View Full Version : An alternative for Photograv?

Frank Corker
09-14-2007, 12:48 PM
Well here is one straight out of the OMG folder. I recently got a new filter for Adobe Photoshop works just as well in Corel so no fears there. It's called Andromeda Etchtone. You can read about it here (http://www.unleash.com/kurt/andromeda/index.asp).

Select any photograph, colour or otherwise, bump up the contrast and brightness, select Etchtone, alter the lines per inch to 300, choose extreme sharpening of 800,5 and click go. Result is a picture that is ready to send directly to the laser. Choose your recommended settings for wood/metal etc and that's it. No brainer and simple to use with an excellent result.

This is a picture of my neice Lucy, taken from a colour photograph doing exactly what I said above, only graphic work was to crop the photo. The whole 'processing' less than a minute from crop to laser. 12 mins to engrave at 300dpi 33 speed 100 power. Good result? I think it speaks for itself. This is on a mirror (our nightmare usually) but results on wood are just as tremendous.

With the new version of photograv coming out this is something that you should consider if you are on a tight budget. I was impressed.

Marc Myer
09-14-2007, 12:51 PM
And thanks, on behalf of all us Photoshop people!

Scott Shepherd
09-14-2007, 12:57 PM
Frank, any idea if this works with Elements or only the full version of Photoshop?

Frank Corker
09-14-2007, 6:58 PM
Yes Steve it does work with elements and Corel and half a dozen other programs too

Mark Winlund
09-14-2007, 7:15 PM
Yes Steve it does work with elements and Corel and half a dozen other programs too

I could find no mention of Corel compatibility on their website.


Scott Shepherd
09-14-2007, 7:25 PM
Thanks Frank, it made me Google them and look into it a little more. Here's the list :

EtchTone Filter v2.0
Adobe Photoshop 5.5 to CS2
Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0 and up
Corel Photopaint 7 and up
Jasc PaintShop Pro 5 and up


Actually, the "Screens" filter that have looks more impressive to me. Frank, have you tried that one? Here's the link :


Mike Mackenzie
09-14-2007, 8:02 PM

That is the one we use and it works great!! (screens)

Larry Bratton
09-14-2007, 8:17 PM
Hummm..looks like another addition to my growing Photoshop filters. I can see how that could produce some nice stuff.

Frank-do you print directly to the laser from Photoshop or do you save in greyscale and import into Corel?

I might add here, that I think Photoshop is one of the best values in graphics software out there. I am currently using CS3 and I love it! I recently got a Canon ipF8000 printer. It came with a plug-in for Photoshop that handles all the stuff that RIP (raster image processor) usually does in wide format printing. My print output from this machine (12 colors of ink) is drop dead gorgeous ..right out of the box.

Frank Corker
09-15-2007, 3:57 AM
Hi Larry, I don't actually like Photoshop that much, I find it to be over-complicated to get effects which I can do easier in other programs. That said, I do have CS3 and it is improving. I don't print anything to the laser from anything except Corel. When I was given the demo from Identify where I bought my laser, that was what they were using with results everytime, why change a good thing. Corel is a relatively easy program once you get used to the minor differences to other art packages so I always stick with it. I do all my image work with Photostyler 2.0 which I bought when I was using Windows 3.1. It's old (so am I) but I had learned it backwards and forwards so I still prefer using it even now. It was a forerunner to programs such as Photoshop and one of the leaders in it's day to most of the graphics packages around today.

The Andromeda filters are just so damned easy to use, the example I posted is from a colour photo and all I had to do was sharpen and brighten it up. I used it directly in Corel which most of you have found out has 'issues' when it comes to dpi settings on pictures, it didn't cause me any problems on this piece as you can see.

If you do a lot of lasering you soon get to realise what the average brightness is for engraving, after that a little bit of experimenting and away you go. I always keep scrap pieces of wood, glass mirror and granite for that purpose. When I have my image ready to send to the laser, I cover the whole picture with a box (no borderlines) make it white. If that gets sent to the laser, nothing would happen, because there is no visible image. I make a small cutout on the white piece so I am able to see an important part of the finished image showing through from underneath, such as the nose and eyes. I place my scrap wood/glass/mirror on the laser bed in the same position that the cutout is in Corel and I engrave. Corel will only print the visible cutout to the scrap, if those parts engrave well on the scrap then I 'go for it'.

Oh well, works for me!

