7 Best Laser Engraving & Cutter Software (Free & Paid)

Alan Lewis

Rankings, Laser Cutters, Laser Engravers, Software, Software Rankings

best laser cutter engraving software

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Laser engraving isn’t controlled manually — it relies on laser cutting software that instructs the laser where to move using g-code.

You’ll need software to create and edit your designs prior to the engraving process, but how do you know which is the best laser cutting and engraving software for you?

I’ve used many of the most popular laser engraving software with my laser cutters, and this guide will compare my hands-on experience so you can decide which is right for you

We’ll cover beginner-friendly control software like LaserGRBL and Lightburn, as well as more technical raster and vector designers like Illustrator and Inkscape. In another article we covered how the best nesting software work at reducing material waste.

The main factors to consider are obviously price, but also think about compatibility with your operating system (for example, LaserGRBL doesn’t work with MacOS), compatible file formats (beyond SVG, do they support AI, PDF, DXF), and the features you need (for example, built-in air assist or rotary attachment support).

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Best Control Software:

Best Design Software:

Best Laser Control Software

Laser control software instructs your machine. It translates your CAD design into code for your laser cutter, so it knows exactly where to cut and engrave.

This process is the same when engraving, but rather than cutting via lines, faster speeds and sometimes lower power is used to create gradient, shading, and other design styles.

Here are our top picks for controlling laser engravers:

LaserGRBL: Best Free Laser Engraving Software

  • Price: Free
  • Best for:  Free laser cutter software for Windows
  • RAM Required: 2GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows
LaserGRBL laser cutter software


The best free and open-source laser software.

Easy to use

Has some really useful features.

Compatible with GRBL v9.0 and GRBL v1.1.


Lacks design features.

Lacks air assist.

Only compatible with lasers that have GRBL controllers.

Only works with Windows.

LaserGRBL is an open-source laser engraver software for Windows that’s completely free to download and use.  

It’s specifically designed for hobbyists, so it’s a user-friendly tool perfect for beginners, and having used it in my laser projects, I rate it as the best free laser engraving software. 

The UI is easy to use, without many confusing options, as you can see in this screenshot below:

Screenshot of LaserGRBL's UI before starting a project

LaserGRBL has some really useful features, such as the jogging feature that allows you to manually position the laser head with two sliders to control the size and speed of steps. There’s also the override function, which allows you to speed up or slow down the effective engraving speed and laser power in real-time during the engraving process. 

Another notable feature is the raster image import function. With this, you can load any kind of image, including photos, clip art, pencil drawings, and icons into LaserGRBL and turn it into g-code without any additional software.

However, it’s only compatible with laser engravers that have GRBL controllers. So, while you can use it with popular lasers by Ortur, xTool, Atomstack and other consumer brands, it isn’t compatible with lasers that use other controllers like Ruida or Marlin – such as Thunder Laser or OMTech lasers. Lightburn is better for these other controllers.

LaserGRBL is also only compatible with Windows, while Lightburn is also compatible with MacOS and Linux. As a Mac user, this prevented me from using Lightburn for a while and so I had to use Lightburn instead, until I found my old Windows laptop to try LaserGRBL with. For more information on the differences, I’ve also written an article comparing Lightburn vs LaserGRBL.

LaserGRBL also has better laser override settings than Lightburn. You can see below in the screenshot I took that there are override options that you can tweak while the project is ongoing, whereas in Lightburn you have to pause the project before you can change any of the settings.

LaserGRBL laser override settings
You can override current laser settings while the project is ongoing in LaserGRBL.

While you can open SVG files, you can’t open .ai, .dxf, .pdf and other vector files in LaserGRBL. You also don’t get much design capability at all: you’re mostly limited to importing ready-made designs to laser. With Lightburn, you get more design options, and can even work with layers, and set different parts to engrave, and others to be cut.

Another big issue for me is there’s no air assist support in LaserGRBL. It’s a super simple toggle in Lightburn, which is great when I want to use air assist to improve my cuts. 

