Laser tile engraving

Laser tile engraving DEFAULT

Laser etching tiles: experiments and step by step instructions

I think I’m getting the hang of etching tiles. I made this post to help others, but I’m still learning myself. In hopes of helping others, I listed my explicit steps below as I was confused about how to do real world stuff (see Confused about how to use laser with real items (wallets, iPhone cases, etc))

I decided to switch to Lightburn instead of the very limited Luban software. Main advantage with Lightburn is you can easily fine tune different aspects of the burn, and it won’t add more image processing if you already optimized the image with another application. It also has way better dithering options if you just import a graphic. I set it up for my A350 as in the post here: - basically set your bed parameters, then edit the machine settings for baud rate (115,200),s-value max 255, and enable Z-axis control (Edit>Device Settings>Basic Settings) - the post has screenshots. I really have no experience with Lightburn aside from what I show here, and I welcome any other insights!

Note: I’ve just been using Lightburn to export gcode to the Snapmaker via USB - these control settings are meant for direct connection to the Snapmaker, but I haven’t tried that yet and you can do all I list below without configuring the baud rate etc). I’d imagine direct connect would fix the trace outline function that doesn’t seem to work if I’m using the gcode file (see below).

Other things to note on Luban setup: set the speed units to mm/min in the preferences as this is the usual notation for diode lasers like ours.

Decide how you want to do your tile: I found 2 methods:

  • Black spray paint over the white tile, then use the laser to burn off the paint to reveal the tile below. This makes for a rich black image and you can even use another color below (eg first a layer of red paint, let dry then cover with black spray paint). The disadvantage is this is more delicate as the paint can scratch off. You can clear coat to get around this problem. One tip I think would have made my first tiles look better: before clear coating, I should have gently wiped off the surface - I suspect my tiles came out quite dark because there is some residue from the burning process(the image is actually a little hard to see depending on the angle and light). I used 800 mm/min, 100% power. In Luban I specified 5 ms/dot. I didn’t see a similar setting in Lightburn.

  • Norton method: this has the distinct advantage of being permanently etched into the tile glaze and cannot be scraped off. Disadvantage is the blacks aren’t very deep, more a dark grey. No surface treatment needed afterward unless you want a more uniform gloss (and it enhances the blacks a bit). The method involves a light coat of flat white spray paint over the tile, then etch the image (I found 900 mm/min, 90% power worked well for the 1.6 W Snapmaker head), and then finish by removing all white paint with acetone.

Step by step instructions:

Tile preparation

  1. Clean tile with acetone - important as many tiles come with a film on top from manufacturing
  2. Spray light coat of flat white spraypaint (Norton method, permanent etching) or black spraypaint (much more delicate finish, needs clearcoat protection, much richer blacks, option for a second color underneath).

Lightburn/computer steps

  1. Import image into Lightburn

2. Set Lightburn parameters - open the layer menu for your selected image
  • Norton method: Speed: 900 mm/min Max power: 90%
  • Black paint removal method: speed 800 mm/min, max power 100%
  • If burning to remove the black paint to reveal the tile below, make sure you choose "negative image"
  • Enable Output, Disable Air Assist
  • Line interval 0.1mm, 254 dpi (or Enable Passthrough if using image to set DPI value - I didn’t try this myself yet)
  • Scan angle, Z offset =0
  • Image mode:
  • Choose “Threshold” if image dithered outside of Lightburn
  • Choose “Halftone”for shading images imported without modification
  • No of passes = 1
  1. Laser section: set your origin according to how you want to place the image
  • If setting laser Origin on Snapmaker to the lower left corner of the workpiece: Snapmaker will start burning immediately from position set. On the Snapmaker (see section below) use Automatic mode, then set origin to lower left corner
  • If setting laser Origin on Snapmaker to the center of the workpiece: Snapmaker will move from center origin to lower left of project. On the Snapmaker (see section below) use Automatic mode, then set origin to center of workpiece
  1. Export code but save as .nc file

On the Snapmaker

  1. Start the project by opening the file from USB
  2. Choose automatic mode (assuming you already calibrated your laser using the built in Snapmaker process)
  3. Set the material thickness (eg my tile was 6.9 mm). The Snapmaker will then add the calibrated laser focal distance to this value to set the z-axis height above your workpiece.
  4. Move the laser head to the origin you chose in step 3 above - either the center of the workpiece or lower left corner. The Snapmaker laser will turn on with low output to help you see where it is aiming.
  5. Press the “set origin” button (it’s critical to do this or the job won’t be properly aligned)
  • Note: for some reason, if using Lightburn code files, the run border function does NOT seem to accurately show the cut profile - it seems way off, but the file burns properly if you set the origin properly
  1. Put on laser goggles!
  2. Hit start

Post processing

  • Norton method: Wipe off all paint with acetone, clear coat if desired
  • Black paint method: gently wipe off residue, coat initially with very light clear coat, allow to dry then apply heavier coat



Glass and ceramic materials are inorganic and non-metallic. They share many physical properties including being hard, rigid, and brittle. The key difference between these two types of material is that glass is complete amorphous, while ceramics are crystalline. The most common type of glass is soda-lime glass, which is composed mostly of silica (sand), with added sodium carbonate (soda) and calcium oxide (lime). The soda and lime additives make it easy to shape the glass at high temperature to form tableware, windows, etc. There are also technical glasses that have different additives to provide certain properties like high temperature compatibility or high strength.

