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What is the Difference Between Engraving and Etching?

If you’re a fan of Parks and Rec, you’ll remember when Andy was shadowing different college classes to take and he was seriously disappointed in the Intro to Laser class that he would not be getting to play with lasers.


We, however, get to play with lasers all day. We regularly get asked how much it would cost to get something “etched”. We chalk that up to people just not understanding the difference between engraving and etching. Admittedly, one of our founders had no clue what the difference was before she started (Caitlin, we’re lookin’ at you) so we’re here to help explain the differences!

There’s a lot of fancy words and science behind all of it and it honestly gets kind of boring. Both use different processes and produce very different results. Quickest way to understand the difference:

  • Laser Engraving = a physical process
  • Etching = a chemical process

Our lasers engrave on materials by emitting a beam of light through an optical amplification process. You can see and feel the indent of the engraving. Etching on the other hand, sweeps across the surface of material and leaves a high contrast marking by burning just the surface layer. There is no depth to the blind eye but a visible difference on the surface.

The reason we only offer engraving comes down to durability. We want to make sure whatever you gift your friends, family, team member, or clients lasts and we wouldn’t be able to offer that same quality with etching!