View Full Version : Granite tile question

Ron Chapellaz
06-07-2010, 12:28 PM
Hey forum! Here's a photo of my very first laser engraving on 12" x 12" granite tile. Now that the project is complete is there anything I should do to protect this yard sign from the elements? It will be subjected to our cold winters here in Canada.
Thanks to Bill for the info on vector country scenes. I did manage to find some nice ones, but in the end I didn't need it as I chose to keep things simple instead. Sometimes less is more...

Thanks to Dee for showing me the waterlily font in a previous post!;)

Dan Hintz
06-07-2010, 12:58 PM
Good job splitting up the text between tiles... all too often I see individual letters crossing tile boundaries and it rarely looks good (at least up close).

Oops, for got to add info in protection. Granite is pretty solid stuff, but you're free to use a sealer if you feel you must. It may darken the engraving a bit, so do a test on another tile to determine if you can live with any contrast changes.

Ron Chapellaz
06-07-2010, 1:03 PM
Thanks Dan! It was a bit tricky but thought it wouldn't look as good otherwise. This being my first project ever on granite I really enjoyed doing it.
I heard about a product called lithochrome. Anyone ever try that on granite. Is it available in a clear coat finish?

Dan Hintz
06-07-2010, 1:41 PM
You mean Lithichrome... Lithochrome is a concrete stain. The former is a bit pricey, but worth the investment for durability.

Ron Chapellaz
06-07-2010, 5:32 PM
Yes Dan, you are correct. I guess that's why I was confused about this product. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

Larry Bratton
06-07-2010, 8:21 PM
Lithichrome is a stone paint. The white titanium is popular for color filling on natural stone, albeit as Dan says, pricey. They have some interesting colors and lots of them.

Dee Gallo
06-07-2010, 9:00 PM
Nice job, Ron! I agree with Dan, the spacing of the letters is excellent - it would have been awful if you split a letter up... that's the kind of attention to detail that separates the pros from the wannabees.

So are you posting this sign with a picture of your house in front of your house? Seems redundant to me... but it will be great later on when or if you change things, plants grow, etc. We have several pictures of our place over the years and they are fun to reflect upon.

How will you mount the tiles together? I would more concerned with a wooden frame weathering than the granite. Assuming (dangerous?) it is not going to be flat on the ground, it should not really get damaged or dirty enough to bother it. You could use titanium oil paint from a tube to whiten and seal the stone, as it is water-resistant and a lot cheaper than lithichrome.

cheers, dee

Ron Chapellaz
06-07-2010, 10:40 PM
[QUOTE=Dee Gallo;

How will you mount the tiles together? I would more concerned with a wooden frame weathering than the granite. Assuming (dangerous?) it is not going to be flat on the ground, it should not really get damaged or dirty enough to bother it. You could use titanium oil paint from a tube to whiten and seal the stone, as it is water-resistant and a lot cheaper than lithichrome.

cheers, dee[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the compliment Dee! It means alot coming from you. I am always in awe of your work!

As for the tiles, a metal frame is to be constructed so it can hang in the front yard. I'm not exactly sure how things will be mounted, but at this point I was told it would be on plywood somehow. I will get a photo of the project once it is done. This isn't a photo of my house but is a wedding present that someone ordered.
I do however plan on making a yard sign for my own place. I haven't decided what to put on it just yet. I have to get through the busy school season first.

Thanks for the info as well, Dee and Larry. I will look into Lithichrome in the future.

Bill Cunningham
06-08-2010, 9:36 PM
Now that came out looking real nice Ron.. I use the stone sealer you get from HomeDespot that they sell for sealing showers and tiled areas.. A gallon was about $25-$30 but I think they have smaller ones too..

Ron Chapellaz
06-09-2010, 10:21 PM
Thank you Bill! I'm going to look into that stone sealer. Does it give it "the wet look" when applied, or does it retain it's natural look? I was impressed with the way the house turned out as I don't have Photograv, and this was my first ever project on Granite. I was debating on getting it or Epilog's version with EngraveLab, but I may just see if I can manage without it.

Frank Corker
06-10-2010, 5:42 AM
Ron, that's a really nice piece of work that you've made there, very impressive.

Steve Kelsey
06-10-2010, 9:00 AM
That looks great, Ron. I've done a bit of testing on Granite but so far everything comes out too washed out. Any advice on DPI of the photo and settings you used?

