March 8, 2021

Laser Engraving Hacks for Photos Etched in Glass


Have you ever wondered how laser engraving experts make beautiful patterns and graphic designs on glass surfaces? You can learn how to execute these precise glass engravings in your home. Let’s uncover the secrets and hacks to etching in the glass. Before we delve into the hacks for photos etched in glass, let’s quickly define laser etching.

What is Laser Etching All About?

Laser etching is a form of engraving that melts only the top surface of a workpiece, chemically binding your intended marks onto it. Typically, the depth of a laser-etched marking is pegged at 0.001″, hardly altering the integrity of the glass. Like other engraving methods, you can add various logos, pictures, and more to a suitable surface.

How Does it Differ from Laser Engraving?

The truth is that laser etching is a subset of laser engraving; this means it works just like laser engraving but with a slight difference. This difference lies in the depth of the marking and how the binding of markings occurs. For etching, the mark’s surface binding is a chemical process that has a very shallow depth. For engraving, the marking is physically bound as a cavity is created during the process. And this indicates that the depth of marking is deeper than etching.

Over the years, laser etching suits glass materials so perfectly that the two have become synonymous. But a laser engraving machine still does both engraving and etching; however, the beam’s intensity varies. In fact, a laser engraver is the fastest and most efficient machine to etch on glass without hassle. The benefits of a laser engraver used for etching are:

  • High precision
  • Neatness
  • Flexibility
  • Ease of use
  • Consistency

Necessary Hacks for Your Etching Projects

Now let’s learn how to make photos etched in glass:

Use Only High-Quality Images

To start with, you must understand that etched photos will not maintain the same clarity compared to the original image. To compensate, ensure your pictures are of the highest quality possible for a sharp, clear, and smooth finish. The image must also be of high resolution to retain a high level of clarity after the etching is complete. Do away with scanned photos from your paper album; deal only with the best quality image possible.

Properly Crop Your Photos

Often, your original image is mostly oversized and contains unnecessary details you do not want to etch. Always crop the image and resize it according to your preferred design software before sending it to the laser engraver. With this act, you would have already cut out unwanted parts of the image.

Remove Background and Convert to Grayscale

This procedure is of extreme importance and could make or mar the whole etching process. If the background is not removed, the main image could get obscured and important details lost. Preferably, pick a white background for your image.

Usually, for photos etched in glass, the default is that it appears in grayscale. Therefore, converting your image to grayscale will help you visualize how your final engraving will appear. Then you can make the appropriate edits to get the best result.

General Color Balancing

With software programs like CorelDRAW, you can retouch your image properly. Adjust the contrast by darkening dark areas and whiten light areas for a good balance of color. For example, if it’s a person’s photo that is to be etched, keep hair dark and areas like fingernails and eyeballs light. Above all, editing is subjective, and you can decide what’s best for you.

Sharpen and Export Image

The sharpening tool is present in most editing software and will generally make your image bolder as necessary. You should sharpen some selected parts of your image to make the etching come out striking and original.

After sharpening, convert your image to bitmap format and then export it to your laser engraver CAD software. Once the image is exported, configure your laser engraver’s setting accordingly before turning it on.

Final Thoughts

The concept, characteristics, and prep steps of laser etching on glass comprise an exciting new world in which you’re free to create. Ultimately, just make sure you start with a high-quality image, and other things will fall in place. You don’t need to be an expert in graphic design to ace your photos etched in glass projects. Once you can put the steps highlighted above into practice, you are sure to get the best results. Over the years, OMTech has developed the right resources necessary for manufacturing, sales, installation, and training in the laser engraver field. Reach out to them for advice and tips on your next laser engraving project.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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