Recently I’ve been playing around with a fantastic app I found on IOS called Amaziograph. I was recommended to it by a friend back in December when I was having fun making geometric bauble patterns (read my earlier blogs – Laser Your Way Into The Christmas Display – prototyping and packaging).
I found this app fantastic for helping to create interesting vector shapes that were perfect for laser cutting. I created mine using an iPad Pro with the Apple pencil, but it works very nicely with a different kind of stylus or simply using your finger. I’ve tried several Stylus options in the past – feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!
The idea is simple.
Select what sort of graph you want to try – I like Kaleidoscope best. (In the background you can see a few examples of previous graphs I’ve created)
Next, select how many grid points you prefer – this refers to the amount of segments you’d like your kaleidoscope to have – or, the amount of times you’d like the pattern to be reproduced around the circle.
You can find where to adjust this by clicking on the icon in the top right hand corner. Select ‘Adjust Grid’ then use the slider to see the segments increase and decrease.
Now begin drawing in one segment! The image will be perfectly copied around the completed circle and immediately begins to look interesting. You don’t need to stay within this one segment, try drawing across the dividers and see what happens to the pattern overall!
I quickly realised the shapes I was creating would make fascinating laser cut projects. By using a single colour (I’ve chosen black as it was the default) and filling in the areas I imagine to be the material – leaving blank the areas I wish to be cut out – I can easily create a completed solid shape.
When happy with the design you can either save to your photo stream or share directly with a connected devise that suits you. I used Airdrop to send straight to my computer ready for tweaking in adobe Illustrator.
The projects are saved as flat JPEGs. I open them in Illustrator and then open the ‘Image Trace’ panel. If you’ve not used it before, this is a very useful feature for vectorising flat images. It doesn’t always work if the quality of your image isn’t clear so sometimes still requires a bit of cleaning up. However for clear black and white pictures this is perfect!
Now you can see why I drew my Amaziograph in black and white. The options might need a little bit of playing around with but you can always use the preview button to see how things change as you adjust the settings. Select Black and White mode, and then by expanding the ‘Advanced’ menu I select ‘Ignore White’ –
this means after tracing, only the black shape will be left.
When the shape is traced you just need to then ‘Expand’ to convert the tracing object to paths.
The paths are what the laser cutter will be interested in so from here, choose a fine stroke rather than a fill.
Now you can edit your shape as much as you want. Occasionally I found I might need to use the ‘Smooth’ tool to simplify the edges – this was usually if I had done a messy job of colouring in the original drawing. Save your shape as a DXF in the usual way ready for cutting!
I found this game particularly addictive! Not only was this a nice way to create intricate shapes but I found the process extremely calming – certainly a more effective form of mindfulness than adult colouring. The process was intriguingly rewarding. I went on to use the shape I have shown you in this example to create some laser cut bunting which you can read about in another blog post. I’m sure there is hours more fun to come!