If you want to use a laser engraver, the machine itself is only one part of the equation. You must also pick the right laser engraving software and familiarize yourself with its features.
Depending on your specific needs, you may be to use a free solution without compromising anything. In other cases, you might need a more advanced product that comes with specific features and has a rather high price tag.
Benefits of Using a Laser Engraver
A laser engraver can help you create decorated products with a unique, personal twist. Most of the good laser engravers on the market don’t cost much upfront and they don’t have significant maintenance costs attached to them either.
Laser engravers also don’t take up a lot of space and can be easily used in a confined area, as long as there’s sufficient ventilation. Many models have exhaust ports that can be vented to the outside so that you don’t get exposed to harmful gases during your work.
There’s also a pretty large community of laser engraver users out there, and many are always ready to help with useful tips and other information that can help you get out of tricky situations. It’s rare that you’ll run into a problem no one else has encountered before.
Top 10 Best Laser Engraving Software
“What app should I use with a laser engraver?” is a question that comes up frequently among beginners. There are multiple tools on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. It can be worthwhile to explore at least a few different solutions before settling on any specific one.
This is especially true if you’re looking to spend some money on this and therefore want to be sure that you’re using the best premium software for laser engraver work. Here are some of our suggestions for the best laser engraver software out there.
1 – LaserWeb
LaserWeb is free and open source, so if you’re looking to minimize your costs without compromising anything, it’s one of the best solutions available right now. One of its best features is the wide format support, which enables you to work with drawings produced in many different applications without having to go through any complicated conversion steps.
You can also extend the functionality of LaserWeb through free addons, some of which have a lot of community support.
- Free and open source
- Easy to use
- Lots of extensions available on the market
- Interface is occasionally a bit clunky
- Doesn’t support some features which have become commonplace in other solutions
2 – LaserGRBL
Another free tool with a lot of power concealed under a relatively simple interface, LaserGRBL is great for working with machines specifically designed for GRBL. It may not come with any fancy bells and whistles but it gets the main job done well enough to use it as your primary laser engraving tool.
You can even convert non-vector images into an appropriate format with just a few clicks, which can be very helpful when you only have raster images available as input for your work.
- Very easy to use
- Compatible with GRBL-based machines
- Built-in vectorization tool
- Lacks advanced functionality
3 – LightBurn
LightBurn is available on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux, and Mac – and is very popular among experienced users and beginners alike. Its low price tag makes it accessible even to complete newcomers to the market, and the tool offers various features that can help you import and convert your work from a wide range of formats.
Adjusting the setup of your image is also easy, for example when you need to rearrange layers or change the shapes of certain elements. The tool offers some design features, but they are not the main highlight and should only be used for adjustments to already finished work.
- Low price
- Compatible with all major operating systems
- Built-in editing tools
- Edit tools don’t provide in-depth functionality
- Some features take a while to get used to
4 – Inkscape
Inkscape is a well-known vector art application that’s been on the market for a long time. It’s not specifically designed for use with laser engravers, but supports them nonetheless, allowing you to make the most of your engraving work with a convenient tool.
One of the main benefits of Inkscape is that it’s completely free. It’s also one of the few tools on the market to offer that much functionality at this price level. You can also use Inkscape on all major operating systems (Windows, Linux, and Mac) out of the box without any special adjustments.
- Lots of functionality
- Compatible with all major operating systems
- Interface hasn’t been updated in a while and it can seem a bit unorganized to first-time users
5 – Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator may not be the cheapest product out there, but it’s probably the best-known suite for working with vector images on the market right now. It offers lots of different features, some of which are unique to Adobe’s line of products. It supports different modes of operation for laser engravers as well.
Adobe have adapted their pricing policy in recent years, no longer requiring a major upfront payment for their products like in the past. This has made tools like Illustrator much more accessible to the average person on the market.
- Extensive functionality that covers practically every use case
- Compatible with wide range of laser engravers
- Actively supported by the company and its surrounding community
- Relatively expensive
- High system requirements compared to other similar applications
6 – DraftSight
DraftSight is offered in several different versions, but they are all paid. The main differences between the separate tiers lie in their exact functionality, with the higher tiers offering more features. Those might not necessarily be relevant to you for your laser engraving work though. Even the basic version should be fine for most people’s needs.
The program supports various different formats and can run on Windows and Mac. Linux support is unfortunately not available at this point. The company is active online and frequently provides support to their customers, so if you run into any issues, you should reach out to them.
- Several price tiers
- Various features suited for different workflows
- Support for Windows and Mac
- No free version
- No Linux version
7 – Affinity Designer
Affinity’s suite of tools is meant to provide a more affordable alternative to Adobe’s products. Some users love them, while others claim that they can always tell the difference and never feel quite at home compared to using Adobe’s popular suites.
Still, Affinity Designer offers a lot for its low price. It shares much of its functionality with Illustrator, though the design and layout of some menus pales in comparison to Adobe’s offers. The company behind Affinity Designer supports its products actively and you can expect to see them continuing to roll out updates for a long time in the future.
- Closest alternative to Adobe Illustrator at the moment
- Wide range of features
- Active support by developers
- No free version
- Some menus could use an improvement
8 – CorelDRAW
CorelDRAW is a titan in the vector graphics market and the application has a long, established presence in the field. Many people value it for its extensive feature package, while others appreciate that CorelDRAW still runs well on older machines even after all these years of support and updates.
The company also provides additional resources on its website, some of which can help streamline your work and simplify your workflow. It supports various formats and can run on Windows and Mac.
- One of the oldest and most established tools on the market
- Supports many different formats
- Intuitive menus
- Free trial lets you experience all features for a limited time
- Supports Windows and Mac
- No free version
- Some features are a little outdated compared to the competition
9 – TurboCAD Designer
You may have heard of TurboCAD if you’re active in other designer circles. The application is a well-known leader in the market and has been around for a long time. It supports a diverse range of formats with no additional effort on the user’s part. It also has an excellently designed user interface which has stood the test of time.
Unfortunately, TurboCAD is an exclusively premium application and you won’t find a free version of it. Given the fact that it runs well on older machines and receives active support from its developers though, it’s a good investment compared to other tools in its price range.
- Great feature set
- Low system requirements
- Active developer support
- No free version
- Advanced customer support is only available for a limited time after your purchase
10 – SolveSpace
SolveSpace can be used to work on both 2D and 3D designs, and it’s very popular on the laser engraver market. If you’re used to CAD-style tools, this is going to be right up your alley. It’s especially good for art based on parametric designs, as you can easily create various shapes and layouts by just inputting the correct arguments.
It’s also completely free, which is rather unusual for its feature set. This is a great tool for those who know what they’re looking for and need a specific set of features in their laser engraver software.
- Supports many different operations
- Great approach to parametric design
- Not as polished as some high-end tools
Finding the best laser engraver software for your needs can take some time and experimentation. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t land on the right application on your first try.
As long as you take the time to go through the above list and explore the different features available in each tool, you will eventually find one that matches your requirements perfectly.