LightBurn walk-through for beginners
If you've never used LightBurn before, the main window might seem a little intimidating. Try not to let it scare you - we'll break out the important sections to start with. LightBurn also has a couple features to make it easier to learn:
- Pop-up tips: If you hover the mouse over a control, you'll see a small bit of text that describes that button or feature, like this:
- Context-help: If you hover the mouse over something and press the F1 key (help), LightBurn will launch the help page for that feature in your browser. Most of the panels and buttons on the main window of LightBurn will do this.
The Main Window
This is the default layout for the main LightBurn window:
Here it is again, with the sections labeled:
It's worth noting that along the very bottom of the main display is a status bar that will occasionally show information like an automatic backup in progress, position of the cursor, laser connecting, and so on.
The main sections of the user interface are:
- Main Toolbar
- Creation & Modifier Tools
- Color Palette
- Cuts / Layers window
- Size and Position / Numeric Edits
- Font and Text properties
- Laser control window
- The workspace / Edit window
For a full list of the windows in LightBurn, see the LightBurn Windows topic in the help.
These are the windows you will use most commonly, though there are others. If you ever close one accidentally and want it back, go to the menu, click the Window menu, or just right-click an empty space on the toolbar, and re-enable the window you want back.
Almost all desktop software uses menus in some form. The menu bar at the top of the main window gives you access to almost every feature available in LightBurn.
Depending on the operating system you're using the menus might appear a little differently, and some features may be removed if your laser doesn't support them.
If a feature has a shortcut, it will be shown next to it in the menu, as shown above. Learning the shortcuts for the features you use most often will make using LightBurn much faster, and sometimes there are even 'shorter' shortcuts - you can find these in the help menu under Help > Quick Help and Notes.
The main toolbar in LightBurn gives you quick access to commonly used functions for opening or importing files, saving, using the clipboard (copy & paste), moving or zooming the view. Right beside it is the Arrangement toolbar, containing some commonly used arrangement tools for arranging and aligning shapes.
If you aren't sure what a button is for, hover the mouse over it and it will tell you:
Creation & Modifier Tools
The shape creation tools are normally arranged vertically, but we're showing them sideways here. By default, these are docked along the left side of the work space for quick access.
The first tool, 'Select' is probably the one you'll use most, and is the default tool chosen when LightBurn starts. The others are used to create basic shapes like circles and rectangles, text, and lines, and there are few for modifying shapes in more complicated ways, like merging shapes, or creating lots of copies of shapes.
The color palette lives along the bottom of the main window by default, though a common alternative is docking it next to the creation tools along the left.
Lasers don't "print" in color, so these colors are used to assign different kinds of operations to the shapes in your design. A common convention is to use bright red for cuts, though how you use the colors is up to you.
With nothing selected in the workspace, click a color entry and new shapes will be created in that color. If you have something selected, clicking a color entry will apply that color to the shapes in your selection. The colors currently in use in your design will also appear as entries in the Cuts / Layers window, where you can choose the operations that each color represents.
There are 2 special layers at the end of the cut palette, labeled T1 and T2. These are Tool Layers and are purely for creating non-output shapes in your designs. These layers have no cut parameters and will never be output to the laser. For example you could use them for:
- Indicating pre-determined material size and position on your machine
- Text on a Path (without the path being output)
- Image Masking
Cuts / Layers
This window shows the colors currently in use in your design, and lets you quickly access the settings assigned to them.
The first column shows the name you've assigned to this layer, followed by the color, then the Mode (Line, Fill, both, or Image). Then the speed and power are displayed, followed by the options to enable or disable sending this layer to the laser, or displaying it in the workspace.
Underneath the layer list you can see and change the basic settings for the currently selected layer. If you double-click an entry in the layer list, it will bring up a larger Cut Settings Editor, with a more complete set of options.
- Cuts / Layers window in depth (to be completed)
Size and Position / Numeric Edits
The Numeric Edits toolbar lets you resize, position, and rotate shapes, and change the unit of measure.
The lock button can be used to maintain the aspect ratio of your objects when changing the size, and the 9-dot control lets you choose the point that positioning and sizing happens from. The number entry boxes accept equations and units, too - You can enter 5mm, 5in, 5", 5*3mm, and so on, and LightBurn will calculate the correct result for you.
Fonts and Text controls
The font and text toolbar will activate when you use the 'Create Text' tool, or select text objects.
This toolbar lets you change the font, size, spacing, alignment, and automatic welding. It also has settings for variable text options, like serial numbers, dates, and using data tables from a CSV file.
The Laser window is used to choose the laser to use, test the position of a file (frame), run or stop the laser, and choose various options that affect how the current file will be processed, ordered, and positioned on the machine.
Note that this window may look different for you depending on the type of laser chosen and the options it supports, and some options will be hidden if you are in 'Beginner Mode'.
Workspace / Edit window
Finally, the workspace, or edit window, is the drawing area where you lay out your design. The size of the border and grid drawn in the workspace matches the available work area on your machine. When you import artwork it is displayed here, and the arrangement of things will match the output sent to your laser.
Next Step: Zooming, Panning, and Selection