Everything you need to know about embossing and debossing

Using special techniques to create a distinctive effect in printing

There are many effects used in printing that can draw attention, add impact and make people want to pick up and read your material. Two of the most common effects used in business and invitation printing are embossing and debossing.

Embossing and debossing are specialised techniques that create a three dimensional image imprinted into the paper or stock by a metal die plate.

They can be used to create a beautiful tactile surface and distinctive effect for business cards, presentation folders, letterheads, book covers, cards and many other printed products.













What is the difference between embossing and debossing?

Embossing and debossing are similar processes that create different results.

Embossing involves applying pressure and heat from underneath to raise elements of the design, such as logos and other graphic elements. In the below example of embossing, the raised elements can clearly be seen against the background. Colour is used to add impact.

Debossing is the opposite. An imprint of the selected area is pushed inwards from the top and sunken or recessed into the material. In the below example of debossing, the words and line beneath are all debossed while the use of colour adds contrast.


  • Create a unique look for business cards.

  • Add an element of luxury and elegance to invitations.
  • Make a logo stand out on a letterhead.
  • Add impact to presentation folders.
  • Craft a beautiful book or coffee table book cover.


Getting technical: how embossing is created

(If technical details make your eyes glaze over, skip this bit and move onto the design tips!)

Embossing or debossing involves creating a die or stamp which is then mounted onto a plate. A heat process is used to create either an impression or depression in the paper with the stamp.

As a custom die block needs to be created for each job, embossing and debossing can be costly to set up. However, running costs are low which helps to keep the overall job affordable, particularly for larger quantities.

Embossing and debossing can be used for offset or digitally printed materials. If the item to be embossed requires tight registration (where each layer needs to be precisely laid over the top of previous layers) the item should be printed offset. Digital print can move 1-2mm from sheet to sheet which is not precise enough for some embossing or debossing projects.

Design tips for embossing and debossing

  1. Use a simple uncluttered design.

  2. Avoid intricate details, particularly with fonts and logos.
  3. Any type or images printed on the reverse side will be affected by the imprint so it’s best to make this a design feature or leave the impression area blank.
  4. Use embossing and debossing only to accentuate part of the design, such as a logo, border or repetitive element.
  5. Choose a medium weight, softer stock.


Providing artwork files for embossed jobs

Artwork should be supplied as a PDF file with the emboss area in a vector format (made of individual objects and not digitally flattened). The area to be embossed should be setup in a separate spot colour and clearly labelled as either emboss or deboss so that the area the effect will be applied to is very clear. 

If you’re unsure of how to set up a file for an embossed job, our team is here to help.


Embossing and foiling

Embossing without applying additional techniques is called “blind embossing” and on its own creates a subtle and smart effect.

Embossing and debossing can be also combined with other techniques. The most common of these is foiling where a pigment or shiny metallic ink is applied to the embossed or debossed area for an attractive and alluring look.

Combining foiling with embossing works best when:

  • There is good contrast between the areas embossed/foiled and the background.
  • Highlighting a special element such as an elegant border, design feature or logo.
  • Used with simple but beautiful fonts.
  • Applied to quality stock.

Find out more about our other specialised printing services and special effects.

Here at Express Print & Mail, we take the craft of printing seriously and strive to achieve the best results for our clients every time. If you would like to talk about special effects including embossing or debossing for your next print project, we'd love to assist.