|Embossing foil stamping, and diecutting are important and popular graphic arts
processes. I have seen the demand for these three dimensional letterpress
enhancements increase steadily in the last few decades but stamping and embossing
were in use long before movable type was invented. The Chinese used engraved
wooden blocks seven centuries before the advent of letterpress printing.
Archeologists have found embossed coins of copper, silver and gold that pre date
the Greek and Roman empires. Insignia rings, simple hand wrought dies, were used
to press an image into wax for identification and tamper proofing. Long before the
invention of the mechanical press, leather book covers were decorated with hand
stamping, gilding and hand painting, many of which are now museum and library
From simple beginnings, this industry has advanced so far and so quickly that it's
hard for one person do keep up with the varieties of paper, sheet metal, Plastiq Poi
polyester, coating texture, hundreds, if not thousands, of foil finishes, colors,
shades, and hues, and the list goes on! With so much variety, every job is a custom
finish. Your best insurance for achieving high quality and avoiding costly mistakes
is to develop an understanding of the variables of each process through your own
experience, study, and experimentation, and certainly by asking for advice and
sharing your experience and "tricks of the trade" with other craftspeople
|One of your best sources for embossing information is the Foil Stamping and Embossing
Association. FSEA provides educational literature, technical help, and industry
resource information including a list of consultants and experts in management and
supervision. In addition, they host annual seminars.
Every job, from the simplest to the most challenging, will benefit from attention to
the basics, particularly understanding the desired process outcomes.
Embossing is the process of creating raised (relief) designs on a substrate such as
paper, plastic, thin metal, or other kinds of stock on which there may or may not be a
preprinted ink or foil image. The embossing is accomplished by placing a substrate
between an etched or sculpted metal die (female) and a matching counter die (male).
These dies are mounted on a press that exerts enough pressure on the substrate placed
between the dies to press the image into the chosen stock, quite literally reforming
the fibers of the substrate. 'Ibis is generally accomplished using heat transferred
from the press to the platen through the die, but can also be performed without heat in
what is referred to as "cold embossing."
Debossing is the same process, but the dies are produced in reverse of the above to
create an image that is lowered or indented into the substrate.
|Foil Embossing is creating a reliefimage and simultaneously applying
foil using a die specially produced for this combination process.
Blind Embossing/Debossing is creating the relief without any ink or foil decoration.
Membrane Embossing is creating a raised or lowered image on an especially durable
substrate such as polyester or polycarbonate for overlay switches and other commercial
The variety of materials and finishes available to produce any job gives you lots of
choices to offer your customers. It can also give you lots of headaches in figuring out
how to make it all come out right when you mix elements of each particular job. For
instance, the finish of a paper, or its weight, might not be compatible with the depth or
bevel edges of the die, causing the paper to pull, stick, crack, or shear, or at least, an
unevenly distributed impression. Although you may have used the same shallow embossing die
with good results on both 24# letterhead and 80# business cards, generally speaking there
aren't any sure or consistent formulas on which you can rely. When you get into more
complex jobs, it is much more difficult to know how the combinations of press, substrate,
dies, inks, foils, and even operator experience will interact.
My suggestion is to start each job by communicating and working with everyone
involved in layout,