Which design program should I use for the laser?
For the best results, use a vector graphics program. There are three that are the most popular:
materials table here
Prototype your designs
Practice makes perfect
Before deciding to put your final design into the laser, make sure to try out a small-scale prototype first. This will help familiarize you with the design process and can help you understand how to design for different materials and projects.
Print out the design on paper
This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to create your first prototype. Printing your design is the best way to spot sizing errors, check that holes are big or small enough, and see if the overall design is like you think it will be.
Vector (cut) vs. raster (engrave)
A vector cut means that you are trying to go all the way through (cut) the material that your using. Some materials that vector cut include wood, acrylic, cork, and paper.
In the design stage, any part of the design that you want to be cut needs to have an outline (Illustrator), path (Inkscape) or curve (CorelDRAW) with a line width of less than .0001". For example, in CorelDRAW, the Hairline width would be the best choice. This is how the laser knows to cut instead of engrave.
A raster operation simply means that the laser is engraving the material. Think of it like a printer. If you are engraving at 600 dpi, that means that the laser will make 600 dots in one inch, 600 rapid pulses into the material. This is what you would use if you are trying to engrave an image, text, or a shape into the material.
Avoid overly detailed vector cutting
At the laser's focal point the beam has a width of .005". However, depending on the material and material thickness, the kerf (material vaporized by the laser) can be a bit wider up to 2mm (.008"). Keeping that in mind, very fine details may not vector cut well.
Laser bed size
The laser can hold workpieces up to 24" x 18" x 8.5". There is a drop down front door, so it is possible to accommodate a larger workpiece, though the engraving area is limited to 24" x 18".
Related: Advanced Laser Operator, Beginner Laser Operator, Epilog Laser Cutter-Engraver 24 x 18, Fraternity Paddle, Intermediate Laser Operator, White/Blue Acrylic Sign