Can leather be laser engraved?

For many designers, makers and hobbyists, getting a new laser cutter is the way to start a new leather goods business.

But if you’re new to laser technology, you might not be sure whether a atomstack laser engraver is the right tool for the job. Can you even laser engrave leather?

ATOMSTACK S40 Pro Laser Engraver

Yes, you can definitely laser engrave leather! In fact, leather is becoming one of the most popular materials, especially if you own a CO2 laser engraver.

With the right type of leather and router settings (which we discuss below), you can engrave or cut precise designs and intricate patterns for a variety of leather goods and accessories.

Laser Engraving Leather: The Basics
As you may know, laser engraving is a process that uses a laser beam to etch, engrave or cut images or text on the surface of a material. Leather is a suitable material for this process because the laser can burn or vaporize the surface of the leather away from the cutting path to create a permanent (and repeatable) design.

The laser can be set to different power levels (watts) to achieve different levels of engraving depth and darkness, and the final design, pattern or text will be clean and precise.

It is important to note that the laser engraving process generates heat and may cause discolouration or slight charring of the leather. It is also important to choose the type of leather that is suitable for laser engraving, as some leathers may be too thick or soft to produce good results. Laser Engraver for Leather

Note: If you are using „faux“ or synthetic leather, be aware that the fumes can be harmful. It is recommended to check with the product manufacturer to ensure that these materials are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), as it can be harmful to both you and your laser engraver.

Which type of leather is best for laser engraving?

Before you start cutting designs into raw or processed leather, it’s important to consider which leather you want to use for your laser engraving project.

Not all types of leather are created equal. Depending on the quality, style and composition of the leather itself, some will be inherently thicker and denser than others.

Different types of leather often require different laser intensity and depth settings.

For example, cowhide is a thicker leather that requires higher laser power (wattage) and slower movement speeds for effective engraving.

On the other hand, lambskin is a lighter, thinner leather than thicker leather materials and does not require as high a laser power setting.

There are four main categories of leather (I recommend trying different types depending on the goals of your laser design project):

Full Grain Leather – Full grain leather is the highest quality leather, made from the top layer of animal hide that has not been sanded, buffed, or otherwise altered to remove any imperfections.
Top Grain Leather – Top Grain Leather is also made from the top layer of animal hide, but is sanded and buffed to remove imperfections and create a smooth, even surface. It’s also thinner and more flexible than full-grain leather, and generally more uniform in color and grain (making it a good material for laser engraving projects).
Corrected grain (bottom/cut split leather) – also known as „genuine leather“, this is a natural material made from animal hides that has been tanned and treated for a variety of products including apparel, accessories and furniture .
Bonded Leather – Also known as recycled leather, this is the lowest quality leather made from leftovers from raw hides.
Another important factor to consider when choosing the ideal type of leather for your laser engraving project is the color of the leather itself. Laser Engraving Ideas

Different colors absorb and react to the laser and emitted light, so require different settings and produce different results.

For example, black leather absorbs a lot of light, which makes it easier to engrave than other colors. Different shades of white reflect more light and are therefore inherently more difficult to engrave effectively.

NOTE: Many manufacturers find that the best type of leather is vegetable tanned leather. This type of leather is tanned using natural tannins found in bark, leaves, or other plants.

I’ve found it to be more durable and resistant to fading or discoloration, and it’s relatively easy to cut and engrave, with minimal fumes. Although the smell might be a bit strong at first. But still better than chemically treated leather.

Best Types of Laser Machines for Leather Cutting and Engraving

Another important factor to consider is the type of laser machine you will be using for your leather engraving project. Frame Laser Engraver

There are many different types of laser machines on the market today. Some will be more efficient or practical for certain applications, and their relative strengths and weaknesses should be considered.

The most common and arguably the best type of laser for leather engraving is the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser.

Leather is much thicker than many other materials typically used for laser engraving, so a machine that can generate enough power to achieve the desired results is required.

CO2 lasers typically have a power output potential of 40 watts or more, which is about the recommended power needed for leather engraving. Depending on whether you wish to achieve surface engraving or deeper leather engraving, you will need to adjust the power setting of the laser accordingly.

Diode lasers are known to be far less powerful than CO2 lasers and generally cannot produce the wattage required to properly engrave or cut leather products. However, you can use a diode laser to etch designs and create marks on leather goods.