Zebras on Iridescent and Clear Acrylic!

This blog post was written by MakerSpace TA Michelle Tabansi

Michelle Tabansi is a multimedia artist majoring in IDM. When she is not doing school work, she usually spends her time creating digital illustrations and working on motion graphics projects.

For this MakerSpace TA project, clear and iridescent acrylic were engraved with an image of zebras using the Epilog Fusion Laser Cutter and Adobe Illustrator. 

I was inspired to turn my digital artwork into a physical piece when my aunt remarked on how great it looked. Her birthday was coming around, so I thought it would make the perfect gift! At first, I wanted to make it into a framed art print, but then I noticed another MakerSpace TA utilizing the laser cutter to make awards out of clear acrylic for a school club and thought it would make for the perfect medium for the piece.

Materials and Software

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Epilog Fusion Laser Cutter
  • ¼ in thick, 12×24 inch Clear Acrylic
  • ⅛ in thick, 12×18 inch Transparent Iridescent Acrylic

Adobe Illustrator Design Process:

The product was originally designed using Adobe Illustrator and was intended to be viewed digitally, hence the color and vibrancy of the piece. I was inspired to bring the design to life, however, and thought engraving it onto transparent acrylic would be the perfect way to do so.

To begin, the image needed to be modified in Adobe Illustrator in order to raster onto the acrylic, as its current state has too many colors for the laser cutter to read. I was able to do this by removing all of the background colors and leaving only the thick black outlines of the zebras – it was a relatively simple process.

Production Process:

When I began utilizing the machine, I ran into a bit of a setback due to the engraving settings not working with my material. I originally used 1/8 inch thick acrylic, but as the laser cutter engraved the design, the acrylic began to curve around the edges because the heat from the laser was shrinking the plastic towards the center. This occurred at the top where the design was more concentrated, so the product didn’t come out so well the first time around.

I decided to try it again, this time using ¼ inch acrylic. I took the extra precautionary measure of taping the acrylic down to the laser cutter bed, and it worked! The engraving came out clean and I was able to materialize my digital design onto a physical medium. After working with the clear acrylic, I was inspired to create a smaller version of the engraved zebras onto transparent iridescent acrylic.

If I could do it again, I’d probably incorporate more colors into it by layering it onto colored transparent acrylic to really give it a 3-Dimensional look.

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