Headstones are most commonly made of granite or bronze. Granite headstones are engraved through either a sandblasting process or an etching technique.
Etching is done by laser and removes a varying amount of black polished granite to reveal the interior gray color of the stone and create depth to form letters and designs. Sandblasting also removes material to create lettering and simple designs but does not achieve the detail laser does.
Engravers adhere a precut rubber stencil to the stone then use a sandblasting machine to remove granite material, forming letters and patterns. Laser etching uses a computerized laser machine to automatically cut the polished surface of black granite into the chosen design.
Photos of loved ones and more complex designs can be transferred to a headstone using the laser etching process. The stone's lettering and images are white to gray on a black background. The sandblasting technique uses the color of the granite as background, with relief and shadow providing the contrast required to see the design, or else the sandblasted crevices are enhanced with the addition of darker color.
- carved headstone image by Rob Hill from Fotolia.com