Materials for Die Making

Materials for Die Making

Common types of Metal Embossing Dies:

There is a good selection of Die manufacturing materials available, including Magnesium, Brass, Copper, Zinc, Photopolymer and specialist plastics. Plastics are starting to slowly make in-roads but are a long way off from becoming widely accepted. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration when selecting the Die material; these include the complexity of the design, the length of the print / Embossing run and the required durability of the Die. Etching is usually the favoured option if the Die incorporates complex textures and halftone. Therefore, Magnesium, Copper or zinc would normally be the preferred Die manufacturing material however if the Die is a 2D / 2½D, water washed photopolymer can be a cheaper and quicker option.

There are three types of metals that are most commonly used for Embossing Dies. Selecting the correct metal is dependent on the shape of the image, the texture to be created on the substrate and the run length.

  • Magnesium Dies are used for simple Embossing projects that have short runs. The designs are large and uncomplicated. Magnesium is suitable for hand carving and finishing. Magnesium can be acid etched, CNC and machine Engraved and or hand Engraved or a mixture of processes.
  • Brass Dies are the most popular for manufacturing Embossing Dies. The characteristics of Brass allows for greater latitude to create fine lines, sculptured images, combo Foil Stamping and Embossing. Brass Dies are normally CNC or manually machine engraved. Brass is an excellent material for images requiring extensive hand carving and finishing.
  • Copper Dies are used as an in between to Magnesium and Brass. However Copper Dies are not suitable for hand engraving or finishing. Copper can be etched, machine engraved or a mixture of both technologies’.


As the durability of your Embossing Dies varies dependent on the artwork, the substrate, the run length and the pressure applied, careful consideration should be given in selecting the right material for the Job. Lower cost Magnesium is a suitable Die material for fine detail and irregularly positioned artwork designs, as these types of designs require less pressure to Emboss and is the recommend material of choice for short print and Embossing runs. On the other hand, Copper is a much better Die material if embossing, bold and evenly spaced artwork and is the recommend material of choice for very long print and embossing runs.

Metal Dies are always recommended for long runs and on surfaces that are not smooth. Metal plate manufacturers also known as Platemakers, Plate Trade House, Die makers, and Block makers, usually have a minimum charge for each order they process. It is therefore not always economical to have a small single plate manufactured. If you are having metal plates made, it is recommended you group together as many jobs (artwork) together and then send out for the plates to be made. The thinner the metal plate the lower the cost but greater the risk of damage especially when removing the plates from the machine. However even a novice should find no difficulty in using 16 gauge plates over the thicker 8 and 3 gauge plates.

When printing and or embossing the thickness of the substrate, the type of substrate, and the texture of the surface, dictates the print and or Embossing life of the Die. The thickness of the substrate is more an issue with Embossing than printing. The rougher the texture of the substrate the more friction is created, causing wear and shortening the usable life of the Die.