Picture of Laser Etching Macintosh Powerbooks.
The appropriate files, laser settings, and methodology for putting your tattoo on your powerbook.

as this was boing boing ed a few weeks back i thought i'd show how it is done...
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Step 1: Select your artwork.

Picture of select your artwork.
any bmp, jpg, tif, dxf will do. basically any vector or pixel (bitmap) based artwork. the higher res you can do the better. i like vector because it is scale independent.

Step 2: Lay out artwork in template file.

Picture of lay out artwork in template file.
You can find here the template files (illustrator CS and illustrator 8 versions) where you can lay out your own artwork. stay out of the apple and the red zones and you will be safe. the apple is plastic (don't laser here) and the red border is the radius at edge of laptop.
You can see here the example of my kite file (dxf original) overlayed to fill fully the page and look a little like an engineer's drawing spec...

Step 3: Determine raster / vector style of work.

Picture of determine raster / vector style of work.
the wave is a cool tif or rasterable image. this means the laser treats pixels as pixels and goes side to side as it builds the image.
the kite is vector meaning the laser follows the path of each individual line and therefore much finer detail can be produced.

Step 4: Set laser speeds and feeds appropriately.

I use an epilog mini:

the nice result setting is 50%speed, 100%power for a bitmap image, 20%speed, 100% power for a vector image.

Step 5: Run and enjoy.

Picture of run and enjoy.
the end.
patwr2g9 years ago
does this process effect apples warranty in any way?
Tenkoi patwr2g5 years ago
Yes, it totally voids the warranty, as you are "defacing" the laptop
designerd7 years ago
I used a LaserPro Explorer II machine at 80% speed and 50% power. it sounds like there is a large range over which it will work fine. i also accidently cut into the apple logo and it was fine. no worries. Howard
hissyfit8 years ago
Hi- I just met with an Epilog laser rep and asked about using the laser on plastics. He said it was really dangerous to laser anything with PVC in it, because the fumes are incredibly corrosive and destroy the laser machine, and it releases extremely harmful vapor. I'm totally sad because I wanted to do this to my MacBook, but from research, it SEEMS like the MacBook cases contain PVC, to make them a little more flexible and strong. I don't know this for sure, though. Can anybody else clear up whether the plastic cases for Apple laptops contain PVC?
Hey Hissyfit, PVC when cut with a laser makes the Chlorine atoms in the polyvinyl chloride react with nacent water -H2O in the atmosphere to make H2Cl or Hydrochloric Acid. The amounts are small and is detrimental to the machine over a long period of time but for 1 or 2 jobs a month is worth the risk. Just make sure there is a carbon activated filter at the end of the vacuum pump sucking all the smoke out of the machine to trap all the harmfull chemicals. I would do it , but thats just me and I like to live on the edge.
technogal8 years ago
Thanks for the templates! For those of use who don't have access to a laser I found this vendor online: Haven't tried them so use at your own risk.
cyenobite9 years ago
good how to, but is there any advice for those of us who don't have access to a laser? Are there places that would do this if you called or just walked in? What would be the cost of doing something like this? Thanks Cyen
For those in the Los Angeles area, a new store is opening on Melrose Ave, that'll etch an image (from a library or customized) to any equipment. Check them out at for pricing info and location.

Mail order service will be available soon.
Hey, I don't know where you're located, but if you're in the minneapolis/st paul area, there is a new company that specializes in mac etching, called technology tattoo. . I don't know if they have a web site up yet, but you can call at 612.435.2113 peace!
incidentist9 years ago
Thanks to SquidLabs for letting me borrow their laser to surrealize my laptop. I used the open-source Inkscape program to make the duo-tone rendering of the Magritte painting. I spent a long time trying to trace it manually before I discovered the "trace bitmap" command, which did an amazing job. I was worried about having the laser etch so close to the apple logo, but that turned out to be a non-problem. Just create the image using a template the same size as your powerbook, and make sure to do a test run on some cardboard to avoid a singed logo.
That looks soooooo soooo awsome .....excellent idea to i would have never thought to do that (know its a painting)
sdlasertech8 years ago
Hey guys, check with an awards or trophy shop, most are using lasers in their business now days.
misstricky9 years ago
Hey there, read your article on MAKE. I was wondering where you found the 'plum blossom' artwork that was used in that article? You can email me at misstricky (at) gmail dot com. Thanks so much!
Xanthippe9 years ago
I love this idea! But how did you get access to the laser? How would anyone else be able to find one if we don't already know where to access one?
talbotron229 years ago
thanks for the tip! I used SquidLabs Epliog Mini at 100% power 100% speed to etch my powerbook with the structure of Taxol (an anti-cancer drug). It looks great. -Dylan
maybe someone could do a version for sand blasting. i know people who used steel wool to mess with th ipods (using a duct tape mask).