Best software for the Newbie

I am very new to the whole CNC game and have a question about which software to use for designing carvings. After reading some of the post I understand that I won’t be able to use Easel to draw freestyle lines. Should I continue using Sketchup (which I am very new to too) or invest in the Vcarve software. Any insight is appreciated.
Also, some of the projects on here are very inspiring.
Thanks in advance

Basically any program that has the ability to export to .svg will work. I personally use iDraw for the Mac and it works alright. You can then import these files into Easel and cut to your hearts desire! Sketchup also works great, lots of people use it, I think there is an export to svg plug in that you can get for it.

If you have an extra $350 then you will not regret purchasing Vcarve Desktop. It makes the design and toolpath creation so much simpler than any other process I have tried. Except for Easel which is crazy easy to use, but limited.

Download the Vcarve trial and play with it a bit. The trial allows you to do everything except save a toolpath. But it will allow you to create toolpaths for some of their sample projects so you can verify that it will work with your machine.

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I concur with both Allen and Rusty, actually. I have been using a combination of V-Carve and my wife’s graphic art from ArtRage for a lot of my sign graphics. She draws it as a clean, JPG, and I use V-Carve’s import functionality to turn it into a perfect carving toolpath. Very straight-forward to use, as well.

I would suggest starting out with Easel, though, to become comfortable with the machine. SVGs are somewhat more difficult to work with than JPGs or other simple, web-sourced graphics, but they are available. And Easel is a remarkably well-integrated program that functions very well for simple work.

Once you are comfortable with running the machine and have a few basic projects under your belt, look into Fusion360, V-Carve, MeshCAM or some of the other more advanced programs.

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for carves typical design programs like Corel draw, Inkscape and so on are usually more suitable and intuitive than CAD Programs.
Only requirement is that the program is able to save as .dxf or .svg so CAM programs can open the file.

You can use e.g. Estlcam to create Carves:


I do most of my design work in Fusion 360 but in preparation for getting the X-carve I downloaded and tried InkScape (its free) and was very pleasantly surprised at how well it works and how easily I was able to learn to use it. It doesn’t get used that much by me but when I do I love the features and tools.


Fusion works very nicely for the X-Carve with the stock GRBL post, you just need to do a couple minor mods to the code after posting it. Namely, reverse the first two tool-movement lines so that it lifts the tool, THEN moves it, and potentially adding a “return to zero” line at the end. :smile:

V-Carve Desktop or Pro is my favorite for ease of use and workflow; made for CNC. Sketch up is good and Fusion 360 very good but more complex, which I also really like

Thank you everyone, I’m going to try inkscape and try the V-Carve Desktop trial. Wish me luck.


Will these programs work with the Shapeoko 2 system?

Sure, you just need a Gcode sender.