Ask Difference

Carving vs. Engraving — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 17, 2024
Carving involves shaping material by removing parts, often used for sculptures and reliefs; engraving is a technique of incising designs onto hard surfaces, primarily used for detailed artwork and printing.
Carving vs. Engraving — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Carving and Engraving


Key Differences

Carving is a subtractive process where material is removed from a larger block, such as wood or stone, to create a three-dimensional object or sculpture. In contrast, engraving involves cutting or incising designs into a flat surface, often metal, to produce texts or images, especially for printing or decorative purposes.
While carving can be performed on a variety of materials including wood, stone, and ice, emphasizing the form and structure of the material, engraving is typically done on harder surfaces such as metals, glass, or stone, focusing on surface details and fine lines.
Carvers often use tools like chisels, gouges, and knives to remove material and shape their creation according to their vision. On the other hand, engravers use burins, drills, or lasers to create intricate patterns and designs that are often too small and detailed to be achieved through carving.
Carving usually results in standalone sculptures or three-dimensional reliefs that can be viewed from multiple angles, offering a physical presence in space. Conversely, engraving is often seen in fine art prints, personalized jewelry, or decorative elements on metal and glass, where detailed artwork can be appreciated up close.
The skills required for carving include an understanding of the material’s properties and a good sense of three-dimensional spatial awareness. Whereas, engraving requires precision and control to manage detailed and often delicate line work on tough surfaces.

Comparison Chart


Subtractive removal of material
Incising designs into a surface


Wood, stone, ice
Metal, glass, stone


Chisels, gouges, knives
Burins, drills, lasers


Sculptures, three-dimensional reliefs
Printed images, decorative designs


Can be detailed, focuses on 3D structure
Highly detailed, focuses on fine lines

Compare with Definitions


To shape by cutting into material.
He spent hours carving the wooden figure.


To etch designs for decorative purposes.
She engraved the glass vase with elegant flowers.


To form by cutting parts of a whole.
The artisan carved the relief directly into the wall.


To create artwork by etching into surfaces.
The printmaker engraved detailed scenes onto copper plates.


To produce designs by cutting into a surface.
She carved intricate patterns into the pumpkin.


To incise a design onto a hard surface.
He engraved the watch with a personal message.


To make or shape by cutting.
They carved their initials into the tree's bark.


To imprint by cutting or carving.
They engraved their wedding bands with their initials.


To create sculptures by removing material.
Artists carve stone into beautiful statues.


To cut or carve in order to make prints.
The artist engraved the metal plate for printing.


Carving is the act of using tools to shape something from a material by scraping away portions of that material. The technique can be applied to any material that is solid enough to hold a form even when pieces have been removed from it, and yet soft enough for portions to be scraped away with available tools.


Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings".


The cutting of material such as stone or wood to form a figure or design.


The art or technique of one that engraves.


A figure or design formed by this kind of cutting.


A design or text engraved on a surface.


(sculpture) A carved object.
The carvings on the oak panels were ancient.


An engraved surface for printing.


The act or craft of producing a carved object.
He took up carving after his retirement.
My father is an expert in carving, so we let him handle Christmas dinner.


A print made from an engraved plate or block.


Present participle of carve


(art) The practice of incising a design onto a hard, flat surface, by cutting grooves into it.


(snowboarding) Executing turns without pivoting.


(printing) The art of producing an image from an engraved printing form, typically made of copper.


The act or art of one who carves.


(countable) A print produced from an engraving.


A piece of decorative work cut in stone, wood, or other material.


(music) The art of drawing music notation at high quality, particularly on a computer.


The whole body of decorative sculpture of any kind or epoch, or in any material; as, the Italian carving of the 15th century.


Present participle of engrave


A sculpture created by carving (as wood or ivory or stone)


The act or art of producing upon hard material incised or raised patterns, characters, lines, and the like; especially, the art of producing such lines, etc., in the surface of metal plates or blocks of wood. Engraving is used for the decoration of the surface itself; also, for producing an original, from which a pattern or design may be printed on paper.


Cutting away parts to create a desired shape


That which is engraved; an engraved plate.


Creating figures or designs in three dimensions


An impression from an engraved plate, block of wood, or other material; a print.


A print made from an engraving


A block or plate that has been engraved


Making engraved or etched plates and printing designs from them

Common Curiosities

How does engraving differ from etching?

Engraving involves physically carving into the material, while etching uses chemical processes to create designs.

Can carving be automated?

Yes, carving can be automated using CNC machines which replicate designs in various materials.

What materials are commonly used in carving?

Common materials include wood, stone, and ice.

Can both carving and engraving be considered forms of art?

Yes, both are highly respected forms of visual art, each requiring specific skills and techniques.

How precise is engraving compared to carving?

Engraving allows for finer, more precise detail, especially useful in printmaking and jewelry.

What types of products are commonly carved?

Products include sculptures, decorative reliefs, and furniture.

How does the choice of material affect the outcome in carving and engraving?

In carving, the type of material affects the ease of removal and the final appearance, with softer materials like wood being easier to shape than harder ones like marble. In engraving, material choice affects the tooling and the level of detail possible, with harder materials allowing for finer, more durable lines.

Is engraving limited to artistic applications?

No, engraving is also widely used in industrial applications, such as creating serial numbers on tools and parts, and in fashion, for customizing accessories and jewelry.

What are the traditional tools for carving?

Traditional tools include chisels, knives, and gouges.

What is the main purpose of engraving?

The main purposes include creating art for prints, personalizing items, and decorative detailing.

Are there modern techniques for engraving?

Modern techniques include laser engraving, which uses lasers to achieve high precision and detail.

What safety considerations should be kept in mind when carving or engraving?

Safety in both carving and engraving involves proper handling of tools and materials. Protective eyewear is essential to guard against flying debris in carving and fine particles in engraving. Additionally, ensuring that tools are kept sharp and handled correctly minimizes the risk of accidents.

Can both carving and engraving be done by machines?

Yes, both processes can be automated. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines can carve intricate designs into wood, stone, and other materials, while laser engravers can etch extremely detailed patterns onto metals, glass, and other hard surfaces.

What is the typical learning curve for mastering carving vs. engraving?

Mastering carving generally involves learning to handle three-dimensional perspectives and the physical properties of various materials, which can be quite challenging and time-consuming. Engraving requires precision and control over fine details, demanding steady hands and patience, with a potentially steep learning curve depending on the complexity of the designs.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Curt vs. Kurt
Next Comparison
Thrash vs. Trash

Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms