Embossing is a great technique to create shiny raised images on your card & paper projects, and is often used in conjunction with rubber stamping, to complement card making, papercrafts & scrapbooking projects. It involves heating a special powder known as Embossing Powder (or EP for short), and letting it melt to create a shiny raised or "embossed" finish. Embossing adds extra depth, dimension and texture to card & paper projects, and can be used to add a really unique, interesting and professional touch to your handcrafted cards & projects.
If you are already a rubber stamper, getting started with embossing is a breeze. Even if you have never tried stamping before, you will find it really easy, and once you start, watch out, you might get hooked!
All you need is:
- a rubber stamp
- an inkpad (slower drying inks like pigment or embossing inks work much better than dye inks)
- embossing powder of your choice
To start embossing right away:
- Simply ink your stamp with pigment or embossing ink by tapping your stamp gently on the surface of the ink pad, ensuring the entire image is covered in ink. For beginners, it is best to start out with a smaller sized rubber stamp, until you get the hang of it, then you can use any sized stamp you like.
- Next, stamp your image on paper. Working quickly and neatly, sprinkle the image with EP, ensuring that it is completely covered. By using a slow drying ink, the grains of EP will "stick" temporarily to the the ink and form the image.
- Gently tap off the excess EP onto another clean sheet of paper. The excess powder can be tipped back into your container and reused again. If you find "stray" grains of EP on your image, carefully remove them using the tip of a fine paintbrush.
- Now comes the fun part... using a heat source (either a heat gun, electric hotplate, warm iron or even a toaster), hold the paper close (but NOT touching!!) to the heat, and carefully heat the powder and watch it magically melt and transform before your eyes to give a wonderful raised finish. Put aside for a couple of minutes to allow image to cool and set before touching it.
- Important: Please ensure that the neither the paper, nor your fingers or clothes etc., come in contact with the heat source. If you are crafting with your kids, make sure you do the heating part for them. Also, be careful not to overheat the image, otherwise both the EP and the paper may get burnt.
There are so many colours and blends of EP available out there, you are limited only by your imagination as to what you can create. I find the basic "must-have" EP colours are:
- Clear - looks great over coloured inks, especially rainbow inks
- Gold & Silver - versatile colours which can go with almost any project, especially ones where a little bit of class or elegance is needed (eg. wedding cards or invites etc.)
- Black - great for outlining images which later need to be coloured or painted in (images stamped in black ink alone can sometimes bleed or run when using watercolours or water-based markers)
Addicted to embossing as I am, I personally have a large collection of many other colours as well (over 100+), including numerous specialty blends (these are mixes of different colours of EP, sometimes with glitter added for extra sparkle), which I use to create different projects. I love the look of clear EP over rainbow pigment inks - very effective for making quick, easy, yet colourful & professional looking cards. I also often use gold, silver or other strong colours to emboss words and greetings - I find it adds a nice touch. I like using specialty blends for specific images eg. Autumn Harvest EP (a gorgeous blend of copper, orange, red and yellow) for maple leaves or other autumn leaves; and Gold, Green & Red Tinsel EP for Christmas-themed projects.
Handy Tips & Tricks
- Try mixing your favourite EPs with each other or with ultrafine glitters to create your own unique specialty blend. Mix complementary colours for subtle effects or contrasting colours for more bold statements. (Note: Once mixed, it is virtually impossible to "unmix" EP, so only mix small amounts each time.)
- Add a personal touch by embossing a handwritten message or your signature by using special embossing pens, or even ordinary gel pens and metallic pens. You may need to work quickly and emboss only a few letters at a time, as pen ink usually dries faster than specially developed embossing ink.
- Can I use a hair dryer to heat the EP? Sorry, but no. The heat is insufficient, and the air flow tends to blow the EP away.
- How should I best store my EP? The best way to store it is in a clean, air tight container away from heat & sunlight. Often EPs are sold in jars with screw-top lids, however, if you buy them in plastic ziploc baggies, you can easily store small amounts in empty camera film containers or any other small clean jars.
- Do EPs have a use-by date? Technically, yes. They are usually best used within 1-2 years of purchase. However, if well-stored, they can last much much longer. (I have EPs which are 4-5 years old, which still perform beautifully.) Old or poorly stored EP tends to smell stale, and can become "clumpy", giving poor results when used. As a little bit of EP goes a long way, I recommend you buy EP in small amounts, unless you have a large project in mind that you know you will need a lot of EP for.
- Can I use EP in scrapbooking and archival projects? Yes, of course, just ensure that you buy EP that is non-toxic and acid-free.
- Where can I buy EP on Ebay? Click here to search for Embossing Powders being auctioned on Ebay.