View Full Version : Newbe here, need advice on photo engraving on wood

Ted Marshall
06-30-2016, 12:54 AM

As stated in the title, I'm a newbe with laser engraving. In fact, I don't have my own laser but instead using ones at the local Techshop (3 x Epilog 60w minis) with the intention of producing product (photos engraved on wood plaques) for my wife's professional photography business.

Between my own photographic experience, clean test images from my wife, and a bit of reading on the Internet, I've managed to produce reasonable results on cheap media from Michael's: cheap wooden plaques and plywood slats, all unfinished generic light-colored wood, smooth but not "professional" products.

Looking for nicer products, I found laserbits.com and their alder wood plaques and ordered a few. The results have been disappointing. Despite many attempts with different tonal ranges before converting to half-tone and a verity of speed and power settings, the cannot get much tonal range in the engraving: very few steps between base wood color and "black" to the naked eye. However, under a 5x magnifying glass, I can see detail in the black that are invisible without it.

Given my lack of experience, I hesitate to blame laserbits' product. However, I'm at a loss on how to proceed.

Also, I'd appreciate suggestions on other sources for alder and maple plaques (from my readings, the best materials). I've read several old posts here but most or all of the referenced companies are wholesalers which I'm really not ready to approach. Also, a number of then seem to no longer offer products noted. I realize that many/most of the members here are professional engravers but if anyone can suggest retailers or wholesalers willing to work with a starter (we do have business/resale licenses), I'd appreciate it.


David Somers
06-30-2016, 3:14 AM
Ted, If you get a chance and dont mind, you might go into Settings for your account and put in a location. That helps folks suggest sources for various things. Also, you might also go into settings and look on the left edge for the Signature option. Put the lasers you are using in there. Then they will appear in the bottom of each post you make without your having to do it. Again, that helps folks see what machine you are dealing with.

If you search in the forum for "Gold Method" you will get a bunch of posts referring to Rodney Gold's method for doing photos. See if that helps you.
To get you going though here is a synopsis of the method.
Hope it helps you.

1) Convert to 8 bit greyscale
2) Resize the image to the size its gonna get engraved using 150-300 dpi (150 for less detail)
(You can do the same thing in Corel Photopaint)
3) Bump up contrast and brightness about +25 in
both cases - you dont want the pic to have insipid areas of medium grey.
4) Heres the VITAL part - use unsharp mask at 500% and a radius of 3-5 pixels - threshold 0 - this will exaggerate edges radically , but thats what you need. In fact you can do this and then STILL add another unsharp mask at 150 % , 1pixel and 0 threshold AFTER the 1st unsharp if you want even more edge detection
5) Convert to a bitmap using 125-150ppi and a diffusion pattern.
5) laser.

Ted Marshall
07-01-2016, 1:33 AM
Thanks for the reply.

Ive set my location (California).

i was doing somewhat similar: gamma to 3.5 (or higher), unshared mask, sharpen, and convert to half-tone at 600 DPI. I'll try the exact steps you listed for the Gold Method instead.

BTW, I'm looking for alder and cherry, not maple. My mistake.

David Somers
07-01-2016, 1:52 AM
You are most welcome Ted!!

You might check out Ocooch Woods at http://ocoochhardwoods.com/scroll_saw_lumber.php. See if they have what you want and at a price that fits for you.


Ted Marshall
07-03-2016, 12:59 AM
So I figured out the problem with the laserbits.com plaques: it's the finish. If I first sand down to bare wood, I get about the results I expected. So now I'm experimenting with lightly sanding to not distort the shape of the wood and spray polyurethane finish.

I need to contact laserbits to see if I can get the plaques unfinished.

Bill Cunningham
07-30-2016, 7:00 PM
Make sure the bitmap your are engraving from is a monochrome .tif or .bmp, not a 8 or 24 bit file like a .jpg or all the work you have done to create the engraving file will be lost. Do all your sizing first, you can not resize a monochrome halftone. Engrave at the image DPI, or multiples of it. 300 DPI can be engraved at 300, 600, 1200 etc. Not 400 or 500 unless the image is 400 or 500. If the contrast and edging is good in the file, you should get a acceptable wood photo.