Puzzling puzzles! …and preparing artwork for cutting.

Earlier this year we were asked to help design something simple for a customer that was hosting a treasure hunt.

The idea was that participants of the treasure hunt, around 120 people, would make their way around the different Clue Stops on the map and collect something from each place to prove they had been there. There were six locations altogether, with a secret wedding as the surprise at the end!

We considered tokens or badges, but pretty much straight away we were thinking Jigsaws! All the pieces would connect up to make a picture. This could simultaneously provide the ‘proof of participation’ needed to enter the final secret location, but would also give those taking part a nice memento keepsake of the event. On top of this, it would quickly become clear how many more stops were still to come as the jigsaw became more complete.

So the challenge was to design and create something that could be cut out relatively quickly (lets not forget there needs to be a minimum of 120 copies!) but still looked interesting with something illustrated in each section so their wouldn’t be any one puzzle piece that was less exciting to find.

The resulting image was as stripped down as possible with selective detail filling the space. The graphics were sent to us as a vector file, but we still needed to spend a little time seeking out overlapping or hidden lines. This is often the case with designers and artists who are unused to drawing for a laser cutter – often artwork can look perfect on the surface but a good trick is to try taking a look in outline mode to make sure there’s no cheeky fills covering anything up. You might not spot them, but the laser cutter certainly will!

Another one to watch out for are where two shapes share a common line. If you originally used closed shapes to create your image, it’s likely you’ll have overlapped somewhere. This was the case here where the female character’s blouse and skirt touched. It’s an ideal technique for illustrator purposes, perfect for a quick colour fill if your using your artwork for print or screen, but again, not ideal for laser cutting. Of course it doesn’t matter as much as the hidden lines – ‘so what if the laser travels over the same line twice?’ But remember, that line will look twice as dark and might stand out more than in other places.

None of these things are really a huge problem for a one-off piece of work, but with a large batch such as in this case you can certainly save a lot of cutter time with a little bit of tinkering.

Simple vector graphics laser etched into on a postcard sized jigsaw shape.

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