Promo University

What is the Difference Between Emboss & Deboss?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: July 23rd, 2020

You've likely never heard the words "emboss" and "deboss" before, unless you're a crafty person, or you happen to work for a printing company. While you could, in theory, look through a dictionary for the definitions, it's much better to find all that you need to know right here!

Emboss and deboss are basically design techniques that work via machines. Here's how both processes work and what they can be used to create!

100% creative https://www.embossplus.com/

What is Embossing?

Embossing is the process of stamping or carving a design onto a material like cardstock, leather, or fabric in a fashion that creates a raised, almost 3D look. It can be done on a grand, industrial scale, or right at home using your own machine.

How is Embossing Done?

Everyone can create an embossed design. You just need the right tools for the job! It can be done professionally with more advanced equipment, or right at home.

Here is how embossing is done on a professional level:

  • Step One: Two dies of the intended design are created.
  • Step Two: The dies are inserted into a heated press.
  • Step Three: The material that's getting embossed is stamped in between the dies.
  • Step Four: The design is officially embossed onto the material!
Step 1
Embossing step 1

Create the Dies

In order for embossing to work, the manufacturer needs two dies that are customized with the intended design. The first die (often referred to as the male die) has the design raised on the top, while the other (the female die) has it recessed into the plate.

Dies can be made from magnesium, copper, or brass and come in many different styles. The one that's used ultimately depends on the desired final look.

Step 2
Embossing step 2

Insert the Dies

Next, the dies are inserted into a giant press, which could be any of the following:

  • Clamshell press - the material is sandwiched in between the press
  • Straight stamp press - the material is fed into the press and comes out the other side
  • Roll press - the material is fed through rollers where it's embossed with the design

The picture here shows the emboss being done on a clamshell press. Think of it like a giant George Foreman grill!

Step 3
Embossing step 3

Press the Material

The press is heated to a temperature as high as 200°F, but it's typically a little cooler. The material that's getting embossed is then pressed between the two plates.

Step 4
Embossing step 4

Complete the Design

The embossed design is now looking good on the material. In this case, it's a classic t-shirt!

The process above is how embossing is done for mass manufacturing. If you want to emboss at home, you need to be familiar with the process of die cutting. You will buy dedicated embossing plates, powder, and maybe a heat gun to use while you complete your project.

Do a quick Google search to find online tutorials and blogs that will walk you through the process!

This video shows you how embossing is done on the manufacturing level!!

What Are the Different Types of Embossing?

It's not one size fits all when it comes to embossing. You can achieve that 3D look using any of the following techniques:

  • Single-level emboss
  • Multi-level emboss
  • Blind emboss
  • Registered emboss
  • Combination emboss
  • Pastelling emboss
  • Glazing emboss
  • Scorching emboss
Single-Level Emboss

Single-Level Emboss

If you're on a budget, single level emboss is the best option! This is embossing at its most basic level, where the design is simply raised onto the material.

Multi-Level Emboss

Multi-Level Emboss

Your design will look more detailed if you use multi-level embossing. This technique helps create texture in the background behind the initial design.

Blind Emboss

Blind Emboss

This technique involves using no ink whatsoever, but instead creating the design directly into the material. You'll often see blind embossing used for t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets.

Registered Emboss

Registered Emboss

The embossed design is created and then a second design is created right next to it. This second design is made using ink, foil stamping, punching, or embossing again.

Combination Emboss

Combination Emboss

As the name suggests, combination emboss involves multiple dies being used at the same time. Foil stamping might also be used, which is when pre-dried ink is hot stamped onto the material.

Pastelling Emboss

Pastelling Emboss

If you've ever gone to a thrift store, you might notice items that look old and withered. That same vintage look can be achieved using a pastelling emboss. The dies are only lightly pressed onto the material.

Glazing Emboss

Glazing Emboss

A glaze is added on top of the embossed design, giving it a shiny or polished appearance. This is often used on darker colored business cards or greeting cards.

Scorching Emboss

Scorching Emboss

Think back to how embossing is done on a heated press. In scorching, the plate is heated up even more, which creates a super raised look. This typically works best on lightly colored materials.

These are the most common embossing techniques, but new ones are getting introduced all the time. For instance, some resources mention flute, tint, and sculpted embossing.

It just goes to show that the world of design is always evolving!

Emboss

What is Debossing?

Debossing is often thought of as another type of embossing. Rather than the design popping out against the material, it’s created with an indented look. Like embossing, it can be done on the industrial level, or at home using your die cutting machine.

How is Debossing Done?

Debossing is basically embossing's twin brother. It's done in a very similar fashion, with a few tweaks along the way.

Here is how debossing is done on the professional level:

  • Step One: A metal plate is molded with the intended design.
  • Step Two: The plate is inserted into a heat press.
  • Step Three: The material that's getting debossed is inserted in the heat press.
  • Step Four: The debossed design is completed!
Step 1
debossing step 1

Mold the Design

A design or logo is molded onto a metal plate. The manufacturer only needs one plate to complete the deboss.

Step 2
Debossing step 2

Insert the Plate

The plate is inserted into a pressing machine, which is heated to about 200°F to 300°F. Just like with embossing, the deboss can be done on a clamshell press, straight stamp press, or roll press. It just depends on who's doing the work!

Step 3
Embossing step 3

Press the Material

The material that's getting debossed is inserted into the press. The picture here shows the process being done on custom coasters.

Step 4
Embossing step 4

Complete the Design

The design is officially debossed, and the end user is ready to start using their new, stylish products!

Check out this video to see how debossing is done on an industrial scale!

What Materials Can Be Embossed & Debossed?

