How to Laser Engrave DIY Christmas Ornaments

How to Make Laser Engraved Christmas Ornaments with OMTech

DIY laser cutters are incredible tools that can be used all year round. Whether it is creating gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or even for a housewarming, once you have learned how to laser engrave, your laser machine delivers the ability to create unique and personalised items. However, many hobbyists and business owners find that one of the best times of the year for laser cutting is the holiday season.

Around this time of the year, you will find many of the craft stores full of generic laser cut Christmas ornaments, usually costing just a few cents and manufactured in the Far East. However, when you know how to laser engrave with your laser cutter, you can create unique items that are custom designed for your customers. Personalisation adds significant value to almost any product, and the holiday season is an ideal time to start your laser cutting business. What could be nicer than hanging a laser engraved Christmas tree ornament featuring your child's name? Or perhaps gifting one to friends with their family name engraved?

Our friends have been exchanging handmade DIY Christmas tree ornaments for over 20 years. Traditionally, our friends made them by hand: him with fretsaw, sandpaper, and paint, her with scissors, card, and glitter. Their tree is a testament to their relationship and the ornaments are treasured every year that the tree goes up. This year, they are getting extra special DIY Christmas ornaments from us — custom designed and personalised on my OMTech Laser and hand-decorated by my wife. “Happy Holidays” indeed! 

This project, which will show you how to laser engrave a DIY Christmas gift on your OMTech CO2 laser engraving machine, takes the concept of a laser engraved Christmas ornament a step further, turning it into a unique gift tag. The ornament is laser cut from a piece of 3mm birch plywood but is not removed completely — 3 tiny pieces of the ply remain, enough to hold it in place until the recipient pops it out with gentle pressure. The rest of the card is engraved with holiday messages that you can customise. 

A blank ornament is included in the Lightburn file to allow you to customise the recipient’s name — I assume that you will not all be sending this DIY Christmas ornament to ‘Noel’!

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How to Laser Cut a DIY Christmas Ornament

Before we start, remember that the first stage in learning how to laser engrave is to ensure that you have run a test file on the material you intend to use, which reveals the best settings for cutting and engraving. Remember that if you choose plywood, your deepest engrave should not penetrate the glue layer of the plywood as this will give unreliable results. You should also have run a recent Ramp Test to ensure that you can focus your laser accurately. We will be using Lightburn exclusively as the Laser software — if you are not yet comfortable with using it, then a great selection of LightBurn tutorials are available online from the developers. 

Laser Engraving Material Choice  

These DIY Christmas ornament instructions call for 3mm baltic birch wood, which is widely available and laser engraves nicely. It can also be finished with various finishes, from polyurethane to shellac and even beeswax, to give it a pleasant finish. If you are very adventurous, you can even paint and decorate the final ornament. 

However, there are other materials that you can use, including 3mm MDF, white-faced hardboard,  balsa, and even thick veneers, to create your laser engraved Christmas ornament. 3mm is about as thick as you need to go — any wider, and the ornament becomes harder to remove from the card, and the Christmas ornament becomes a little too heavy. 

Designing the File in LightBurn Laser Software

We have provided the design file, and these simple steps will show you how to laser engrave a Christmas ornament. The file is a Lightburn file that can be downloaded here.{link} Open it in your copy of Lightburn, and you will see the design of the card as well as a blank ornament. By editing this file, you can replace the sample in the design and customise it for your needs, whether you are giving these laser engraved Christmas ornaments as gifts to friends or family or using them in your business.

Customizing the Design with LightBurn

Start by selecting a stencil font from the font dropdown. A stencil font joins each letter together, and the holes within the letters remain attached to the main piece after cutting. You can find many free stencil fonts with a Google search. However, even the best stencil fonts might need some tweaking, either the first capital letter or the letter ‘I’ requires the dot to be attached to the body of the letter. You can do this in Lightburn, either by adding a rectangular box between parts to be joined and welding the shapes, or by using the node editor to join the two pieces. Either way, you will first need to select your text and click Edit->Convert to Path in the menu so that the text is treated as a series of shapes rather than a text object, but note that after doing this, you will no longer be able to edit the text using the Text Editor.
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Example of a Stencil font
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Fig 1. Creating your text name
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Fig 2. Convert the text to a path 
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Fig 3. Fixing the capital letter with a rectangle
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Fig 4. Using weld to fix the capital letter
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Fig 5. Adding the name to the ornament
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Fig 6. Using Boolean Difference to combine the name and ornament

Adding the Name to the Ornament  

Once the name has been ‘fixed’ to cut correctly, it is time to add it to the ornament.  Drag the name over the blank ornament and align it, so the edges overlap slightly with it. Every point that overlaps will strengthen the final decoration, so feel free to stretch and move the name to give it the best attachment points.