Ron Chapellaz
06-10-2010, 10:21 AM
Thanks for the compliments Frank and Steve! I have learnt so much here, especially from the individuals who have posted on my thread. It is an honour to receive compliments from all of them! You have all contributed so much to this forum, and have made it such a great learning tool for everyone! I can't thank you enough...:)
I'd be glad to help you out Steve. As I mentioned before I do not have photograv. I found this video on youtube. I'm not sure if he is a member here or not but thanks for posting this!

I used this video as a guideline for this project. Now please remember this was my first project so who knows if this will work for the next project, or yours. A lot of it really starts with the quality of the photo, and a feel for what the image must look like before sending the job to the laser.
In a nutshell here's my notes on the settings I used in CorelDraw:

1) Bitmaps > Mode > convert to grayscale
2) Effects > Adjust > Contrast enhancement >
Input value clipping: number value left (0); number value right (161);
Output range compression: number value left (0); number value right (255);
Gamma 1.3 (not auto adjust)
Auto Adjust unchecked
Histogram Display Clipping Automatically
3) Bitmaps > sharpen > unsharp mask...percentage = 500; radius = 6; threshold = 0
4) Effects > transform > invert
Before you start this process, remember that you must resample your image to match the same DPI that you will use on your laser.

For my Epilog 35 Watt I used 60 speed 30 power 250 DPI with Stucki.
If anyone wants to chime in to let me know if I missed anything or if the settings I used could be improved upon that would be great.
Good luck Steve!

Bill Cunningham
06-15-2010, 9:26 PM
Thank you Bill! I'm going to look into that stone sealer. Does it give it "the wet look" when applied, or does it retain it's natural look? I was impressed with the way the house turned out as I don't have Photograv, and this was my first ever project on Granite. I was debating on getting it or Epilog's version with EngraveLab, but I may just see if I can manage without it.

I know the glossy look your thinking of, but nope the HD stuff has to soak in for about 15 min., then you wipe off the excess. It looks natural, and water beads off it like a ducks back..

Ron Chapellaz
06-16-2010, 12:41 AM
Here is a photo of the sign now that it is complete. The granite was mounted onto painted plywood using thin set mortar. A frame was welded together, and holds the plywood and the granite into place.
It is finished but hasn't been anchored into the ground yet.

Thanks for the info Bill!

Viktor Voroncov
06-16-2010, 9:16 AM
Ron, fantastic work due UNUSUAL DESIGN. I am working with stone engraving many years, but this type of using stone I see first time !

Dee Gallo
06-16-2010, 9:26 AM
Ron, that turned out really well! The welded frame sets it off nicely without overpowering it. The contrast shows well even in a photo, good job! It may be your first, but it won't be your last!

:) dee

Larry Bratton
06-16-2010, 10:02 AM
Good job Ron!
I am wondering though if a 500 percentage with unsharp mask is really necessary with a good photo. The ordinary setting for print correction is about 120-130, radius less than 1.0 and threshold at 1. If you have a good photo to begin, which you obviously did, is this an overkill? The finished product looks great, so I reckon the proof is in the pudding so to speak.

James & Zelma Litzmann
06-16-2010, 12:02 PM
Really nice Ron. We have been using granite for script but haven't had a lot of luck with photos. You did a GREAT job!

Terry Swift
06-17-2010, 2:51 PM

What kind of settings did you use and how did you get the "white" coloring? I'm about to give up doing granite, as it has not worked for me to make it work very well. The hardest part is some of the fine detail in some of the pieces and if I paint them, when removing the tape - usually some of the paint goes with it. Not a good scenario. I know Dan has said he uses acrylic and I've gone that way with better results; but still not worthy of turning a piece over to a customer. With granite being the prices it is; it's not a cheap product to learn by trial and error. I did an oval 5 x 7 from Laser Bits, as that's where I've only found that type and size and their recommended laser settings. I suppose they weren't factoring in masking tape into that equation; nor was I. A post from a few years back by one person said they used like a 40 / 40 setting and they got very nice and white results from their 30 watt engraver. My customer wants a white background which is perfect, that I wouldn't have to use tape or paint and the graphic is pure black and white - no color at all.

