Tips and tricks for photo laser engraving

Learn the 3 steps for perfect photo laser engraving

Photo engraving using JobControl® laser software is made easy by using its integrated photo mode feature. The image is automatically sent to the laser for processing in an optimised manner according to a complex logic. Using this feature, you can create high-quality photo laser engravings and the best part is that no photo processing expertise is needed. 

3 steps to the perfect photo laser engraving

Step 1:

Select your photo and send it to the laser in your usual graphics program. Read below our advice on what constitutes a good photo.

Step 2:

Select the following settings on the printer driver:

  • Material settings: Select the material that you want to engrave. Here, we fall back on the tested laser parameters from our material data base.
  • Process type: Choose "photo-optimised." In the photo-optimised mode, photos are automatically optimised for laser processing.
  • Resolution: Select at least 333dpi or higher.
  • Raster algorithm: Different raster algorithms are available depending on the design you want to engrave and the effect you want to achieve. We recommend "Ordered Dithering” as standard setting for pictures of people.

Step 3:

Start the engraving process.

What makes a great photo?

One of the major driving factors of what makes a photo suitable for laser engraving is the resolution. Images for laser engraving should generally have a resolution of at least 300dpi as the output size. If necessary, you can increase the resolution in your graphics software by re-establishing the bitmap (example in CorelDraw under “Bitmaps” - “Resample”). For example, Internet photos often have a resolution of 72 dpi. Even these can be processed well with the laser, if the original images are large and are scaled down to workpiece size. You should avoid enlarging small images, as this decreases the resolution, that is, the image raster becomes too large and is therefore not a basis for a beautiful photo engraving.

Here are two examples of well suited versus ill-suited images for photo engraving:

The left image is well-suited for processing with the laser. It shows a good contrast, it is well exposed and the elements in the image stand out.
The right image is less suited for processing with the laser. The people stand out from the background, but the exposure is too weak, which makes the people look like they are in the shadows. This makes it difficult for details to be perceived, and the people would be engraved as a unitary surface.

With photo engraving the following rule applies: less is more!

Often, the laser performance and the resolution used are too high, and the image becomes too flat and shows little detail, as the raster points overlap. If possible, the material should only be engraved slightly at the surface. A guideline is about 10% less laser performance compared to a standard engraving job on this material.

TIP: In order to find the perfect parameters for your material, you can first engrave a grayscale matrix.

More about Grayscale matrix

Material influence on the engraving quality

The process resolution is an essential influence factor for the engraving quality of different materials.
For example, anodised aluminum can be engraved with 600 - 1000 dpi, as the raster point does not increase on this material during engraving. With wood or glass however, 333 dpi are completely sufficient, as every raster point becomes larger than in the graphics on these materials due to their surface quality. With acrylics or laminates, a resolution of about 500 - 600 dpi is suitable.
In general, lower resolutions (333 -500 dpi) result in more plastic photo engravings, because the raster points do not overlap.

Photo engraving effects with different raster algorithms

Different raster algorithms are available in the JobControl® laser software, depending on the design you want to engrave and the effect you want to achieve. Therefore "Ordered Dithering," for example, is particularly suitable for soft engraving courses and persons. "Error Diffusion" with the variants Stucki, Jarvis, Floyd Steinberg let photos with many details become clear, such as buildings or animals. Images with little contrast, such as faces of babies, can be optimised in this manner.

More about raster algorithms

The right lens for your photo engraving

A 1.5“ lens is often the best choice. The exceptions are workpieces with a large engraving area, or those that are viewed from a greater distance. In this case, use a 2“ or 2.5” lens, and select a lower process resolution. This also saves time.

My result is not yet perfect, what can I still do?

You will get the best results with a photo engraving using images that have high contrasts. It is important to remember that not all photos are the same, and not all materials are the same. Sometimes you may have to process the images to make them more suitable for laser engraving. For example, you can increase the details of your photos with contrast improvements or the unsharp mask. Most graphics programs have these functions. 

Tips: Achieve the perfect photo engraving

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