The Difference Between Printing & Anodising, Etching & Embossing on Metal Nameplates

There are many ways that information and designs can be transferred onto a metal nameplate, each with its own benefits and features.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell what the differences are, and unless you are in the industry, it is likely that you do not know how anodising, etching and embossing differ from each other. Both embossing and etching create a 3D design on the surface of the metal, whereas printing/anodising is a 2D method, however, they all create results vastly unlike each other.

Let’s take a look at the differences and help you to decide which metal marking method is the best for your nameplate needs.

Printing and Anodising 

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Printing and anodising is a process of sealing the design of the nameplate into the metal. This makes for a very durable and long-lasting finish but is also affordable. This finish is typically used for serial and rating plates but can be just as effective to highlight your brand on the nameplate. Although the most widely used colour on a nameplate like this is black, other colours are available with the anodising process. Adding colours will highlight a particular element of a nameplate, such as a logo or company name.


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Embossing is a process that changes the physical shape of the metal. The most common way to emboss a metal nameplate is to use an embossing tool in a hydraulic press. The hydraulic press then presses the tool into the back of the metal nameplate which raises the front surface. This is what gives the 3D effect to the area that has been embossed or raised. Embossing allows you to keep the metal at the same thickness throughout the finished product, as the shape is physically changed rather than thickness altered.

A gloss finish metal is usually used when embossing because it’s the light reflecting from the embossed area which gives the 3D effect. This is why it’s always recommended to keep the embossed (raised) area a gloss metal colour while the rest of the nameplate is coloured.



Etching metal as a form of art has been around for centuries. Etching is thought to have begun around the middle ages, although the roots of the art form could date back even further. Etching refers to when the surface of the metal is treated with chemicals, typically acid, which leaves an impression on the surface. First, the metal is given a protective coat over any area not being etched, and then the areas to be etched are eroded away leaving a recessed surface of metal bare. The etched surface can be left a metal colour or it can be coloured by dying. There are two common etched effects on a metal nameplate. The first is to etch the text or detail and leave the background on the nameplate. The second is to etch the background and leave the text or detail.

Etching produces a highly decorative nameplate that suits being applied to a wide range of products, from point of sale displays to vehicle interiors.

These three processes may seem exclusive; however, they can actually be used in combination with each other to create endless possibilities of designs to please the eye. For example, printing and embossing can be combined to create colourful 3D designs that demand attention.

Contact the experts at LNI  for advice on how you can best convey your designs onto metal.

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