Laser Engraving Principles: Positives versus negatives

Richard Korbyl manages the family business, Columbia Awards, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has been involved with the awards industry for over 20 years. If you have any questions or comments, contact Richard at 1-780-438-3266 or

Keep asking yourself: what will happen when the laser burns? After I am done, will the laser-engraved graphics be white, silver, dark brown, or some other color?

For acrylic, when the laser fires, the engraved image will end up being a whitish frosted image. For wooden plaques, when the laser burns, the engraved graphics will likely be a darker image. If you are applying color to the photo, what color is the paint? Will that paint be a dark color or a light color?

There are many questions that need to be answered, but there is a simple way of deciding whether you engrave using a positive or negative image. Usually, if the engraved graphics will be darker than the surrounding area, I will use a positive image. If the engraved area is lighter than the surrounding area, I usually use a negative image.

—Richard Korbyl, Columbia Awards