Cactus Leather Summary

I ordered a cactus leather sample kit from Desserto some time ago and, finally got around to trying it.

There is quite a bit of variability. Thickness ranges from about half a millimeter to 1.8 millimeters. Their catalog lists six different backing materials:

50% polyester / 50% cotton
65% polyester / 35% cotton
100% polyester
100% cotton
100% cotton “infused with cactus”
100% nylon

Some of the backing matches the material for color while others did not. There are, for instance, samples of dark material with matching backings and, similar dark material with white backings.

Less relevant for lasering, there are also several different surface finishes.

The bolts are 1.4 meters wide and, run between $22 and $52 USD per meter, depending on the specific configuration.

Vaporized material seems to re-deposit as a sticky goo on the surface. Masking mostly prevents that and, the goo will wash off with some mild soap (I used a foaming hand soap) and a bit of rubbing. Isopropyl alcohol can take it off, too but, will also damage the finish noticeably in some cases.

Given the range, my settings are probably of limited use but, I found the masked 1mm thick 50/50-blend-backed stuff cut at about 245/75. I got decent (masked) engraves at 1000/51/270LPI.

Filling engraves with acrylic paint (via Posca-style pens) worked pretty well. The surface also takes paint acceptably (sloppy test below). I bet it would screen print nicely.

I came up with a simple card case to make from one of the 10cm by 15cm samples. My paint fills could use some improvement but, it seems like it mostly handles as expected.

I made a 1 minute video summarizing all that, if that’s your jam:


What’s the smell like?


Thanks for the write up. I have wondered about this material for quite some time.


The smell is not particularly awful. My ventilation is pretty good. So, I didn’t get a lot of it. Not as bad as real leather or the JPP Saddle Collection synthetic leather. It smells like burning cactus but, I wouldn’t expect most other people to have experienced that. It’s a subset of burning green plant matter. It would likely be irritating to your respiratory system if you were breathing the smoke for very long. I didn’t notice any lingering airborne smell from the cut+engraved pieces after removing them from the machine. I could detect it on my fingers (holding them a couple inches from my nose) after handling, until I washed up.


Interesting! More material to consider. Lots more to do!


Thank you for the summary; worthy of a bookmark.


I had a go at embossing the cactus leather:

The card case design needs more work but, this was primarily to try embossing and, that came out great. I used one of my 3D knots, 3D printed in nylon-infused resin. Somehow, the die got chipped at some point, leaving a flaw in the embossing but, it works as a proof-of-concept.

I put the laser-cut piece of cactus leather in water for about a minute, put the 3D-printed die on one side and a couple layers of felt on the other, then sandwiched that between two pieces of 1/4" ply and clamped with a C-clamp.

About 24 hours later, I took that apart. The felt stuck to the backing a bit (but didn’t leave anything behind on the backing when I got it loose). So, I might use some plastic wrap or something in the sandwich next time.


That’s really cool. I’ve tried embossing / debossing but it’s been a while ago. I’m sure I’ll revisit it again. Maybe a folded up square of waxed paper would work in your sandwich?