Ceramics are formed by creating a thick liquefied mixture of crystalline oxides, nitrides or carbides. The mixture is formed into the desired shape and then fired at high temperature to create a solid ceramic piece. The earliest ceramics were formed by firing clay to form vessels and tiles. Modern ceramics such as alumina (aluminum oxide) and tungsten carbide are highly engineered to provide properties such as electrical insulation and wear resistance. The most common laser processing methods for glass and ceramic materials are marking and engraving.Visit our Materials Suppliers List for glass and ceramic vendors.

Types of Glass and Ceramic Materials

  • Alumina Ceramic
  • Aluminum Silicate
  • Earthenware
  • Glazed Tile
  • Laser Tile
  • Porcelain
  • Saltillo Tile
  • Stoneware
  • Tungsten Carbide
  • Zirconia

Types of Laser Processes

Lasers are playing an ever expanding role in material processing, from new product development to high volume manufacturing. For all laser processes, the energy of a laser beam interacts with a material to transform it in some way. Each transformation (or laser process) is controlled by precisely regulating the wavelength, power, duty cycle and repetition rate of the laser beam. These laser processes include the following:

All materials have unique characteristics that dictate how the laser beam interacts and consequently modifies the material. The most common processes for glass and ceramics are the following:

Laser Engraving of Glass and Ceramics
The energy of a CO2 laser beam heats glass and ceramic materials locally, causing micro-cracks to form on the surface of the material. Repeated laser processing passes cause the cracks to grow until small chips break loose. After several laser passes, a deep and well defined laser engraving is created in the material surface. The usual depth for laser engraving glass and ceramic materials is 0.012 to 0.015” (300 to 375 microns). Multiple passes are used for glass and ceramic material engraving to avoid excessive heat build-up, which can cause the material to crack. After engraving, the surface should be cleaned with a stiff brush to remove loose chips of material.

Laser Marking of Glass and Ceramics
For glass, the energy of a CO2 laser beam heats the surface locally causing micro-cracks to form. The cracks diffract light, creating a bright frosted appearance in the laser marked area. For certain ceramics, either a CO2 laser or a Fiber laser can be used to create a visible mark without removing a significant amount of material. The laser energy darkens the ceramic creating a sharp, well defined mark. Laser marking can be used to convey information such a serial number or a logo.

Combined Process
The laser engraving and marking processes described above can be combined without having to move or re-fixture the part.
General Glass and Ceramics Laser System Considerations

Platform Size – Must be large enough to hold the largest pieces of glass or ceramic that will be laser processed or be equipped with Class 4 capability for processing larger pieces.

Wavelength – The 10.6 micron wavelength of the CO2 laser is recommended for glass and ceramic laser engraving and for glass marking, as well as marking certain ceramic materials like Zirconia. The 1.06 micron wavelength of the Fiber laser is recommended for laser marking certain ceramic materials like Aluminum Silicate.

Laser Power – At least 40 watts of CO2 laser power is recommended for glass and ceramic laser engraving and for glass marking, as well as marking certain ceramic materials like Zirconia. At least 40 watts of Fiber laser power is recommend for laser marking certain ceramic materials like Aluminum Silicate.

Lens – A small spot size lens (less than 0.005” or 125 microns) is the best for laser engraving and laser marking glass and ceramic materials.

Exhaust – Must have sufficient flow to remove the gasses and particles that are generated from the glass and ceramic laser engraving and marking equipment.

Air Assist – Provides a jet of air near the focal point of the laser to help remove glass and ceramic chips during laser processing.

Environmental, Health and Safety Considerations for Glass and Ceramic Laser Material Processing

Laser-material interactions almost always create gaseous effluent and/or particles. The byproducts of laser processing should be routed to an exterior environment. Alternatively the exhaust may be treated with a filtration system first and then routed to an exterior environment. All laser processes generate heat. Therefore glass and ceramic laser material processing should always be supervised.

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Playing with Ceramic Tile Norton Method (Black is etched in)

Nortons method for etching white ceramic Tile or Glass or Cups or Plates(for Diode Laser)


DO NOT USE AIR ASSIST…it will reduce “Blacks”

1…Prepare Photo with a photo Editor…(as per instructions in how to engrave photo)

2…set size of photo to size you will laser on tile

3…set DPI to around 300

4…clean white tile with Lacquer thinner

5…paint tile / Glass Flat White…allow to dry (one light coating should do)

6…fine focus Laser beam

7…pick Image Mode to use ( I prefer Jarvis Dither and have had some success with Stucki Dither…Available with LightBurn software…this preference takes some trial runs and documentation …If Familiar with Sean Murray.s script…select “pass through”

8…for my 2.5 watt diode…speed 1200 mm/min…power 85% (my S-value in LightBurn =255) Line Interval = 0.085

9 takes approximately 50-70 minutes to complete

10…clean off all paint with Lacquer Thinner…

11…place felt pads on bottom to prevent scratching


How to Make Money with Laser Engraved Ceramic Tiles + Ortur Pro GIVEAWAY!


Tile engraving laser


How to Make Money with Laser Engraved Ceramic Tiles + Ortur Pro GIVEAWAY!


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