Art in the Making: How Monuments Are Made

Published On: July 9, 20220 Comments on Art in the Making: How Monuments Are MadeTags: Last Updated: March 26, 20245.1 min read

Art: It all starts in the imagination. Or does it? Art is often said to imitate life, so perhaps art begins in life. However you see it, the artist must first have the thought or inclination to create something. When it comes to creating monuments or sculptures, artists have quite a bit of sourcing and planning. But, do you really know how monuments are made?

mount Rushmore monument

Let’s take a look at how monuments are made.

What is a Monument?

For most people, a monument is a structure that commemorates a person, place, or event. Perhaps the Washington Monument, the Great Sphinx, or even tombstones come to mind. Whatever comes to mind, you’re probably right. It’s an artistic expression to honor a person, place, or thing. It could be a granite monument, a metal structure, or even one made of lights. Monuments are profoundly personal and yet communal at the same time. They’re meant to be enjoyed, reflective, and, in some instances, reverenced.

The Raw Materials

Before creating the monument, a material has to be chosen. If it’s rock-like marble or granite, it must be quarried and slabbed. If it’s metal-like steel, it may need to be sheeted or rolled into pipes. There are lots of options to create from. Tombstone monuments are often made from granite because it is a durable rock that usually has uniform crystals and is dense. It doesn’t absorb or hold on to water, so it will give you a long-lasting headstone that can last for generations. First, the granite is cut out of the rock quarry before being slabbed and polished. After this, it’s time to get creative. For metal sculptures, the metal is sourced from a mine. It could be brass, copper, or silver. Depending on the artist’s needs, they will get it from a metalworker who can refine it and shape it into a form needed for sculpting.

Choosing a Design

Artists will create a sculpture according to their inspiration. In the case of headstone designs, they are often offered to grieving families in the form of a customizable template. Some families choose to take over the design altogether. Whichever option is taken, the headstone designer will create a computer mock-up for the family to review before settling on the final form. It could be all text, shapes, a photograph, images, or something different. Taking advantage of modern technology and using computer-generated designs has streamlined the process and gives a much more refined and precise feel to the details on the gravestone. Once the plan is approved and finalized, it is time to send it to the engravers.

Lincoln monument


Gone are the days when stone carvers would hand draw directly on the stone and chisel away with their carving tools. These unique and original monuments are true works of art, and so are those created with computer software. Although all of the artwork design is digitally done, the sophistication and skill of the artist still come through. It’s a lot like working a calculator. It will only answer the equations your input. If you fail to enter an equation correctly, you will not get the correct answer. The artist has to know how to manipulate the computer program to get beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs that honor the memory of someone.

Now that the artwork is approved, it arrives at the engravers, and they create a stencil from the computerized mock-up. The stencil is then applied to the memorial as a guide as the craftsman engraves the monument using a high air pressure hose. After all the carving and engraving have been done, the engraver will add some contrasting litho chrome paint to the grooves to make the lettering and design stand out from the rest of the stone to be more legible. Litho chrome paints generally last up to five years.

The Final Process

Once the monument has been engraved, and the litho has been applied, the litho has to be cured before anything else can be done. Once the curing process is complete, the memorial is cleaned and rechecked for any blemishes that may need further sanding or repolished. Sometimes additions like vases are made. After this is done and it passes the final quality check, it can be shipped to its last home for family and friends to enjoy at the burial site of a loved one.


Although granite and many other popular monument options are highly durable, they are still natural materials subject to weathering and erosion. If litho has been applied to the monument, periodic reapplications will need regular. Every climate poses its challenges on tombstones. Cleaning may need to be done to clear away any dirt, debris, moss, etc. If cleaning needs to occur, some unique methods and solutions can be used that are safe for use on monument materials like granite. If you’ve chosen not to use litho chrome paint in your memorial, you’ll need to discuss other options for making the text and design stand out on the marker. Things like choosing the right stone color, engraving on a sandblasted surface, and carving the design a bit deeper than average can make a big difference to the legibility of a monument.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the process of making a monument, you know what to expect from your monument designer and craftsman. You may even be able to pose a couple of questions to your monument maker that will make you more comfortable and pleased with the result. Whether a monument is meant to be a memorial to someone who has passed on or a piece of artistic work, the process is pretty similar. Many artists manipulate their material of choice by hand, but many also utilize a mix of hand power and modern technology. Monuments are meant to be seen and appreciated, and with the mystery of how monuments are made being unraveled, we hope you’ll be able to choose the right company to create your memorial.

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