When etching is performed, the laser melts the surface of the material. By doing so, the heated surface expands and creates slight bumps. Laser etching creates a good contrast between the material and the marking code. It is an efficient process to create permanent markings on materials.

This type of laser marking is well suited for applications where the tracking code has to be scanned, such as a one-dimensional (1D) or a two-dimensional (2D) barcode.


Laser Watermarking and Etching

Pros & Cons


  • low cost, simple process
  • highly selectivity
  • controllable etching rate
  • high feature resolution
  • easy to control
  • high reproducibility
  • no liquid chemical waste

The Decorator’s Guide

Struggling to get your head around how promotional production creation works?

We know it’s complicated, so we’ve created an in-depth breakdown of all the decoration processes we use in our industry.

We’ve organised each chapter into bite size, simplified FAQ’s covering average turnaround times, insider tips on inks and techniques, and the recommended surfaces for each technique, so you can pass on your worthy knowledge to your customers.


Which material is best suited for this process?

Dri-fit polo shirts, softshell jackets, microfiber towels, suede caps, leather patches, sports fabircs, umbrella handles, and cardboard and wooden packaging.

What products are not suited for this process? What will not work at all?

Glass, metal, cotton and nylon.

What is the life expectancy for watermarking and etching?

As long as the product lasts.

What is the benefit of using this particular method of decoration?

Cost effective, setup is free and it offers a lot of variation in composition as it can be applied to many surfaces; for example, across zips, seams and over the peak of a cap.

What is a disadvantage with using this process?

No cotton or fabric that is mixed with cotton can be used in this process.

How long does it take you to complete a project?

On average, two to three days.

On average, what is the set up and running time for each job?

The initial setup is around 15 minutes, after this the running time is very quick. Large designs can be done in minutes; small in seconds, so we can do thousands of units in one day.

Do you charge for repeat set ups?

No, setups are very simple.

Will I need to sample?

Yes, we’ll send you a photograph of the sample for approval. Any adjustments can be made easily.

What is the rejection rate?

The most common issues with laser watermarking or engraving are with artworks and the process used, it can change the size of the lines to be too fine or too bold.

What is the best file type?

Monochrome, single layer vector PDF files.

What are the print size restrictions for this process?

355mm x 355mm

Are halftones or special effects possible?

Yes, we can create halftones by increasing the dot size to around 1mm thick.

Is there a charge for handing products with this process?

Yes, unpacking and repacking the items would come at an extra charge.

What is the most popular promotional product for this process?

This service covers many different items, it’s a very versatile process. Right now, we get a lot of baseball caps.

Are PMS colours reproduced easily? Coated or uncoated?

This process creates a more tone based effect, mostly changing the colour of the original item, slightly. WIth some materials this can create interesting depth and textural effects to the item.

Should the client contact you regarding the type of material before sending it?

Yes, always. All materials have different reactions to the process.

Could you tell us about an unsuccessful decoration?

The design was too complicated. With this process simple designs look the best.

Tell us one thing distributors can pass onto client when discussing this process.

Laser printing is a fast and cheap decoration method that can work really well with other processes to add depth and texture to your product.


  • chemical contamination
  • orientation dependent
    poor repeatability based on the influences of temperature and concentration of etchant
  • undercutting
  • high cost
  • poor selectivity
  • potential radiation damage

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