Tips to Help Make Foil Stamping Embossing a Breeze|
Jim Freisinger and Tim Carr, Diecrafters, Inc
Binding, Finishing and Distribution, March 2003 issue
an application calls for an eye-catching design, you have plenty of print
and finishing options. On the print side, unique ink colors, high-end
stocks and glossy coatings can be used to make a piece stand out. There
are even more options on the finishing side, such as foldouts, index tabs,
intricate die cuts and more.
a project calls for a design that’s both eye-catching and elegant, look
no further than foil stamping and embossing. Both processes are as
versatile as they are attractive, with applications ranging from business
cards and letterhead to pocket folders, invitations, book dust jackets,
menus and more. We’ll cover the essentials of foil stamping and
embossing, and provide helpful planning and design tips to be sure your
foil stamping and embossing projects go smoothly.
refers to the process of raising the paper surface using heat and force.
This is accomplished by pressing the paper between a heated, etched female
die and matching male counter-die. The heat allows the paper fibers to
stretch easier, while the force created between the dies “molds” the
paper into the etched area. When this process is used to indent the paper
rather than raise it, it’s referred to as debossing.
stamping is the process of pressing colored and/or patterned foils onto
the sheet to create a particular pattern or design. For an even more
dramatic effect, foil stamping can be performed in conjunction with
embossing by using a combination die. This results in registered
embossing; that is, embossing that registers to the stamped area. When
embossing is performed without foil stamping or not in register to any
printing, it is referred to as blind embossing.
intricacy of the embossed or stamped pattern is directly related to the
level of detail etched onto the die. A simple single-level die can be
created to render a flat image with a 30-degree beveled edge. For the
finest detail, multi-level dies can be sculpted into a nearly limitless
range of patterns and designs.
paper and color selection can all be used to create unique and exquisite
foil stamped and embossed pieces. There are several additional treatments
and techniques that can be used to alter the paper surface to give pieces
a highly customized appearance:
engraving – This treatment creates a series of cross-hatched lines
on a flat foil-stamped surface, resulting in added texture and dimension,
especially when used with metallic foils on coated stocks.
over foil – This process uses a second pass through the
stamping process to create a wider range of color options and effects.
embossing – A method that combines a deep, clear foil with
blind embossing to produce a high-gloss embossed image. Jim/Bob – I got
this from the FSEA material – that’s their term for this technique.
embossing – The use of patterned foils lends a unique quality
to an embossed or foil stamped piece. Popular textures include woodgrain,
leather and snakeskin. Contact your finisher for a complete range of
Die Making Process
stamping and embossing dies can be formed from several different
materials. The level of detail a die can contain – and the life span of
the die itself – is dependent upon the die material and the process used
to etch it.
is a soft metal that does not conduct heat very well, which is why
magnesium dies are used primarily for stamping applications with
quantities of a few hundred and are not recommended for embossing. The
softness of the metal also limits its life span. Magnesium dies are
usually acid etched, which is a process that uses a chemical solution to
create the desired patterns or images.
dies have sufficient strength and heat conductivity for both foil stamping
and embossing applications. Although copper dies are usually used for
single-level embossing, they are able to be double-etched for multiple
levels. Like dies made from magnesium, copper dies are usually
manufactured with acid etching. With a correct make-ready, copper dies
will yield many impressions, making them sufficient for high-volume
projects that call for a few thousand impressions per month.
dies are the best and most versatile foil stamping and embossing dies
available. Although they can be acid etched, brass dies are typically
machine milled, a process that grinds off unwanted metal. For projects
that call for the most exquisite detail, brass dies can be hand sculpted.
This involves a die maker carving the die to exacting detail. Hand
sculpting is often necessary for intricate, multi-level dies. Brass dies
conduct heat the best and last the longest. With a proper make-ready,
these dies can be used regularly for many years.
the only negative to a brass die is its cost. Although they last a very
long time, they can be expensive to create. For that reason, you may want
to have die duplicates created from brass masters. Duplicates are
particularly useful for regularly repeating projects, or those that are
printed multiple up.
are three main materials used to create duplicates: bakelite, fiberglass
resin and nickel. Bakelite is a hard plastic material that’s inexpensive
and easy to produce. However, the heating and cooling associated with
embossing limit its life span. Fiberglass resin is slightly more expensive
than bakelite, but will last longer. Nickel is a little more costly than
bakelite and fiberglass resin, but is more durable and suitable for
multi-level embossing or combination dies. Nickel duplicates are generally
used for embossing and combination applications from brass master dies.
are a few things to keep in mind to determine if a die is becoming worn.
