How to Design an Illuminote

How to Design an Illuminote

Liquiterra is having a design contest!  Click here for contest rules.

In this blog post, I am going to give step by step instructions on how to design an Illuminote.  First of all, you are really designing the front piece, the wooden part of the Illuminote, where the light shines through.  For the drawing and design, you really need to imagine what the cut out parts will look like, so that the final Illuminote has enough lighted area.

Illuminotes by Liquiterra, showing the lighted negative spaces

Before you begin:

For my example, I chose to draw a Sunflower to play with the "garden party" contest theme.  A sunflower has a lot of detail in the petals, etc.  A good final Illuminote design places an emphasis on the negative spaces, where wood is actually cut out of the design.

Final image showing positive form and negative space for the Illuminote design contest

In art, negative space is defined as “the area around and between a subject.”1  For example, in my drawing of the sunflower, the sunflower is the subject or the positive form.  The area around the sunflower is the negative space.  Please note that I added negative spaces into the center of the sunflower and between the petals in order to improve the design and the final Illuminote cut out.

Another critically important consideration is that all of the white forms are touching one another.  If there are white "islands" in the design, when the laser goes to cut the image the white islands will fall out of the image.


  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie
  • Eraser
  • White paper

Step 1: Measure the format

Use a ruler to measure and draw an 8” x 6” rectangular format on your paper. This is the required format for the dimensions of an Illuminote front piece.

I used 8 ¾” x 12” heavy weight drawing paper. 

Illuminote rectangular format for our design contest

Step 2: Draw the image

Using a pencil, draw your Illuminote design by hand.  There is something special that is conveyed in a hand-drawn work.  Hand drawing often includes the sensitivity of your line quality and your particular hallmarks as an artist.  At Liquiterra, we value the authenticity and freshness that is conveyed by a hand-drawn artwork.  The hand drawn image, as opposed to a digitally designed image, keeps some of the human imperfections captured in the artwork.  This is one of the qualities that makes Liquiterra's art gifs so special.

Illuminote sketch of a sunflower for our design contest

Artist’s note: near the end of my drawing of the sunflower, I decided to switch to coloring in the negative spaces with a Sharpie.  I switched to this step, so that I could better see the composition and determine what needed to be drawn as negative space and what needed to remain as the positive form.

Coloring in the negative space for the Illuminote design contest

Step 3: Use a Sharpie to blacken the negative spaces

Use a sharpie to color in black the negative spaces on your drawing.  This will help us determine what is positive form and what is negative space.  We need this clarity between the positive form and the negative space in order to make the digital file to cut out the Illuminote.

It is really important that all of the white positive forms are connected, otherwise parts of the image will be cut off in the laser cutting process.

When you are done with the sharpie drawing, use your eraser to erase the extra pencil lines and sketch lines.  We want the final design to be as clear and crisp as possible, showing a white positive form and a black negative spaces.

Final image for the Illuminote design contest

Step 4: Take a clear picture of your design

Take a good clear picture of your image.  

If I can, I go outside in indirect sunlight and take pictures of my artwork.  The indirect or reflected sunlight emits great quality light for capturing color (in this case the crispness of the white and black).  In addition, there are no shadows, if you are using reflected light for your photograph.

Align the sides of your rectangular format to the camera's rectangular format in order to get the best possible and flat rectangle. 

Step 5: Upload your Photo

The last step is to upload your photo onto the contest page:  Then share with your friends and contacts for them to vote on your image!! 

For more information, please see contest details and rules.  Best of Luck!


 Barnes, Sara. “What Is Negative Space Art? Learn Negative Space Definition, Be Inspired!” My Modern Met,, 21 June 2019,


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