Copper Embossing Die

Die, Embossed Paper, and Counter

Embossed Design

Emboss & Debossing

What's the difference?

Actually the two are similar in processes, the difference being that with embossing the image that is embossed is raised up and with debossing the image is indented into the paper. Dies or plates are necessary to produce these effects. Above is a picture of a snowflake die along with what is called the counter. The die in this picture is the copper piece which shows the snowflake image etched into the copper. The counter is the whitish looking piece with the black snowflake on it. When embossing, the two mating pieces are positioned in the press so that they line up perfectly with one another. As the press closes the paper is pressed into the copper die by the counter. It’s a very similar process to how a notary or corporate seal works when pressed into paper.

Debossing is pretty much the same process but in reverse, where the counter presses the paper into the die creating an indented image. Another version of debossing is sometimes done with what is called “blind letterpress”, where a letterpress plate is used without a counter to produce a similar look to debossing. It’s called “blind” because no ink is used, just an indentation into the paper. Blind letterpress works best on thinner paperboard materials like the type used for note cards, candle dust covers or business cards. It cannot be used for folding cartons as the thicker paperboard used requires a die with a counter.

Which is better – embossing or debossing?

Both have a beautiful tactile look and feel to them. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which to go with:
Embossing works best with bold images. I can be raised flat with a bevel edge or in some instances rounded, multi-level or sculpted. Flat with a bevel edge is the most common but a lot depends on the image being embossed and which technique will produce the best outcome. Embossing does not work well for fine and/or small type and images and on packaging such as folding cartons it tends to get dirty easier because of the raised surface rubbing against whatever it touches.

Debossing works well with text and even some smaller images. There is a limit to how small and fine debossing will work but most of the time if there is text involved, debossing works better than embossing will. It also works well for folding cartons since the paper is indented and will not rub against other objects.

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