Can you laser engrave leather?

Can you laser Engrave Leather? From garments like jackets to stationery and novelty items, leather is a material that adds a touch of finesse and class. But nothing adds sophistication to your leather items than adding a personalized laser engraved image or quote.

Can you laser engrave leather?

The answer is yes, you can! As long as you have the appropriate laser engraver, you can engrave on almost all types of leather items. Engraving on leather will add to its perceived value so it can be a great business idea but you can also do it to make unique and memorable gifts for your loved ones

Engraving leather results in a debossed effect and produces a clean contrast on the leather surface. Engraving on darker leather results in more contrast while it produces less color contrast on light-colored leathers.

Results are dependent on the leather you are working with as well as the laser you have; i.e. its speed, power, and frequency settings. You may want to test your laser machine with different parameters until you achieve your desired results.

With a laser machine you can easily “burn“ image files into leather and then color them to achieve a chic look and feel. To facilitate subsequent coloring of the lasered surface, a film may be glued which burns during the laser process.

Before the film is peeled off, the leather can then be colored in the recesses without coloring un-lasered areas. Also, leather with hair and fur can be patterned by laser. This technique is usually applied to cowhide leather.

Examples of leather products you can engrave on

You can use your laser engraver to come up with all manner of designs on all kinds of products. Here are just some examples to give you some inspiration.

  • Bracelets
  • Belts
  • Shoes
  • Purses
  • Wallets
  • Briefcases
  • Leather outfits
  • Office products

In this video you will learn how to make money laser engraving leather with a diode laser.

The best laser engraver for engraving leather products?

The following are the best laser machines for engraving and cutting leather.

  • Genmitsu LE5040 CNC Laser Engraver
  • Mini Handheld Laser Etcher
  • DIY CNC Desktop Laser Engraver
  • MySweety DIY CNC 3018PRO-M
For a detailed review of each of them, visit my buying guide here

Types of leather you can engrave on

  • Synthetic leather

Laser engraving on natural leather, suede, and rough leather works well. It works equally well when engraving and cutting leatherette or nubuck and suede leather or microfiber materials, such as Alcantara (Ultrasuede).

However, you need to enquire from the manufacturer as synthetic leather often contains PVC compounds. Processing PVC using a laser engraver can result in the addition of dangerous gases. So, to be on the safe side, you may want to stick with natural leather unless if you know what you are doing.

  • Suede leather

Suede leather tends to stain, but that can be dealt with by using coat sprays to add an extra layer of stain resistance. But sometimes, this side-effect might actually work in your favor. For instance, if you are going for a rustic look, you can just work with the stains and artistically incorporate them as part of your design.

  • Genuine leather

Genuine leather is a natural material, and countless types respond differently to laser processing. Therefore, it is difficult to decide general rules for processing. But as a rule of thumb, reduce the laser power when working with genuine leather that is twisted or out of shape. There is no one-size-fits-all so you might have to experiment with your machine until you find your sweet spot.

In the below YouTube Video you will learn how to laser cut and engrave leather and hide with a CO2 Laser for the best results.

What options do you have when engraving on leather:

Depending on what you are trying to achieve and what kind of leather you are working, you’ll have three main options;

  • Laser cutting leather – laser cutting is particularly well suited for projects where fine, precise cutting is needed. Make sure you have a laser engraver that is suited for cutting leather.
  • Laser engraving leather – if you are looking to achieve an embossed look, then you want to engrave as opposed to cutting your leather. The result will depend on your leather – some leather types will turn darker while others will turn lighter.
  • Laser engraved die stamp with laser-cut inlay – This process is used for embossing texture and images into the leather using unheated means.

Things to remember when engraving leather

  • When engraving leather, take note that natural leather won’t create a great contrast. So, you may want to get creative like say, gluing a film on the material before engraving it. Also, you may want to go for deep and thick leather in order to achieve a sharper contrast (or more precisely, a deeper embossed feeling).
  • Leather also produces an unpleasant odor when it burns. That’s because leather typically comes from animal hides. Additionally, some synthetic leathers have materials like PVC in them which could produce toxic gases during the laser engraving process. It is, therefore, a good idea to ensure that you are in a spacious and well-ventilated room. Check out our recommendations for laser exhaust fans here.
  • Remember to use safety goggles to protect your eyes. The laser beam can seriously damage your eyes or even burn your skin so be careful when using it. It can also create flames so monitor your leather cutting.

Fume Extraction

No matter what materials you intend cutting its always recommended to invest in a fume extractor not only for the health benefits but also to protect your laser from contamination and corrosion.

OMTech does a fantastic range of laser fume extractors that will get the job done. We have tested the OMTech XL-300 Fume Extractor with 5 stage air filter which we use for our large CO2 Laser and we can confidently recommend this product.

Final Thoughts

Your engraving results are mostly dependent on the type of leather used as well as the parameters, laser speed, power, and frequency settings. We always recommend testing different parameters until you achieve the best results and don’t forget to make a note of your parameters for future reference.