How Headstone Lettering Appears on Different Granite Colors

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on January 30, 2024

One of the first steps in designing a headstone is choosing a granite color. At Milano Monuments, we offer 23 unique granite colors, providing families with a wide range of backdrops for various headstone lettering styles. 

Below we explore how different headstone lettering interacts with our selection of gray, black, red and brown granite colors. 

When you’re finished reading, we hope you feel more confident in the design direction your family wants to go in for your loved one’s headstone.  

7 Headstone Lettering Styles

Various techniques, including engraving and etching, are available to create diverse lettering styles on headstones.  

  • Laser engraving uses a computerized laser that burns the surface of the granite headstone to create flat, light grey lettering. This is finished with white paint.  
  • Skin-traced lettering is achieved by using a rubber stencil and a sandblaster. The end result looks similar to a laser etched stone, but the letters are slightly deeper and brighter. White paint is also optional to add to the lettering.
  • For V-sunk letters, journeymen stonecutters take a rubber stencil, pluck the headstone letters out and sandblast deep into the stone until the bottom of the letters come to a V. This lettering can be painted black.
  • To achieve square-sunk headstone letters, specialists blast the letters first, then chisel the background. 
  • With square-raised headstone letters, the letter is left polished and shiny, and the surrounding space is sandblasted down 1/8 of an inch and then chiseled smooth.
  • V-tooled headstone letters are created similar to skin-traced letters, but also involve hand chiseling. The resulting headstone letters appear three-dimensional, sunk into the polished surface to a shallow V.
  • Round-raised headstone lettering is the most difficult headstone lettering method and the most costly. This headstone lettering method was widely used before sandblasting was invented and popularized. 

Headstone Lettering Sample_1

If you're seeking a cost-effective option, consider skin-traced or v-sunk lettering for your loved one's memorial. For those desiring more prominent lettering, raised or tooled lettering options would be the ideal choices. 

>>> Related Resource: How Much Does It Cost to Letter a Headstone? 

Best Headstone Lettering for Gray and White Granite Colors 

Our most commonly used granite colors fall under the gray spectrum. Gray and white granite colors offer a versatile canvas for headstone lettering with its subtle and serene tones.  

gray and whites


V-sunk lettering creates a classic and profound effect. The deep-cut letters provide a striking contrast on smoother gray stones like Pearl White, Bethal White and Barre Gray. This style adds depth and shadow, enhancing the overall look of the memorial. Below are examples of V-sunk lettering with and without black paint.

Providenti - croppedNemeth - Bevel Memorial - Columbia Station

Best Headstone Lettering for Darker and Black Granite Colors 

Black granite is renowned for its sleek beauty, making it a popular choice among families looking for a more luxurious headstone. The deep, rich color provides a striking backdrop for lettering, highlighting the inscription with clarity.

MM_Headstone Lettering (2)

Laser engraving on black granite, such as Jet Black or Galaxy Black, is exceptional for its precision and detail. This method carves out crisp, clean lettering allowing each character to stand out vividly against the dark background. It's an ideal choice for adding a contemporary touch while ensuring the inscription remains legible. 

Godwin - Bevel Memorial - Lakeview Cemetery - Cleveland Ohio

For a more dimensional and tactile effect, square-raised lettering is an excellent option on black granite, like Sapphire Blue or Impala Black. This style leaves the letters polished and raised above a chiseled background, creating a striking contrast. The raised lettering not only catches the light but also adds an elegant texture to the headstone. 

Devic - Companion Memorial - St. Theodosius Cemetery

Best Headstone Lettering for Red and Rose Granite Colors 

Red granite, known for its rich and vibrant hues, offers a striking choice for memorials. For this group of granite colors, it’s important to choose a headstone lettering style that stands out on such a bright background. 

MM_Headstone Lettering (3)

We recommend the following lettering styles to enhance the beauty of red granite. 

For red granites like Aurora Red or India Red, square-raised lettering offers a distinctive look with the lettering left polished and raised against a textured background. This method highlights the letters, making them prominent and easy to read. It also adds a sense of dimension and texture to the memorial.

Osco - Upright Monument - Holy Cross Cemetery Akron

Granite varieties like Mountain Rose or Cathedral Red also mesh well with the V-tooled lettering technique. It involves hand-chiseling each letter to be beveled at a slight angle, giving them a 3D effect. The depth and angles of the V-tooled letters catch light differently, creating a dynamic and visually appealing contrast against the vibrant red of the granite.  

Best Headstone Lettering for Brown Granite Colors 

Brown granite, with its warm and earthy tones, provides a comforting and timeless choice for memorials. The unique patterns and hues offer a distinctive canvas for the following lettering styles. 

MM_Headstone Lettering (4)

V-sunk lettering brings a classic and artistic dimension to brown granite memorials. The deep-cut letters create shadows and enhance the natural beauty of granites like Canadian Mahogany or Colonial Rose. This style adds depth to the inscription, contributing to the overall warmth and character of the memorial.

Kelley - Upright Monument - York Township Cemetery

Meanwhile, skin-traced lettering is an excellent choice for brown granites like Coffee Brown or Tan Brown. The subtlety of skin-traced lettering complements the earthy hues of brown granite, ensuring the text is legible, yet seamlessly integrated into the stone’s natural beauty. 

Create Your Own Headstone Vision Board 

Choosing the right lettering style for a loved one’s headstone can be a personal decision. To help you envision the perfect memorial, we invite you to explore our Headstone Vision Board tool. This interactive tool allows you to experiment with different granite colors and design elements, offering a tangible way to see your choices come to life before sharing them with one of our memorial specialists.


Create My Headstone Vision Board

Topics: Memorialization

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