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Difference Between Engraving and Etching-Headstone Designs

Headstones are a way to preserve, honor, and celebrate the life of the deceased loved one. They are a deeply personal tribute and the way to remember the ones that have passed.

The last representation of your loved ones should be perfect, and this is why choosing headstones can become so overwhelming especially when there are a number of other options.

The process can become tiring from choosing a headstone design to its color, size, material, and personalization. Therefore, to aid you in this difficult decision in an already emotional time, we explain the difference between the two of the most common design methods— engraving and etching. These methods are quite popular and need some details to differentiate them.


Engraving is the most common method used to create lettering and designs on headstones. It is a form of art where drawings and different designs are cut on hard surfaces like on granite headstones with the help of engraving methods like hand engraved and laser engraving. While hammers and chisels were used for engraving materials in the past, sandblasting is now the preferred way in this industry.

In sandblasting, compressed air is used to shoot sand particles through a hose. These tiny particles of sand erode the granite's surface and emboss the desired design on the given material. This is the most accurate and effective technique to engrave memorial stones. It is best suited when you need lettering on the stone. Engraving leaves more profound and impressive incisions.


Etching is used when memorial stones require intricate designs and detailed images. While engraving is a good antique way to add symbols and letters on headstones, it cannot be used to work with fine and complex designs like adding an image or a picture. This is because etching can produce a high contrast marking on the headstone's surface.

Two ways of etching available are hand and laser etching.

Hand Etching

Hand etching is a unique and beautiful yet a very complex skill that adds amazing customization to the memorial stones. Only the expert hand etchers will know how to convert a picture of someone to a good image gracefully and professionally.

Hand etchers use a diamond-tipped engraving tool to add one dot at a time on the stone. This gives an incredible depth to the design. Hand etching is more creative and deeper than laser etching but is recommended to be done on black granite only.

Laser Etching

Laser etching enables artists to copy original photographs to create their highly accurate images on the stone. This process utilizes a computerized beam of laser that burns the surface of the granite. This is a cheaper alternative to hand etching, but it is effective only when the family can provide a clear photograph of the deceased person.

Laser etching is not suitable for lettering and creating intricate designs as it does not provide the same depth as hand etching or engraving. Hand Etching is a highly skilled job and offers great results.

Apart from engraving and etching, many other aspects go into designing the perfect monument for your loved one. If you're unable to decide on one method, you can contact monument providers such as Summit Memorials in Edmonton and Saskatoon to guide you through the process and give the best possible solution according to your time and budget.

For the highest quality memorial services and products across Alberta and Saskatchewan, contact only highly experienced people as they know what would suit the best in terms of headstone and monument selection. You also get complete custom engraving help from their certified and professional staff.

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