If you’re a beginner looking to buy your first laser engraver or cutter, you’ll want one that’s beginner-friendly, simple to set up, easy to use, and most importantly, reliable.
However, you also want a good level of quality for your budget. This means:
- A good working area (size of the materials you can cut)
- Good power (for how thick you can cut)
- High-quality precision (especially for intricate engravings)
TLDR: I recommend the xTool D1 Pro overall, as it’s easy to assemble, easy to use, and powerful enough to cut through thin woods in a single pass, making it the ideal laser for beginners.
You could also go for the Ortur Laser Master 3 which I also own, which is great because it has so many safety features.
10W or 20W
card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood & others
card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood, anodized aluminum, stainless steel & others, reflective metals if using infrared module
Wood, acrylic, plastics
LaserPecker app (mobile and desktop)
XCS (desktop only), Lightburn
Ortur Laser Explorer (mobile only), Lightburn, LaserGRBL
rotary attachment, power bank
rotary attachment, infrared module, enclosure, expansion kit, honeycomb working panel, smoke purifier
rotary attachment, power bank, enclosure
I’ll review and recommend the best best laser cutters and engravers for beginners in this article. I recommend lasers in different price ranges, all of which make it easy for novices to get up and running, and also explain which ones to avoid.
What is a Laser Cutter or Engraver?
A laser cutter is a machine that uses a laser beam to cut materials such as card, acrylic, and wood. A laser engraver uses a laser to vaporize the surface of a material to leave an engraving or etching, used to create images or logos with different contrasts.
Are Laser Cutters and Engravers the Same thing?
Yes. Virtually all laser machines can both cut and engrave depending on what project you want to create. Though, very weak lasers (under 5W power) are mostly only suited to engraving, and not cutting.
Best Laser Engravers For Beginners Reviewed
xTool D1 Pro – Our Top Pick for the Best Laser Engraver for Beginners
- Price: Check latest price at xTool here
- Laser power: 5W, 10W, 20W or 40W options
- Supported materials: card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood, anodized aluminum, stainless steel & others, reflective metals if using infrared module
- Maximum cutting thickness in one pass: 10mm wood and 5mm acrylic
- Working area: 430x390mm
- Preassembled: No
- Software: XCS, Lightburn
- Accessories: rotary attachment, infrared module, enclosure, expansion kit, honeycomb working panel, smoke purifier
Powerful and highly precise laser
Wide variety of upgrades and accessories
Intuitive beginner-friendly XCS software
Good working area, with option to extend further with the extension kit
Doesn’t come preassembled, but it is easy to build (I built mine in around 30 mins)
Often when starting out in a new hobby or venture, it can tempting to start off with the cheapest option. However, this can honestly be counterproductive.
The xTool D1 Pro certainly isn’t the cheapest laser cutting machine for beginners, but its mix of quality and usability makes it my top pick. I personally bought the 20W version, but you only need the 10W version for everything except much thicker wood and acrylic cutting.
There’s not many parts to assemble. The main part is just attaching the four sides of the chassis together with the screws that come with it, and then attaching the gantry and laser head. A complete beginner could built it in under 45 minutes.
It offers a 430 x 390mm working area, which lets you work on fairly large projects, such as personalized pens, keychains, small signs, beakers (if you have the RA2 rotary module), and even laser-etched portraits.
You can pick between a 10W or 20W laser module, with the more powerful 20W costing around $400 extra. Both options have a very fine compressed spot size of 0.08 x 0.06 mm, allowing you to engrave precisely down to 0.01mm. For reference, some lower-quality laser engravers have significantly larger spots of 1.5 x 1.5 mm.
The main difference is that the 20W can complete the same jobs in fewer passes. Also, as using a laser at 100% of power wears it out quicker, using a 20W at 50% instead of a 10W at 100% can be more efficient in the long term. I’ve also compared all the different powered versions together in my hands-on xTool 10W vs 20W vs 40W comparison.
