Engraving Quality

Hi Guys,

Would anyone be able to give me their 2 cents on this one? I’m engraving the dog graphic on to 4 oz English bridle veg tan. The first picture shows the my first attempt doing a blue painters tape mask, HD graphic, and an increase to 12 power to offset the masking; with default thick natural leather speed. Of course it came out really great however it requires a lot of masking removal. The second picture shows my attempt to use default HD graphic, thick natural leather power and speed settings. I’ve tried medium natural leather settings from 2-6 power and faster speed but nothing is helping. Whatcha think might help? Thanks again guys.


Yeah: use proper masking.

Blue tape is good in a pinch, but it’s too tacky – it will grab your leather hard, thus making it very difficult to remove.

Then use the duct tape method to yoink your masking off.

So yeah: get a roll of medium or light tack masking (I use medium on my leather, it works like a charm), and you’ll have the best of both worlds.


I also engrave some leathers without masking, if the surface is finished. Try wiping the “fail” with a damp paper towel, the residue should come off fairly easily. Damp, not wet. See if the eye detail is revealed, it might turn out ok.

That doesn’t solve your labor problem though. Spend time wiping or removing masking… not ideal.

What’s your source file? Raster or vector? Full engrave settings you’re trying? (if you post those, this discussion will need to hit the BTM category, but that’s easy… post away)

Engraving is complex, need the full details before meaningful answers can be offered.

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Okay sounds good. Any suggestions where I can get it in person. I’m selling my stuff this Friday. Also for the future can you send me the link to what you use exactly. Thanks so much.

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Okay I’ll give wiping it a shot when I get home. And on the masking one I’m using 12 power/ 450 lpi/ and default speed for thick natural leather. What setting do you use?

On the second one I used total default thick natural settings with hd graphic.

I mean as you know leather engraves dark without much power at all. Honestly, it’s hard to say why it’s apparently overburning and losing details at lower powers, but I suspect it’s your lpi and speed combination.

This is probably counterintuitive, but I might try slowing down the beam. You get better resolution of small details if you bring the speed down a bit. It has to to do with laser on-off latency, I believe. I can’t give you specific speeds, but I might bring it down to 300 or lower with your very low power levels. I saw similar speed-based issues when I was engraving my mink skull.

As for lpi, you’re delivering a lot of laser at 450 lpi, hence I think you are seeing a lot of burn at such low powers. 450 lpi is a bit overkill for almost anything. Judging by the scale of what you’re making, and the leather media… 270 lpi will probably give excellent results in a fraction of the time, and allow you to get finer power levels dialed in.

As for getting masking in person, you got any vinyl signage shops nearby? They sell it as “transfer tape” or “transfer paper”. You can get some transfer tapes at like michael’s or other art stores, but do not buy them if they’re plastic. You need paper masking, the plastic might be laser safe, but it probably won’t look great when it’s done.

The price in person will likely hurt compared to the options I presented, but desperate times…

(moved to BTM)


The link to what I use exactly is in that post I already quoted.

EDIT: ok, so maybe not. The site is listed as well as the product name. I get 100 yard rolls of perfectear plus medium tack. It comes in 6" wide too, which can be handy. Wrangling 12" wide tape can be cumbersome if you’re doing irregular/narrow leather bits. The 12" is indispensable when masking sheet materials though.

You’ll also need a way to apply the masking, I use a 3m spatula, works great (home depot and elsewhere)

If you can’t get the spatula in time, you can even use a credit card or even a cut rounded rectangle of plywood or something in a pinch. The spatula is perfect really, it has just the right amount of give to let you get good adhesion without putting too much pressure on the leather.


I’m a bit of an odd-ball who doesn’t mask my leather. I just use leather conditioner/cleaner and a clean rag to get rid of the soot. I make sure to rotate the rag to only use a clean areas. Works for me, but YMMV.

I agree that there’s no need for 450 LIP. 270 is plenty and maybe even 225 would be fine. FWIW, my examples above were 270.

This stuff works well for me.


You ever tried conditioning first? Make the cleanup way faster, kind of like pre-finishing woods.


Oh man, I haven’t tried that. :roll_eyes: Makes sense though and I’ll give it a try.

Watch it closely, don’t want to find out the hard way that your conditioner is especially flammable.

Also some conditioners will cause the leather to expand or shrink, engraving after that’s happened can give you a truer result. It’s all pretty situational.

BTW those pieces were what, wallets?


Yeah, little card holder/wallets. I’m a minimalist. :stuck_out_tongue:

only pic I have of one)


On finding something local… Craft stores generally have transfer paper for vinyl cutters. That should work. You can go to the dollar store and find drawer liner paper (just make sure you stay away from vinyl based liners like pretty much anything from Con-Tact).

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Cool thanks for giving me the info. Every thing at the craft stores near me is all vinyl/plastic based. So I’ll just have to wait on it. But thanks for very much again.

Lots of good advice, and I’ll put in my 2 cents:

I don’t mask my leathers. And I use bit of soap & soft tooth brush and water.
Natural veg tanned just needs time to dry, and maybe oiling after.

Since it’s English Bridle leather, it’s already finished and “stuffed”, and meant to tolerate lots of sweat & water & saddle soap, so you’re not going to hurt it with a very gentle wash. Applying a bit of mink oil or saddle oil after it dries never hurts, either.

Don’t judge the etching until you’ve washed away all the soot. The soot can seep, or bleed, into the surrounding leather, whether masked or not. The soap really helps grab the soot and keep it from clinging to the surface when you rinse it off.

4oz is thicker the GF proof grade thick. Use the thick leather setting, but be sure to set the actual height, or even a bit lower than actual, and doing this I’ve had success with very fine detailed artwork without messing with power/speed…

But each leather is different–so there is no universal answer to what will work best for each hide and artwork. The stuffing & finish of bridle leather will give you different results as compared to undyed/natural veg tanned of the same thickness, though only you would likely notice the difference. We’re a lot more critical & harder on ourselves than others!


They definitely make vinyl transfer tape, not safe for lasers, but almost all paper-backed transfer tape is labeled “vinyl transfer tape.” It is paper tape, safe for lasing, that is meant to transfer vinyl decals from the vinyl cutter to whatever they are being stuck to. Some people know that and some don’t. Sorry if you know it.


That never even crossed my mind when I mentioned that. I know Con-Tact stuff was vinyl based but didn’t even think about other stuff being CALLED vinyl transfer tape just because it is for tranferring vinyl cuts. Good thing one of us has his thinking cap on. :smiley:


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