The art of making raised designs on paper or metal using pressure is known as dry embossing. There are a variety of stencils made for embossing, and which one is the most appropriate will depend on your project and the desired effect you wish to create. When choosing embossing stencils, the primary considerations to keep in mind are thickness, material and the stencil design as they relate to your project. Relatively thin brass stencils with single designs of medium intricacy will be the most versatile.
Embossing stencils vary greatly in surface area but generally will range from a 32nd of an inch (0.8 mm) to an eighth of an inch (3.2 mm) thick. Thicker stencils will create deeper-cut and bolder designs but can be harder to use. If you are using a particularly thick embossing material or large design, you might choose a thicker stencil to match the proportions of the design. When working with smaller or intricate designs, you generally should use thinner stencils, because otherwise it might be difficult to emboss the entire design evenly. Also, if you are planning to emboss metal or a more fragile paper, it is often easiest to start with a thin stencil to avoid unnecessary warping or tearing.
The material of the stencil helps determine how it can be used, as well as its cost. Most embossing stencils are made of brass, steel or plastic. Brass and steel are both durable and can be cut into very intricate designs. These stencils are made of thin metal, though, so if they are accidentally bent, it might be difficult to restore them to their original state.
Some brass stencils, particularly older ones, might have holes so that they can be hung as ornaments when not in use. although it might be a nice decorative option, it can be a problem if you are using an embossing machine, because the holes will also be embossed. Plastic stencils tend to be less expensive and can be good for expanding your stencil collection on a budget, but they are often thicker and lack the detail of metal embossing stencils. In addition, some plastic stencils might have multiple designs on the same sheet, making them unsuitable for use with an embossing machine.
The design of the stencil probably will be the most important consideration. It is important to remember that very detailed stencils will be difficult to emboss by hand without a fine-point stylus, so those might not be the right choice if you have only larger tools. Also, embossing stencils are very versatile and can be used for various other crafts besides embossing, so it might be useful to think about what other kinds of projects you might make in the future.