The laser module is very high quality, allows for impressive cutting depths of 5mm on acrylic and 10mm wood with a single pass. So, it’s one of the most effective acrylic laser engravers in this price range. You can see the thick pieces of wood I cut with it below:
Intuitive software is one of the most important considerations when buying an entry-level laser engraver. xTool’s XCS software has numerous beginner-friendly features, as well as free design files and easy image importing, and one-click operations. You can also use it with Lightburn, which is my favorite laser software, and Lightburn is extremely easy to use.
I personally recommend going with Lightburn if you’re a beginner. It’s $60 for a license, but it’s very easy to use, and most other lasers also use it, so it’s worth getting used to it now for any future lasers you may use. XCS is great, but only xTool lasers use it, so you won’t build the skills for the future with it.
Another nice thing about the D1 Pro is its upgradeability. In particular, it’s one of the few hobbyist laser engravers with an infrared laser add-on. Infrared lasers are more powerful than diode lasers, particularly for metal engraving, which makes them the go-to choice for jewelry engravers.
So, while you may not need to start off with an infrared laser as a beginner, the D1 Pro allows you to easily upgrade later, without having to buy a new machine.
Similarly, xTool offers an extension kit for the D1 Pro that doubles the working area to 430 x 930mm. So, you can start off small, and upgrade to a larger size later to work on larger projects like big signs and cutting boards. Another available accessory is the rotary attachment, which is ideal for working on cylindrical objects.
The rotary is high-quality, but almost $300 extra. But if you have plans to start a small business from your home workshop, engraving beakers, glasses, and other rounded objects are some of the best-selling and profitable projects. I bought the RA2 Pro rotary and I am very happy with it. If you’re worried about being a beginner and building it, it’s also simple to build, and takes around 45 minutes.
And if you need even more power, go for the 20W version (we did!)
LaserPecker 2 – Handheld Portable Laser Engraver for Beginners
- Price: Check latest price at Amazon here
- Laser power: 5W
- Supported materials: card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood & others
- Maximum cutting thickness in one pass: 5mm wood and 2.5mm acrylic
- Working area: 100x100mm
- Preassembled: Yes
- Software: LaserPecker app (mobile and desktop)
- Accessories: rotary attachment, power bank
Handheld and portable
Easy engraving straight from your smartphone
Great for rotary engraving
Small working area
Low power: 5W laser
The LaserPecker 2 Pro is the most expensive machine on your list, but don’t be intimidated by the price. In fact, its price is largely determined by how intuitive and beginner-friendly it is.
One of the highlights that sets the LaserPecker 2 Pro from most other laser engravers is that you can use it as a handheld laser engraver.
This is great for beginners who want to attend craft clubs, events, or just want the flexibility of an easy-to-transport engraver.
You can also opt to have the LaserPecker rotary roller included, which is perfect for engraving tumblers, mugs, and other circular objects.
Another factor that makes this one of the best laser engravers for beginners is how easy it is to set up and use. The LaserPecker 2 is a plug-and-play machine, so you can get up and running within minutes – far quicker than other DIY laser kits.
Perhaps its most novice-friendly features, though, are in the app. Available on iOS and Android (as well as Mac and Windows), the LaserPecker app allows you to engrave directly from your camera roll, allowing you to create detailed portraits and whatever else.
You can also draw your own designs in the app, or use any of the clipart designs from the extensive library.
We also like that the app has an intuitive interface, detailed user guides, and a strong community aspect. You can share projects with other users and check out featured DIY projects, which is a nice way to get inspiration for new projects. Alternatively, you can pair your engraver with third-party software like Lightburn and LaserGRBL.
However, the LaserPecker 2 uses a relatively modest 5W laser, so it can’t cut the same depths as the likes of the D1 Pro. It still has enough power for most small crafts and beginner projects, but it’s not ideal for engraving metals. The small working area may also be an issue for some.
What it lacks in power, it makes up in speed, though, with the LaserPecker 2 Pro capable of cutting up to 600mm/s. That’s a whole 200m/s faster than the D1 Pro, making this one of the fastest laser engravers for beginners. It also has a finer compressed spot with the D1 Pro of 0.05 x 0.05mm, making it one of the most precise lasers in its price range.
