High contrast laser etching


The problem with laser etching dark materials is that the areas burnt away by the intense light don’t really stand out from the rest of the surface. [The 5th Fool] is taking a roundabout way of correcting this by topping his laser engravings with contrasting paint. The technique is still pretty simple and we think it looks great!

Basically he’s etching a layer of painter’s tape which becomes a stencil. But the surface it is masking also gets etched so the paint has an area below to the surface which it can fill in. We figure this will help with durability issues.

After etching the painters tape the design gets a few coatings of a high-contrast paint color and is left to dry. To remove the stencil, duct tape is applied to the entire area. This helps quite a bit in removing the tiny bits of tape from an intricate design.


  1. Chris in NC says:

    Love duct tape! That shit can be used for anything. Except ducts.

  2. Matt says:

    This is a well-known technique in the laser-engraving community. Those interested in more laser tricks like this should take a look at the Sawmill Creek Engravers forum (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/forumdisplay.php?8-Engravers-Forum).

  3. Hack Man says:

    I thought the TechShop sign was done this way. Sadly, it was not.

    • aeonanon says:

      No reason you couldn’t. Multi-color designs, with thick blocks are another Instructable waiting in the wings. It’s a multi-step process, using a different one-off stencil for each color.

  4. yetihehe says:

    I’m curious if this would work to make white descriptions on pcb’s?

  5. Nick Johnson says:

    You can also use crayon to good effect.

  6. vonskippy says:

    If you’re worrying how to brand your alcohol addiction device, maybe you have other non-techie problems that should be your priority.

  7. dubloe7 says:

    I used to work with a laser engraver, and this was standard procedure. However, I wish I had thought of using duct tape to remove the smaller pieces of masking tape…

    • the5thfool says:

      I know right! That was the part I actually felt proud of. I started picking at it and the moment I got frustrated, I stopped and thought, “There has to be a better way…” Apparently using different levels of “sticky” is common in vinyl cutting too.

  8. lwatcdr says:

    Really nice looking. I now wonder if you could use it for plating. After etching just plate the lines in copper or gold for a really cool look.

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