Breaking Down the Embossing Process in Printing

Nothing creates detailed texture quite like embossing.

It has been used for hundreds of years to raise the paper to form a nearly sculptural depth in luxury paper goods.

Embossing is elegant on its own, or when combined with other print finishing embellishments, such as foil stamping or pearlescent coating, it’s taken to another level.


What Is Embossing?

Similar to letterpress printing, the embossing process in printing uses custom made dies to create raise the paper according to the design. The opposite effect is also possible using the same process, known as debossing. Because debossing recesses into the paper, it can be used to emulate engraving.

The die is a two-piece set of customized metal plates created according to the image or text to be embossed. One piece of the die has the design raised surface and the other the same design recessed into it. To create the design on paper, the paper is pressed between them and they are heated. The combination of pressure and heat reshapes the paper fibers.

The die can be single-level or have multiple levels, depending on the level of detail, complexity or the desired height or depth of the design. The average depth of embossing is between 15 and 25 microns, which is approximately 1/64th of an inch.

The three-dimensional effect created by the embossing process in printing can be used on many materials. In addition to paper, it can be used on other substrates, such as cloth, leather, metal, acrylic, and wood.


Applying Embossing Effects in Printing


Blind Embossing

This is the use of the embossing process in printing without the use of any other kind of print finishing embellishment. One way to make blind embossing stand out, even more, is to use textured paper, since the area around the embossing will be pressed smooth, creating more of a contrast.


Combination Embossing

As its name suggests, this type of die combines multiple effects into one process. Typically, because the processes are similar, foil and embossing or debossing are applied together using this type of die. With this combined effect, the entire embossed area would be foiled.


Registered Embossing

Similar to combination embossing, this combines embossing with another print finishing embellishment, such as ink, foil, punching, or even another embossed element.


Single-Level Embossing

This process uses a die that changes the surface of the paper at only one level. Since the die needed for this kind of embossing is simple, it is the most affordable embossing option.


Multi-Level Embossing

This embossing process uses a die with distinct levels to create a more sculptural impression or a more detailed embossed texture.


Sculptured Die

This kind of die requires custom hand tooling to create levels and details for an emboss that resembles a bas-relief sculpture. Because this requires someone to create it by hand, usually based on an image provided, this is a more expensive method of embossing.


Textured Die

To create this effect, a die is made with an etched texture. This is different from a multi-level or sculptured die in that it’s a single-level die with added detail, such as a simple pattern.


Bevel-Edge Die

This type of die is also a single-level die with a beveled edge. Deep dies must use beveled edges to prevent paper damage during the embossing process. The bevel added by this type of die is typically 30 to 60 degrees.


Chisel Die

This type of die is V-shaped, like a chisel, and is also known as a Roof die. It is most often used in debossing.


Rounded Die

This type of die creates a rounded, or domed, effect. It is often used for company logos or other typographical designs.


Why Choose Embossing?

The texture and sculptural quality that embossing creates makes for a memorable experience. Including an embossed area to your business card, event invitation, or even packaging, invites an interactive, tactile experience.

While embossing can add cost to your print job, it also lends elegance and stateliness not easily applied through regular printing processes.

 When you want to create a piece that leaves an impression, look to a print finishing embellishment with centuries of history and consider embossing.


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We can turn even the most complex jobs around quickly – and without all the time and expense creating dies. Let’s talk about your project!