Ortur Laser Master 3 – Best for Deep Cutting & Has the Most Safety Features
- Price: Check latest price at Ortur here / Amazon here
- Laser power: 10W
- Supported materials: Wood, acrylic, plastics
- Maximum cutting thickness in one pass: 12mm wood and 10mm acrylic
- Working area: 400x400mm
- Preassembled: No
- Software: Ortur Laser Explorer (mobile only), Lightburn, LaserGRBL
- Accessories: rotary attachment, power bank, enclosure
Deep cutting capabilities in a single pass
Integrated air assist
Good value for money
Excellent safety features
Can be operated via mobile app
Not as fastest as the D1 Pro or LaserPecker 2 Pro
The Ortur Ortur Laser Master 3 is one of the most popular laser engravers for beginners, with many safety features, easy assembly, and good 10W diode laser power.
The Laser Master 3 cuts with speeds up to 20,000mm/s, so it’s a quick machine for fast engraving, although not quite as fast as the xTool D1 Pro or LaserPecker 2 Pro. Similarly, its 0.05 x 0.1 mm compressed spot size is decent, but not as fine as the two aforementioned machines, although it can still be accurate down to 0.01 mm.
So, what sets the Laster Master 3 apart from the other two?
Well, the main factor is its cutting depths – 12mm wood and 10mm (in a single pass), which outdo the LasterPecker 2 Pro by a long way, and also the xTool D1 Pro.
This makes it perhaps the best wood laser cutter for beginners, and it’s also capable of engraving metals like stainless steel and aluminum. Cutting in a single pass takes the work off of beginners trying to figure out the speeds and number of passes, so this is nice to have for decently thick material.
This is also one of the safest laser engravers for beginners. It has seven safety features in total:
- A safety lock
- Active position protection
- Sloping position protection
- Over-exposure detection and limitation
- Voltage control system
- Host computer watchdog
- Emergency off-switch
Similar to LaserPecker, Ortur offers its own app called Laser Explorer. I’ve tried it out and it’s easy to use, and comes with some designs you can use and directly send to the laser to engrave. The app is for iOS and Android, so you’ll still need to use Lightburn or LaserGRBL on a computer.
Atomstack A5 Pro – Best Beginner Laser Cutter Under $500
- Price: Check latest price at Amazon here
- Laser power: 5W
- Supported materials: card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood & others
- Maximum cutting thickness in one pass: 5,5mm for wood and 2.8mm for acrylic
- Working area: 410x400mm
- Preassembled: No
- Software: Lightburn and LaserGRBL
- Accessories: rotary attachment, extension kit, honeycomb working table, air assist
Good value budget option
Can assemble in 20 minutes
Well made frame and efficient laser head
Decent working area with extension kit available
Can add rotary attachment and air assist
Lacks the speed and power of other engravers
Doesn’t provide its own mobile app
It doesn’t offer the same speed or power as the machines we’ve reviewed above, with max single-pass cutting depths of 5.5mm for wood and 2.8mm for acrylic at 200mm/s, but the specs aren’t bad for the price.
The 5W laser is enough for soft materials, but you can’t engrave stainless steel or aluminum without using a coating spray.
However, you can still engrave with up to 0.01mm accuracy, which is impressive for an engraver in this price range. It also provides a decent 410x400mm working area, which is a similar size to the more expensive D1 Pro and Laser Master 3 machines.
Another beginner-friendly aspect of the A5 Pro is its simple assembly. While it’s not quite plug-and-play like the LaserPecker 2 Pro, its modular design means you can get up and running in just 20 minutes, making it easier to build than many other desktop machines.
It’s also well-made, with a built-in cooling system in the laser head and a sturdy all-metal frame that helps extend the tool life. This makes the A5 Pro better suited to continuous engraving than other budget machines.
You have the option to add a rotary attachment, as well as an extension kit that increases the working area to 410 x 850mm. There’s also an air assist option, which improves the laser’s results on wood and other materials while also removing dust and smoke.
