Laser engraving is the practice of using lasers to engrave an object. Laser marking, on the other hand, is a broader category of methods to leave marks on an object, which also includes colour change due to chemical/molecular alteration, charring, foaming, melting, ablation, and more. The technique does not involve the use of inks, nor does it involve tool bits which contact the engraving surface and wear out, giving it an advantage over alternative engraving or marking technologies where inks or bit heads have to be replaced regularly.
The impact of laser marking has been more pronounced for specially designed "laserable" materials and also for some paints. These include laser-sensitive polymers and novel metal alloys.
The term laser marking is also used as a generic term covering a broad spectrum of surfacing techniques including printing, hot-branding and laser bonding. The machines for laser engraving and laser marking are the same so that the two terms are sometimes confused by those without knowledge or experience in the practice.