Differences Between Carving, Etching & Engraving

In simple words, both carving & etching are the two types of engraving. Etching represents creating patterns on the surface of the material whereas carving refers to 3d engraving, by removing material from the horizontal & vertical movement and visualizing the pattern in a three-dimensional way.

We aim to clarify your confusion about laser etching, carving & engraving here.

There will be pictures to illustrate the concept to you.

We will keep it short and to the point.

What is Laser engraving?

Laser engraving is the process where a laser machine uses its laser beam to burn/melt/vapourize a layer of the material to draw or mark any design or pattern.

In simple words, engraving represents drawing but with a laser beam.

Here’s an example of laser cutting & engraving.

Gweike cloud pro laser engraving

The left picture refers to laser cutting where the powerful laser beam was used to cut the wood at a given shape and dimension.

The second image above is an example of laser engraving where the laser drew the picture over a woodpiece.

What is Laser Etching?

Etching represents removing a portion of the layer of the material to visualize any designs.

Earlier, people used to manually etch leather and now the laser does the same.

In simple lines, laser etching is a technique in which the laser beam removes a layer or any portion of the material to put some design or pattern.

Below is an example of laser etching:

Glowforge Plus Leather Laser Engraving Work

In the above image, a powerful laser etched a design onto a leather notebook.

What is carving?

Carving is commonly used with CNC machines where a metal tool cuts the wood from deep to make any designs on wood.

So, laser curving is the same thing, just a precision laser replacing the CNC. That’s it.

In simple words, laser carving refers to 3d laser engraving where a precision laser engraves from the depth of the workpiece to give it a 3d shape.

Here’s an example of laser carving:

Brass 3d engraving

The item in the above picture is a brass coin. A fiber laser machine was used to perform the carving. In other words, you may call it a 3d laser engraving.

Is laser engraving and marking the same?

In a nutshell, laser marking refers to when any laser puts any drawing or pattern over something without removing/melting/vaporizing its layer. So, the marking won’t have any dig out rather there will only be some drawings or designs.

Here’s an example of laser marking:

Apple earbuds engraving done by the xTool F1

Another way of laser marking in metal is called laser annealing. Annealing is a way of metal marking where the laser beam creates an atomic reaction on the metal to draw something.

Annealing does not involve melting or vapourising anything.

Here’s an example of laser annealing:


Annealing (laser marking) does not remove any part of the material, It is a reaction where the heat of the laser beam makes changes among the metal particles which becomes visible in a different color.

Summary of the article

Here’s a summary so that it clears all of your confusion regarding the laser etching, marking, carving, and engraving:

  • Etching and carving are the two types of engraving
  • The etching is a 2D engraving and the carving represents a 3D engraving
  • Laser marking does not involve removing any part of the layer like etching & carving
  • Annealing is a type of laser marking

Which laser engraver would you need for carving?

To make carving or 3d engraving, any powerful CO2 or diode laser engraver would be okay.

You can do carving with any powerful engraving since the main factor here is not the machine.

To make carving, you need to convert the 2D image into 3d grayscale format which guides the laser to start engraving from the deeper area.

You may try any laser between the P2 Co2 laser & S1 diode laser for carving as they both feature plenty of features that are worthy of money.

However, for metal carving, you need a powerful fiber laser which would require a hefty amount of money.

Gray scale image for 3d laser engraving

Laser engraver for metal marking

For metal marking, you need an infrared laser or a fiber laser because the CO2 and diode lasers cannot make appropriate laser beams as per the requirement.

So, if you need metal marking on a smaller scale, any portable laser from here would be fine.

However, metal marking for the bulk quantity would again require fiber lasers since they are designed for such a particular purpose only.

What do we say?

As a laser expert, we will always tell you to understand the terms before you start doing laser work. Better, if you decide your purpose first, and after that things will be easier as you know what you need specifically.

Good luck

Ethan Robert
Ethan Robert

Hi, I'm Ethan.

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, I started knowing the CNC and that becomes my passion.

Earlier, I had fascination of 3d printers, Laser cutters and other CNC machines. Later on, I started analyzing those machine and started blogging on my known things by a different way.

I aim to assist you with the insights of 3d printer, laser engravers and computer printers with the help that you save your money and take the right decision before you purchase any machine.

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