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Doing Photos in CorelDraw with your Laser Engraver – Introduction

Laser  Engraving or Sublimating Photographs

One of the biggest issues that faces us as engravers is reproducing photos onto a variety of products. Reproducing photos is not easy – even for those of us who have done a lot of it. Part of the problem is that there are so many substrates to work on and so many different types of photographs. There are some off the shelf programs that have tried to make doing photos easier but they tend to have mixed results. Programs such as PhotoLaser Plus, 1 Touch Photo and PhotoGrav provide these so called one click fits all solutions. PhotoLaser and PhotoGrav have gone one step further in that they will also give you the ability to tweak the image from within their software and have it try and display the image on a simulated display of the material you are working on. This tweaking can give you better results. However my experience with these programs is that they are again hit and miss. Why they are hit and miss can be caused by a number of factors and when you understand these factors you can achieve a better chance of getting it right. Which is why I am doing this series of articles. Hopefully I can clear up some of the confusion that rains down on this topic – and not only in our industry. 

Laser Engraved on Black Granite Done in CorelDraw


Which leads me to say that I am not a real fan of “the one click software”. The problem is that people just assume that this software is the panacea that they have been looking for. This is the wrong approach to take. These programs can help you but you really need to look at other factors before you use them. I have used this type of software before and it never can be perfect. Do you really want to have the one bad photo go on a $125 urn and ruin it? I did not think so. This is why I get upset when people run around claiming that their software is the be all to end all. It sort of reminds me of the days of the one click scan to vector we used to hear about – and still do – where programs claimed (so does CorelDraw now) that one click can create a vector image out of a scanned logo. What they forgot to tell you was is that you rarely get good artwork. Guess what the same thing happens with photos. You get more bad photos than good photos. So you know what those so called one click photos programs just are not going to work.
For me if I was taking photos from customers it would be like taking logos from them also. Yes I will take the photo but i need to go through a check list to make sure that I have a photo that is sufficient for me to process. If someone says to you that the they got the logo from the internet you know instinctively that you are probably going to have problems. Well the same can be said about a photo. Certain key words will trigger my suspicions when it comes to photos. Such as I got it off the internet or we used this mobile phone to take the pic. These are statements that conjure up “problem” for me.
There are a number of factors that we have to deal with when we are looking at lasering a photograph. These factors should be your check list when you are reviewing a photo. These are as follows

  1. The Quality of the Photo in terms of compression and overall exposure
  2. The Nature of the Material you are going to place the image on
  3. The Power and Speed of Our Laser
  4. The Printing Resolution of our Laser
  5. The Quality and Size of our Laser Beam
  6. How You Process the Image in CorelDraw or alternative programs
  7. The background in the photo itself – does it need to be removed
  8. What type of photo should I use – grayscale or black on white

To understand laser engraving photos requires that we consider all these factors so that we have the best chance to get a good result. In this series of articles we will look at all these factors and try and come up with the best techniques for tackling each one of these factors. If you can minimize the issues that you have with the above factors before you go to your software your chances will be better for achieving good results when you create you photos.
Oh and by the way everything I do I do in CorelDraw and PhotoPaint. No I do not waste my time with other programs. The results I get are just as good or better when I am working in straight from CorelDraw – and I can do everything with one or two clicks the same as the other programs can.
The purpose of this series of articles is to give you a better understanding of how to laser engrave photos. However I will be spending a lot of time on showing you how to analyze a photo so that you process it properly so that when you laser it you have the best chances of getting the best result.

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