Darren Null
09-15-2007, 11:58 AM
An excellent find Frank. Photoshop is complicated, yes, but I've not found anything else anywhere that comes close for output quality, particularly when it comes to resampling images. I've not grauated to CS3 yet, as I heard there's no imageready and I do enjoy making the odd gif animation for fun. Plus the thought of reinstalling plugins.
Photoshop is fun:
I'm going to give etchtone a go...photoshop is munching through a test image as I type.

Larry Bratton
09-15-2007, 2:26 PM
Ha..I like the kitty kat!
Yes complicated..but VERY sophisticated. I do a variety of things other than engraving. Frank is right about Corel too. Everything has good and bad points. I like to engrave from Corel and I can create things in Corel that I can't in Photoshop and vice versa. Sometimes I start with X3 on a graphic, get it to a point where I feel Photoshop would work better, then I export it to PDF and open in Photoshop and finish there. It's nice to be able to use both to create what you need. I'm into wide printing and laser engraving, I find both programs invaluable.

Darren Null
09-15-2007, 7:20 PM
Thanks. My daughter likes cats and the image resulted from a silly conversation about the Bond film where the chap is stroking the cat:
"Ah, Mr. Bond, I've been expecting you"
Between us, we decided that the cat was the real villain and the baddie was just another minion. Hence the image.

I'm beginning to like CorelDraw again, now I've found out that all my problems with it were caused by CorelDraw just not liking JPEG images. For laying out pages, it's excellent. Bloody silly, of course, a major graphics app choking on the most popular format in the known universe, but that's life. Mind you, even when I'd given up on Corel, I still used it to make masks for photoshop.

I can confirm that Frank's Etchtone method is excellent. And a quarter of the price of Photograv. I'm still looking for something freeware, just on general principles, but etchtone does very well. Just as a note, I etchtoned an image and saved it as a bitmap (BMP) without dropping it to 1-bit, and the act of saving added a 3rd (midrange grey) colour, so some caution there for everybody's information.

Tom Cullen
09-16-2007, 10:25 AM
Great Job Frank, thank you for the tip. I'm sure a lot of people out there with a tight budget will be looking into that.

PS : Is that a regular mirror or do you purchase them online? how about a run through on how you set that up ( power , speed, etc)


Frank Corker
09-16-2007, 1:58 PM
Tom it's a regular mirror, I engraved it at 300dpi 33 speed 100 power from the back, then painted it with black acrylic paint (dries very quickly) that's about it really

Tom Cullen
09-17-2007, 1:03 PM
Thanks Frank ,I guess I will have to play around with my settings. I have in the past used mirrors and engraved logos and the like and then spray painted the back but it usualy takes two passes on my 30watt explorer to remove the backing material ( what ever it is ?). I have never tried a photo and look forward to having a crack at it.


Frank Corker
09-17-2007, 7:43 PM
Tom, when you are looking at the mirrors, you will find the really cheap mirrors tend to be the best to engrave because they use little in the way of spray protection on the back and subsequently are also the thinest.

Not to sure what your settings are for glass but I'd suggest you start there but just a little bit quicker on the speed but still 100% of the power. My glass settings for 300 dpi are 25 speed but I use 33 so it's a good place to start. I'd recommend you do a small picture with plenty of detail such as a portrait of a face 3" tall by 2" wide. Waste a whole mirror if they are cheap and accessible, then you have a permanent reference if you also engrave your settings for each underneath each picture.

Harry Radaza
09-18-2007, 12:58 AM
thanks for this guys! I have always wanted something like this since 70% of our work involves making plaques and having to save under photoshop and open in photograv makes it more cumbersome.

The plugin under photoshop would allow us to edit and print directly to the laser therefore eliminating one step out of the production process.

found the links, unfortunately only to BUY. Any Free trial links to these software so we can try it out before buying it ?

did a search and it returned nothing.

Harry Radaza
09-18-2007, 1:08 AM
scott and mike,

please give more details into using screens ? what are your most common settings so I can cut my trial and error time. thanks

So which would work best for WOOD ??? Screens I would assume ? correct ? since etchstone is described as emulating steel etching?

Frank Corker
09-18-2007, 4:26 AM
Harry just because Etchtone is designed to give the appearance of etched steel, it means diddly squat for our purposes, use it on wood, glass, metal. It is the digitised picture that is of importance. You really should get a photograph run it through screens or etchtone and then send it through to the laser and run tests for yourself. It's a trial and error type of process which will vary from laser to laser

Scott Shepherd
09-18-2007, 7:58 AM
Harry, I don't have the filter yet, I just noticed it to look more like what photograv does. Frank may have tried them both and settled on the other one for a reason.