First, compare a piece from early in the run – or one from a previous
run using the same die – to one from the end of the current production
run. Reduced depth or clarity of the embossed or stamped image is a sign
that the die is dull. Also, check the die itself for dull, rounded edges.
Perform these checks after each production run if you plan to keep the die
for a future run, and consider replacement at the first signs of wear.
are plenty of things to be aware of when planning a project to include
foil stamping and embossing. Here are a few tips to help keep your
projects on the right track:
aware of make-ready and scheduling realities: When planning a foil
stamping or embossing project, it’s important to understand that these
are not “same-day” processes. Die creation can take up to several days
for a hand-sculpted, finely-detailed brass die. Although some projects
require dies with this level of intricacy, slight alterations in project
design may drastically reduce make-ready times on foil stamping and
embossing projects. Involve your finisher early in the project planning
process to see if alterations can be made to reduce turnaround times for
selection is important: The stock you select can make or break a
foil stamping or embossing project. Weight, finish and coatings all play a
role in the visual appeal and overall quality of the finished project.
general, medium-weight (over 100 lb. text), uncoated stocks are the ideal
choice for most embossing applications. Although this depends on the depth
of the die, stocks thinner than 100lb. text weight may not exhibit all of
the detail the die can produce on intricate multi-level embossing or
combination projects. In addition, a textured stock may “iron out”
when stretched during embossing, an effect the customer may or may not be
foil stamping applications, stocks that are too porous may cause the foil
to push too deeply into the sheet. The result may be color that appears
washed out, or metallic foils with an uneven surface. Deep embossing onto
a foil stock may cause the stock to split, although this depends on the
size and depth of the image. In addition, heavily-coated stocks may crack
on deep, multi-level embossing or debossing applications. Before a project
is printed, let your finisher help select a stock that will yield the best
stamping and embossing results.
more thing to consider when selecting paper and inks is the heat of the
die. During embossing production, metal dies are heated to temperatures of
more than 250 degrees. This can cause heavily-coated stocks or thick inks
to stick or even burn when the die is applied. If the project is already
printed, Mylar may be placed between the paper and die. To avoid any
surprises, however, check with your finisher if your project calls for
heavy ink coverage or coatings.
layouts carefully: When laying out projects for embossing or stamping,
there are several factors that must be taken into account. For example,
metal dies expand slightly when heated for production. Although the exact
amount of expansion depends on the surface area of the die and the amount
of heat applied, large dies can expand by as much as 1/16”.
Closely-registered images should be planned to account for this amount of
leeway. Whenever possible, position areas of tight registration as close
as possible toward the gripper and side guide. This will help maintain
consistency throughout the production process, especially on intricate
the other hand, paper contracts when it’s stamped or embossed. The exact
amount of shrinkage is based on the die shape and paper characteristics,
and can noticeably alter the dimensions of a sheet and prevent sheets from
lining up properly. An experienced finisher can help you account for these
paper dimension changes on both registered and blind embossing
between printer and finisher is essential: Involving the finisher
during the project’s planning stage is perhaps more important for
stamping and embossing applications than any other finishing process. The
complexity and detail involved in die creation makes it a necessity to
gather as much information as possible from the customer.
and embossing - especially when performed together on a combination
project – can be difficult to visualize. It’s very expensive and time
consuming to alter a design once a die has been created. Previous samples,
line drawings and other visual aids allow the customer, printer and
finisher to get on the same page.
stamping and embossing are a great way to make any project more elegant
and attractive. Although the processes are complex and detailed, plenty of
communication between printer and finisher early in the project design
phase will minimize problems and help keep production on schedule.
Freisinger is Sales Manager and Tim Carr is Stamping and Embossing
Supervisor at Diecrafters, Inc., a leading Midwestern finishing company.
Diecrafters offers complete post press planning and finishing services
including: Die cutting, foil stamping, embossing, folding, gluing,
binding, mounting, fulfillment and warehousing. Jim can be reached
at 708-656-3336 x116 or firstname.lastname@example.org