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Carving vs. Engraving: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
Carving involves shaping material by removing parts; engraving entails incising designs onto a surface.

Key Differences

Carving is a subtractive process involving the removal of material to shape an object or create a design. It can be done on various materials like wood, stone, or ice. Engraving, by contrast, involves incising or etching designs onto a hard surface, typically metal, glass, or wood, often using tools like gravers or burins to create detailed and precise lines.
One can carve a piece of wood to create a sculpture, where large portions of the wood are chipped away to reveal the form within. Engraving, on the other hand, would involve taking a tool to etch fine lines into the surface of the wood, possibly for decorative detailing on the sculpture. Carving results in a three-dimensional object, while engraving results in a decorated surface.
Carving often produces more substantial forms and can be an art form such as sculpture or part of a craft like furniture making. In contrast, engraving is often used for detailed work, such as creating images or text on jewelry or silverware, and requires a steady hand and control to produce the fine lines that characterize the art.
A carved object often has depth and can be appreciated from multiple angles due to its three-dimensional nature. Engraving, while it can appear three-dimensional through the play of light and shadow on the incised lines, is actually a two-dimensional decoration applied to the surface of an object. Carving can be an act of both artistic expression and functional craft, while engraving is traditionally seen as a method of ornamentation.
While both carving and engraving are forms of craft and art that involve skillful manipulation of materials, the intentions and outcomes of each are distinct. Carving creates objects and shapes, and engraving embellishes surfaces with intricate patterns or text. Both require different sets of tools and techniques tailored to their specific purposes.

Comparison Chart


Subtractive, removing material
Incisive, etching designs into a surface


Three-dimensional shapes
Two-dimensional surface designs

Common Materials

Wood, stone, ice
Metal, glass, wood, stone

Tools Used

Chisels, knives, gouges
Gravers, burins, lasers

End Result

Sculptural forms, reliefs
Decorated, patterned surfaces, inscribed text

Typical Applications

Sculptures, woodwork, ice sculptures
Jewelry, metalwork, fine art

Carving and Engraving Definitions


The act of shaping by cutting material away.
The artist spent hours on the carving of the intricate wooden statue.


The art of cutting designs onto a hard surface.
Engraving on metal surfaces is a common jeweler's skill.


The technique of cutting into solid material.
Carving into marble requires great strength and precision.


The action or skill of a person who engraves.
His engraving work is renowned for its meticulous detail.


A sculptured figure or design.
The museum displayed a medieval carving of a knight.


An engraved design.
The engraving on the trophy took several hours to complete.


A piece of art created by carving.
The centerpiece of the exhibit was a delicate ice carving.


The process of cutting or carving grooves into a surface.
The ring bore an engraving of their wedding date.


Cutting meat into slices.
Grandpa is in charge of the turkey carving every Thanksgiving.


A print made from an engraved plate, block, or other surface.
The antique shop had an array of 19th-century 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.


Does carving always result in a three-dimensional object?

Typically, yes, carving results in a three-dimensional form.

Is ice sculpting a type of carving?

Yes, ice sculpting is carving done on ice.

Is engraving used for adding text to objects?

Yes, engraving is often used for inscribing text on various materials.

What's the difference in skill required for carving vs. engraving?

Both require precision, but engraving often demands finer control for detail.

What tools are typically used for carving?

Carving typically uses chisels, knives, and gouges.

Are lasers used in engraving?

Yes, lasers can be used for precision engraving, especially on metal and glass.

Can carving be done on metal?

While carving can be done on metal, it's less common due to the hardness of the material.

Can engraving be automated?

Yes, engraving can be automated, especially with modern laser engravers.

How long does it take to learn carving?

Learning to carve can take years of practice to master.

Is wood carving considered a form of sculpture?

Yes, wood carving is often a form of sculpture.

Can engraving be done on organic materials like bone?

Yes, engraving can be done on bone, ivory, and other hard organic materials.

Are engraving techniques the same for all materials?

No, different materials may require specific engraving techniques and tools.

Do carvings always represent something?

Not always; carvings can be abstract or purely decorative.

Can engraving be colored or filled?

Yes, engraving can be inlaid with color or left hollow for contrast.

Can engraving be removed or undone?

Engraving is permanent on most materials, though it can sometimes be polished out on metal.

Are there digital methods for carving?

Yes, CNC machines can perform digital carving on various materials.

Is engraving considered fine art?

Yes, engraving is considered a fine art, especially in printmaking.

Are engravings typically shallow or deep?

Engravings can vary from shallow to deep depending on the design.

Is carving used in furniture making?

Yes, carving is a common technique in creating ornate furniture.

Is pumpkin carving a popular form of carving?

Yes, pumpkin carving is a popular seasonal activity.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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