General information about Embossing

Embossing is a print finishing technique that creates a relief impression of a design, decoration, lettering or pattern onto the surface of a substrate such as paper, cloth, metal, leather, plastic etc. Embossing alters the surface of the substrate, changing it from a flat and in many cases, dull surface, to a visually enhanced, appealing and exciting appearance. Embossing adds sculptural and dimensional qualities to the finished appearance and hence adds the perception of quality and greater value.

There are a number of embossing techniques using different types of dies and or counterforces. Embossing methods include Multi level, Embossing, De-bossing, Blind, Holographic, Glazing etc. all produce differing results and similarly, different substrates produce varied embossed effects. Embossing is comparatively inexpensive and therefore widely used. Embossing is widely used in packaging, labelling, greeting cards, office and personal stationery, crafting, book covers, point of sale (POS) merchandising, etc.

Developing a product where embossing is an element within the design not only adds to the aesthetics but can be functional as well. There are a wide range of applications and uses for embossing. Embossing data on credit cards to embossed braille books for the blind are examples of functional applications, while embossing greeting cards to packaging are examples of aesthetic applications. In effect embossing adds functionality, elegance, sensuality, luxury and enhances the value of the product and in many cases the brand.

An embossed label and or box will automatically convey quality and increases the perceived value for the content. Similarly, an embossed wedding invitation card immediately enhances the entire meaning conveyed by it. Embossing adds elegance and enhances the profile of the event. It brings a different and more regal dimension to the message and or information you wish to get across to the recipient. Embossing in general, enhances the original printed image

and or designs, making it appear richer, more expensive, more eye catching, more appealing and so forth. Embossing and good design can make even the most basic product become a piece of art. However the appearance of the embossed image is very dependent on the quality of printing and embossing. Poor quality embossing can completely destroy the appeal of the product, however, good quality embossing can make product positively breathtaking.

Most materials that are thin, flat, and malleable can be embossed.  This includes paper, plastic film, metal foil, nonwoven cloth, leather, vinyl, and much more.  The materials for embossing can be in continuous reels or individual sheets.

At times embossing is done for purely decorative purposes however, in most cases, the reason of embossing is to enhance and transform the physical characteristics of the material being used. Embossing on different types of substrates can change the characteristics of the materials. The absorbency and flexibility of tissue paper improves when embossed however, in most cases, it weakens the paper.  Embossing metal foil with a textured design makes it stiffer, so making it easier for packing machines to handle and apply the top sealing foil. Embossing thin plastic sheets dramatically changes its elastic properties and as with all substrates that are embossed, also increases the overall height of the material.

When considering an embossed design without adding coloured foil, you may want to look into glazing, gloss embossing, textured embossing or tint embossing.

When determining the most suitable method of embossing, you have to look at the properties of the material, and how it is provided.  The material may be in either in roll or sheet form and be pliable, fluid, or somewhere between.

  • If the material to be embossed is pliable, a permanent shape change can be made by simply applying force to it. This usually has a very considerable effect upon the mechanical properties of the pliable material. The material to be embossed is placed between a female embossing die and a corresponding male counterforce. A large force is applied on it causing the material to distort and form to the shape on the embossing die. Most tissue paper, greetings cards, packaging etc. are embossed this way, with the paper completely dry.
  • When embossing materials, which are fluid, to start with, such as paper pulp, the embossing step starts out more like casting onto a mould, and then the material is changed from fluid to solid.  This reduces any damaging effects of embossing on the strength and elasticity of the material.  In the case of tissue paper, the fluid state is the suspension of paper fibres in water, the mould is the forming wire mesh, and the material becomes more solid as the water is removed by compression.
  • Some materials are somewhere between pliable and fluid.  For instance, tissue paper can be shaped after it is formed, but still be very wet.  The results achieved are very different from traditional “Dry Embossing”.
  • When the material to be embossed has been cut into sheets, it is usually necessary to employ a dis-continuous method off embossing like stamp embossing, where one sheet at a time is pressed between two plates, an embossing die and a matching embossing counterforce.

When the material to be embossed is in rolls then the preferred method is rotary embossing. This is a method of embossing where the material is passed between embossing rollers. Rotary embossing is the fastest method of embossing.