DIY Laser Cut Cake Topper
One of my favorite things to cut out with my Glowforge are custom cake toppers! They are perfect for any occasion and easy to make, cake toppers are the perfect touch to any party you might be celebrating, they are also quick and easy making a fantastic last minute gift to the host of any party. I have made birthday cake toppers, wedding cake toppers, baby showers and more! These custom cake toppers are very simple and you only need three things for this project; wood, masking tape, Adobe Illustrator or a cake topper file. When people hear Adobe Illustrator they tend to freak out, but don’t worry! I am going to walk you through every step to make your custom cake topper and it isn’t as scary as it may seem! Adobe Illustrator is a monthly paid subscription so if you don’t have it you can buy your own files.
Materials you will need
The materials to make the cake topper are super simple! For my cake topper I use 1/4 inch birch plywood, but you can use virtually any solid material, feel free to use draft board, acrylic, plywood, hardwood or any material that is sturdy enough! The next material you will need is painters/masking tape, you can get away with no tape if you are working with acrylic but if you are working with any type of wood you will want to mask the board, if you do not mask your board your cake topper will come out of the Glowforge or laser cutter charred, some do not mind this effect but I like to see the wood grain on my cake toppers so I always mask my wood. Those are the only two materials you need! Super, super simple; no glue, no clamps, no extra hardware to hold things together. If you are making your own cake topper instead of purchasing a file you will need Adobe Illustrator.
Designing the cake topper
To design a custom cake topper first you will need to open Adobe Illustrator, after opening the application select the create new button, when I am making a cake topper I set the width to six inches by six inches, if you would like your cake topper to be bigger you can change these settings. Once you set the dimensions hit the blue button that says create.
Once your new canvas is opened you will need to pick what kind of font you would like to use, it is essential to pick a font that has strong lines and is not to thin, if your font is to thin it will be very fragile and break when you try to peel the tape off your final project. Look for the text tool on the left toolbar, here I have it circled in red, click on your canvas and type what you would like your cake topper to say and select the font, here I typed in Happy Birthday and selected the font bar that is circled in red, I then selected the font Do It With Love.
The next step is sizing your text up and pushing it together so when the cake topper cuts out everything is connected. The three things you will need to change are circled in red, we want the text to be much bigger so we are going to select a higher font point, this is the circle that has the lowercase and uppercase T, this number may vary depending on what font you choose to use so feel free to play around with the numbers, and if you decide you don’t like the size you can change the size in the steps to come.
Next, we are going to adjust the word spacing, this is the red circle that shows the Big A and Little A, this will compress the words together to make sure they are connected, it is important to have more than one point of contact between your words or the cake topper will easily break. Again, these numbers may vary depending on your text so start with the numbers shown in the photograph and play with it!
The final step to edit the text is to push the letters together and make sure all the letters are touching, to do this select the drop down that is circled in red that shows VA with the arrows underneath, this will bring your letters together. There is such a thing as to connected, if the letters are to close together it might be hard to make it what the cake topper says, for every font there is a sweet sport, the font I used is perfect at -85, all the letters are touching but you can still clearly read what the cake topper says. If you would like to resize your text now is your chance!
Select your text by clicking somewhere on the words, after this find the transform settings under properties (circled in red), before your resize your text make sure to select the small chain, if the chain is linked that means you can now resize your text, if the chain in unlinked or has a line through it your design will not maintain its proportions when you resize it and you still need to click on the chain in order to link it.
Once it is linked go ahead and resize it to whatever dimensions your heart desires! Keep in mind that a Glowforge can only cut the dimensions 11”x19.5” after this step you will not be able to resize your design again so make sure you enter in the correct dimensions.
Now we are going to add the stem, this is the part of the cake topper that will be pushed into the cake to secure the topper in place, Find the shapes tool in your toolbar, and select the rectangle (shown in red) on your toolbar the shapes tool might show as a circle, if this happens right click the circle, it will then show the different shape tools and you can select the rectangle.
Draw any sized rectangle, we will be editing the dimensions next so don’t worry if it isn’t the right length or width! After making your rectangle we are going to resize this, to do this once again find the dimensions under transform on the properties tab. For any cake topper I make I always make the width .125” I find that this is thick and sturdy enough to support my size of cake topper for the height I generally make it 4” this height works fantastic for almost any cake.
If you want to make a larger cake topper I would recommend making two different rectangles to have two different points of support. After I adjust my dimensions I line up my rectangle and overlap the edge with the bottom of my cake topper text, I try to center the rectangle as best I can to the middle of my design, at this point if you choose to make a larger cake topper or want two supports you would put one rectangle on either side of your design.
The next step can be tricky but as long as you follow along carefully it should be quick and easy! Because most laser printers (like Glowforge) won’t cut out text (only engrave) we need to convert our text to have outlines, to do this select your design, you can either click on your design or click and drag over your design, once your design is selected right click on your mouse, this will pull up a quick menu, select create outlines (in the photo it is in blue).
After you create outlines your design will look like this. This allows the laser to follow the outline and cut out your design.
The next step is crucial if you want one whole cake topper! Without this step the Glowforge will cut your design into multiple pieces. It is time to unite the entire design together! Select your entire design, click somewhere on the canvas and drag over the entire design.
Next you will locate the pathfinder under the properties tab, select the very first option to unite your design together, the button you will click is circled in red. Once again make sure your ENTIRE design is selected before you hit the unite button, the design should have a solid blue line running around it with no blue lines going through the design.
Good job! After all your hard work you are ready to export your design! Select File tab on the very top left of your screen scroll to export and hit export as (shown in blue). The design must be exported as a SVG, under format hit the the
arrow for the drop down menu and select SVG at the very bottom, make sure you name your design before you hit the blue export button!
Cutting the file in Glowforge
We are now ready to upload the design to the Glowforge design space! On your dashboard look to the top left and click create, next select upload from file, locate your file and upload it into your dashboard.
Once uploaded you will either create a new setting for your material, select a setting you have already saved, or select the Glowforge proofgrade settings if you are using proofgrade materials. To create a new setting click on your design on the left hand side of your design space where it says enter settings, next locate the manual setting and select it.
You will now type in your settings, these settings will vary depending on what material you use. I am using a .25” birch plywood panel, I get this material from Home Depot and cut it down myself, if you have the means to do so I strongly recommend it, it makes it so much cheaper than buying panels from the Glowforge site! The settings I use are; speed 125 at full power, one pass and auto focus height. Again this might vary depending on what material you are using!
Once you enter in these new settings save this preset with a name so you can use it for future projects with the same material, your design should look like the photo above. A red line for all the cut paths that show the outline of your design.
Hallelujah! We are to the final step, select the part of your design space that is labeled unknown, this will be directly above your design that shows what settings you are using on the leftmost bar. If you are using a proofgrade material select which material you have.
If you are using your own material you will be selecting use uncertified material (circled in red). Again make sure that your sheet of material has been masked or your cake topper will come out looking browned and charred around the edges.
A tool I use every time I operate my Glowforge are digital calipers! This makes measuring your material a breeze! Because material thickness varies board by board if you measure every time you put a new board in the Glowforge will give you a cleaner cut! Although in the stores a sheet of plywood is advertised as .25” it might be less, in my case when I measured my sheet of wood it turned out to be .20”. Once you measure your sheet of wood enter it in and hit submit.
Voila! You are ready to hit that magical print button. Happy Lasering!