Embossing vs. Debossing
When it comes to letterpress printing, this is probably one of the most common questions we get asked. What is the difference between an emboss and a deboss. It makes sense that this could be confusing, they sound very similar, but how they actually is quite different.
Essentially one is a raised surface on the paper and the other is pressed into the paper. So which one one is which? Let's start with the emboss.
A true emboss is going to look and feel raised on the surface of the paper. This is done with a metal die and what's called a counter die. A counter is typically made of poured fiberglass, etched magnesium plates, embossing compound, or layered counter-board and it fits very tightly into the metal die.
What happens during an emboss is the paper stock is fed between the metal die and the counter die, hit with a lot of pressure and usually heat and the counter die pushes into the metal die typically from the back of the paper and creates a raised surface on the other side. It's worth noting that for a true emboss you will effect both sides of the paper. One side will have a deboss and the other will have an emboss. This is something to be aware of if you have double-sided printing. Most of the time an emboss is good if you just have printing on one side and are wanting to embellish en element on the sheet. We have seen cases where the artwork is designed to incorporate a deboss on one side and the emboss on the other and that can be fun too.
Embossing can be great because it looks good without ink and it can be good for raising ink or artwork areas on the paper. In the photos you'll see an embossed wedding invitation from Little Yellow Leaf. She wanted to go for a subtle border around the text so we hit the sheet "blind" with the embossing die and counter to create a raised border. She could have also opted to print the border first with black ink and then we could have embossed it, and it would have created raised black border. Either way would have looked great, but we especially like the subtle look here.
Also pictured here is the back of the paper so you can see where the counter die pressed into the paper, as well as into the metal die.