’s page on Inkscape
    • Key hint: “The default is to include stroke width in object dimensions. It is more straight-forward if such is not included. One can either work w/ objects which have no stroke, but fill only, or change the preference: Edit | Preferences — under Tools choose the radio button to use Geometric bounding box (this excludes stroke width from the size, making calculation, placement and sizing easier)”

Simplifying/Optimizing Images

Overlapping lines are bad for laser cutting/CNC.
The tools will hit the same area over and over again… both slow and can ruin the results.

  • manually moving paths to a new layer can help spot these problems… but not self-intersecting paths (lines that draw over themselves)
  • This inkscape plugin can help with this.
  • Illustrator has some tools built in. This tutorial explains how.
  • Making posters (breaking images up into chunks for printing on smaller printers) PosteRazor

Converting Bitmaps to Vector

Many uses for this:

  • simplifying a bitmap to pick out key details or colors
  • making a low res bitmap scale nicely

There are two common types of conversion.

The first, which is built into inkscape, looks for areas of color, generates an outline and a solid fill.

In inkscape the stroke is turned off.

This is great for representing the whole image.

But it’s not useful for getting vector lines to drive a laser cut, or CNC routing.

The other type of conversion tries to look for pen/brush strokes and estimates where the center of the stroke is. This is useful for profile cutting, V-bit engraving, and also making vector line art. (Vector line art can sometimes be much faster than raster engraving on the laser. Set the laser out of focus by 4-10mm and you’ll get a wider vector engrave line.)

There is a centre-line trace plugin for inkscape. Note: the installation instructions are out of date. Look in the releases section and you should find a ready-to-go installer (thanks to this tip.)


A common format for 2D vector art work

  • svgo - SVG optimizer. Mostly for size reduction. Be warned, some optimizations can destroy the artwork. Keep backups and check things look right!


Arranging parts to minimize wasted material

  • SVGNest- online and free. Open source project hosted on github.
    • Hints:
      • only does outlines
      • all parts must be closed
      • include a simple square that represents the area of your stock material
      • for laser engraving (rastering) could export as outlines, use SVGNest, import (to a new layer), and manually align full pieces to outline. Remember to remove the nest generated outlines- you don’t want the laser cutting twice and burning things or doing cuts before rastering!
  • Deepnest App

Template Designers

Enter some details and get pre-computed designs for boxes, cabinets, Pokemon, etc


The process of representing shades or colours using patterns of much reduced palette items.

Programmatic Generators

Writing programs that generate 2D designs.

  • Processing: “Processing is a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts.”
  • Context Free Art: “Context Free is a program that generates images from written instructions called a grammar. The program follows the instructions in a few seconds to create images that can contain millions of shapes.”
  • paper.js: “Paper.js — The Swiss Army Knife of Vector Graphics Scripting.”