Acrylic: peel before or after?

I have a question about acrylic (both PG and non-PG).

Is it better to peel the masking before or after doing the cut? Or does it not make a difference?
How about when etching or scoring?

So far, I haven’t seen any acrylic with burn marks. There’s the smell, but no scorch.

I’m thinking about peeling the top side, or both sides, before cutting/etching/scoring. Is that a bad idea?

I like to leave the Paper masking on PG acrylic when I’m cutting/scoring, and remove for engraving.
I always remove the plastic masking from the rowmark/inventables etc acrylic (seems to just make a mess).


YMMV, but I peel for detailed engraves and leave as-is for simple cuts/scores and big blocky engraves.


I’m with @jbv on this, especially the part about taking off the plastic masking. It not only makes a mess but also fuzzes up fine details in engraves.

1 Like

Apparently not. I just did that for the first time last week and saw crystal clear results. Could tell the difference between that and the one I’d done prior with the masking on.

I personally keep the paper mask on unless it’s a photo, or very light engrave, where in some areas the image could be compromised by the power absorption of the mask.
Acrylic is soft and scratches easily. the mask does a great job of protecting it in handling.


i do as well.

there’s the added bonus of not needing to clean up the acrylic as much afterward.


I typically leave the paper masking on. If there’s plastic masking, I take that off and replace it with 6" wide low-tack masking tape. Same thing if I end up picking up sheets that have been sitting with my local supplier for too long and the paper is crazy stubborn to get off. In that case I wipe the whole sheet with rubbing alcohol, remove the paper, rinse, dry and then re-mask with the low-tack tape.

I do a lot of projects where I just score the paper so I have accurate placement of other pieces that get layered up. Plus it’s an added bit of protection if I get any solvent drips. So in those cases, the paper is super helpful.

I do a LOT of acrylic (like, a LOT) and most of it is smaller detailed pieces. I end up spending a lot of time pulling masking off with Gorilla tape, so I’m considering maybe starting to run these pieces without masking on the top, but leaving it on the bottom to minimize flashback.


Great feedback. I just visited Tap Plastic in California and went crazy – getting samples of most of their acrylics. I found that using PG medium acrylic (select color) works just as well on Tap Plastic’s acrylics. But TP seems to be a tiny fraction thinner than PG.

One reason I was asking about the tape: TP uses a thicker paper tape than PG, but there doesn’t seem to be any problem. I just ran a few tests and pealing off the top or leaving it on doesn’t seem to make a difference. but I’m leaving the bottom on to prevent scratches from the crumb tray.


I’ve been using TP acrylic. If I take the paper off, cutting leaves a residue on the surface that you can see at certain angles of reflected light. It doesn’t wipe off. Novus polish takes it right off though.



1 Like

I don’t know, I followed advice here and engraved PG medium acrylic after peeling off and it left a haze on the surface, right under the engraving where the assist fan blows the heat. scoring and cutting was the same, maybe a tiny better without masking as the burnt masking very very slightly marks the acrylic. used PG settings.

except for their earworm of a jingle. ugh. I hear it everytime I see the name.

I prefer to leave the paper masking on the Proofgrade acrylic. It does protect the surface.

Other brands have a plastic film rather than paper masking. I always take that off, as that stuff tends to melt into a mess when engraving. (The plastic film is there to protect the surface from scratches. It’s not meant to be left on as masking.) After removing the plastic film I usually apply my own paper masking to protect the surface.


Generally my understanding is that acrylic with a plastic film on it is extruded, and with paper on it is cast. while both will work in the laser, cast is preferred.

1 Like

Depends on the manufacturer, that’s not a hard and fast rule. I have seen extruded with paper masking, and cast with plastic masking,

1 Like