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Dry Embossing Techniques And Ideas

Updated on March 13, 2020
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Dry Emboss It-Make An Elegant Impression

With the advent of electronic cutters, dry embossing may not be the technique of choice, but I find myself going back to it over and over again. For the simplicity of using a stylus, a template and a light source, you can create a unique scrapbook embellishment, a boarder or even a stylish greeting card within minutes. I am still hooked on dry embossing and it's eclectic effects.

You can dry emboss with a stencil, embossing tool and a light box. Or you can use dies and a manual or electric embossing machine

Getting Started On Dry Embossing

Dry embossing is such an easy technique, anyone can and should give it a try. You just need a few tools to get started.

  1. A stylus ( most of them are double sided with different sizes for regular or detail work
  2. A template- brass plastic or one you create yourself. Since you will be working with heavier paper the brass or plastic template is best
  3. A light source- You can sue a light box or even a window on a sunny day

Use a low tack tape or a washi tape to secure your project on the work area

the embossing stylus is a tool to create raised images on paper
the embossing stylus is a tool to create raised images on paper

Choosing The Correct Stylus

There are metal and wooden types of styluses to choose from. But each has it's own special uses.

Small details require wither a metal or wooden stylus with a very small tip. That way you can emboss to the finest points of the design.

For paper, a metal stylus with metal balls on each end is perfect for creating the most detailed image.

If a metal stylus drags across a paper, it may have scratches in it. Try rubbing across a piece of waxed paper. If worse comes to worse, you can place a piece of waxed paper between the top of the stencil and the material to be embossed.

For scrap metal always use a wooden stylus. A metal stylus will rip through aluminum or thin metal.

The smaller the embossing stylus, the bigger the chance that the paper will rip. Always use the biggest stylus that you can in your design

Using the right hand pressure is important too. The heavier the pressure created will also cause the paper to rip.

If your stylus sticks while embossing. you may have nicks or scratches on it. You can rub the stylus over a piece of wax paper as a temporary fix. If that does not work, place a piece of waxed paper and the material to be embossed

An embossed card can be as simple or as elegant as you chose it to be
An embossed card can be as simple or as elegant as you chose it to be | Source

Light colored paper is easier to emboss than darker paper

Dry Embossing Without A Machine Or Lightbox

How To Dry Emboss

There are only three steps to dry embossing

  1. Place the template ( also called a stencil) on a light source. Tack the template or stencil down if desired. Use washi tape to attach the stencil to the light source.
  2. Place card stock over the template.Secure the corners of the card stock with tape that will be easily removed. Card stock and vellum work best for this technique.This technique is great to use up all your scraps
  3. Try rubbing wax paper over the paper before you get started. This will help the stylus move over the paper with ease.
  4. Trace the edge of the shape with the metal stylus. Press firmly, but not too hard. You want to be careful not to rip the paper. Then add the details of the image

That's the basic technique to dry emboss

Best Papers To Use For Dry Embossing

Choose paper for dry embossing that is between 65 lbs -85 lb weight 90 pound water color paper is also fun to work with. Experiment with different papers

Adding Color To Your Dry Embossed Project

Once you have completed your design, you have the option of adding color to your dry embossing.

Sponge daubing can be very effective in adding color to your projects. Sponge just the boarders or outline of your project.

Color between the embossed area with acrylic paints, colored pencils, markers or wash over sections using watercolors with a very wet brush.

A light touch of chalks, pastels or colored pencils on the raised areas of your embossing will also add some color;

Avoid markers ! They will seep into the paper and destroy your designs

Dry Embossing With Stencils

Dry Embossing Tips

Here are a few tips to make the process go smoother

  • When deciding what stylus to use, use the largest size the design will accommodate. A larger size will let you emboss quicker without the danger of puncturing the paper. You can still use the smaller stylus for detailing
  • Before you start embossing, run your finger or a piece of wax paper over the area that you plan to emboss. This will help the stylus glide more smoothly
  • Go over the area lightly several times rather than pressing too hard. You will avoid any micro tears
  • The smaller the embossing tip, the more likely you will rip the paper. Use the largest embossing tip that you can to get your project done .
  • Watch your hand pressure on your stylus. Use a lighter touch on thin paper or on a smaller stylus
  • Use a light tack tape to secure your work while you are embossing. You can use a washi tape or painters tape.

The Best Paper Weight For Dry Embossing

90 lb card stock is the best weight for any type of dry embossing technique. It is easy to find and easy on the budget. You can find it in different paper sizes. 90 lb watercolor paper is also a good option.


Dry Embossing On Dark Paper

Dark paper poses a little bit of a challenge when dry embossing. Since the light will not penetrate the paper, it;s more difficult to see the image. To solve this challenge, you simply place the cardstock over the template and firmly rub your fingernail or a burnisher over the general are until the outline appears, then use the stylus to fill in the details of the design.

An easier option would be to find dark cardstock that has a white center. No matter how dark it is, light will show through. Another advantage of using this type of cardstock is that you cab create a shabby, distressed look after embossing. All you have to do is to rough up the images with sandpaper, allowing a bit of the white to show up

Remember when you are dry embossing letters they should be the wrong way facing you, so when you flip the paper they will read correctly

Embossing With Embossing Folders

One of the most popular ways to dry emboss is to use embossing folders. Embossing folders are plastic plates in a folder that when compressed create a raised image on paper.

