First off, we'll need a design for our pin.  The milling software we'll be using can import vector art in SVG format.  Here are some common applications you can use to create SVG files:

For this guide I'll be using Adobe Illustrator CS6.

Create Your Design

Your final design should use only one fill color and no strokes.  The color-filled shapes will translate to copper in your finished pin, while areas left transparent will be engraved to a depth we specify in the milling software.

Create your design as you see fit, using separate shapes, strokes, etc - just keep it limited to one color on a transparent background. In my bird example below, I have a variety of paths and strokes which form my final black-on-transparent image:

vector art using shapes and strokes

Merge Shapes

Before saving a final version for milling, I'll need to merge those separate paths into a single filled shape, but first, the stroked paths need to be converted into filled shapes. In Illustrator, you can use the Outline Stroke command to turn any strokes into actual paths:

vector art after outlining strokes

Once the strokes are converted, merge all the filled shapes together using Illustrator's Pathfinder menu by choosing the Unite tool:

Illustrator's Pathfinder Unite tool
Vector art merged / final

Our final vector art is one solid shape on a transparent background.  Be sure to check for any stray paths or points and delete them.

Check Scale

Setting the scale of your design to an appropriate size for milling may take a little trial and error.  Try skipping ahead to the Save as SVG step below and import the file into your milling software.  Set your milling software to generate a preview using a 1/32" bit.

This preview of the final product will give you an idea what level of detail and scale will work best. Reopen your SVG file and edit the art to accommodate those new constraints.

Optional: Tiling

To keep things simple for this tutorial, I'll only be milling a single bird - but if you'd like to make multiple pins you can duplicate your art to fit more on one piece of material.

Update your vector file's artboard to represent the actual size of the copper-clad board (width = 127mm, height = 101.6mm).  Create multiple clones of your original art and rotate each one to maximize the number of instances you can fit on your board.

Note: Remember to leave clearance between each instance and the edge of the board as seen above!

Save as SVG

Once everything looks nice and clean, save the image in SVG format. We'll import this file into the milling software.

This guide was first published on Jan 09, 2018. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Design) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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