Leather engraving dog collar

Hi, I’m engraving leather dog collars, and had been using a certain type of collar which worked great but wasn’t very good quality (I’m looking to sell these so that’s important!)
I found some really nice quality collars, tried my first one today (grey) and it went really well, so I went for the pink one. Obviously the leather underneath must be different, as the engrave came out brown. I’m looking for all of the engraved pattern to be black, like the grey collar.

The settings used on the grey one were 1000/35 with 105 lines per cm. it Didn’t go quite deep enough at one of the ends, so for the pink collar I went with 1000/40 with 105.

Is there a way of keeping the precise engrave but blackening the pattern on this? Could it be because I went up to 40 from 35?
Any help would be great! Thanks.IMG_8683


Black from the laser is char which is at best only barely connected to the work if at all. Better is to use good masking and then use dye or spray paint to darken the area cut,


Thanks, I think the previous collars I’ve done must have been made from black/dark brown leather and I just hadn’t realised, as the patterns on them all came out very dark and contrasting.

Trust me to choose the more difficult material!


Welcome to the forum.
I don’t think this is a post for the Problems and Support category as it involves non Proofgrade material and does not imply that the machine is in any way performing abnormally. I will move this to the Beyond the Manual section if you don’t mind.


Engraving is subjective, but in general, all other things being equal:

Slower = darker.

Higher LPI = darker.

Try slowing down to 500 speed and drop the power a bit so you don’t demolish the leather, and I bet you’ll get more consistently dark results.

That being said, this is highly analog, so you can expect some variation. Just be very sure it’s real leather, pvc (like a lot of fake leathers) is bad mojo!


Ah sorry, this is my first ever post! Thank you for moving it.

Thanks so much, I’ll try that on the next one.

It’s definitely real leather, but I think it’s just a tan colour under the top layer.

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you may also find variations when you use chromium tanned instead of veg tanned. lots of people recommend only using veg tanned. those look like chromium tanned.

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Thanks, I thought they were veg but I might be wrong! Is there a way to test if they’re chromium?

i think there are some ways if you search. and i could be wrong in my guess. if you were told they were veg tanned, i’m sure they probably were. the pic is small and i thought i saw a little texture in the pink one, but maybe my eyes deceived me.

I’ll definitely ask the supplier! Thank you for replying. My plan is to change the settings (as advised above) for the next attempt, and if that doesn’t work then I’ve had a play with the pink collar and managed to “dye” the engraved parts black with a wax based leather polish.

It cleaned off the pink areas nicely and worked a lot better than I expected! Obviously it’s not ideal and I’ll continue to try and tweak the settings, but it’s a good back up plan.

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I’ve worked with a lot of different oil & veg tanned dyed leathers and the etched areas will look different even if it’s the same tanning process due to the dyes. And sometimes even varies lot to lot, or even hide to hide of the same leather “color” & manufacturer to add even more variation to an organic & therefore less consistent material.

But it’s what I work with most of the time–both making goods and adding my logos and designs to them.

It’s unlikely leather for a dog collar is chromium tanned due to the types of leather and applications chrome tanned is suited for, but best to confirm from your supplier, as it’s not safe for you or your machine to etch it.

You should be gently washing the soot off anyway–else it will get on customer’s fingers and they’ll be very unhappy.

And definitely remove any soot before you try any painting–else you’re just adding paint over the soot, and it’ll come off when the soot does (or even before, since may not stick to soot), and still not produce the effect you want. Might look great in your studio, but as soon as it’s touched and handled, it won’t look like you wanted it to & again, unhappy customers.

I’ve never had success masking & then trying to paint in the etched areas–spray paint may work–but anything liquid will tend to bleed into the porous flesh of the leather and may destroy the clean lines produced by the laser… (I usually don’t mask for my etching, and if I did, it starts to come off when wash off the soot, so doesn’t stay in place well enough to function as a stencil…).

But pending the finish the supplier is using, if you’re willing to test one of the pink, or another that doesn’t produce the contrast you want, the top may be treated so it won’t absorb any paint, and you can quickly apply something into the etched lines and it cleans off the unetched finish…

And sometimes just Mink Oil (or other leather conditioner of your choice) will help darken the now exposed leather of the etched lines to provide more contrast.


Thanks for the detailed reply! Yup, I’ve checked and it’s definitely veg tanned.

Yes, the earlier ones I’ve done I used a brush to clean out the soot then used a leather conditioner. But what I hadn’t realised was that the leather was a consistent black/very dark brown on all of the collars, so the etching all came out really dark.

I think because they all worked so well, that when I changed supplier it didn’t cross my mind that they’d use a lighter leather. Silly me!

The above method with the black polish seems to work really well so far, so if all else fails when I play with the settings, I’ll do that.

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That’s not correct. It doesn’t cut or engrave the same and it smells worse but the chromium based tanning agents used don’t create anything toxic to a CO2 laser during cutting. It may or may not be individually unhealthy to breathe the fumes but those should be exhausted outside where they won’t harm anyone.

Some Makerspaces won’t allow chrome tanned leather but that’s because of misinformation or the smell and potential extra loading of filters if they’re using filters & scrubbers instead of an external air exhaust.


There are still many universities with in house lasers and even other CO2 laser manufacturers that put chrome tanned leather on the banned list for use. Yes, it stinks worse than any other leather, and I do hope that is the worst thing to human or machine.

But the concern is the release of chromium into the air–usually it’s the trivalent form in tanning, which can be irritating to the airways (and also a contact allergen to many) , so at least not as bad as hexavalent Cr that does cause cancer.

But just because you’re venting outside doesn’t mean anything in the exhaust can’t harm any person/animals when its breathed in, it just disperses it into a greater area (lower concentration), pending how far away anyone is from the vent, and who is down wind, this risk is low or lower…

Odds are the concentrations of Cr that a casual GF user would produce are so low they don’t register as a hazard, but some may say, never tell me the odds.

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If that’s how you’re determining what to laser or not, there’s a host of materials that are just as bad as chrome tanned leather - including acrylics. It’s not what’s being used in the manufacturing that matters as much as what it turns into when burned. But just because it’s potentially bad for people doesn’t make it unsafe for the laser. That’s an old wives tale such as there can be old ones in this relatively new industry :slight_smile:

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Yes, there’s a whole host of materials that I won’t run in my laser because of the known risks to my health or others from the exhaust when it’s burned… I am less likely to use something that would affect the machine–but I’ll always confirm it’s OK to etch/cut, especially if I intend to use it frequently.

I promise you if @jamesdhatch Says its safe, it’s a 99.99% chance it’s totally safe, He knows his stuff. He should he teaches it :upside_down_face:


Noting of course that they managed to get old.

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