LightBurn Software for Laser Engraving and Cutting

As someone new to the world of laser engraving, I was looking for software that could make the learning curve a little less steep. After some research, experienced users overwhelmingly recommended LightBurn as an excellent option for beginner and pro laser users alike. In this LightBurn review, I’ll share my experiences getting started with this popular laser engraving and cutting software. I’ll provide an honest take on LightBurn’s capabilities and ease of use, tips for beginners, when its strengths really shine, and any downsides I encountered. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or seasoned pro, read on for an inside look at how LightBurn can level up your laser engraving game!

LightBurn is a popular software used for laser engraving, cutting, and CNC control. It allows users to easily design and manage jobs for a variety of laser cutters and engravers. Some key features of LightBurn include:

Key Features

  • Compatibility with many different laser cutter/engraver models and controllers
  • Intuitive interface for designing vector graphics and raster images
  • Ability to import and work with various file types including SVG, PNG, JPG, DXF, etc.
  • Powerful text and image engraving tools
  • Supports rotary engraving for cylindrical objects
  • Camera alignment features to match real-world placement to designs
  • Sophisticated job and color management settings
  • macOS, Windows, and Linux (Ubuntu 18.04 and 20.04 specifically) versions are available

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With its flexibility and wide device compatibility, LightBurn has become a go-to software solution for laser engraving and cutting. It’s a complete package that allows users to take designs from concept to finished project entirely within the software.

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Getting Started with LightBurn Software

System Requirements

LightBurn has relatively modest system requirements, which helps with its accessibility. It can run smoothly on fairly standard modern Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. Here are the recommended system specs:

  • Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10,  or later, or Mac OS X 10.10 or later
  • 64-bit Intel processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 1GB free storage space

In addition, LightBurn requires a dedicated graphics card with OpenGL 3.0 support or later. Integrated graphics chips on CPUs often don’t provide full OpenGL support. Overall though, the software is lightweight and doesn’t demand expensive high-end hardware.

Installation and Setup

Installing LightBurn is quick and easy across all supported platforms. Download the appropriate version for your operating system from the LightBurn Software website. Both free trial downloads and paid licensed downloads are available.

Once downloaded, follow the straightforward installation wizard to get the software set up on your computer. The whole process only takes a few minutes.

After installation, you’ll need to configure LightBurn for your specific laser cutter model. This involves selecting your laser device in the Device Settings and inputting information like bed size and laser origin point. LightBurn includes predefined device profiles for popular cutters that will automatically input the correct details.

For more customized machines you may need to determine the right parameters and manually enter them. As long as you have the technical specifications from your cutter’s documentation or manufacturer, the setup is very manageable.

Trial and Licensing

LightBurn offers a generous free trial period so you can test out the software’s capabilities risk-free. The trial lasts for 30 days of use, with no limiting of features during that time.

Once the trial expires, LightBurn will enter a view-only mode. You’ll still be able to open and view existing projects, but won’t be able to edit, save, or run jobs.

To continue using LightBurn past the trial, you’ll need to purchase a license. These are available as paid downloads directly from the LightBurn site. License prices currently start at $60 for a basic one-device license. Bundles for multiple devices and upgrades are also available.

The license cost is very reasonable given LightBurn’s professional-level feature set. For many users, the free trial is ample time to determine if the investment will pay for itself through enhanced workflow and results.

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Using LightBurn’s Features and Tools

LightBurn packs a wide range of design, editing, and job management features into its streamlined interface. Here’s an overview of some of its core capabilities:

Designing Vectors, Rasters, and Text

The software includes robust vector and raster design tools. You can create and tweak vector shapes using familiar modifiers like scale, rotate, skew, etc. A variety of useful shape presets are also available.

Raster images can be imported from files or pasted in. You can touch up and edit imported raster artwork using LightBurn’s image editor built-in adjustment tools.

Text handling is another strength in LightBurn. You have complete control over formatting like font, size, spacing, alignment, etc. Text fitting inside shapes is handled intuitively.

Overall, the vector and raster design features allow you to conceptualize and iterate on designs entirely within the software. No jumping back and forth between other graphics programs.

Arranging, Aligning, and Transforming

Lightburn makes it easy to organize and tweak design elements. Layers, grouping, alignment guides, and nudge controls all help to polish the layout.