This laser engraver software is compatible with GRBL v9.0 and GRBL v1.1. It’s capable of loading and sending g-code to Arduino, and you can also engrave images, pictures, and logos with the internal conversion tool. 

Overall, is it worth getting LaserGRBL?

Yes, definitely. Overall, while it lacks some of the premium features that tools like Lightburn have, it’s still the best free laser software out there, and if you don’t have the $60 for a Lightburn license then you’ll be fine with LaserGRBL.

LightBurn: Best Laser Engraving Software Overall

  • Price: $30 for g-code license, $59 for DSP license
  • Best for: Laser cutting software for Mac
  • RAM Required: 8GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows 7.0 or newer (32 or 64 bit) / MacOS 10.11 or newer / 64 bit Linux
Lightburn laser cutter software


Can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Can be used for layout, editing, and controlling your laser cutter.

Has useful features that make it popular among laser cutters.


No major drawbacks if you’re ok with the price.

Whereas LaserGRBL is restricted to Windows, LightBurn can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux, so it’s available to everyone. It’s also compatible with Ruida, Marlin, Trocen, TopWisdom and other laser CNC controllers, whereas LaserGRBL only works with GRBL controllers.

LightBurn is very versatile, with some of the widest range of compatible formats. This allows you to easily import artwork in a variety of common graphic and image formats. The CNC laser engraver software lets you arrange and edit vector shapes with the editor, and you can even create new shapes with its design tools. These include offsetting, boolean operations, welding, and node editing.

The UI is more busy than LaserGRBL, but this is because it has more features and design options, as you can see in the screenshot below:

Lightburn UI before importing a file

You can also adjust the power, speed, cut order, brightness & contrast, number of passes, and more while you engrave. There’s also air assist options, and you can use it with a 4-axis rotary attachment if you buy this. I’ve used the rotary features with my Ortur Laser Master 3, and xTool D1 Pro, and it works well.

The design options are great – it’s like a more basic version of Photoshop, but still very powerful. It works in layers in the same way as Adobe software, and you can set certain parts to be engraved, and others to be cut within one job. You have to do these separately in other software like LaserGRBL.

Lightburn's air assist features
The air assist features in Lightburn.

Here’s an example of the lasyers you can create, with the circles I drew below part of a separate layer to the text I created:

Layer options in Lightburn, one of the design features for laser cutting and engraving
The layers and other design options, which can be customized with different speed, power, and air assist settings.

LightBurn comes with a 30-day free trial you can use to try it out. There’s also the active support forum where you can get help with any issues and discuss topics with other users.

Is it worth getting Lightburn?

Yes, if you have the budget then I recommend using Lightburn. I prefer it to LaserGRBL because you can design your projects in it, use air assist, and you just generally have more customization available to you.

LaserWeb 4 

  • Price: Free
  • Best for: Budgeting, comes with a free cost estimator.
  • RAM Required: No recommended RAM
  • Operating Systems: Windows / Linux / Mac
LaserWeb 4


Can import multiple files in different formats into a single project.

A job cost estimator tool is included, very helpful for budgeting.

Can be used to control your engraver via both vector and raster files.


No major drawbacks.

The fourth iteration of this software, LaserWeb 4 is a free program that’s used for controlling your laser cutter based on your design. 

One feature that makes this laser engraver software particularly useful is that you can import multiple files in different formats into a single project, so it’s very flexible and great for collaboration. 

Another benefit that isn’t seen with some other software is its job cost estimator tool, so it’s very helpful for budgeting – something that’s particularly important for beginners and hobbyists. 

LaserWeb laser engraver
Source: forumlightburn

LaserWeb can be used to control your engraver via both vector and raster files, so it’s ideal for engraving both small and large projects. There are also many settings you can use to customize different aspects of your engraving, including the pass depth, cut-rate, smoothing, diameter and more. 

