I'm trying to figure out a general-purpose, heavy-duty, laser-cuttable, repositionable masking material... need ideas!

There’s been a lot of talk 'round here lately about glass etching, particularly since the Frankenforge made its debut.

As cool as that is, abrasive and chemical etching are still handy techniques because most folks won’t modify their machine to swallow a whole bottle. And some irregular surfaces won’t work well with direct laser etching even if you can get the item into the machine.

Abrasive and chemical etching require a masking material to be applied to the glass. But glass isn’t the only thing we might want an intricate mask for. You might have a painting project.

So, it seems to me that a super useful general purpose laser technique would be cutting an intricate mask out of some adhesive-backed material, including the use of engraving to eliminate masking material completely, then picking up the pattern with transfer tape for application to another object.

People with vinyl cutters already do this, of course.


But we don’t want to cut vinyl, right? Craft vinyl isn’t laser safe.

But worse, can you imagine weeding a pattern like this even if the laser cut it? No thanks.


How can we adapt this technique to use all the capabilities of a laser cutter and eliminate weeding?

The right materials may already be out there.

The masking material would need to be something that could be engraved away completely, with an adhesive that was strong enough to let little pieces stick around, but weak enough to be removed from the work object later. Heavy paper masking tape might work. Or maybe laser-safe sticker vinyl.

But, the mask would need to be stuck to some kind of carrier inside the machine. I am not sure you can engrave away a vinyl or paper sticker and leave the carrier behind it whole… and that is important so parts of the design didn’t get disconnected. (When I get some laser-safe sticker material I will see if I can do this; if so, great. But I am not hopeful. Anyone ever see foil-backed sticker material?)

You might be able to stick the masking material to something more laser-resistant, like a Seklema mat, then pick up the completed design with transfer tape.

Any of that make sense? Any materials ideas?

In other words… how do you do this with a laser, not a drag knife cutter?



For me this falls into the “laser is not always the best solution” category.

I had a vinyl cutter for years before the GF, and used it just a few days ago to make a new flag decal for one of my daughter’s cars. I use it all the time. A couple of years ago to cut masking for chemical etching on a sheet of glass for a water feature, with the same masking I use on wood for the GF.

Same with one of my 3D printers. I made some new bat wings for her boots.

I also did the cool “corel”-like print on the Glowforge. Gave all three of them to her at dinner on Tuesday.

Different tools for different tasks.


I have a vinyl cutter, but if there is a laser technique that can do similar things… it would allow for the creation of designs more intricate than the vinyl cutter is capable of. Or, more intricate than I am willing to weed, anyway!

Side note (because I didn’t know this before the last month or couple of months): Some HTV is laserable. Example: Siser Easyweed has indicators on their site for each type of HTV they sell and it says whether it’s laser-safe.

While this does not directly relate to the discussion of using vinyl for stickers (especially for things that cannot survive heat or things that can not easily be heat pressed, it opens up possibilities for many things with using HTV. So I just thought I would toss that option out there.


Yeah, lots of HTV is laser safe, which is cool. I have stacks of the stuff but have yet to figure out :glowforge: settings. Other people here tried it and I think no one could get a really good no-weed solution though. That’s the dream, the end of weeding…

I did see people using it successfully, not that I can tell you offhand where that was. If I recall correctly, they did a reverse engrave (like using the stamp setting in the GFUI).

However, a quick Google search showed me this:


I’ve cut laser-safe “vinyl” for that kind of thing.

Maintaining integrity while transferring was a massive PIA. Even if it holds together/proportions on the tray while you put transfer tape over it, removing the backing was frustrating as heck. Far worse than weeding regular vinyl from a cutter.

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There are several ways to “weed” that do not involve weeding. The trick is to make sure the part you want to keep is all one piece. I have made very intricate designs and placed them in something like a Tupperware sandwich container and some hand cleaner and the next day the mask has floated away from the material. I placed two on a magnifying glass case and when they dried they stuck. One is damaged after a few years but the other is fine.

I have experimented with complex inlay by cutting the outer part and engraving the same so the loose bits are still one piece and putting them together to have an inlay effect. If you cut first and put a layer of masking on before removal then you can separate the result fairly easily. A light pull up and opposite the direction you are heading will eventually remove even the most complicated design as long as it doesn’t break.


You could try Polyester labels. I got mine from onlinelabels.com

My project wasn’t a total success, but depending on the art you might have better luck. I tried sponging on paint, which was the best method. I ended up using glow-in-dark siser “vinyl” and cutting on my silhouette.


Yeah… my experiment was to use chemical etching on a sheet of glass to produce a LED-back-lit “tree of life” waterfall, onto stones that made a nice burbling running water sound.

The “tree of life” is not a simple design, and it had to lay down and stick really flat for the etching to work.

It was a labor of love. If I had to do it over, I would have reduced the size and just engraved onto clear acrylic.


THIS is why I love this place…



I’ve done this before to make stencils for my husband when he wanted to paint the car, before I bought a vinyl cutter.

It was work, but what I did was layer multiple layers of painter’s (masking) tape on to a sheet of paper. Then I cut away or engraved (don’t remember, it’s been a while) with just enough power to go through a couple of layers. After it was done, before moving it, I grabbed the transfer paper I used at the time, and burnished it to the top layer. The uncut layers of tape were easy to remove and weren’t stuck to the painters tape attached to my transfer paper, and he was able to transfer it to the car and remove the transfer paper without issue.

FYI, I hated doing it, I felt like it was a waste of tape, but he was happy with it. I don’t know if I could do it again…I’ve gotten pretty spoiled being able to cut it out on the vinyl cutter, even when I have to weed it (actually, I make him do this part since I only work with vinyl for him).