Laser Couture

By Glowforge

Challenge: Create a costume element using technology to enhance the design.

A well-designed costume can help a production come to life! Design a costume element that is both functional and visually striking.

Facilitation Guide


Costuming has a rich history in the performing arts and has evolved into an essential production element. A well-designed costume can enhance a production’s character development and storytelling, adding visual appeal and depth to the overall performance. Productions like The Lion King on Broadway exemplify the transformative effect of a costume. Designed by Julie Taymor, the costumes feature elaborate masks worn above the head and puppet-like elements combined with eye-catching twists on traditional fabrics that evoke the African savannah and its majestic wildlife.

New technology helps costume designers bring directors’ visions to life in completely new ways. One of the most significant changes technology brings to design is the ability to create highly detailed and complex costume pieces with greater precision and speed. The 2018 film Black Panther features costumes designed by Ruth E. Carter, inspired by traditional African clothing and futuristic technology. Carter collaborated with Julia Koerner to create 3D-printed elements that enhanced the costumes. These costumes helped to establish the film's fictional Wakandan culture and added to the visual spectacle of the movie.

With Glowforge, designers can create intricate shapes, patterns, and textures that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional costume-making techniques. And because Glowforge can cut and engrave a wide range of materials (including various fabrics, leather, foam, acrylic, and wood, designers can experiment with more materials and textures! Glowforge can make the impossible possible!


Research and explore solutions to the costume element design challenge. Consider the following:

  • Think about some of your favorite films, plays, or other productions. What are the costumes like? What is most interesting or intriguing about these designs?
  • What are some key design principles that should be considered for your costume element?
  • How might you incorporate cultural or historical elements into your design to add depth and meaning to your design?

Explore Tip

A great place to start your research is to look up recent award winners or nominees in Costume Design categories for the Academy Awards or the Tony Awards. If you want even more inspiration, consider exploring the Glowforge Gallery or Glowforge Community. Many members have shared their costume and cosplay designs which might inspire and help you envision what Glowforge makes possible!

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the research you did for your costume element.

  • What did you learn about key design principles in costuming?
  • How might Glowforge enhance the design and functionality of the costume element?

Consider if there are any other resources or techniques that would be helpful to explore before moving on to the Ideate stage, where you will brainstorm your costume element designs.


Brainstorm and experiment with different techniques and design ideas for your costume element. Think of as many techniques or ideas as you can! You don’t need to worry about whether they’re good or bad ideas — just get creative! Consider:

  • What is the purpose of the costume element? Is it meant to convey a specific character, emotion, or mood?
  • What are some unconventional materials, like EVA foam or acrylic, that could be used in the design? How can Glowforge be used to create or shape these materials?

Ideate Tip

As you brainstorm your costume element design, explore the Glowforge catalog for ideas. There are many techniques that could inspire your creation. Check out these great examples highlight different techniques!

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the ideas you brainstormed.

  • Are any ideas similar and can be grouped together?
  • What are some unique features or design elements that can be incorporated into your creation that would make it stand out from the rest?
  • What modifications or adjustments need to be made to the design to ensure that it can be manufactured on your Glowforge?

Consider if there are any gaps in your brainstorming ideas that you want to consider before moving on to the Design stage where you will narrow your ideas to one or two elements to fully design.


Review the ideas you brainstormed and select one or two that you would like to develop further. Consider the following:

  • How will the costume element be worn or used during the production? Who would wear your costume — are they an adult? A child? How might this impact the design and construction of the piece?
  • How can the design be optimized to ensure that it is comfortable, durable, and safe for the wearer?
  • How can color and texture enhance the visual impact of the design? How can you use Glowforge to create interesting textures and patterns?
  • What are the technical aspects of constructing the costume element, such as joining and fastening materials or creating movement and mechanical elements?

Design Tip

You can import a hand drawn or digital design to be etched into your materials using the Glowforge’s trace feature to customize your element. Designs uploaded using the feature can be combined with other elements in the Glowforge App to create one-of-a-kind materials for your costume element.

For designs developed using third-party design software like Inkscape, Photoshop, or Adobe Illustrator, files can be easily uploaded into the Glowforge App. Glowforge can engrave from a JPG or PNG image file, and it can cut or engrave from SVG and PDF files.

Reflect and Review

Now that you have spent time developing a costume element design, take a moment to reflect on the progress of your design.

  • How can you use your Glowforge to create intricate details or patterns that would be difficult to achieve with traditional costuming methods?
  • It can be easy to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the original goals of the design. How does your costume element design align with your original sketches and ideas? This is a great place to ask a peer to look at your design and provide feedback.
  • Consider, do you have all of the materials and tools you need to create your design?

You’re almost ready to create your costume element! Consider if there is anything you’d like to change in your design before you move onto the Prototype stage and start creating.


Select one fully developed design. Using your Glowforge, print a prototype of your design using appropriate materials. Consider the following:

  • How can you create a prototype that accurately represents the final product while minimizing waste? You could try scaling down the design or using less expensive materials before the finalized print. Just make sure it won’t change the integrity of your design.
  • How can the design be optimized to ensure that it is functional, comfortable, durable, and safe for the wearer?
  • What are the pros and cons of using different materials and techniques? What materials will you use to achieve your desired depth and texture?

Prototype Tip

If your prototype is too complex, try simplifying it. Break your prototype down into smaller, more manageable components and test each component individually. For the decorative parts of your design, select “Ignore” when you are printing your prototypes. This will reduce the amount of time the print takes, and you can focus on function. Don’t forget to add the element back in when you are ready for a final print.

Reflect and Review

Think about the prototypes you created and tested during this stage.

  • Are there any changes or adjustments you need to make to your design to make it safe, functional, and comfortable for the cast member?
  • Are there any technical or practical challenges to your costume element that you need to overcome during the prototyping stage?

Consider if there are any previous stages you might want to go back to in order to rethink any part of your design before moving on to the Evaluation stage.


Now that you’ve created and tested your costume element, it’s time for feedback. Here are some sample questions to ask your peers in order to get useful and actionable feedback:

  • Ask evaluators to test the costume element and provide feedback on its functionality. Does it stay in place during movement? Is it comfortable to wear? Does it meet the needs of the character or production?

  • How does your costume element enhance the character and production? Does it complement the overall design of the production? Is it appropriate for the character?

  • How does the use of traditional costuming techniques and Glowforge provide a unique element to the design? How does the use of digital tools enhance the customization of the design?

  • How can you further improve and refine your design?

Evaluate Tip

Utilize an interactive whiteboard, such as Miro or Google Jamboard, to get feedback on design elements and reach a wider audience. Upload your original sketches and final design side by side for evaluators to see the evolution of your design. For the best results, include a photo of the full costume being worn.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the feedback you received from others.

  • What aspects of your design do you need to adjust?
  • Are there stages in the design process that you would like to return to in order to make these adjustments?

Once you have completed and finalized your design, share it with a larger audience!

Share your students' creations on social media! Post your photos and use the hashtag #GlowforgeEDU and tag us @glowforge for the chance to be featured.