Like the other top beginner laser cutters on our list, the A5 Pro is fully compatible with popular software like Lightburn and LaserGRBL. Unlike LaserPecker, Ortur, and xTool, Atomstack doesn’t provide its own software or app, so you do miss out on some intuitive features you get with the others, like engraving directly from your saved photos.
Which Lasers to Avoid for Beginners
There are hundreds of laser engravers and cutters on the market, so it’s impossible to list all the ones to avoid as a beginner.
However, I recommend avoiding the following lasers if you’re a beginner:
- Lasers from lesser-known brands
- Lasers with bad reviews or a lack of reviews on sites like Amazon
- Lasers that don’t have beginner-friendly software
- Overly powerful or complex CO2 lasers
- Fiber lasers and other types designed for industrial work
The lasers we recommend further up are all diode lasers, which are the most budget and beginner-friendly. CO2 lasers are a level up and are more powerful and complex to operate, making them not so suitable for novices.
Why not a CO2 or fiber laser?
You can find relatively cheap K40 lasers, such as the OMTech K40, on Amazon and other sites.
However, they don’t have any of the beginner-friendly features we highlight in the reviews above, such as easy software, customizability, and strong customer support. They’re far more complex, and I really recommend starting with a diode laser before moving up to a CO2 laser.
As 40W CO2 lasers are significantly more powerful than 5-20W diode ones, they can also be more dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Though, some CO2 lasers such as Glowforge lasers are very user-friendly – but I still don’t advise jumping right into a $6,000 Glowforge machine until you’re sure you’re ready to set up a business.
There are also fiber laser engravers, which are very powerful, and mainly for engraving on metal.
However, these are extremely expensive and typically only available in industrial machines, making them unsuitable for beginners.
Buying Guide – Factors to consider when choosing
If you’re still wondering what’s the best laser cutter for beginners, keep the following factors in mind when choosing a machine.
Ease of use & build time
Building a laser for the first time can be an intimidating process, so pick a fast machine to assemble.
LaserPecker machines are some of the easiest as they generally come mostly assembled and are plug-and-play, allowing you to get started in no time.
Entry-level laser cutters usually come as kits to build, so they take a bit more time to set up. With these, go for reliable brands like xTool and Ortur, which come with clear instructions and have the simplest assembly process. Modular builds like the Atomstack A5 Pro are also easier to setup than others.
I’ve built the xTool D1 Pro 20W and it took half an hour, and I’ve also built three Ortur lasers (LM2, LM2 Pro, and LM3) and they were all simple enough.
The main difference is the rotary. xTool’s rotary comes as a chuck ready to go, whereas the Ortur YRR 2.0 comes as a kit that takes 45-60 mins to assemble. I prefer the xTool’s rotary, but it’s 3x the price – so it’s your choice here.
|xTool D1 Pro||30 minutes|
|Ortur LaserMaster 3||30 minutes|
|Atomstack A5 Pro||20 minutes|
If you’re a beginner, you probably don’t want to spend over $1,000. However, ensure you’re getting good quality, as going for the cheapest (and often unreliable) option limits what you can make and sell.
This is why we recommend going for mid-range machines within the $300 to $900 price range from top brands like xTool, LaserPecker, Ortur, and Atomstack.
This help ensures you get a reliable machine from a top brand without overspending on features or power you don’t need as a beginner.
|xTool D1 Pro||$629|
|Ortur LaserMaster 3||$599|
|Atomstack A5 Pro||$269|
As well as choosing a machine, you also need to decide which software to use. One of the most user-friendly and popular options is Lightburn, which you have to pay for, while LaserGRBL is the most widely used free alternative.
These are both third-party software that are compatible with most laser engravers. These can have some benefits, for example both the Atomstack and LaserPecker mobile apps let you engrave designs directly from your camera roll.