I'll be purchasing it in the next few days and will report back what I find.

Richard Rumancik
09-18-2007, 9:16 AM
snip . . .
found the links, unfortunately only to BUY. Any Free trial links to these software so we can try it out before buying it ?

I found their site to be a bit hard to get around. The demo info is well hidden. Try this:



In the upper right there is a demo button. I haven't tried to download myself.

Ed Newbold
09-18-2007, 10:19 AM
I found their site to be a bit hard to get around. The demo info is well hidden. Try this:



In the upper right there is a demo button. I haven't tried to download myself.The download page is:

Bill Cunningham
09-18-2007, 8:49 PM
The info says it's supposed to work with corel photopaint 7 or more, I only have 8 on the machine in the house, so I downloaded the demos, and installed them where and as instructed, but they don't show up anywhere in any of my tools, effects, etc.. Are the demos actually 'working' demos, or a just a glorified slide show?

Darren Null
09-18-2007, 8:59 PM
Should be in Effects > Andromeda >
The demos should work, but will be limited. By size of image they'll do or for 30 days or something like that.

Steven Smith
09-18-2007, 9:16 PM
The demo needs to go into your corel plugins folder. You then access through the bitmaps / plugins dropdown from the corel. You can only view what they can do, no actual processing. I had errors on the Etchtone plugin on corel but it worked o.k. in photoshop.

Harry Radaza
09-18-2007, 9:28 PM
Tried both demos.

The Screens demo's download (from CNET) for some reason was not completed in the making. Therefore no Demo for that.

The Etchstone demo's download (from CNET) is complete and can be installed. Upon download you unzip or unpack it to the Adobe Photoshop Plugins folder. It should show up under the Filter menu as Andromeda. You click on that and click on etchstone.

It brings up the filtering utility and gives you an idea of how the software works BUT the "OK" (render) button does not work by default! So you can never actually try how the rendering works on the laser after engraving. You can just see its functions and its adjustments.

Bummer! Would like to at least get a test print on 1 before buying it!

Dan Starr
09-18-2007, 9:46 PM
I believe the demo's only allow you to preview and not save the image. I have screens, etchtones and photograv. In my opinion it's hard to say that any one of them is better than the other, they each have their place. In some instances screens works better than photograv, and sometimes photograv works better than etchtones, and so on and so on. For me, all three are worth having, but that's because I prefer not to spend all day trying to adjust images. Software may cost money but your time costs much more.

Darren Null
09-18-2007, 9:48 PM
That's easily enough done-
This is an etchtone v1.1 file. There's a .jpg that I found on google images that I've been using as a tester because there's hardly any contrast. Try it with whatever method you want to compare it to.

I took the .jpg, unsharp masked at 500% and ran it through etchtone. The current version of etchtone is 2.something, so it ought to be even better.

EDIT: The TIFF file is the processed one, and you have the original to compare it with.

Bill Cunningham
09-18-2007, 10:04 PM
nah it's not there.. This old version (8) probably will not show it.. If it's not going to allow a test, I won't waste my time porting it over the shop computer.. But, Franks post has served it's purpose.. There 'are' cheaper ways to go than photograv..

Brian Robison
09-19-2007, 9:13 AM
Frank, have you done any other engravings with the filter yet?
I'd like to see one in marble or painted brass.
Looks like the plug in will go right into Corel, I loaded the demo version without any problem (BTW that's a miracle for me):eek:

Harry Radaza
09-19-2007, 10:22 PM
so the question is....

which gives superior quality ? Photograv or Andromeda Screens or Andromeda Etchstone ?

Or is the quality of andromeda good enough that clients with the untrained eye cannot tell the difference between the two ?

Harry Radaza
09-19-2007, 10:34 PM
hey guys,

just ordered and downloaded screens ( looked like this was closer to photograv then etchstone, I hope I am right ).

Anyone out there using Screens please give me tips and tricks (ie... preferred settings ) to get me up and running quickly to get good engraveable results (wood material)

Frank Corker
09-20-2007, 5:59 AM
Frank, have you done any other engravings with the filter yet?
I'd like to see one in marble or painted brass.
Looks like the plug in will go right into Corel, I loaded the demo version without any problem (BTW that's a miracle for me):eek:

Brian I have done some on granite using the filter, it works just as well, I've never tried painted brass. It's really all about trial and error and getting the best results require a bit of work by all.