Finally, the LaserWeb community is filled with tips, modifications, and additions to the code, so you can choose free extras and customize the laser cutting machine software as you please. 

Best Laser CAD Design Software

Designing files for your laser cutter and engraver to cut can be simpler than with 3D printers or other CNC machines, as if you are only cutting a 2D image, this is much simpler to create. The best laser design software can create vector files.

You can either design raster images or vector graphics. Raster images use pixels, and when zoomed in, you’ll see the image “pixelate.”

Vectors, or scalable vector graphics (SVG), on the other hand, use mathematical formulas to create the desired image, and do not pixelate when made larger or smaller. This makes them ideal for laser engraving. Along with SVG, other vector formats include PDF, EPS, DWG, and DXF.

Here’s our top picks for designing laser files:

Inkscape: Best Free Laser Cut Design Software

  • Price: Free
  • Best for: Free laser engraving software for Mac
  • RAM Required: 2GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows / Linux / Mac


Free and open source, offering all the standard drawing and shape tools and offers a range of object manipulation tools.

Available on all major platforms.

Has a very active user community.


Relatively slow.

Inkscape is a popular open source vector graphic design and editing software. While it’s not a specialist laser cutting software, you can still use it for engraving, as shown in the video below.  

This free laser engraver software offers all the standard drawing and shape tools and offers a range of object manipulation tools, such as transformations, z-order operations and alignment and distribution commands. It also offers node editing features, allowing you to precisely modify designs and easily troubleshoot problems with vectors. 

One of the best things about Inkscape is that it uses SVG (scalable vector graphics) as its native format. As the SVG graphics formatting markup language is royalty-free, you can use its commands to create your designs without any expense. 

Unlike LaserGRBL, the Inkscape free software for laser engraving is available on all major desktop platforms including Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Another advantage of Inkscape is that there’s a very active user community surrounding the laser engraver software. There are forums, mailing lists, and even a chat room, and you can also contribute to the community if you have development skills. 

Adobe Illustrator: Premium CAD Software For Laser Vector Files

  • Price: From $27.81 per month 
  • Best for: Creating laser cutter designs
  • RAM Required: 8GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows 10 or newer
Adobe Illustrator laser engraving software


Works with many file formats.

Has an Artboards feature that allows you to lay out your designs on the screen to see how they’ll fit onto your material sheets.

Adapted to different techniques such as vector cutting, vector engraving, and raster engraving.

It can be used on iPad.


Isn’t a specialized laser cutter software.

Bit of a learning curve for beginners.

Adobe Illustrator isn’t a specialized laser cutter software, but it’s the gold standard when it comes to graphic design software and can be used to generate g-code from an SVG file that you can use with your laser engraver. 

While there’s a bit of a learning curve for beginners, it has just about everything you could ask for when it comes to working with vector graphics and it works with AI, PDF, DXF, DWG, SVG, and EPS file formats. 

Adobe Illustrator laser cutter software
Source: YouTube

One of the main benefits of using Illustrator for laser cutting is the Artboards feature. This allows you to lay out your designs on the screen to see how they’ll fit onto your material sheets. You can set up as many Artboards as you need in a single view, so you can simplify the overall process and easily keep the final product in mind as you design. 

Adobe Illustrator laser cutter
Source: YouTube

Another advantage is that this laser engraving software is adapted to different techniques such as vector cutting,and raster vs vector engraving, so it’s a very versatile program.  

Finally, this laser engraver software can also be used on iPad, meaning you can easily draw using an iPad pencil. The iPad version also has an expansive topography toolkit. So, if you’re looking for laser cutter control software that’s ideal for vector work and offers professional-grade precision and efficiency, you can’t go wrong with Illustrator. 

DraftSight: Professional Laser CAD Software

  • Price: From $499 per year 
  • Best for: Laser engraving software for professionals
  • RAM Required: 2GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows 8.1 or newer / Mac 10.14 or newer


Professional-grade CAD and laser cutting software.