The software also offers more advanced transformations like distortion, perspective adjustments, path editing, and boolean operations. Having these capabilities natively integrated makes a big difference in design flexibility.

Previewing and Simulating

Seeing how a job will actually look once engraved or cut is simple with LightBurn’s realistic simulation features. The preview will show raster engraving colors and depths, vector outlines, cut paths, and more.

You can pan, zoom, and simulate the view as if looking at the real physical piece. Scale preview lets you visualize how a design will appear on differently-sized materials.

The real-time preview updates as you adjust settings or edit the design. This tight feedback loop is invaluable for iteratively refining the layout and dialling-in settings.

Managing Settings and Jobs

Having optimized settings can make or break the quality of an engraved or cut job. LightBurn gives you all the controls you need.

For raster images, you can set scan direction, resolution, overlap, dithering, and more. Specialized raster settings are included for photorealistic engraving.

On the vector side, settings for power, speed, number of passes, focal offset and much more allow you to tailor performance. You can store preset configurations for different materials and applications.

For organization, the Job Manager panel keeps track of your saved jobs, color mappings, device settings, and other local files. Batch job sequencing and management capabilities are also built-in.

Additional Features and Plugins

LightBurn packs in even more capabilities through additional features and plugins:

  • Import and work with multi-page PDF and SVG files
  • Create custom brushes, textures, patterns, and layouts
  • Generate barcodes and qr codes
  • Produce rotary engravings on cylindrical objects
  • Camera-based position alignment and tracing
  • Automate repetitive tasks with scripting
  • Expand functionality through user-created plugins

These features provide tools to handle specialized use cases – all within a unified interface.

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Capabilities by Material Type

One strength of LightBurn is that its flexible settings allow it to engrave, mark, and cut many different materials. Here are some of the possibilities:


  • Engrave decorative designs, lettering, photos
  • Precision cutting of wood up to 1 cm thickness
  • Marking wood slabs, bowls, and rounds for segmenting


  • Mark wallets, bags, clothing, accessories
  • Softer marks for gradual shading
  • Clean vector outlines on thick leather


  • Engrave durable labels, badges, tags
  • Cut acrylic sheets up to 6mm
  • Mark curved surfaces like bottles and tumblers


  • Anodized aluminium allows full-colour engraving
  • Stainless steel can be marked with an annealed cermark
  • Softer metals like brass are conducive to shaded engraving


  • Granite, marble, and others can be engraved up to 1 cm depth
  • Lighter marking also possible for custom artwork


  • Full range of marking from subtle to deep frosting
  • Precise vector cutting through plate glass

And many more – paper, fabrics, rubber, and anything a laser can mark or cut. With some experimentation, LightBurn can handle just about any application.

Advanced Features for Precision and Control

For users that need extra precision and control, LightBurn provides a few advanced capabilities:

Camera Registration

The camera registration features allow you to visually align artwork on the laser bed to physical objects or materials. This lets you match up designs with irregularly shaped or sized stock. It also enables tracing of existing objects to reproduce their contours in your layouts.

Rotary Attachment Support

With a rotary add-on for your laser, LightBurn can engrave artwork on cylindrical objects like mugs, glasses, bottles, and more. The software compensation results in distortion-free designs wrapped around the curves.

Scripting and Customization

LightBurn supports Lua scripting to automate repetitive tasks or implement custom functionality. Scripts have access to design data and UI events. The scripting capabilities essentially allow any programmer to customize and extend LightBurn’s core features.

While not needed by all users, these capabilities provide that extra level of precision when required by a particular application.

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One of LightBurn’s major strengths is its compatibility with a wide range of laser cutter and engraver models. Here are some of the most popular models supported:

  • Glowforge – Basic, Plus, and Pro models
  • OMTech Lasers – OMTech I, II, and III CO2 laser engravers
  • Epilog Laser-Zing and Helix models
  • Thunder Laser – Nova, Nova35, Nova51 machines
  • NEJE Laser Engravers – Master, Master 2S, and Master 2 Plus
  • K40 Laser Cutters/Engravers – Widely available small hobbyist models

And many other common brands like Boss, Full Spectrum, Rabea, Atomstack, Ruida, Trocen, etc. New model profiles are added with each software update.

LightBurn also supports most LaserBoard/Makeblock control boards for DIY builds. As long as the laser cutter uses one of the standard controller types, chances are good LightBurn will work with it.

