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INTRO Embossing is a process that presses an image into a material to create a raised area. Debossing works in the opposite way, the area around the image is pressed down to leave an indent. To emboss/deboss an image, a plate is pressed against a material under high pressure to leave an imprint. The final result ends in the structure of the paper being altered for a delicate finish that can add a professional quality to your work.

Materials Tools

-Palm sander -U.V. exposer unit -Palette knife -Press

-Copper plate -Wood plate -Acetate -Photo-polymer -Magic tape -Oil based ink -Material you want to print onto

To prepare your artwork you will need to print your image onto clear acetate with black ink. You can print the image with an inkjet printer, laser printer or photocopier. Depending on how you print, will affect the amount of time you will need to expose the image. If you are using a wooden plate, which is explained in the ‘preparing the plate’ section, you will need to create you artwork in illustrator. Make sure you turn your design into vectors (lines), this is so the laser knows where you want it to cut. Remember to reverse the design so it will print the right way round.


There are two types of plates that can be used to emboss/deboss. To create a plate to emboss, it is more affective to use a wooden plate. To create a wooden plate the quickest method is to use a laser cutter to cut out the areas you want to be raised for the paper to be pressed into. Remember to reverse your image for it to print the right way round. To create a plate to deboss, you will need to prepare a copper plate, which is a little more detailed. This technique is called photo etching. To remove any scratches from the copper you will need to sand the plate with a palm sander. Sand the plate in a circular motion until any scratches are removed. Once you are happy, you will need to wash the plate with a sponge and liquid degreaser to remove any finger marks. This will stop any air bubbles once the film is applied. Make sure you rinse the plate thoroughly and blot dry with some newsprint.

The plate is now ready to be laminated. Cut the light sensitive photo-polymer so it’s slightly bigger than the plate. Place the plate onto the pressboard and peel off the inner layer of the photo-polymer and carefully place it over the plate. Make sure you don’t touch the plate with your fingers. Place the acetate with your image on over the top of the photo-polymer, remembering to reverse the image and roll it through the press slowly. Once it has gone through the press, spin the plate 90 degrees and roll it back through the press. Trim the excess photopolymer so its flush to the plate and secure the acetate over the top with magic tape. The magic tape will let the light through when exposing. 
You are now ready to expose the plate. Place it face down onto the U.V exposer unit. Depending on how you printed your image you will need to expose it for different times. The times are measured in light units.

Ink jet acetate 3 L.U. Laser printer acetate 8 L.U. Photocopier acetate 8 L.U. 
Next you will need to mix some sodium carbonate into a tray of water. Remove the plate from the exposer unit and peel off the top layer of the photo-polymer. Place the plate into the water and gently sponge the plate every 30 seconds for two and a half minuets. Remove the plate from the water and blot dry with newsprint. Once the plate is dry, place it back into the exposer unit face down and further expose for 60-80 light units to re-harden the remaining photo-polymer. All you need to do now is tape up the back of the plate to protect it from the acid. Place the plate in the ferric acid tank and leave for around 7 hours. To etch the plate evenly, make sure you rotate the plate halfway through.


Before you can start printing you will need to set up a registration page to allow you to place the plate and your paper in the correct place every time. To do this, on a piece of newsprint, you will need to outline the size of the paper you will be printing onto. Place the plate where you want it to be pressed and mark the outline. 
There are different techniques of embossing however this example will focus on two types. The first is blind embossing. This method does not use any ink. Place the registration page onto a board and align the plate with the marked outline. Align a sheet of paper over the top and cover with a stack of tissue paper; this helps to apply pressure evenly across the sheet. Its best to use the hydraulic nipping press for embossing because it

allows you to apply a lot of pressure. Slide the board into the side of the press and tighten the screw on the side. Pump the handle towards yourself until it becomes tight, press the black button on the side and continue pumping the handle until it becomes difficult. Loosen the screw on the side to release the pressure and remove the board. Take off the tissue paper and carefully peel back the sheet. The second method uses ink. The ink preparation is the same as block printing and lino-cut. Use a palette knife to spread the ink onto a glass surface in a straight line. With a roller, dip it in the ink and roll out an even layer. Once the roller is evenly coated, roll it onto the plate. For the printing, simply repeat the same process as blind embossing.