Guidelines on laser engraving photos

Sometimes a memory should not just be engraved on your heart or in your mind, but engraved permanently into wood, acrylic or other materials and that is where a laser engraver from Maxlaser comes in. 

Laser engraving photos involves using laser technology to etch or engrave images onto various materials such as wood, glass, acrylic, metal, and more. The laser beam is precisely controlled to remove or alter the material’s surface, creating a permanent image that could last a lifetime. 

We are here to explain to you how to laser engrave a photo. We start with everything you need before you can start. 

The first thing you need to consider is the file type of the photo that you are engraving, a high-quality image is best. 

Using the correct resolution settings is also very important. A DPI of about 500 to 600 is ideal, although the type of material does make a difference. Using a DPI of less than 500 can result in too many jagged pixels and the engraving won’t have smooth gradations between the light and dark areas. 

Selecting the material to engrave on is also very important.  

Fundamental Step-by-Step  

Here is a comprehensive step-by-step process on how to properly laser engrave a photo onto the material you have chosen. 

Step 1: Choose a good-quality photo 

A photo used for laser engraving must have a good resolution of at least 300dpi as the output size and must not be blurry or out of focus. It also should have a wide depth of shading from light to dark. 

Step 2: Edit and Crop the photo 

To edit a photo for laser engraving you need to crop the photo to size, making sure to remove everything that should not be engraved, and edit it to improve the tonality of the image where necessary to produce a better result. 

Step 3: Remove the background 

If you just want to engrave the main focus of the photo, then you need to remove the background. You can use Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) Feather 0px, Anti-alias, and then make a white background, and merge layers (Ctrl+E). 

Step 4: Convert image to grayscale 

  • Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale 

Step 5: Resize the image 

  • Resize it to resolution: 200 pixels/cm (508 pixels/inch) 

Step 6: Sharpen the image 

  • Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask  
  • Select: 
  • Amount: 200 %  
  • Radius: 1-pixel  
  • Threshold: 0 levels.  

Step 7: Convert image to Bitmap 

  • Go to Image > Mode > Bitmap  
  • Select: 
  • Output: 200 pixels/cm (508 pixels/inch)  
  • Method: Halftone Screen Frequency: 200 lines/cm (508 lines/inch)  
  • Angle: 15 degrees  
  • Shape: Round  

Step 8: Import into the laser engraver 

  • Import the BMP image to LightBurn (or your laser program of choice).  
  • Wood fibres should be parallel to the long axis (X).  
  • Image as well.  
  • Rotate the image 90 degrees if necessary.  

Step 9: Set parameters for engraving  

  • Different materials have different parameters. Keep on reading for the different parameters. 

After the engraving with your laser photo engraver is complete, carefully remove the material from the laser engraving machine. Clean any residue or debris from the engraved area with a damp cloth or sponge, making sure to wipe away from the engraving so that you do not wipe it into the newly engraved grooves. Depending on the material, you may also apply finishing techniques to enhance the appearance of the engraving, like sanding and sealing an engraving on wood. 

 The best materials you can use 

Wood has a natural and rustic look and is easily available, affordable and suitable for a variety of purposes. The only cons are that engraving might vary depending on the density of the wood and it is prone to wear and tear over time. 

  • Engraving Parameters: 
  • Power: 20-80% (varies based on wood density and desired depth of engraving) 
  • Speed: 600-1000 mm/s 

Acrylic is versatile and durable, comes in a wide range of colours and produces a clear, frosted appearance when engraved. The cons are that it can scratch easily, and it is not suitable for outdoor use due to UV sensitivity. 

  • Engraving Parameters: 
  • Power: 30-80% 
  • Speed: 100-500 mm/s 

Metal (Coated or Anodized) is durable, with high contrast and sharp engravings. It is also suitable for outdoor and industrial applications. The cons are that the initial setup and engraving can be more complex and that it can be costlier than some other materials. 

  • Engraving Parameters: 
  • Power: 30-80% 
  • Speed: 300-1000 mm/s 

Leather creates a unique, branded appearance that is suitable for a range of products, and it is durable and ages well. The cons are that the engraving depth can vary based on the leather type and it requires careful handling during the engraving process. 

  • Engraving Parameters: 
  • Power: 30-70% 
  • Speed: 300-800 mm/s 

With all of the above materials, it is a good idea to experiment and adjust the speed and power depending on the thickness of the material. You can also engrave on glass, and stone like marble or granite. 

Tips & Tricks  

To get the best results make sure that you choose a high-quality image, prepare the image by enhancing the contrast and brightness, test and prepare your material for optimal engraving, ensure proper focus of your laser, check your speed and power settings, make sure your laser engraving machine is well maintained, and if at first you don’t succeed, try again. With practice, patience and a laser engraving machine from MaxLaser in South Africa, you will create beautiful laser-engraved photos. 


Become one of the best laser engravers in South Africa by following the steps above and creating incredible laser-engraved memories for your clients. Soon you will be an expert at converting and editing photos for laser engraving, picking the perfect materials, and setting up your laser engraver from MaxLaser to engrave the perfect products for your clients. 

Contact us today to discuss the perfect laser engraving machine in South Africa for you.