How Much Does It Cost to Letter a Headstone?

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on January 27, 2022

A personalized headstone is intended to honor the personality and passions that made your loved one unique. Thoughtful features like photos and headstone lettering are just a few ways to pay tribute to your loved one through their memorial. 

And while the internet is a great starting point when researching the cost of headstones, it’s important to not overlook the often added cost of these extra personalizations.

In this post we explain what headstone lettering is (engraved vs. etched), the types of lettering families can choose (names, dates, quotes, epitaphs, Bible verses) and the costs of each.

What Is the Difference Between Etching and Engraving?

Engraving is the process of carving a design into a hard surface. It’s the preferred method for creating lettering and symbols on most granite headstones.

One of the most effective methods for engraving granite memorials is sandblasting, which uses compressed air to shoot small particles of sand through a hose to erode the granite surface. Sandblasting is best suited for headstone lettering because it enables both light and dark colors of polished granite to be exquisitely engraved.

Etching, on the other hand, is favored when creating fine, detailed designs because it produces a high-contrast marking on the surface of the granite. Etching is often used only on very dark granite and looks best on Jet Black. There are two methods available to etch highly detailed designs into stone:

  • Hand etching is a unique and difficult skill that adds incredible character and customization to a memorial. Talented designers can take a scenic picture or multiple images of a person, and create a one-of-a-kind illustration by hand etching the drawing directly into the polished surface. At Milano Monuments, we are lucky enough to have the incredibly talented Peter Viyuk as the hand etcher on our team. 


  • Laser etching accurately reproduces original designs and photographs using a computerized laser that burns the surface of the stone. It’s less expensive than hand etching but doesn’t offer the artistic difference or provide the same depth that creates contrast for the lettering and designs.

Pricing: Engraving Vs. Hand Etching Vs. Laser Etching

Headstone lettering cost varies based on the technique used to inscribe the memorial. Since sandblasting is the method used by most reputable memorial providers, standard lettering should be included for the same cost, regardless of the number of characters.

When ordering a double or companion memorial, it’s more affordable to place the name of the person still living on the headstone upon purchase, rather than adding it later. When the loved one passes, you can then add the date of death on the memorial in the cemetery.

Standard lettering and designs include:

  1. First and last name and dates in available fonts.
  2. Traditional designs, such as a cross, rings, hearts, anchors, flowers, etc.
  3. A short inscription, like “in loving memory”.
  4. Paint for the lettering and designs if the color is commonly used or already in stock.

Bronze plaques set on granite headstones are an alternative, more affordable option compared to traditional lettering. 

Below are examples of portrait pricing for hand and laser etchings at Milano Monuments. Prices may increase depending on the size or detail required to craft the etching.

Single Portrait

  • 8-inch laser etching starts at $595
  • 8-inch hand etching starts at $1,095

Double Portrait Hand and Laser Etching 

  • 8-inch laser etching starts at $1,150
  • 8-inch hand etching starts at $2,190

For other images, such as scenery, pets and unique designs, pricing will depend on each picture’s complexity.

Headstone Lettering Inscription Ideas

Most memorials include a person’s name, as well as their birth and death date. Some families choose to include a personal inscription or special saying to help make their loved one’s final resting place more comforting and unique.

An avid reader may have a favorite literary quote. If your loved one was religious, a favorite Bible verse or passage may make sense. We invite you to check out 30 Inspirational Bible Verses to Use for Headstone Inscriptions for examples of Bible verses related to strength and courage, hope and faith, and comfort and peace. For other ideas on memorial inscriptions, read our post titled, 100+ Memorial Quotes to Use for Inspiration.

Learn More About the Cost of Headstones

Headstone lettering is just one element to consider when estimating the cost of your loved one’s memorial. Download our Memorial Cost Guide to learn of other factors impacting headstone cost and to see what’s possible for your budget.

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Topics: Memorialization

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