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Pros and Cons of LightBurn

LightBurn receives highly positive reviews from most users for its capabilities and quality. But it’s worth looking at some of its advantages and disadvantages compared to alternatives:


  • Very intuitive, fast user interface
  • Powerful set of design, editing, and simulation tools
  • Broad device compatibility, including many less expensive models
  • Reasonable one-time license cost
  • Excellent software support from the developers


  • Currently only available for Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops – no mobile or web-based app
  • Advanced customization requires coding knowledge for scripting
  • File import/export could be expanded – relies primarily on SVG, DXF, and image files
  • No native CAD design features – more focused on artwork than technical drawings

Overall though, LightBurn excels at design, previewing, and job setup focused specifically on laser cutting and engraving. For most applications, the pros heavily outweigh any limitations.

Should You Use LightBurn?

Lightburn software is a great choice for most laser engraving and cutting applications. Here are some factors to help determine if it’s a good fit for your needs:

  • Compatible Laser Device – LightBurn only works with supported laser engraver and cutter models. Verify compatibility before purchasing.
  • Design Workflows – LightBurn is optimized for organic graphic design and layout vs. precision CAD-style work. Assess whether its vector/raster tools fit your needs.
  • Learning Curve – The app is very user-friendly, but still has a learning curve. Evaluate how much time you can dedicate to learning.
  • Cost – At $60+, the paid license is very affordable for most. But free open-source laser software exists for extremely cost-sensitive applications.
  • Support Availability – LightBurn’s excellent built-in help docs and responsive support staff ease the onboarding experience.

For the majority of laser cutting and engraving work, LightBurn’s specialized tools provide efficiency and results that justify the investment. Download a free trial to experience the capabilities first-hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What file types does LightBurn support?

LightBurn supports importing SVG, PNG, JPG/JPEG, GCode, PDF, DXF, and a few other standard file formats. It can export SVG, PNG, JPG, GCode, and PDFs. So standard design files are covered for import/export needs.

Can LightBurn engrave photos?

Yes, LightBurn has powerful tools for working with and engraving bitmap artwork like photos. Advanced image effects allow you to convert photos to black and white dithered results suitable for shaded engraving.

Does LightBurn work with 3D models or STL files?

LightBurn doesn’t directly support importing or working with 3D model formats like STL. But there are workflows to convert 3D models to 2D vector designs that can be opened in LightBurn.

Can LightBurn design parts for 3D printing?

No, LightBurn is laser-focused (pun intended) on laser cutting and engraving. It does not have modelling tools suited for 3D printing or CNC milling workflows.

Is there a LightBurn mobile app?

Currently, LightBurn is only available as a desktop application – no mobile or tablet versions exist yet. Mobile functionality may be added eventually, but the desktop app is the sole option right now.


LightBurn delivers an immense amount of power and flexibility for laser cutting and engraving in an accessible, affordable package. With device profiles covering the most popular hobbyist and professional laser brands, it can take you from design to final execution all in one place.

The intuitive interface and interactive preview help to make the most of your laser’s capabilities. And continual improvements from the LightBurn developers ensure support for new hardware and inspired new features.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur starting a laser engraving business, or a DIYer looking to make one-off custom pieces, LightBurn is worth strong consideration. The free trial makes it easy to experience firsthand if it’s the right software to unlock your laser’s potential.

Key Takeaways:

  • LightBurn is a feature-rich program for designing/managing laser engraver and cutter jobs. It streamlines the process from concept to final execution.
  • Key features include vector/raster design tools, realistic previewing, device control, settings optimization, and job management.
  • LightBurn is compatible with a wide range of hobbyist and professional laser cutters and engravers. The software simplifies the usage of these devices.
  • While very user-friendly overall, LightBurn still has a learning curve to master its wealth of capabilities. But excellent documentation and support help ease onboarding.
  • With reasonable license costs and free trial period, LightBurn delivers immense value and is easy to test out. It’s a great choice for most laser cutting/engraving applications.

So in summary, LightBurn excellently fulfills its role as an all-in-one laser engraving solution accessible to both hobbyists and professionals. The power and refinement of its features mixed with reasonable cost and great support make it easy to recommend for those venturing into laser engraving, cutting and marking.

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