It may seem I am rehashing some of this, but I did a search thru the forum (up-to-date) and found nothing that would have helped me. I finally did some Googling and it brought the thread up from the archive that I mentioned. Making mistakes with wood and other inexpensive and readily available products is one thing; doing that with stuff like granite and other materials that aren't likely local and are more pricey makes you want to shy away and they are less a part of your business anyway - due to their higher costs.

Thanks All - You're the Greatest Helpers. Keep It Up.

Joe De Medeiros
06-17-2010, 3:39 PM
. I found this video on youtube. I'm not sure if he is a member here or not but thanks for posting this!

It's Mike Clark from Toronto, he has lots of tips on his web site for using Corel Draw with laser engravers.

Larry Bratton
06-17-2010, 3:50 PM
Here is a good tutorial on youtube by Roy Brewer, one of our fantastic members here. I have been using Photograv but I tried a combination of Roy's method and the one from Mike Clark that Ron used and got a very good result. I used these methods to get to a 8bit greyscale image and then used the Epilog Jarvis dithering.

James Stokes
06-17-2010, 9:06 PM
One thing you can do to minimize your cost on using granite is take one piece and cut in to 2" strips, then you take one strip and place it where the most detail will be and engrave just on the strip. Also you can engrave a full tile then take black spray paint and paint the piece of granite, doing that you can generally get 4 or 5 tests just using one piece of granite.

Mark Ross
06-18-2010, 8:24 AM

Have you read the thread concerning the Gold method? After reading that thread I was 100% up to speed on how to engrave black granite (from Lowe's).

Terry Swift
06-18-2010, 9:58 AM

Haven't seen the thread on the gold method. I'll look it up. I've looked at the videos mentioned as well and searched YouTube for more; but didn't find much more; even though I've been told there are. Maybe it's just my search words I'm using.

I'm attaching a JPEG of the piece of granite I'm having issues with. Even after a couple of re-passes on the laser at lower settings than recommended by Laser Bits, it's still washed out and is now more of a beige brown texture (maybe too much engraving). I like the idea of cutting strips and repainting and then I had a brilliant thought - I have a church friend who does countertops and maybe he has scrap pieces of granite - albeit not always black.

Is black marble easier to work with?

Larry Bratton
06-18-2010, 10:20 AM
I posted a thread here last week about Lasersketch's Absolute Black "Marble". It's engraves beautifully but it is NOT marble. It is some kind of fine grained granite. You may want to take a look at it. You may also want to look at adding some titanium white oil paint rubbed into the engraving to whiten it.

Terry Swift
06-18-2010, 11:40 AM

Great news. My time on the Mill has been extremely limited in the last few weeks, probably to my detriment; but my work has picked up and trying to learn new and best way techniques is sometimes a hit and miss kind of thing. I do have a subscription to LaserU and have printed out most of their material, so I have a better grasp; when the "EVERYDAY REAL PRO'S" are not readily available.

Like everyone says - time is the key; but it can be somewhat of an expensive learning tool - when you're trying to do things that are on the edge of your experience curve and getting a sellable product to the customer.

With each laser really being so specific to itself, trying to dial in power / speed / & PPI per a certain material becomes an art in itself. My machine doesn't behave like your machine, if it was the same wattage and model. It becomes very distracting to look at what a laser manufacturer says, the product seller says, and even the pro's like you guys say the ratings should be. In a sense, you have to just take an average and wing it to see if it works or not. Since I've not worked outside of granite and wood yet; cutting / rastering wood is fairly straightforward on most types; but granite / marble are in a whole different league. Do you tape or not, what kind of paint to use, etc. - the list goes on? Taping is a subject in itself. Limited detail to me is okay for taping, but doing detail on smaller pieces soon becomes a frustrating matter. Tape doesn't stick when you need it too or sticks too much when you need it to come off. Paint - is brush or finger best? I know acrylics work better than enamels, but spray is so much easier / faster.

Sorry to cover so much; but being a newbie presents a ton of issues at every turn. One of you like Dee or Dan needs to write a Laser Engraver for Dummies book. I'd be the first person to buy one.

Thanks all.

Dan Hintz
06-20-2010, 8:34 AM

I picked up a Dell Netbook last week so I could write while I'm on the road (currently at my HS reunion, and I was writing the section on optics cleaning while sitting in the Atlanta airport... having to learn LaTeX as a language to get the formatting down automatically).

