How to: trace your own handwriting for plotting and engraving

Edit: This thread was initially an attempt to troubleshoot how to trace my own handwriting for plotting. I eventually figured it out, thanks a lot for all the useful input. I’ve summarized my findings here.

I’m planning to write long and stupid christmas letters using a pen plotter and chatGPT. I think it’ll be fun!

I’m currentlig strugglig with how to digitze my own hand writing. I’ve used calligraphr, an amazing tool for the task. I’ve even got ligatures for the most common letter combinations. If I’ll go further, I’ll make several variants for each letter - to make it seem even more natural.

Well - the problem is finding a good centerline. I cannot use outline:

Usually when I’m plotting things, I use the centerline tracing to extract vectors from a bitmap. But on my handwriting font, it’s not very nice:

How can I centerline trace in a better way?? Here’s the output from the plotter:

My first calligraphr try I had a much thinner fontface. That was even more awful when trying to centerline trace. That’s why the current font is so bold, I was hoping it would trace better.


Well, your first mistake is using cursive. Everyone knows you need to use block letters. Nobody (except maybe your grandmother, and her three spinster sisters who live together and share an eye) can read it anyway…

Another reason might it being Norwegian. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hush now, I was trying to be polite and not embarrass him too much… You Germans and your frankness and brash honesty. Try a little compassionate diplomacy… :wink:

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If my grandmother was alive she would be deliiiiighted to get a cursive looong letter. I actually have an old aunt that still writes us these letters by hand. She’s kinda the inspiration. But I’m not going to do this to her, that’s mean :smiley:


If you just carve those shapes with aV bit it will do all the work for you.

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That might be the way! Just have to figure out how to set it up, so that I only get the center carve. Might need cleaning up all the letters with internal parts…

I’m sorry, I can’t figure it out… They all end up like this:

HMM… maybe I’ll just leave this rabbit hole and use one of the single line fonts that seems kinda handwritten.

This tool is great - but I’m not able to scale the size of the output to contain a huge christmas letter…

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That is almost perfect. The J is right. The next letter might need to be careful in what order you select the outlines, and make sure it is a closed shape. I would select the outermost edge first, tell in inside, the one of the inner shapes tell it outside. You will need to select them individually.

Make sure your tip is defined as small enough 0.2mm or something small.

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I’ve ascended to the land of the living, so the workstation is shut off for the evening. I’ll check it out tomorrow!

Laying in bed and googling has led me to this gem:

Google is not very helpful any more. I had to dig past a lot of pinterest and low quality content to find proper info!

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I was going to say inkscape had a option, but I’ve never used it. The other thing is you letters may not be connecting leading to the issues (sometimes software that we use to create a trace from a image doesn’t always connect the lines. But in inkscape you just need to mess with the fudge numbers some to get it right. I’d try following that video.

ALSO if you have time watch this

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Is this what you want? (drawing of the letter was not accurate, just to show it)

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Amazing! The squiggly blue pattern confused me. It seemed like then pen would spin in circles. But looking at the gcode, they sure only move in one line:

This is definitively an imrovement. BUT - the paths are somehow “strange”, so it’ll still look a little phony. And every letter would need a clean up, before plotting. I think I’ll give a quick try converting the font to a centerline/stroke font. If not, this is one good option.

Yeah, was the same for me at the beginning. That’s how Estlcam 11 marks carves. V12 does it differently.

I would give them a test cut first, the preview is not great but I bet the cut is exactly what you are looking for.

When I did this I had to trace each letter manually. Centerline trace really has a hard time when paths cross and most of the time it leaves an artifact where you can tell it hasn’t traced properly.

It might have been a fun project to develop a new algorithm to get centerline tracing working correctly, but I was after the product in this case, not the project.


Beautiful! I assume you have your christmas letters in order :wink:

It’s hard to figure out all the nuances with how deep the carve should go. I looked at the gcode, there’s different depth to the carve - at corners and starts/stops, even though it goes centerline.

As Jamie suggests, tracing it yourself is the proper way - makes it easy for quick production. I actually sent an email to the guy who made the stroke tool for inkscape, to hear if he does commissions… christmas is coming too quickly!!

Yeah it will go whatever depth is needed to go the full width, or you can limit the depth and let it clear out a flat bottom where needed. If you do a 1mm depth limit and a 10mm width you will see what happens in the preview, but with a font I think just letting it go as deep as needed would look best.