They are compressed by plates that are compressed by either a manual compressing machine or an electronic compressing machine.

Some of the most popular manual machines are the Cuttlebug and the Big Shot. The newer electronic embossing machines include the Gemini. These machines create a pressure on the plate and the embossing folder that creates a raised image on the paper

  • You will need either a manual or electronic embossing machine
  • Card stock
  • Embossing folder
  1. The paper is placed in the embossing folder.
  2. The embossing folder is placed within "plates" as directed by the manufacturer. Then it is run through the embossing machine.
  3. The plates are compressed and the result is a beautiful raised image on the paper

About Embossing Machines

There are two basic types of embossing machines for paper crafters. One is manual and one us electronic. Both types of machines have their pros and cons.

The manual machines are more portable for classes and crops. They do not use electricity which can be another advantage. They are usually less costly than the electronic machines.

However, they are mostly hand cranked which can cost time and energy.

The electronic machines do save a lot of time and energy, but their price point can be higher. They come in different sizes. There are some that are small enough to be considered portable.

It is a decision that should be made after careful consideration.

Fiskars ShapeBoss Embossing System

Fiskars ShapeBoss Starter Set
Fiskars ShapeBoss Starter Set
This is the perfect embossing system for those who really enjoy embossing on the go. I like the peg system that holds everything in place. The system comes with everything that you need to get started. You get a stylus and some embossing stencils as well as the board itself. There are additional stencils available so you can really have a lot of fun. Easy to store. You can emboss on any weight of paper with this system. Perfect for those who want to keep the process simple.

Foil Embossing

Foil embossing is basically aluminum foil wrapped around a piece of heavy card stock.It is them embossed with an embossing folder

  • Start with a piece of aluminum that covers a heavy piece of wide card stock.. Fold the aluminum foil all around the edges.
  • Following your manufactures directions, place the aluminum foil in the embossing folder. Place the aluminum on either the positive or negative side depending on the effect you want.
  • You can add versamark ink to the foil before embossing. When the embossing is done, you can add a metal embossing powder over the ink. heat to process the embossing powder.
  • Complete the card by adding the embossed piece to a card shape and adding an embellishment

This same technique can also be used for tags

Dry Embossing Metal

Embossing metal mesh can give you a funky industrial look. You will need to go over the design several times . But the results will be something unique. Perfect for your masculine scrapbook pages and cards

Unlike paper, which you can see through to see the template to emboss, you cannot see through the metal. So, in this case, the template would go on top of the metal rather than underneath

You need a soft pad underneath like a mouse pad. That will have enough to help you get the embossed look

  • Place the scrap metal on the foam pad, face down. Remember, you will be working on the backside of the metal.
  • Place your template face down on top of the metal
  • Secure the template with a piece of low tack tape like washi or painters tape
  • Using the small end of a wooden stylus, outline the shape in the template
  • Make sure that the template does not move
  • Use the wider end of the wooden stylus to press in the center of the design Use a soft pressure and go over the design multiple times
  • Flip your scrap metal over
  • To create a more defined outline, Use the small end of your wooden stylus to carefully go over the outline..

Dry Embossing On Vellum

Add More Dimension To Your Dry Embossed Images

Add another layer to your embossed images to give them more dimension ! Add some extra dimension with several layers of paper behind your embossed image. Add distress ink to the image to make it stand out


Dry Embossing With Dies

This is a similar theory to dry embossing manually with a stylus, except that you will be using a die to make the impression on the paper without actually cutting the paper. You want to have the die make an impression without cutting through the paper.

An extra embossing pad is used so that the die does not cut into the paper.

You use your die to create the raised look. The cutting side of the die goes down instead of up. The cut is made into a paper shim. The die outline appears as a raised area.

Once you make the impression, you can use either the positive or negative side.

There are different types of embossing mats. If you are using a manual die cutting machine, the sandwich combination can vary.

The how to do this technique varies depending on the type of machine you are using.

Debossing- Just the opposite

Debossing is simply the other side of your embossed piece. So you can simply flip over any piece that you have embossed to create a different look. Instead of a raised look, you get an indented image.

So, to put it simply, debossing is the opposite of embossing. It is indented instead of being raised like an embossed piece would be,

Add Color To Your Embossed images

Add some color to your embossed images. You can use some ink or chalk. You can lightly sponge come ink or chalks on your project. Do not use markers or pens, Otherwise you will lose your embossed image. If you use chalks. remember to use a fixative

Tell Us About Your Embossing Experiences, Share A Tip, Or say Hello

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    • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda F Correa 

      10 days ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Thank you for your kind comments. Embossing is one of my favorite paper crafts. I swear that collecting embossing folders is like a separate hobby. You just keep seeing new ones that you just have to have.

    • peachpurple profile image


      10 days ago from Home Sweet Home

      Beautiful and elegant, the emboss card came out lovely

    • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda F Correa 

      9 months ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Embossing adds so much elegance to a card or scrapbook page. It is a technique that is often overlooked. Wanted to bring it forward. Thanks for your input

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Such a neat look at this craft. I've done some embossing, using Fiskars embossing plates, but I so appreciate this good overview of techniques, ideas, and tips because I've want to think through ways to do bigger projects.


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