CNC Router Software You Should Consider
There are many options for CNC software for your consideration. They will vary from capabilities and price. The info below outlines some of the more common software and their pros and cons. If you know of software we should include please drop us a note.
Easel By Inventables
Easel is a cloud based (you must have an Internet connection) software that comes with the XCarve machines. The cool thing is you can test drive the software just by signing up for a free account. Easel is a great place for beginners to get started. It not only covers the actual design of your engraving but also controls the machine via GCode. As far as we know, it will only work with the Inventables line of CNC machines. They also offer a paid Pro version that extends your capabilities such as using V-bits for more options. (They do offer a limited 2-3 day a month version for users that users can use each month).
- Easy To Use
- Autosaves to the Cloud – pull up your files from any computer
- Great tutorials online
- You can import gCode from other software and SVG vector graphics (do you could design in Inkscape or Illustrator)
- Requires an Internet connection which may be an issue for some in their shop.
- Not the most efficient toolpaths.
- Will not handle 3D designs
VCarve provides a powerful but intuitive software solution for creating and cutting parts on a CNC Router. VCarve gives you the power to produce complex 2D patterns with profile, pocket, drill and inlay toolpaths, plus gives you the ability to create designs with v-carving textures as well as import and machine unlimited Vectric 3D clipart or single model files. The ‘Pro’ edition gives you unlimited job and toolpath size, true shape nesting & job set-up sheets, ideally suited to a production environment.
They offer a free trial so you can test drive it. They offer a complete set of video tutorials that are worth watching – all of them to make the best use of this powerful software.
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Freehand, or Xara X. It has good tracing options in it allowing you to trace a raster (think photo) and turn it into a vector (think line drawing). This can be useful when trying to engrave a logo or other graphic. Inkscape is completely free. It should be in everyone’s computer toolbox.
You can download it at https://inkscape.org/
Phil Johnson has a great page of tutorials when working with Inkscape. Click here to visit his page.
Adobe Illustrator / Photoshop
Adobe products have been the mainstream for graphic design for years. It becomes a useful tool for maker equipment as well. Illustrator has the ability to trace and outline graphics so they can be imported into your laser software. There are even ways to laser full photographs so Photoshop can also be used to tweak the settings such as contrast, convert the image to black and white or greyscale, invert the image by swapping what’s dark with what’s light so it looks correct on the material.
It can be pricey but they do offer a monthly subscription and free trials. We include it here because many people already own older versions which will certainly as well.
Corel Draw is another mainstream program that has been around a long time. The author doesn’t have any current experience with it, but remembers how unstable past versions were. There are some machines that are coming with branded versions of Corel optimized for that machine. It is one of the more expensive options out there
Pic Sender is another way to communicate with your CNC that doesn’t require an Interenet connection to work. They offer a crippled demo version so you can download it and test it before you pay the $35 for it. This will allow you to use an add-on diode laser on your CNC and engrave grey scale images on materials. They also offer other engraving programs. From their site – At picengrave.com we offer unique,user friendly and affordable image to G-code CNC photo engraving solutions for spindle & laser diodes.
Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) is a cross platform, tested on Windows, OSX, Linux, and Raspberry Pi and is a full featured gcode platform used for interfacing with advanced CNC controllers like GRBL. It is Open Source (free or donation based).