Wood sandcarving

Sandcarving Multiple Surfaces

Liz Haas has been a teacher, trainer and show coordinator for Rayzist Photomask for the past 15 years. For the past 10 years, she has actively taught workshops on the photoresist and the sandcarving process.

Note: This article appears in the November 2016 edition. To ensure that you can access this and other industry focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!

The possibilities of sandcarving are endless. Sandcarving with photoresist film provides diversity with almost any surface. Rock, wood, glass, metal and more can all be etched using sandcarving. Usually when you think of sandcarving, most of us think glass and crystal. While glass and crystal look beautiful sandcarved, there are so many other surfaces that are enriched with the sandcarved look.


Glass and crystal engraving was originally accomplished through a costly and timely process known as “copper wheel engraving,” reserved for those who were the elite. Today, photoresist film makes it possible to produce text and detailed images in any quantity quickly and simply onto any glass and crystal substrate, such as crystal awards, spirit bottles, bar ware, plaques, art glass and many more.

The polished nature of these substrates allow the user to use Self-Stick photoresist film, making the process even simpler by removing the gluing steps and allowing he or she to reposition the mask whenever necessary.

Sandcarving glass and crystal allows depth that cannot be obtained by any other decorating process. Sandcarving can be done on the front or the back of the glass and crystal substrate. Viewing the etch through the glass allows the customer to see the engraving from a whole new perspective.  

Photoresist films are available in different thicknesses to achieve a surface, moderate, or deep etch while attaining detailed artwork. With a moderate to deep etch, it also gives you the opportunity to add paint inside the etch, adding value with just one additional step.


There are so many types of stone that fall under the umbrella of natural stone, and sandcarving with photoresist film can tackle all projects from small river rocks to large donation recognition walls, not to mention memorial stones.

Small stones are often used for weddings as decoration, containing scriptures or inspirational words. Because small stones have a polished surface, a Self-Stick film will work perfect for these small stones—film in 4mil or 5mil will adhere nicely to the polish surface.

Medium stones such as pet memorials, garden and river rocks, bricks, pavers, and personalized stones usually have an unpolished and irregular surface. With an unpolished surface, the Self-Stick film will not adhere properly to the surface, especially if the surface is porous. We recommend an additional adhesive, such as RZ2, or you can use SR2000 and apply adhesive. A 5mil or 6mil photoresist film will allow a medium to deep etch in stone surfaces.

Not only can you engrave smaller stones, but large boulders, stone donor walls, and laid brick walkways, as well. This requires a portable pressure pot system, as well as a compressor that can become mobile. Proper protection is recommended when using a portable pressure pot.

Memorial stones are generally created on granite. More monument businesses are moving from a vinyl- to a monument-grade photoresist film. Today, photoresist film is tough and durable enough to endure the aggressive sandcarving of a coarse abrasive and obtain fine detail. The detail in a monument photoresist film is separating monument business from those that use traditional vinyl. A 9mil or thicker can be used as a monument film, and usually additional adhesive must be applied to the photomask.

It is important to have proper application of the photomask on an irregular or porous surface (bricks and pavers). Even though there is additional adhesive on the photomask, it may not hold to the surface during blasting, especially on a curve. For best results, heat the stone with a propane torch until the surface is hot to the touch, then apply the photomask. The heat will cause the adhesive on the photomask to bond, securing the mask to the stone surface. We do not recommend applying a photomask to a cold stone surface—at least have the stone at room temperature.

 Sandcarving natural stone is really the only way you will achieve depth in these surfaces. A paint-fill application will provide contrast of the etched area. Use a paint designed for stone surfaces such as Stone Tone paint. The type of paint used is important, otherwise it may not last long in an outdoor setting. Stone Tone Monument Paint is ideal for painting stone surfaces that will be exposed to weather and outdoor elements.


Another industry that has grown in popularity, especially recently, is sandcarving on metal items. We’ve all gotten that call, “Can you engrave on my Yeti cup?” The answer is, “Yes!”

Both types of photoresist, Self-Stick and glued, will work perfect for your metal etchings. With metal, depth cannot be achieved by sandcarving. Sandcarving metal will either remove the polish, or remove the paint and/or coated surface, revealing a satin finish. Sandcarve the surface until the polish is removed, then stop sandcarving. Continued sandcarving will heat the photomask and possible leave a residue on the surface.

We prefer to use silicon carbide abrasive when sandcarving metal surfaces. Either abrasive silicon carbide or aluminum oxide will work with this particular surface; however, silicon carbide will provide a bright polish finish.

A paint-fill application is optional with sandcarved metal surfaces. Again, the photomask becomes the painting mask. Clean the surface after sandcarving with an air gun and apply paint. Multiple colors can be applied with this process.

Sandcarving metals is the fastest of any surface to sandcarve—just seconds in the blaster—and lends itself for a quick and easy way to mark your metal surfaces for best contrast, especially if there is no additional paint being applied. 


Sandcarving wood provides this beautiful material with stunning visual results, revealing the natural wood’s grain, which cannot be achieved with any other method. There are different types of woods—some are hard while others are soft and etch quickly, leaving behind a gorgeous wood grain.

Photoresist film works well for sandcarving wood surfaces. In fact, photoresist was born out of the necessity to find a better way than vinyl to engrave wood signage. It was from these roots that photoresist was later developed into a product that can engrave all substrates.

The proper photoresist film is important when sandcarving wood surfaces. For example, SR2000 with RZ2 adhesive applied, in a 5mil or 6mil thickness, is best to use for wood products. The adhesive allows the film to stick well to the wood surface, and the thicker mask allows the user to get a perfect depth that can easily be seen. For best results, spray lacquer on the wood surface before applying the photomask. The lacquer will seal the wood and protect against moisture as well as provide a bond to the adhesive on the photomask.

We recommend using aluminum oxide abrasive when sandcarving wood surfaces. We have found that the grit of silicon carbide can reflect through the paint if not completely cleaned after sandcarving.

Once the wood is sandcarved, a paint-fill application is highly recommended to provide contrast. If you do not want to add a color to the etched area, then you can apply a clear coat that will darken the image, creating a contrast. Leave the photomask on the surface and clean the etched area. The sandcarving photomask becomes the painting mask. Apply paint in light coats from different angles to cover the etched area. There are many paints available to use on this surface. Spray or airbrush applications work well with grain texture.


There are several types of paint that can be used in painting wood, metal, stone and glass. For spray paint, you can use Belton Molotow from artprimo.com. This spray paint usually takes at least a couple of hours to dry. 1 Shot paints provide excellent coverage and can be hand painted or air brushed. However, with this particular paint, you may need to allow up to 24 hours of drying time, otherwise they may not cure properly.


Sandcarving with photoresist film is a tool that gives you the ability to etch multiple surfaces with a lot of depth and detail. The film allows you to use the same process for any substrate without worrying about the curve, roughness or size of the surface. If you’re looking for a tool that can expand your business into multiple industries, sandcarving is the right tool for you!