I want to make more realistic looking rotary engraved design mockups on a copper surface for clients but can't seem to get it quite right. I might need a new approach and could definitely use some perspective.

Details: I produce mockups/new designs within my engraving software, and export them as a PDF which can then be placed within photoshop over an image of the copper item I'm going to engrave. While it gives a good representation of what the design looks like, it doesn't convey what it will look like when finally engraved onto the material.

Basically, I'm trying to get the design on the second image, looking far more like the design in the first image.

Any help would be much appreciated! Example images are below showing, A photo of a finished engraving, the image I use in photoshop:

Line art to be used within photoshop

The blank item

  • Could you provide a section of the line art as it comes from your software? It is hard to explore the possibilities with these images. – user45605 Jan 14 '16 at 20:38
  • I have uploaded a section of line art here puu.sh/mvQZH/37716b53f8.jpg . Thank you. – Billy Jan 14 '16 at 21:48

You are pretty close with the bevel options but there are a couple of things I would change

The main difference is using an Inner Bevel and changing the highlight color. I went with a more subtle highlight color that is not as jarring. I also changed the shadow to a dark brown as that would most likely be around the color.

bevel options

I think you can get better results but this is working with a jpg image instead of a vector file.


Etching Result

  • Don't forget to add the (mirrored) line art to the reflection as well! In some cases, like this one, it could be visible. – oelna Apr 15 '18 at 11:39

I suggest the following:

  1. Take the line art and invert it, with white lines on black
  2. Make sure that black is truly black and white is truly white using Curves on this layer, no grays will help
  3. On the channels panel Ctrl-Click on the RGB channel to load the luminosity as selection
  4. Add a blank layer and while the selection is active fill it with whit
  5. Change the blend mode to "Screen", now you have white lines on copper plate below
  6. Then try the special effects, Emboss, even drop shadow

Starting with black lines will not produce engraving illusion since the engraved area will reflect the light appearing brighter than the surface. You may even duplicate the new layer with white lines on it and invert it to make a layer with black lines and then slightly shifting its position by a pixel or two to create dark edges. Of course you need to change the blend mode of this layer from screen to darken and place it below the first layer you created.


I am adding an image and a link, the image shows the effect I envision and it is a little over the top just to show the result. There is also a link to a PSD file with the layers and effects applied to them.

The PSD file: https://copy.com/twvlX9ty8Qzx8Nqa

enter image description here


I think the first approach to try is using the "Bevel & Emboss" feature in the Layer Styles window. Open this dialog window by double clicking on the layer you want (if you open a PDF in Photoshop, the only layer will be "Background", in which case you'll have to double-click on it once to unlock that layer, then again to open the Layer Styles dialog box).

There are many variables in the Bevel & Emboss section that will achieve the look you're seeking, but I don't know how well it will work on some of the very fine linework you have in your design.

  • Thank you for your reply! puu.sh/mvCKI/f59e14fc86.jpg It is certainly a move in the right direction as you can see, however as you pointed out, I feel where I'm having issues is with the fine linework. Also, the design itself remains essentially a black outline, rather than detail catching light. – Billy Jan 14 '16 at 18:31

This is a 5 years old case, but something can still be added.

At first a bad joke that has waited 5 years to be written:

If one searches the web marketplaces for carved copper plates he soon founds that many of them, especially those which contain fine drawings, are made for printing. Some ink is still visible in the grooves because the grooves would not stand powerful cleaning. The accepted answer seemingly covers this fact, but I would still make one minor change:

enter image description here

Some actual info.

Now it's a little too late ask for a real photo of your real engraving. It would have been useful as a goal what should be predicted by starting from an image of untouched metal plate and your line drawing. I must make some guesses. The first guess is that you want glossy, like manually engraved grooves (see NOTE1) and the result should present them with good contrast, but still as copper. Dirty looking black shadows nor pure white glosses (due the limitations of RGB color system) are not wanted. The result should be like the lights were set with photographer's best effort.

Here's some grooves on a plate which reflects like polished metal and is colored to reddish brown. They are drawn in a 3D CAD program - only a simple one, nothing ultra complex stuff like Maya or Blender. But but at least it shows what can easily be got in a computer when screen resolution is enough and less than photorealistic rendering can be accepted:

The vieving direction and the rotating position of the plate are selected so that the quite large bright light source doesn't make straight on the face reflections on the untouched surface, but grooves have as much gloss as possible. I guess you expect the same.

enter image description here

The grooves are equally wide, but V- and U-profile grooves look wider. That's because the flat bottom grooves cannot be glossy if the untouched surface must not have glossy areas. I guess your grooves are something between the V and U.

