Engraving License Plate Blanks with Fill

I just can’t get enough of KNK ENGRAVING! These acrylic license plates are a lovely medium to work with – very easy to engrave and very striking when done.

Some license plates are a solid glossy color, while others are a mirror or reflective glossy color. The black in these photos are solid while the red are mirror-like.   Engraving License Plates


Settings (Maxx Air):

  • f = 60
  • v = 150
  • p = 3


  1. Use a very sticky mat. Place the license plate blank on the mat between pinch wheels. Use painter’s tape to ensure it will not move during the engraving. I used the grid on the mat to place my plate and to set the origin. This made it easy to turn off the machine and work on the plates at different times (unlike when you create a template to place an engraving object into).
  2. Adjust the settings for engraving. Be sure to uncheck offset.
  3. Engrave your design(s).
  4. Remove all of the shavings and clean the license plate. I used a non-ammonia glass cleaner.

Engraving on Black License Plate

The solid fill engraving shows up clearly. The first plate I engraved had only an outline and I can’t even get a clear picture of it. The solid fill makes a profound difference.

Using a Zing to Engrave a Mermaid in Scratchboard

Engraved Mermaid

For an upcoming segment on Scrapbook Soup TV, I worked collaboratively with Carole Lassak to design an “Inspiration Book” to highlight different techniques you could use with a Zing! One of the techniques we explored was engraving.

First we had to choose a material to engrave – acrylic, vellum, metal, etc. We decided to try a material I used back in grammar school; scratchboard.

Traditional scratchboard is a layer of white China clay that is coated with black India ink. Scratchboard can also be made with several layers of multi-colored clay, so the pressure exerted on the instrument used determines the color that is revealed. Scratchboard can be used to yield highly detailed, precise and even textured artwork.

Modern scratchboard comes with a paper or cardboard backing and can be found at most hobby and craft stores.

To design the file, I used Inkscape.

First, I created a fill pattern. I wanted paths (lines) and not polygons. Since the finished piece was a mermaid, I -thought swirls would be a great filling for her tail.

  • Use the Create Spirals tool to create an assortment of shapes (different sizes, etc.) that are relatively close together and as a whole, are large enough to cover the area you want to engrave.
  • Path>Combine all the individual shapes in to a single path.
  • Save the file
  • You can download my example Swirls.svg.

Next, you need a shape to fill. I found a free mermaid stained glass pattern on VIT-MAR (www.stainedglass.on.ca) and used Inkscape again to create an SVG file from it.

To “fill” portions of the pattern with the swirls, do the following in Inkscape:

  • Open the SVG file for the main image
  • File>Import the fill pattern SVG (e.g. Swirl). Make sure it’s a single path – not a group. By default, Inkscape will pull the file in as a group, so you’ll need to Object>Ungroup it to get it back to a path.
  • Place the main image is below the fill pattern (e.g. Swirl) using Object>Lower To Bottom.
  • Move the swirl pattern over the main image
  • Select the two paths (the main image and the swirl pattern) and then select Path>Division. This will cut the swirl pattern to the shape of the main image.
  • Be sure you grab the “pieces” of the area you just filled and Path>Combine them in to a single path.

Repeat these steps as often as necessary to “fill” your main image. I like to drag portions of my main image off to the side, fill them there, and then drag them in to place (like in the sample screenshots).  I sometimes fill the shapes with color so they are easier to see that they are below the fill pattern (yellow in the sample screenshots). Click on an image to enlarge it.

 Zing Engraving - Step 1  Zing Engraving - Step 2 Zing Engraving - Step 3 Zing Engraving - Step 4
The main image and the fill pattern The main image below the fill pattern The pattern “cut out” in the shape of the main image The patterned piece placed back in to the main image

I also took portions of the mermaid and Path>Inset areas repeatedly to create another fun fill effect.

For the final piece, I imported the SVG file in to Make The Cut and worked with it in layers.

For the first pass, I used a layer to engrave the scratchboard. Use a very light pressure setting so you only remove the top coating of ink on the board and don’t tear up the clay layer. I used the Zing! Engraving Tool. I expected there to be a lot of dust, but since you’re only scratching through ink, I didn’t notice any!!

After engraving, switch to the Thick Material Blade and cut out the silhouette of the main image, using a second layer.

When you’re done, you’ll have a wonderful engraved piece reminiscent of the engravings done in the 19th century in Britain and France!

You can see more of my projects on my blog on Create & Craft.

Happy Crafting!