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What You Need to Know About Embossing

The designer, the embosser, and the engraver should get together at the start of a job."


To alter the fibers of paper in order to create an image area raised above paper level.

To alter the fibers of paper in order to create an image area below paper level.

Embossing Die
A female die (encounters the upper surface of the paper).

Counter die
A male die which encounters the lower surface of the paper. Usually made on press, for an exact fit. Most counter dies are made of fiberglass. (In debossing, the "genders" of the dies are reversed.)

Blind Emboss
No printing or foil on the area embossed. The opposite of "register emboss" (embossing in register to a printed image) and "foil emboss." (Also, "blind deboss.")

When the counter die presses the paper all the way to the "bottom" of the embossing die; necessary to capture all the detail of the die.

Applying increased heat and pressure when blind embossing on textured paper to create a burnished effect. Similar to "scorching", which uses ever more extreme heat.

Types of Dies:

Single-level Die
An embossing or debossing die that changes the surface of the paper at just one level.

Multi-level Die
A die with a number of distinct levels; can be engraved by machine-i.e. does not require hand tooling.

Bevel Edge Die
An embossing die with a precise bevel on the image edge, usually between 30° and 60°. The broader the angle, the greater the illusion of depth.

Chisel Die
A die with a V-shape formed by two bevels without a flat bottom. Most frequently used in debossing.

Sculptured Die
A hand-tooled die which embosses many levels through the use of curves, angles and varying depths.

Rounded Die
An embossing die that imparts a rounded configuration to an embossed image. Commonly used for logos and typographical effects (aka "domed die").

Stamping Die
Used for flat foil stamping; usually photo-chemically etched magnesium.

Combination Die
A specially constructed die, usually brass, which allows embossing and foil stamping to be accomplished in a simultaneous impression (aka "foil emboss die").

Score Die
Usually brass; used to score (crease) the paper in conjunction with embossing or stamping.

What dies are made of:

Because of its workability and durability, brass is the metal of choice for most sophisticated embossing jobs. Because brass dies usually require hand-tooling, the cost is normally higher than copper or magnesium.

Can be photo-chemically etched and is relatively durable, so copper is a good choice for long-run foil stamping at a moderate cost. Not often used for embossing.

Can be photo-chemically etched and is less expensive than brass or copper, but can't achieve the detail and precision of a complex brass die. Mag dies are used for both embossing and foil stamping (almost always with flat foil stamping).

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