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Photo Engraving

*Are you looking to use a full-color photo for your order? If so, please consider our digitally printed products! Full-color artwork and photographs can be replicated using this method of decoration.

We are often asked to engrave photographs on our glassware. While they aren't a type of artwork that we would generally recommend, we can sometimes achieve a nice result. Please understand that there are some restrictions, and in some cases, we will not recommend specific photos for engraving.

When we engrave we are physically carving into the surface of your glass with a sand abrasive. The only color produced is the natural color of frosted white. By comparison, photographs get their detail from dozens of different colors. Even “black and white” photographs are actually greyscaled, and contain many different shades of grey. It is not possible to perfectly replicate all of the details of a photograph when we can only engrave in the single color of frosted white.

When engraving your photograph, we will use a graphics program to turn your multi-colored photo into a pure black and white image, composed of only white and black pixels. This image will then be “photo inverted” and used to make the sandblasting mask for engraving. Click here to view photos of our engraving masks. Understand that there is a “photo negative” effect when a glass is engraved. We need to preserve the “correct” relationship between black and white colors. Click here to learn more about graphic polarity.

We can achieve a better result engraving photos on blank glassware that has a larger surface area. Pints, beer mugs, pitchers, and rocks glasses are good choices. Blank glassware with a smaller surface area will not show as much detail, and your engraving may appear muddled.  Bar shots, tall shots, hurricanes, and margarita glasses are good examples of this.

What type of photographs will work well? Consider the characteristics mentioned below:

  • A fairly simple subject matter, such as a single face or a close-up of one object
  • Lighting that is fairly even, without a large degree of shadowing
  • An uncomplicated background
  • Contrasting colors, without a lot of similar shades
  • Medium to high-resolution images with little to no grain

What type of photographs will not work? Consider the characteristics mentioned below:

  • Lots of varying shades of the same color
  • A large degree of shadowing, such as a face that is half shadowed and half well-lit
  • Complicated backgrounds, especially ones with similar colors lacking any contrast
  • Areas of detail that are small in size, like distant faces
  • A need to see specific (and similar) colors to make out objects, such as a litter of black and dark brown puppies
  • Low-resolution images with a lot of grain

The best way to get a feel for engraved photos is to look at actual examples. Images on the left are the originals. Images to their right are photographs taken of the actual engraving on the glass.


Photo Engraving Photo Engraving Photo Engraving Photo Engraving Photo Engraving

Bottom line? We can accept your photograph and use it for engraving. We simply want our customers to understand the realities of the end result. Some images will translate better than others, and in some cases, we will recommend against the usage of a specific photo.

If you would like for us to review a specific image for its suitability, email it to us at We can discuss if it will or won't work for our engraving purposes and offer any suggestions.