If there are one or two of you worried about the costs you can still use this trusty method of creating a VERY worthy adversary to Photograv and Andromeda. The details originated thanks to the knowledge of Rodney Gold and one that I still use just as often, but one I never forget to consider before final lasering. I'd recommend that people copy this and save it as a text file in 'My Documents', print it out and stick it on the wall by the computer.

The instructions below are for using Adobe photoshop the parts marked like this are instructions where to find the settings
( ie File Edit Image Layer etc at the top of the screen)

Step 1) Convert to 8 bit greyscale (image/mode/greyscale)
Step 2) Resize the image to the size its getting engraved at using 150-300 ppi (150 for less detail) I suggest 300
(image/image size)
Step 3) Bump up contrast and brightness about +25 in both cases - you dont want the pic to be insipid areas of medium grey.
Step 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
(filter/sharpen/unsharp mask)
Step 5) Convert to a bitmap using 125-150ppi and a diffusion pattern. (image/mode/bitmap)
Step 6) Invert to a negative if you are still going to do granite or marble if it's wood or glass ignore this step (image/adjustment/Invert)
Step 7) laser

Brian Robison
09-20-2007, 8:28 AM
Thanks Frank.
That's what I do now but I found I can do everything in Corel Draw except step 5. I get good results but not, PhotoGrav quality.
I'll probably just get the new PhotoGrav when it comes out.

Frank Corker
09-20-2007, 9:12 AM
Yep I suspect I will also. It'd better be good or I'll be one disappointed cookie

Brian Robison
09-21-2007, 3:24 PM
When I convert to a bitmap, I don't usually dither. Should I be dithering? I wish I had a bunch of material and about a week just to try different things.

Wow, try this, after you do all the steps that Rondey laid out, convert to a B&W dithered image. I'll have to just see what it lasers like.

Mark Winlund
09-21-2007, 4:38 PM
I tried to order the three programs from andromeda.com, and they sent an email saying it was out of stock.


Mike DeRegnaucourt
09-21-2007, 4:53 PM
After seeing Darren's pictures of the cat and Croc, I thought about www.worth1000.com (http://www.worth1000.com). If you have not been to the site, it's worth a look. There are some amazing things people are doing with Photoshop on the site.

Darren Null
09-21-2007, 5:50 PM
When I convert to a bitmap, I don't usually dither. Should I be dithering?
Possibly your driver software is dithering as a default. Mine does. 2x2 dither is the default (goes up to 8x8 in my kit, getting lumpier as the numbers get bigger). Stucki error diffusion is better, and Floyd-thingy (can't remember the name) is better yet.

If you're using photograv or the andromeda filters you don't want either error diffusion or normal dithering- you have the image in the shape you want it to be when you burn it and either just adds more processing which may turn out undesirable effects.

Bill Cunningham
09-23-2007, 8:29 PM
Thanks Frank.
That's what I do now but I found I can do everything in Corel Draw except step 5. I get good results but not, PhotoGrav quality.
I'll probably just get the new PhotoGrav when it comes out.

You should be in photopaint, and not Coreldraw itself
For step 5 just resample to 150 dpi if you wish, I don't.. I work at 300.. Then convert to 1 bit, and choose diffused rather than halftone etc.. after a few test engravings, you should be able to tweak the photograph in the conversion process to match your preferences ...

I have tried the etchtone filter, and it does everything required to convert a photograph into a etchable file (I assume thats why they called it etchtone!).. It also seems to allow better controls in areas that may need it.. I assume this would be a better choice then the 'screens' filter for this reason alone.. The price is certainly much better than 200 bucks for a photograv upgrade.. However, I will hold my final judgement on the new photograv until I see some feedback or read an independent thorough critique, from a reputable industry source on the actual functional improvements over the old version that I assume was designed for windows 3.1, but priced like it was modern software..

Harry Radaza
10-01-2007, 8:51 AM
I tried both Etchtone and Screens from andromeda. Trial most settings including the ones mentioned in the beginning of this thread.

My conclusion - Etchtone is better than Screens. BUT it is still of inferior quality compared to photograv. I would have wanted etchttone because it is a plug in and speeds up processing time, however, it is not enough to make me leave photograv. I guess I might as well upgrade to the new photograv.

WIll post actual engraving comparison results as soon as the internet at the shop is fixed.