Owl be thinking of you – DIY Laser Cut Greeting Cards


Design Document: DIY Laser Cut Greeting Cards


“Owl be thinking of you”
bekky O’Neil – IAMD Programme, 3158303
Submitted February 4th 2018

Explanation of the Design Concept

As animators and permaculture farmers, my partner and I work under the name “Cardboard Reality Farm & Studio.”  We call ourselves Cardboard Reality because we deal in constructed worlds.  For stop motion animation specifically it is all about putting together bits of string and paper to create complicated environments and magical spaces.  It didn’t occur to me when I started selling from our market garden at the farmer’s market that given our name, and my penchant for killing time by painting little greeting cards under the tent that a big part of what I do would end up being paper goods.


I was interested in how working with paper for laser cutting could allow me to go deeper into my paper cut work (which I often use for negatives for screen printing) and so set out to adapt paper cut illustrations, painstakingly cut with an x-acto knife into easy to replicate designs for sale as greeting cards.

Since I also use these paper cuts as negatives for screen printing and am perpetually paranoid about breaking one, I like that in scanning them and being able to replicate I could also reprint my designs at different scales for exposure, or just replicate them as backups, or take it one step further to make paper cut negatives for screen printing from Digital designs (avoiding working with nasty acetate which is expensive and often too small).


Challenges included working with files with so many tiny holes!  Deciding what should be the first cut vs. second or third seemed arbitrary at times, and as I have not yet (as of writing this) been able to test out my work.

Other challenges included the laser cutter being out of service.

An explanation of the iterative design process

The potential across mediums for laser cut artworks is almost overwhelming to me.  Too many ideas and too little time will certainly turn out to be a time for me in this course.  Initially my intended project was to raster engrave images from life the farm onto wood harvested by my partner from our tree line, but given the nature of hand milled wood and it’s uneven surface, after conversations wit Reza and the team at the RP Centre at 100 McCaul it seemed like given the tight turnaround of the project I would be spending more time woodworking and building a rig than putting together my design.  So this project will be saved for later.

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I was interested to learn that any irregular shaped object can be engraved upon so long as an appropriate rig of wood or cardboard was constructed to old the item in the right location, corresponding to the digital workspace.  Nice etc piece of wood is unique this ultimately means that I will either have to build an adaptable rig, use screws placing holes in the wood, or to build a unique ring for each item (hardly rapid at that point.). It seems to me that perhaps screen printing or wood burning the images could be equally effective when it comes to time input but I will compare at a later date.


When I decided to move on to the paper cut project I started by picking out a series of paper cuts to scan and work with.  Ultimately out of three potential designs I chose the smallest and most comparatively simple, as I felt it would give me the most space to play with layout.


Initially I just set out to replicate my initial paper cut on a smaller scale, which I thought could be attached to the front of a card.  On the train ride in I had the tremendously obvious epiphany that gluing or sewing the laser cut element to the front of a card sort of defeated the purpose of using a laser cutter to create multiples, and that what I really should be doing was to remove the outer line and just cutting the design out of the card.  This would allow me to place a differently coloured piece of paper on the interior of the card – allowing a bigger degree of contrast when the card is closed, without compromising the tactile experience of receiver.

Moving forward I am interested in taking this work further by beginning to design pop up cards, and maybe even a pop up book.

(Or pop up animation!)

Inspiration: “Going West” ad for NZ Book Council by Andersen M Studio

Tools & Materials used

Black card stock
X-Acto Knife
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
TVPaint Animation (for basic scan clean function to alpha channel design)
Archival Quality Paper
Pre-Cut Bamboo Greeting Cards

Step by Step guide, showing the reader how to create your design from the design phase to the fabrication phase.


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In the spirit of the love of cardboard and paper, as well as the DIY , I have been working on putting together an illustrated zine

Visual documentation of the completed project

To follow.

Relevant research

Ponoko: How to make a laser cut greeting card

Paper & Fire: How to improve a laser cut greeting card or stationery design

How to improve a laser cut greeting card or stationery design

Instructables: Popup Cards With Laser Cutter

Love Pop Cards (Inspiration)