Despite what many have come to believe (including myself in the beginning), determining settings isn't an art, it's a science, which means you can follow a prescribed pattern for determining how the substrate is going to react. Picking settings at random is a bad idea. Learn how to run power grids and you can dial in a new material in less than 5 minutes.

Or just wait for my "dummies" book ;)

Terry Swift
06-21-2010, 11:07 AM

Totally understand the "dialing in" part. That's why I look at what Universal says in their documentation, along with places like Laser Bits also provides settings as well. Lot's of times they don't match up, so I tend to settle for what Laser Bits may say to use over Universal - as my documentation from them is probably 5 years old and out of date. I'm trying to log my settings for each material as I go along and what works best with what material. But as many posts prove, each laser is totally different from everyone elses. Even someone running a Epilogue 35 watt machine will need different settings than my M-300.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate all the feedback and constructively try to use it to better myself, improve my skills, and abilities.

I'll be eagerly awaiting that "For Dummies" book. By the way - Atlanta (or suburb of) is my hometown. Hope they treated you right! A little Southern Hospitality.

Bill Cunningham
06-22-2010, 9:19 PM
Lasersketch's low fleck granite, is much nicer than any custom granite piece I have had cut and polished by some monument makers.. With the addition of titanium white, the photos and designs just pop off the rock, and properly sealed will stay nice for a long long time....
Here's a couple of 'people' ones I did over the winter.

Dee Gallo
06-22-2010, 9:23 PM
Wow, Bill - pop off the rock is putting it lightly! Outstanding! Thanks for showing us the results someone who knows what he is doing can achieve.

cheers, dee

Bill Cunningham
06-22-2010, 10:17 PM
Wow thanks Dee.. That a real complement coming from a incredibly artistic lady that really 'does' know what she's doing..:)

Ron Chapellaz
06-23-2010, 1:14 AM
Wow Bill! Now I see why you add Titanium white! That turned out perfectly. Very nice work, and the photos are amazing. Did you use Titanium white on the photo? It looks as though you did. Did you use photograv? Thanks for posting these. You are a craftsman!

Larry Bratton
06-23-2010, 9:17 AM
Absolutely stunning! You better watch out or your going to get to be known as the GRANITE GURU! I don't think I have ever seen any granite plaques that look as good as these. I am striving to get mine to look like this. I think you have set a benchmark.

Bill Cunningham
06-24-2010, 10:06 PM
Thanks folks... Yup, that's just Titanium white oilpaint and the etch was done from a PG2 file using the generic granite .prm Mostly, good results are based more on intuitive tweaking of the levels in the grayscale than what you colour it with.. I just tweak away, until it feels/looks right.. That's the only way to really explain it.. That, and make sure you have a good photo to start with, no web cruddy .jpg's

Larry Bratton
06-25-2010, 10:28 AM
"no web cruddy .jpg's "

Bill, I have gotten decent results (not great mind you) from jpg's that were saved at the highest quality level and/or were about 3 times the size I intended to engrave them. I never save a scan in that format, I always save as tiff. Files are bigger of course but that's because they have more data in them. I always start out in color. I use Photoshop for adjustments and color gives me more options.

Many people today incorrectly assume that jpg is somehow a miracle format. It was originally developed by Joint Picture Experts Group (thus jpeg) to move photos via e-mail and is described as a "lossy" file type. Each time it is saved it is further compressed and subsequently loses more and more data with each save. If one does start out with a jpeg do not continue to save it as such. Convert it to tiff, bmp or png if transparency is a goal.

Bill Cunningham
06-26-2010, 10:12 PM
Most, if not all the digital photos taken by the 'average' run of the mill digital camera will be a .jpg jpg's are OK, providing they are big enough, raw from the camera, and have not been manipulated in anyway.. I often get people trying to 'help' by cropping, changing size, etc., and then saving it multiple times as a .jpg while their working on it. they have no idea why it should be saved it as a .tif, .bmp or some other loss-less format

There are also the folks that don't really understand the limitations of some digital cameras. They are faced with a choice of picture 'quantity' rather than 'quality'.. They look at their setup, and see that one way they can get 5000 pictures on their chip or another that gives them only 100. Some invariably choose the 5000 in the belief that 'more is better' 'Then' the pictures you get are what I classified as "web cruddy .jpg's"

Here is a link to a informative page from a graphics design studio called: The Evils of using .jpg's (http://www.unleash.com/articles/eviljpeg/index.asp)