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Laser Engraving My MacBook Pro

Yesterday I got my 17" MacBook Pro laser engraved, and I'm extremely excited about the results:

Engraving Finished

Overall the process is actually fairly simple - the artwork gets loaded into CorelDraw (oh how we were missing Illustrator) and then you print the design just like any other document. The printer driver allows you to select the settings for the laser engraver such as power, resolution, and dithering modes. After a test run on paper to ensure everything was lined up properly, we etched directly onto the laptop.

Engraving Close-Up

The hardest part was picking out and customizing the artwork. It is permanent, and as such the task of choosing artwork made me feel like I was getting a tattoo. Because I earn my living as a Flash Developer and I spend much of my day working on my laptop, the design had to be something I was sure would stand the test of time. For that reason I decided to choose something that had a retro feel, but also a bit organic and edgy. I think that was accomplished with this design, and once the process was finished I felt I had chosen correctly.

Engraving Close-Up 2

A big thanks to Joe at Engrave here in Portland, Oregon for spending a few hours helping me get everything perfect. Joe posted a few photos we took (including the two above) to his Flickr account last night, and the design is already getting some great feedback.

Update: Here's a short video I shot with my small Canon Powershot last night of the laser in action:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.jonnymac.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/engraving_video.swf" height="340" width="400" /]

Update 2: Looks like someone posted this to Digg! Also, I've gotten a few emails asking about the artwork. It is an illustration I found on iStockPhoto, which I then put a few hours into customizing. So yes, it is unique, but you can find a similar illustration on iStockPhoto.

Null is Love » Blog Archive » Laser-Engraved MacBook said,

May 31, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

[…] More details. […]

Ryan said,

May 31, 2007 @ 2:46 pm


Daniel said,

June 6, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

Please send me a copy of your illustration – it is beautiful. I would very much like to work on it further for a tattoo. Well done.
Dan – from OZ.

jonnymac said,

June 7, 2007 @ 8:19 am

Heya Daniel,

Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions on the file I started out with I cannot just email you the file. You can, however, purchase the artwork which I used as the base for mine from iStockPhoto (http://tinyurl.com/2le6cr) for about $5.

Hope this helps!

Maurits Breedveld said,

June 12, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

with what type of laser it has been engraved i would like to know.

jonnymac said,

June 12, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

Maurits – I have no clue what type of specific laser was used, but you can always contact Joe at Engrave (http://www.engraveyourtech.com/) and ask him. I’m sure he’d let you know what type of machine he is using.

iUnikat said,

July 9, 2007 @ 11:02 am

[…] pod wzglÄ™dem wyglÄ…du. Takiej modyfikacji swojego MacBooka Pro dokonaÅ‚ jeden z amerykaÅ„skich mac userów firma, której tÄ™ czynność zleconÄ… wykonaÅ‚a grawerowanie wybranego wzoru za pomocÄ… lasera, a […]

Marie said,

September 17, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

Hey Johnny!

I love what you did! It’s so cool and definitely makes your mac unique. I might be visiting a friend in oregon so I was wondering… can you let us know how much it approximately cost to do this? THANKS!

Jon MacDonald said,

September 17, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

Marie – You can find pricing for the etching services on their website at http://www.engraveyourtech.com.

Nate said,

October 19, 2007 @ 9:55 am

Gonna be pretty hard for anyone to steal THAT laptop now! :-)

Jason said,

October 20, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

is there any places in australia that will do that??
jason_spazza [at ] hotmail [dot] com

tell me if anyone knows

Nicki said,

October 23, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

Hey, I work at a laser engraving shop and have been wanting to engrave my macbook pro as well. is there any chance you can find me the epilog settings? I would hate to distroy my computer

Jon MacDonald said,

October 23, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

Nicki — You’ll want to contact Joe at EngraveYourTech.com, as I have no idea what the settings were. Hope this helps!

Cane Masters said,

October 24, 2007 @ 7:40 am

I laser burn wooden canes, but have burned laptops, ipods, and even fingernails!
For wood, our 25 watt Universal Laser System (Versalaser) engraver is set to 45% power on 100% speed. For plastic, and ipods, I lower the power to 15% power and 100% speed. It doesnt take much to take the anodized coating off the ipods. Sometimes, the laptops require 2 passes, but not often.

