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Displaying & Sharing
Your Digital Photos

Laser—Etching and Fired Ceramics

Here a portrait has been etched on glass and then edge lit for a dramatic effect. Courtesy of Scilux.
A photo etched into glass and lit from behind. Courtesy of Forever in Stone.
Granite risers on stairs etched with a photo. Courtesy of Forever in Stone.

When you want a photo to last almost forever, you can have it laser etched or engraved into glass, marble, granite, wood, acrylic, glass, mirrors, and other solid materials. The finished work can be used in home and office floor entryways, murals, countertops, flooring, backsplashes, memorabilia, signage, awards, commemorative plaques, bathroom shower and kitchen walls, fireplace surrounds, backsplashes and more. Just let your imagination go wild. These photos can be displayed as is, framed, or be incorporated into larger projects such as doors for rooms or custom cabinets. In fact, the size of laser etchings isn't limited. Using tiling you can create etchings at most any size. Color can then be added by staining the pores of the etched material with special paints. Sealants are then applied to protect the colorized image.

To create an image, the glass, stone or other material is laid flat on a table above which is mounted a laser that can move forward and back and side to side. The laser's movements are precisely controlled by a computer program, much like the program that controls the print head in your printer. As the laser moves along a line it fires intense pulses up to 1200 times per inch, each pulse burning a point on the surface of the material. After finishing a line, it moves down perhaps 1/1200 of an inch and starts to etch another line. The computer controlling the laser can also vary the intensity of each pulse to control how deeply the material is etched. The finished image has amazing detail considering the material into which it's etched.

If permanence and a weatherproof full-color image is what you're after, you can have one kiln fired into porcelain or enamel. The image is first printed on a special transfer paper using colored ceramic toner. Next the paper is soaked in water, and the image applied to the ceramic article. Finally the piece is fired in a kiln and the colors fuse into the glaze to give a permanent and durable piece. Since the process uses ceramic toners the image won't fade and is completely washable and weatherproof just like normal ceramic tableware. These ceramic pieces can be used in jewelry, tile murals, or even mounted on gravestones. Digital photography is rapidly changing those staid old marble slabs as more and more people have photographs laser-etched into the stone or ceramic portraits permanently attached or embedded.

Here a photograph has been engraved into a granite surface. Courtesy of the Granite Shop.

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