How to: Make the infamous red TEDx with CNC machining



The red TEDx letters. They grace TEDx event stages across the world – but how does an enterprising TEDx organizer craft such a bold look? TEDxBrum in Birmingham, UK turned to CNC machining, which allows machinists to create custom 3D designs out of materials like wood and plastic using guidance from computer-made designs. On their blog, resident designer Joyjit Sarkar explains the steps they took to get their logo from the computer to the stage.

Below, an amended version of Sarkar’s logo-to-CNC guide:

Step 1: Make the logo

We already had the TEDxBrum logo designed based on the guidelines provided by TED. This is the base of the design and it is crucial to stick to the branding guidelines.

by joyjit
on Sketchfab

Step 2: Turn it into a .DXF file

The .DXF file extension is one of the popular types used in CNC machining. To provide a CNC machinist with the materials needed to manufacture your letters, you need a .DXF file. Sarkar recommends using Adobe Illustrator or Solidworks to create your .DXF file. At this stage, it’s important to try and use the right sizes for what you’re after. Here is a YouTube tutorial for converting a .JPEG file to a .DXF file in Adobe Illustrator. Here is advice for creating .DXF files in Solidworks.

TEDxBrum as a .DXF

TEDxBrum as a .DXF

Step 3: Find a CNC shop near you

We worked with a lovely company called Maker. Try searching a site like Etsy to find a local CNC shop that will take on your project. Ask friends and team members if they have a recommendation.

Step 4: Work out the details

Work with your CNC’er to make sure you get the tolerances, minimums and maximums right (they will know what this means). You might have to modify the file to suit the specifications of your CNC’er. And if you’re polite, your CNC’er might just help and do this for you.

TEDxBrum in Solidworks

TEDxBrum in Solidworks

 Step 5: Pick your material and let your CNC’er do what they do best

We used the thickest material available: 25mm MDF wood. We recommend a sturdy, thick material.

The letters are cut

The letters are cut

Step 6: Pour on the paint

Make sure you prime the wood before you paint (otherwise the wood will absorb the paint). The TEDx needs to be in Red (Pantone 485) and event name in white.


Step 7: Step back and enjoy

That’s it! We hope this helps any future TEDx organizers. Enjoy! Love from TEDxBrum.

TEDxBrum has made their Solidworks and DXF files available here for download and use.


  1. This is a great guide. We used a similar approach for our logo. We have a big TEDx out of layers of corrugated cardboard and TEDxSacramento (and City2.0) out of heavy weight polystyrene. For foam letters, keep the scraps from the bottom and paint them black to use as a base. See photos at

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  5. Vineet Pandya

    Thank you so much for putting this up! Very useful :)

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