However, overall these programs are generally not as complete as Lightburn or LaserGRBL. So, it’s worth learning one of these to start off with, and then you likely won’t need to ever learn another program if you switch to a different brand later on.
|xTool D1 Pro||XCS (desktop only)|
|LaserPecker 2||LaserPecker app (mobile and desktop)|
|Ortur LaserMaster 3||Ortur Laser Explorer (mobile only), Lightburn, LaserGRBL|
|Atomstack A5 Pro||Lightburn and LaserGRBL|
What size projects you want to make
The best laser cutters for beginners come in a variety of different sizes, from small handheld models like the LaserPecker 2 Pro to large laser cutting machines like the D1 Pro and LaserMaster 3. Around 400 x 400mm is the typical engraving area of medium-sized beginner cutters.
A laser’s size affects the size of the materials you can work on. On top of that, larger desktop machines are heavier and less portable. If you’re looking for a more portable laser, you’re better off with a smaller, lighter model like a LaserPecker, most of which can be used handheld.
|xTool D1 Pro||430x390mm|
|Ortur LaserMaster 3||400x400mm|
|Atomstack A5 Pro||410x400mm|
Warranty and Support
Laser engravers aren’t cheap, so if you’re buying one for the first time, it’s advisable to go for one with a longer warranty period in case you have any issues.
Laser brands like LaserPecker, xTool, Atomstack, and Ortur offer one-year warranties, but this isn’t the case with all companies – so it’s always worth checking.
For beginners, go for a brand with decent customer support in case you encounter technical problems. Be wary of cheaper machines from lesser-known brands that may not offer the same level of support.
Another benefit of going for laser cutters from bigger brands is that they will have more users that you can engage with on forums and social media groups. Glowforge have a huge community where you can get help, as do Ortur, xTool, and other brands.
The materials you can cut and engrave depend both on the type of your laser, and its power. Most hobbyist diode lasers are generally used for softer materials, such as card, felt, acrylic and other plastics, and the best woods for laser cutting.
Some high-quality 20W diodes like the D1 Pro can engrave soft metals like anodized aluminum, but with weaker lasers you’ll need to coat the metal in a laser coating spray.
Another key factor to remember is that some laser companies lie about how powerful their lasers are. For example, some companies list their lasers as 20W, 30W and even higher, when the laser itself is actually a 5W laser. The options we’ve listed are correct and we trust these.
If you’re interested in engraving reflective metals like stainless steel, gold, or silver, you need an infrared or fiber laser. The D1 Pro is one of the few hobbyist machines that offers an infrared module as an add-on.
|xTool D1 Pro||Card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood, anodized aluminum, stainless steel & others, reflective metals if using infrared module|
|LaserPecker 2||Card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood & others|
|Ortur LaserMaster 3||Wood, acrylic, plastics|
|Atomstack A5 Pro||Card, felt, fabric, leather, plastics, acrylic, wood & others|
There are some potential hazards that come with using a laser engraver, so I advise beginners to go for machines with safety features. The following features can you engrave safety:
- Emergency stop button for instantly switching off the machine when needed.
- Position or sloping protection that switches off the machine if it’s jogged while in operation.
- A safety lock to prevent children from accessing the laser.
- An enclosure around the laser to help protect your eyes.
Most lasers also come with laser safety glasses that you should wear while working. It’s also important to have a proper ventilation system in place due to the harmful fumes emitted when laser engraving.
Most lasers don’t come with these, although some brands, like xTool, offer smoke purifiers as optional extras.
How do I get started with a laser cutter?
The first step is to get yourself a beginner-friendly laser cutting machine. We recommend some good picks, which are good value, easy to set up, simple to operate, and offer great customer support.
After that, you need to pick software to use for your designs and cutting. Lightburn is widely regarded as the best and most beginner-friendly software, and LaserGRBL is a popular free alternative to Lightburn.
Are laser cutters & engravers safe?
Laser cutters are safe if you use the correct safety precautions. This includes wearing goggles, having a ventilation system in place, and using an enclosure if necessary.
Is a laser cutter easy to use?
Laser cutters are relatively easy to use once you learn the basics. Often the trickiest part is learning the software, but brands like LaserPecker have mobile apps that make it super easy to get started.