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Engraving Headstone Inscriptions

Engraving Headstone Inscriptions

When going through the process of having a headstone crafted, there are several choices that one must make. Such as selecting the stone type, color of granite, design, and shape of the headstone. In addition, one will also need to make decisions regarding the lettering and engraving style, as well as, the text style that will be used for the inscription. Selecting the inscription and engraving style, may seem trivial; however, the text style and engraving method used for the lettering can have a huge impact on the look and feel of the finished headstone.

Selecting A Headstone Engraving Style

The task of selecting an engraving style can be unnerving. However, rest assured an experienced monument dealer will be able to recommend the best style or method options based off a few determining factors:

• The type of stone being used for the monument.
• The color of the stone.
• The font or text style chosen.
• The longevity, or the number of years that the inscription will remain legible without maintenance.

These are just a few of the talking points that should be discussed with one’s monument dealer before coming to a final decision.

Letter Engraving Styles

Most monument companies offer a few different styles for letter engraving. We have provided a few here, with some short brief descriptions; however, there are many styles to choose from.

Standard Engraved Lettering

The standard engraving style is the most common choice, and this style works great on both marble and granite headstones. It is not uncommon for monument engravers to carve this style extra deep into the stone, especially with marble and granite, to ensure the endurance of the engraving. After the lettering has been engraved, it is often painted to help the inscription stand out. Painting the lettering is of course optional but, one might see this technique used on a black granite headstone where the inscription has been painted white, giving it a vibrant and bold appearance.

Raised Polished Lettering

This engraving style provides a 3D look to the stone and lettering. The raised polished look is accomplished by carving, or sandblasting, the area out around the lettering, while leaving the polish on the lettering. The end result, is lettering that is higher than the surrounding stone, creating a desirable contrast between the inscription and the surrounding stone.

Deep Cut Lettering in Sanded Panel

This style is somewhat similar to the raised polished lettering, just inverted. When engraving deep cut in a sanded panel the background is carved or sandblasted away. Then the lettering is engraved into the background using the standard engraving style. This look provides a deeper appearance and works great on granite.

V-Cut Lettering

V-Cut engraving is the traditional style of hand carving lettering into stone. It is a more difficult style of letter engraving, that is accomplished by hand chiseling the lettering into the stone. This engraving style can be used on marble, granite, sandstone, and slate headstones. This style leaves a deep “V” cut in the stone, which is easily recognized as the finished engraving looks like the letter “V” in the cross section. One can optionally have the engraving gilded, painted, or left with its natural cut finish. However, due to advancements in technology and the difficulty of this particular engraving style, very few monument companies still offer V-Cut engraving. Therefore, one should ask to see an example of work completed by the monument company, to ensure the cuts are deep and not just painted to give it the appearance.

Here is a great video, demonstrating V-Cut engraving on Granite.

Headstone Text Styles

When it comes to selecting a text style, or font, for a headstone inscription the possibilities are endless. There are literally 1000’s of font options available; however, when selecting the font for a headstone one will want to consider readability. For example, certain fonts may not be as legible when used for smaller text. It is also, common practice to mix two fonts together to make the inscription easier on the eyes. Here are just a few commonly used fonts, of course personal preference is a major factor in selecting a headstone text style.


This font is a beautiful way to give the message a more personal touch.


Serif font adds a small feature to the edge points of each letter, giving it a more elegant look. Works well on smaller areas.

San Serif

Does not include the small feature, which gives this font a simple modern look, great for large monuments.


The Gothic text style originated in the 12th century and is also commonly known as Old English. This font does provide a more decorative look, with a little bit of an old-world classical feel. This font style is also a great choice for use with the inscription, “In loving memory”.

Selecting the lettering style and font, or text style, for a headstone or burial monument is an important part of the processes. With so many options available it is best to work with a trusted monument dealer that can provide examples of completed work and any needed assistance with making these often-difficult choices.

Here at Columbia Gardens Memorials our staff is highly trained in the art of headstone engraving. We offer a large variety of letter engraving styles and have years of experience working with families, to craft beautiful lasting tributes to the lives of their loved ones. Please, call us today at 703-527-7774 with any questions or enquiries you might have. Our friendly staff is more than happy to assist you with any and all of your memorial and monument needs. From custom design, to engraving, and installation we have the experts to get the job done right.

Columbia Gardens Memorials is located in Arlington, VA and serves the Greater Washington D.C. area.

Antiquary [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons


1 thought on “Engraving Headstone Inscriptions”

  1. It’s nice to know that standard engraving is the most common choice, and that ir works on headstones in a variety of materials. My grandma passed away recently, and my family wants to make sure that we can properly honor her with an engraved headstone. We’ll be sure to look further into our options for getting one in the future.

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COVID-19 Update

We are continuing to practice social distancing and following CDC guidelines, to protect our community and staff. However, we are open and available to serve you. Todd and our engravers are back on premises working and we are accepting appointments during our normal operating hours. To schedule an appointment with us please call our office at (703) 527-7774 or email us at

Thank you for your understanding during this time. – The Columbia Gardens Memorials Staff