The Difference Between Engraving and Etching

The Difference Between Engraving and Etching

February 15, 2020

Headstones are a meaningful tribute to people who have passed away. The process of designing a headstone can be emotional, but extremely rewarding when you feel as though you’ve created a design that is a worthy remembrance of your loved one. However, with all the choices you have available in the design process, it might be a bit overwhelming at first to pick all of the specifications and options you want.

One of the biggest choices you’ll need to make is whether you’ll have the headstone engraved or etched. Despite some people mistakenly equating these two, headstone etching and headstone engraving in Phillipsburg, NJ are actually different processes. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between the processes so you can make an informed decision about the kind of design you’ll get on your headstone.


Engraving is definitely the most common method used for designing headstones, and is important both for creating lettering and symbols/images. This is the process of cutting designs or artwork into a hard surface, such as a headstone.

While there are some artisans who still use hammers and chisels for granite engraving, sandblasting has long been the preferred method for its precision and efficiency. Sandblasting involves the use of compressed air to shoot small sand particles at high pressure at a surface. This erodes away the surface and is considered one of the most effective methods for engraving granite. It’s particularly well suited for lettering, and can be used for both light and dark colors of polished granite.


Etching is the preferred method of design when more detail is required. Engraving makes deeper cuts, but etching can make shallower and more detailed designs.

Etching can be done either by hand or by laser. Hand etching is, obviously, much more difficult and requires a lot of skill, but it adds some unique character and customization that you can’t get through laser work. Hand etchers are cable to create beautiful images or pictures and turn them into artwork that gets preserved in stone. They’ll use diamond-tipped engraving tools in this process, etching just one dot at a time. The process takes a long time by hand, but can have spectacular results.

Laser etching in Phillipsburg, NJ is used to create highly accurate, detailed representations and recreations of actual photographs and designs. In this process, a computerized laser burns away the stone’s surface. This is much less expensive than hand etching, because it doesn’t require as much skill or time, but it’s also not as crafty or custom. However, if you have a clear photo you want to put on to the monument, this is the best method you can choose.

Laser etching does not produce the same depth that creates contrast for designs and lettering, but it is an effective and useful option for the right types of designs.

For more information about the main differences between etching and engraving for the purpose of making a headstone memorial, contact Phillipsburg Memorial Company today to discuss headstone engraving in Phillipsburg, NJ.

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