How to Design in LightBurn: Step-By-Step Instructions

The following section is critical, so try and follow along step by step:

  • Step 1. Select the ornament and ungroup it using  Arrange->Ungroup in the menu.
  • Step 2. Select the name and do the same - ungroup them.
  • Step 3. Now select the inside edge of the ornament close to where the name overlaps. 
  • Step 4. Now hold down the SHIFT key and select the overlapped line of the name. The line from the ornament and outer line of the name should now both be selected, which you will see as the lines will change to a series of moving dots. 
  • Step 5. Click the Boolean Difference button in Lightburn. This will now join the name of the ornament. 
  • Step 6. Check that you are happy with the result. If you need to reinforce any areas, you can add small rectangles and weld them to the ornament. 
  • Step 7. Finally, select the entire ornament by dragging a box around them with your cursor and group them using Arrange->Group. Select the old ornament from the card and delete it and move the new one across to the card design to replace it. 

Extra Customization with LightBurn

The rest of the card has customizable text at the bottom (currently in Arial font to avoid problems with opening LightBurn files that do not have all of the fonts installed), but feel free to edit this when you customise the messages/names to a more attractive font. You edit text by clicking the letter A for the text editor in the left-hand menu and then clicking on the text in the ornament and typing your new text. You can change the font by using the drop-down font selector.

The “Happy Holidays” text has been created in an attractive font already, but it was then converted to a path, so if you want to change this, you will need to delete it and recreate it. 

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Offset fill mode in LightBurn

In order to create a deeper engraving for “Happy Holidays,” compared to the rest of the engraving, the mode has been changed to Offset Fill. You may not have come across this mode before, as it is a recent addition to LightBurn. It was created to reduce the laser head’s travel on hollow objects, and it works by tracing the object’s outline in ever-increasing offsets. After a lot of experimentation, it has been found to work well on larger text engravings to create attractive, deep engraves at lower power than the normally used line or fill modes.

Finally, check your power and speed settings for each layer. These will come from your test cards that you have already completed for the material being used. We have chosen a piece of 3mm thick baltic birch plywood for this article. It is readily available from wood suppliers online or local hardware stores.

Final Steps: How to Laser Engrave with OMTech Laser

Step 1: Arranging the Workbed

Lay the plywood on the bed, supported by magnets to keep it in place and ensure that it is perfectly level as plywood can exhibit a slight bow at times. It also keeps the workpiece off the laser cutter bed to help prevent flashback burns underneath.
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Using magnets to prevent flashback burns

Step 2: Check Your Laser Settings

 Double-check the settings in the LightBurn file to ensure that each layer has the correct mode, power, and speed settings appropriate for your chosen material (taken from the test files that you have already cut/engraved).

Step 3: Frame Your Workpiece

Use the Frame button in the Laser dialog of Lightburn to ensure that your engrave/cut will fit comfortably on your workpiece and adjust as necessary, either by moving it in Lightburn or moving the workpiece.

Step 4: Focus the Laser Head

Focus your laser using the appropriate spacer that you have created from a ramp test for your chosen lens.

Step 5: Power Up

Close the lid of the laser cutter and switch on your water pump. Wait a couple of minutes to let the water circulate, and confirm the water temperature is below 20°C. Check to ensure your ventilation fan, air pump, and laser power supply are running.

Step 6: Fire the Laser

Click the Start button in the Laser dialog of LightBurn. The job should now start with the laser cutter engraving the text and images and then cutting out the central laser engraved Christmas ornament and finally the outside of the card. When it is complete, switch off the laser power supply and air pump, open the lid and remove the finished laser cut Christmas ornament.

laser engraved christmas ornament noel

The Gift of Giving a Laser Engraved Christmas Ornament

This DIY Christmas ornament is a great project to help you learn how to create and edit your own designs, and it creates something very useful that you can give as a present or even form part of your laser cutting business.

The final laser engraved Christmas ornament can even be decorated to make it even more attractive — we finished this one with a coat of light oak stain and varnish and decorated it with glitter and crystals.

Use your imagination to customize this Christmas keepsake in your own style. If you’re giving it as a gift, you can add extra flair by personalizing it for the recipient. After all, that’s what DIY laser engraving is all about: making one-of-a-kind creations.

Happy Holidays from everyone at OMTech
laser cut DIY Christmas ornament noel
A decorated version of the DIY Christmas ornament