Ideal for perfecting the design that you want to send to your laser cutter.

Fast and easy to cut an already existing pattern without going back to the drawing board.


Very expensive.

The most expensive software on our list, DraftSight, is a professional-grade CAD and laser cutting software developed by Dassault Systemes. 

DraftSight is the ideal software for perfecting the design that you want to send to your laser cutter. For example, among its many features is the image trace function, which turns images like JPEGs or PNGs into curves, angles, and vector lines.  

This makes it much faster and easier to cut an already existing pattern without going back to the drawing board. It also has 2D constraints so that you can control your drawing parametrically by specifying the geometric and dimensional properties of your designs. 

Another feature worth mentioning is DraftSight’s hairline option that allows you to control line width within the print options. This is set for the exact size of a single pass of a laser, so it’s ideal for laser cutting and allows you to avoid less precise cuts caused by the rasterization of wider lines. 

There are several purchase options for DraftSight — the price we’ve listed is for the Premium Version, which is more expensive than the Standard and Professional versions but is the best for laser engraving. Overall, this 2D design software for laser cutters is our recommended pick for professionals. 

What is the most popular laser cutting software?

The most used software by laser cutting machines includes Lightburn which has over 200,000 total users, and LaserGRBL which has over 100,000 active monthly users and over 400,000 total downloads. 

Adobe Illustrator has around 23 million users of Creative Cloud, but these are mostly not for uses related to laser cutting.

The 100,000 monthly active users of LaserGRBL comes from an email conversation I had with the founder, who also provided some other interesting usage data

Over 100,000 people, across 205 countries, used LaserGRBL for at least 10 sessions last month, lasting at least 5 minutes per session.

The LaserGRBL user world distribution is:

CountryGlobal Share
GRBL Users by Country

The distribution of GRBL users across software generations is:

SoftwareUser Base
GRBL 1.1f38%
GRBL 1.1h24%
GRBL 0.92%
GRBL Users Software Split

And the most used features are:

  • Raster engraving: with 42,944,533 uses as of April 2023
  • Vector engraving: with 10,533,997 uses as of April 2023

Design Software vs. Control Software

We’ve mentioned how laser cutters and engravers use software guidance to program where and how the laser needs to cut, and use other software to develop and create your designs. But what sets these two types of laser software apart?

Laser Cutting Software: The Control Part

Laser cutting software and laser engraving software are what instruct your machine. It translates your design into code for your laser cutter, so it knows exactly where to cut and engrave.

This process is arguably more abstract with engraving since it’s no longer just about cutting, but rather creating gradient, shading, and other complex characteristics.

Many machines will come with their own software, like FSL Muse Core’s RetinaEngrave, or be compatible with popular programs such as LightBurn which supports design as well. Beginner-friendly laser software usually comes with the machine, a great option for new hobbyists, but more advanced users will prefer the professional capabilities of outsourced options.

Laser Cutting Software: The Design Part

Simply put this is where you will create your designs.

Now designing images for your laser cutter and engraver is quite simple compared to other CNC machines, only requiring an outlined 2D image. The catch is, it needs to be in vector files.

You either have raster images or vector graphics. Raster images use pixels, so think of the photos we take on our phones, cameras, and other devices. When zoomed in, you’ll see the image “pixelated” resembling a bunch of color-filled squares.

Vectors, or scalable vector graphics (SVG), on the other hand, use mathematical formulas to create the desired image. Using dots as anchors and lines to connect them, the results are seamless outlines that are resolution-independent and offer you precise details when it comes to engraving.

Along with SVG, other vector formats include PDF, EPS, DWG, and DXF.

Now, technically you can laser engrave using raster images, but the results aren’t nearly as fine as with vector graphics. However, many software offer an import function that allows you to import raster images and translate them into vector files.

Laser Engraving and Cutter Software FAQ’s

Other articles on laser cutting and engraving:

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