How to etch designs into denim with a laser engraver

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You can really make a Denim piece of clothing pop by engraving something personal onto it. Many people now have laser engravers but the though of putting your expensive jeans into a laser engraver is a scary one.

So, what you need to do is experiment with your laser to understand how to vaporise the dye without burning the cotton.

This instructable is allow about how to experiment and get the settings require for success with your particular machine. I would like to point out that engraving tattoo designs is particularly attractive, but pop back for an additional set of engraving instructables that will be posted soon.

Step 1: Place Test Denim on Laser Bed

Place Test Denim on Laser Bed
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So the first step is to place a test strip of denim fabric on your laser bed. You may want to use some magnets to hold the fabric flat and tight. You can see our magnets just in the corners, you will need to choose magnets that are thinner than the lowest height of your laser assembly.

Once on the bed you need to set the focal height of your laser, we use the datum function of the z-axis and the machine uses the probe to set it perfect every time.

Step 2: Configure Lasercut 5.3 for Engraving Denim

Configure Lasercut 5.3 for Engraving Denim
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With laser cut we can set 16 different settings using different colours. I have chosen to use four rectangles and set the power of each engraving for the four rectangles.

Drag out your four rectangles, select them individually and choose a range of powers to engrave. We have a 100 watt tube which is quite powerful, so I started at 10% and incremented in 5%.

So for my first set of rectangles i set 10, 15, 20 and 25.

Step 3: Make Test Engravings and Adjust Settings

Make Test Engravings and Adjust Settings
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2015 00:31.jpg

In the previous step I used 10%,15%,20% and 25% for my starting power. You can see from the photo that the 20% and 25% power setting actually burnt the cotton. The 10% did not show any noticeable change to the colour of the denim.

I decided that my settings would be between 10% and 20%. So I repeated the experiment until I had found acceptable settings that changed the colour of the denim without burning the cotton.

Step 4: Capture Your Settings and Document Them

Capture Your Settings and Document Them

You need to capture your settings. What I did was to document my test denim by using a permant marker and writing the power settings directly onto the denim, This has now been posted on our laser room wall for all to use and modify.

It is important to note that there are different weights of denim, different dyes. The cotton may be holding more water on some days, these variables will change the settings but they will be close. You will always need to do a test engraving on each new denim product.

Please have fun and let us know what your engrave onto your denim in the comments below.