Your drawing is quite dense when compared to its resolution. Our copy is also blurry and full of JPG noise. I guess you have a non-blurry noiseless PNG version, but there's many only 3 px wide gaps in your drawing and your black bitmap line is 1 px wide. We can decide that we cannot make especially high resolution shadings to the grooves which we generate from your drawing. The max line width can be only 3 px. Transparency at the line edges fortunately give a little more playground.

My grooves are 15 px wide in the rendered image. If we scale it down we can see that 2..3 px wide lines still can be (with a little imagination) considered to have some depth:

enter image description here

So it's useful to try to generate a shaded groove from your 1 px wide line.

As said, our copy of your drawing is blurry and full of JPG noise. Many close lines have melted together and look wide grey blur. Showing the method with our copy of your drawing is not plausible.

I made my own rudimentary line drawing in illustrator with 1 px line width and pasted it to Photoshop. It's distorted to fit the perspective of your copper plate photo:

enter image description here

Zoom in shows that lines are no more 1 px wide. Anti-aliasing has made lines blurry. It resembles what we can see in your drawing.

enter image description here

It's not originally drawn as pixel perfect and distorting it for the perspective increased the blur. If possible, one shouldn't scale nor distort bitmap images which have this dense details. But fortunately there's no noise.

We do not use layer style Bevel&Emboss nor filter Stylize > Emboss to generate the shading. They are said several times in other answers, so we try something else.

Make a duplicate of the drawing layer and adjust its color to full white with the curves.

enter image description here

Move the white layer content 1px downwards and 1 px to left:

enter image description here

Move the copper plate layer on the top and give to it blending mode =Color:

enter image description here

There's too much black and full white. Antialiasing transparency generates some intermediate shades. You can balance these colors by inserting a curves layer. Reduce full black and white and increase the amount of light copper:

enter image description here

It maybe isn't a good idea to take any color to the drawing from the copper plate photo, because it's also a noisy image. In theory the engraved lines are pure copper and thus earn own pure colors. That can be got by placing the line layers on top with blending mode =Normal and adjusting the bright and dark color to resemble copper.

enter image description here

Anti-alias transparency creates a good amount of intermediate colors also in this case, but to keep it bright enough reduce the opacity of the dark layer.

In this case the difference isn't dramatic between this and the previous method:

enter image description here

It's easy to think that in Illustrator or other vector drawing program you use the simple "2 separate drawings" method without blur, everything will be razor sharp. Envelope distortions can be used to fit the shapes and texts with a single click into the perspective of your copper plate photo with zero extra blur:

enter image description here

But the computer renders it to raster image to display it. The result is a little sharper, but not radically different than the bitmap version:

enter image description here

A zoom in view of the screenshot above reveals it's full of blur caused by antialiasing:

enter image description here

Placing your drawing as a fake engraving onto your copper plate starts by scaling the plate image bigger so that there's no reason to make the drawing smaller. Its 1 px line width cannot be squeezed, the only result would be blur:

enter image description here

The next step is to lift the contrast with curves. Some intermediate greys are needed to keep the image together:

enter image description here

The white should be converted to transparency. One way to do it is to use the negated image as its own layer mask. But as well you can select color range, pick the white and insert some fuzziness:

enter image description here

Pressing DEL removes white and most greys:

enter image description here

Make a duplicate layer and apply Image > Adjust > Invert to get a bright version. Move it 1 px downwards and 1 px to the left:

enter image description here

Move the copper plate layer to top and give to it blending mode =Color. Insert a curves layer above the line drawings to adjust the darkness and brightness of the parts of the lines:

enter image description here

You want to distort the drawing to the right perspective. Link its layers in the layers panel, goto Edit > Transform > Distort and drag the corners. This generates new anti-alias blur and you must to readjust the curve:

enter image description here

The shading of the groove isn't well visible when the image is zoomed out. If you close the dark layer you get some light boost. It can look attractive because you get more light without making the groove white. But if someone zooms in he sees there's no shading, the image looks painted on the plate with a light color.

NOTE1: The preceding story assumed clean grooves. There's also another style to make engravings. One can use "burring tools" which rotate or do high frequency chiseling. They make highly non-uniform groove bottoms and create powder-like gloss effect:

enter image description here

This "burred" groove simulation takes its color from the copper plate photo like above, but the lines are simply masked black and white noise. It contains randomly pixels between black and white. It can be made by inserting 100% monochrome noise to solid 50% grey layer. Here's the line pattern with noise:

enter image description here

The extras can be removed by inserting the line pattern as white on black to the layer mask or by making a selection and deleting.

The unfortunate fact is that the line cannot be as narrow as with clean grooves. If there's less than 4 px wide noise lines they easily start to look disintegrating, because random blacks or nearly blacks have a good possibility to make wide enough clusters.

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