What are the Best Tips for Dry Embossing?

Katie Walley-Wiegert

Preparation and awareness of the tools used in dry embossing can ease this artistic process. The quality of an embossed image is largely dependent upon one’s ability to accurately trace a desired image onto the artist’s selected medium. A quality template; thick paper and gentle stylus application technique; and a good light source are usually essential to creating sharp, dry embossed images that meet expectations.

After embossing, rubbing sandpaper on the embossed material can give the final product a grainy look.
After embossing, rubbing sandpaper on the embossed material can give the final product a grainy look.

A good template is often key to successful dry embossing. Dry embossing templates with clean, sturdy edges should be purchased or created and if that template is to be used in the future, proper care of that template should be taken. Templates made of rust-prone materials like brass should be stored in airtight containers to keep those clean edges.

In addition to clean edges, templates that are thicker and sturdier help the tracing process and leave crisper impressions. Prior to the tracing process, the template must be aligned with the emboss paper in order to prevent shifting that causes an unclean design. Applying masking tape to each corner of the template and paper once they are aligned can prevent slippage.

Thicker paper and the applied weight of the embossing stylus are important factors when dry embossing. The weight of the paper to be embossed will directly affect how raised or recessed the image one is embossing will be — the thicker the paper, the crisper the image. No matter how thick the paper is, gentle application of the stylus is key. Pressing too hard with the stylus can cause uneven impressions and even rips or holes. How fine the point of the embossing stylus is will also affect how easily the stylus can dig into a medium. Usually, a finer emboss tip can aid in the creation of a sharper imagine, but it also requires greater care as tears are more likely.

Paper rippage is a common gripe that ruins one’s embossed art early in the process. It can, however, be avoided. Both mastery of a gentle stylus technique or using a stylus with a thicker tip can combat this. It also can be avoided by making multiple passes on the applied pattern, rather than applying too much pressure that can rip the paper.

A sufficient light source is also useful in effectively tracing a template. Windows that allow enough sunlight in to complete the task work well. It is often encouraged that newcomers to dry embossing use this avenue to both hone their skills and decide whether an investment in the more suitable light box is worth it. A light box consists of a transparent screen that a translucent bulb shines through. Fatigue from holding one’s wrist at awkward angles when using a window can be cumbersome and slow the process for some.

Experimentation with different objects and even bending the notions of proper dry embossing techniques can expand the complexity and user experience with the art. Rolling pins can emboss simple designs, like borders, into extremely thick materials. Also, using different fabrics can expand one’s ability to add texture and depth. After embossing, rubbing sandpaper on the embossed material can give the final product a grainy look. Vellum paper may be used but it tends to show creases and smudges, and may lighten in color in places where greater pressure is applied.

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