You don't want to stick any old thing into a heated press! The following materials are all safe to use for embossing and debossing:

  • Paper
  • Cardstock
  • Metal
  • Fabric
  • Leather
  • Hard plastic
  • Food
 Paper

Paper

Paper is one of the most common materials to be embossed and debossed. It can be used to create elegant invitations, posters, and business cards.

Cardstock

Cardstock

You can pick up cardstock at your local craft store and use it in your die cutting machine. It's a great material for greeting cards, book covers, and scrapbooks.

Metal

Metal

Blacksmiths actually used a form of embossing back in medieval times without even realizing it! They would forge metal using fire, a hammer, and an anvil. These days, we can run metal items, such as signs and mint tins, through machines to create that raised look.

 Fabric

Fabric

Even though screen printing or digital printing is more common, embossing is still used for t-shirts and other apparel items. It's can also be used to decorate blankets and tapestries.*

Leather

Leather

Carry around an embossed or debossed leather bag, and you're sure to get a ton of compliments! You can also use these techniques to decorate luggage tags, wallets, and portfolios.

Hard Plastic

Hard Plastic

Toys, water bottles, and folders can all be decorated with an embossed design. Fun fact: This technique also helps create the raised numbers and name on your debit and credit cards!*

Oreo Cookie

Food

Do you love Oreos? The logo is actually added to each cookie using embossing! This process is also used to create designs on other snack foods like chocolate and crackers.

*Disclaimer: The heat and pressure in embossing and debossing may not always work on fabric and plastic. Proceed with caution if you're using these materials.

Notebook

What is Embossing & Debossing Used For?

Blank products are okay, but they're nowhere near as fun as items that are customized with a design. That's where embossing and debossing come in handy!

Embossing and debossing can be used at home to create:

  • Scrapbooks
  • Photo albums
  • Book covers
  • Journals
  • Greeting cards & envelopes
  • Invitations
  • Graphic t-shirts & apparel items
  • Jewelry
  • Decorative blankets and furniture
  • Home décor
  • Kitchenware
  • Napkins
  • Journals
  • Stylish mason jars & containers
  • Stickers
  • Folders & portfolios
  • Luggage tags
  • Posters & signs
  • Holiday decorations
  • Toys

If you can dream it, you can emboss or deboss it! These decoration methods can be used to create a ton of awesome things for your home or office. You can also DIY your own holiday gifts!

How Do Businesses Use Embossing & Debossing?

Businesses may hire a professional embosser for a number of reasons. This can include:

1) Adding a design to product packaging
2) Creating advertising materials
3) Making labels and tags
4) Bringing a logo to life on branded merch
5) Offering loyalty or credit cards

Jimmy Choo https://www.packagingstrategies.com/

#1: Product Packaging

Food and cosmetic companies often use an embossed or debossed design in their packaging, such as the Jimmy Choo perfume box pictured here. It adds a sophisticated look that customers can't resist on shelves!

Han Legal https://www.pinterest.com

#2: Advertising Materials

Not everything is digital these days! Companies still use embossed and debossed business cards, outdoor signs, and banners to promote their products and services. Just look at these classy business cards from Han Legal, a law firm in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Jeans https://www.beyondretro.com/

#3: Labels & Tags

Clothing manufacturers often add embossed tag or labels to their apparel. For instance, many pairs of Levi's jeans have an embossed tag on the back. This helps set their denim apart from the competition.

Coke https://www.amazon.com/

#4: Branded Merch

Coca-Cola has used lithography, embossing, and debossing over the years to create tin signs and other merchandise. This embossed magnet is a reminder to always make sure you have bottles of their soda in your fridge!

Credit cards https://www.businesswire.com/

#5: Loyalty or Credit Cards

Stores like Kohl's. Amazon, and Target use embossing to create their own credit cards. This decoration method can also be used to create loyalty cards and gift cards.

A business can use embossing and debossing in many ways. These techniques may even help them run their company a bit more smoothly!

What's the Difference Between Emboss & Deboss?

You've learned a lot so far about embossing vs. debossing. This handy chart breaks it all down for you!

Infographic
Infographic

The main differences between embossing and debossing include:

  • Embossing creates a 3D look, while debossing indents the design into the product.
  • The amount of heat used for embossing will be less than what's used for debossing.
  • Embossing tends to work on all materials, while debossing fabric or plastic could be troublesome due to the amount of heat.
  • There are two dies or plates used for embossing. Debossing only requires one die or plate.
  • Generally, embossing is a bit more expensive than debossing.

The similarities between emboss and deboss far outweigh the differences. First, the steps in creating these designs is more or less the same, and each can be made with or without ink. Second, you can do them at home, or through a professional. Finally, they both create a stylish final look, every time!

The Bottom Line

Whether they're used to make a wedding scrapbook or help out with a company's advertising, the emboss and deboss are fascinating design techniques. They're extremely versatile and can be done by just about everyone!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

Phase Prototypes. (2019, December 16). The Art of the Embossing Process. Retrieved from, https://phase1prototypes.com/art-embossing-process/

Zeven Design. (2016, June 14). The Graphic Designer's Guide to Embossing. Retrieved from, https://zevendesign.com/graphic-designers-guide-embossing/

Downey. What is Embossing & the Main Embossing Techniques? Retrieved from, https://www.downey.co.uk/blog/43/what-is-embossing-the-main-embossing-techniques

WikiHow. (2019, November 8). How to Emboss Metal. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Emboss-Metal

Velarga, M. (2016, September 24). Emboss vs Deboss in Packaging. Retrieved from, https://pakfactory.com/blog/embossing-and-debossing-packaging/