Where can I get these stencils at? I’d love to play with them on a few friends laptops and post the results.

Cane Masters

Michael said,

October 26, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

That is nice, great design and it compliments the Macbook.

Jeff said,

October 31, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

Does this void the warranty?

Jon MacDonald said,

October 31, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

No, it does not techincally void the warranty. In fact, I had to have the lid replaced on my MBP due to an issue with the screen, and the Apple Store here in Portland fixed it without issue. In fact, I even went and got it re-engraved with the exact same design after it was replaced. Your mileage may vary, but it does not technically void the warranty.

Sussex web designer said,

November 9, 2007 @ 8:15 am

Thats very cool, did you get it done in the UK?

tattoo forum said,

November 17, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

thats a great design. very cool

sam said,

November 18, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

wonder how much that is…

Andrew said,

November 19, 2007 @ 12:13 am

That’s a cool design, I like it…but I hope you never expect Apple to service that portable under its limited warranty or AppleCare Protection Plan.

Jon thom said,

November 19, 2007 @ 9:12 am

“Overall the process is actually fairly simple – the artwork gets loaded into CorelDraw (oh how we were missing Illustrator)”

Why did you not use Illustrator?

Jon MacDonald said,

November 19, 2007 @ 9:25 am

@Jon thom: Apparently the laser etching machine only allows you to connect with CorelDraw. I do wish we could have used Illustrator, however.

Jon MacDonald said,

November 19, 2007 @ 9:35 am

@Andrew: Actually, I have already had my MacBook Pro serviced by the local Apple store without issue. It is no different then you bringing in a MacBook with a scratched lid/case.

Pat said,

November 23, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

The Universal Laser mentioned by Cane Master accepts input from any graphic software, Corel, Illustrator, Photoshop even AutoCad. The Versalaser is a desktop model. Your PowerBook design is very well done. It is much better than the typical dragon and skull engraving chosen by the gamers.


John Sessa said,

December 7, 2007 @ 11:32 am

I just have to KNOW!
I use a GRAVOGRAPH LS100 at work and I was wondering, what settings do you use to engrave plastics, such as an iPod case, a laptop, maybe even a cell phone, things of that nature.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!



Ludovic said,

December 16, 2007 @ 7:59 am

Hello all.

We’ve a gravograph LS100 30W too at work and wanted to know what are the settings to engrave plastics ipod’s, laptop and cell phones too. Such as John.

Does anyone have an idea ?

Thank you,


Tattoo Design said,

December 17, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

That is an awesome design. You are right it is just like getting a tattoo. The designs are not removable once it is done.

Jenny said,

December 25, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

Oh wow thats hot. I wonder if I could get that done to my HP laptop. xD

George said,

January 31, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

It can be done with a CO2 Laser. I have one, and the settings are not always the same. Besides depending on the wattage of the laser, and the laser itself (older laser tubes need more power) the main consideration in the artwork and the effect you want on the materials. I have been able to even etch pictures on MacBook Pros. I should post some pictures some time. If anybody is interested, I am in the Los Angeles Area. Drop me a line at george -at- t7packaging -dot- com.

Zachary said,

May 22, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

hey, can you give me the phone number of this engrave your tech place? they dont have one on their website and they wont return my emails.

Jon MacDonald said,

May 22, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

@Zachary: Sorry, I don’t have a phone number for them.

NaX said,

May 26, 2008 @ 8:53 am

hi! i’m a student from spain!i work with mac and i have a new macbook pro!…..can you give me some information about this engraving system please. If you know anyone who make this engravings send me an email (ignasifabregues@hotmail.com) or give me a web adress please! And congratulations your macbook it’s fantastic……
ahh…excuse me…can you chose your prefer image for engraving?THANK YOU

dude said,

August 2, 2008 @ 8:54 am

All I can say is WOW, this is an amazing idea and an equally amazing job! What a brilliant idea. I’m going to forward this to all my mac friends like straight away (and those who really really like their laptops even though they aren’t macs). I guess, with technology, you want to spend the money on something you’re going to be using for a long time; this might be hard with technology. But this is still a great idea. Hope it wasn’t too expensive, as I’m sure a lot of my friends would love to do this!

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