Need Advice please, gravestone etching.

Tim Kingston

New Member
This is a personal project. A family is ordering a gravestone which will have an etched image of mine in the background. I am laying out the design as well. What I'm wondering is what type of file is used for this, does it need to be all vector based, bitmap or combination ( pdf / eps ) in order to perform the etching?

Also, any font suggestions would be appreciated. I was thinking somewhat traditional serif typefaces but would appreciate any suggestions.

The gravestone is black, granite I believe.

I'm from a small town and am not in contact with the manufacturer directly. I'm hoping you guys might have some advice, Thanks. Tim


New Member
I can't answer that with certainty, because I have no idea what they will use to engrave it. It can be sand blasted or laser engraved (or possibly another method or two). If it's laser engraved, vector is always nice, but a bitmap will work if it's the right size/resolution. Those would be things you really need to find out from the manufacturer some how. On granite, on smaller machines, photos engrave in the 250-300 dpi at full size.

I would think if you could provide a bitmap at that resolution, at the final size, you'd probably be okay, but that's just a semi-educated guess based on the smaller lasers used for engraving.

I know that's not too much help, but hopefully some help. Ideally you really need to get the specs from the manufacturer so you can provide them what works best for their machine/method.

James Burke

Being a grandpa is more fun than working
I do sandblasting monument work and have a working knowledge of how hand and laser etching is done. Please send me a PM about the details of your project.

As far as fonts go, I'm more of a traditionalist and like roman style fonts, but that, of course is up to the family to decide.

I'm attaching a photo of a stone I did last year for my wife's grandfather. It's made of jet black granite that shines like a mirror.

My wife's grandmother had just walked up next to me as I was taking a picture of the stone, and I was a little startled by what a great photo it made.



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New Member
James, just for my knowledge, what resolution/format would you use for an image to engrave it?

James Burke

Being a grandpa is more fun than working
James, just for my knowledge, what resolution/format would you use for an image to engrave it?

We're talking two things here.

For lettering, dates and flourishes, etc...that are sandcarved, you would use regular vector artwork. The same applies for line-art images that also get sandblasted. Those images are cut into sandblast stencil on a plotter. Fine detailed sandblasted images utilize a thin mask made of photo resist which is similar to the UV sensitive emulsion on screen printing screens. Vector images are also used here, but are printed on clear film.

Images that are laser etched use halftone raster images, and from what I can remember, I believe are etched at about 72 dpi more or less. It really depends on the size and detail of the image.

Sandblasted and lasered images are two totally different animals when it comes to final preparation. Sandblasting actually opens the grain of the granite, and that readily accepts the Lithichrome stain we use to color the etching, when needed. Deep cut lettering sometimes does not utilize Lithichrome because the shadows in the lettering create its own contrast with the rest of the stone.

Lasered images are nothing more than millions of tiny craters, and under a microscope those craters appear to have a thin coating of fused glass-like material. On a microscopic level, the laser beam heats the stone, it "pops", and then fuses the tiny crater.

Lasered etchings usually will need a little extra "boost" to improve contrast with the stone, but they will not accept the stain like we use in sandblasted etchings.

Typically, white printing ink (VanSol) is rubbed over the image. The tiny craters readily receive the ink and any excess rubs off easily from the polished granite as it dries. I just did a job this week and tried using white One Shot lettering enamel, and I found that works even better than the ink.

On a final note, diamond hand etching is a blend of the two. It utilizes a fixed or a vibrating diamond point (in the hand of a real, live human being) to etch away the stone. Unlike laser etching, the diamond etching also opens the grain of the stone and allows a wider latitude of colors to be used.

So there you have it...a quick primer on memorial etching...class dismissed.

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