Tips and Tricks for laser engraving photos

Three steps to creating the perfect laser engraved photo

JobControl® laser software features an integrated photo mode which supports you when photo engraving. The image is automatically sent to the laser for engraving in an optimised manner according to a complex logic. This allows you to create high-quality photo laser engravings without photo processing experience. 

3 steps to the perfect photo laser engraving

Image for photo laser engraving

Step 1:

Select your photo and send it to the laser in your preferred graphics program.

Photo laser engraving print settings

Step 2:

Select the following settings on the printer driver:

  • Material settings: Select the engraving material. We have selected the tested laser parameters from our material database.
  • Process type: Choose "photo-optimised." In the photo-optimised mode, photos are automatically optimised for laser processing.
  • Resolution: Minimum 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 the standard setting for pictures of people.

Step 3:

Start the laser engraving process.

What is a perfect photo?

A decisive factor for a good photo is its resolution. Images for laser engraving should 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”). Internet photos often have a resolution of 72 dpi. Even these can be processed using a laser machine, if the original image is large and scaled down to workpiece size. You should avoid enlarging small images, as this decreases their resolution (the image raster becomes too large and is not suitable for photo engraving).


A comparison: well suited versus ill-suited images for photo engraving:

The left image is suitable for laser engraving, as it shows a good contrast, it is well exposed and the elements in the image stand out.
The right image is less suited for laser engraving. The people stand out from the background, but the exposure is too weak, making 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.

Less is more in photo laser engraving!

Often the laser performance and the resolution used are too high making the image too flat and showing little detail, as the raster points overlap. If possible, the material should only be engraved slightly on 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.

Find out 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 aluminium can be engraved with 600 - 1000 dpi, as the raster point does not increase on this material during laser 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. For acrylics or laminates, a resolution of about 500 - 600 dpi is suitable.
Generally lower resolutions (333 -500 dpi) result in more plastic photo engravings, because the raster points do not overlap.

Raster graphic comparison

Photo engraving effects with different raster algorithms

Different raster algorithms are available within the JobControl® laser software, the choice depends 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 people. "Error Diffusion" with the variants Stucki, Jarvis, Floyd Steinberg let detailed photos become clear, such as buildings or animals. Images with little contrast, including faces of babies, can be optimised in this manner.

More about raster algorithms

The right lens for photo engraving

A 1.5“ lens is often the best choice, with the exception of workpieces with a large engraving area or those viewed from a greater distance. In this case a 2“ or 2.5” lens should be used with a lower process resolution selected, as this saves processing time.

My result is not yet perfect, what can I 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 and 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 common graphics software have these functions. We have summarised a few tips in the below PDF:


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