June 3, 2014

Ask the Plaque Maker: Etched or Cast Plaques?

cast plaques, Comparing Plaque Types, contemporary, durability, etched plaques, lobby plaques, signage, traditional

What is the difference between cast and etched plaques?

Masterwork Plaques specializes in the creation of custom-made plaques.  At our studio, these plaques can be made in two different ways: as a cast plaque or an etched plaque. 


Cast plaques are created using liquid, molten metal.  Bronze is the most popular metal used at our studio.  The metal is poured into a mold and cooled to create a solid plaque.  Cast plaques typically have raised lettering and graphics, a raised border and a recessed background with a subtle background texture. The relief on a cast plaque (the depth of the raised elements) is about 3/32", which is more substantial than on an etched plaque.

Cast bronze plaques can be used for memorial plaques, donor plaques, commemorative plaques, and many other recognition projects. You will find many cast bronze plaques installed outdoors as they are very durable and hold up in many weather conditions.  We also offer cast aluminum plaques in our studio as well.  Each plaque type has different benefits depending on where the plaque is installed. 


Our custom etched plaques are created using a chemical engraving process that allows for fine etched detail.  A special chemical eats away at a sheet of metal (our most popular etched metals are stainless steel and brass) to create a design or written text.  The metal sheet is then cut to any size you prefer.  Etched stainless steel plaques typically have recessed lettering and graphics, although they can also be created with raised lettering to mimic a cast plaque.  Etched plaques often are created without a border, and the remaining areas of the plaque are the raised, untouched metal.  The shallow, recessed letters and graphics are typically filled with a black paint (or any other color) while the remaining areas stay the true color of the metal. 

Etched stainless steel plaques and etched aluminum plaques have a more contemporary look in comparison to a cast plaque’s look which is more traditional.  Etched plaques are often used for building signage, logos and lobby plaques.  The etching process allows for thinner line-work than is possible in the casting process - but the tradeoff is that the details are created in a shallow relief (all recessed areas are only 0.1" deep).

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