Thursday, May 19, 2011

Technique Thursday: Embossing Folders

by Kathy Berger

Embossing Folders

First, I would like to apologize a little for the length of this post. I am sure I am going to overwhelm some of our readers, but I really wanted to be as thorough as I could about using embossing folders; perhaps I should have done this across several posts, but I really wanted to provide you with a single reference. I hope you will forgive my transgression and read through the post, or at least bookmark it for future reference.

This post is not necessarily intended as an exhaustive guide for using those folders, but I hope it will be thorough enough to help you to get more out of the folders you might already have, and perhaps encourage you to buy more (check out the huge selection of folders available at FranticStamper!

Using an embossing folder is as simple as inserting the material to be embossed into the folder, building up the appropriate sandwich for the machine being used, and rolling the folder through the machine (by cranking, pumping, or turning on a switch, depending on the machine.)

Here is a summary of the standard sandwiches for using the embossing folders with a variety of die cutting machines. Machines do have some variation in the tightness of their sandwiches. You may need to add shims or vary your sandwich for your particular machine. One rule to remember is never to force a sandwich into your machine... you might break your plates and potentially could damage your machine. Always be sure to follow your manufacturer's guidelines!

Machines and sandwiches:

  Cuttlebug     White A Plate
  B Clear Cutting Plate
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  B Clear Cutting Plate
  Wizard     Blue Mat
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Tan Embossing Pad
  White Mat
  Original Sizzix     Standard Cutting Plate
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Sizzlet Machine Concerter in place on machine
  Big Shot     Multi-Purpose Platform, open at Tab 1
  Clear Cutting Pad
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Clear Cutting Pad
  QuickCutz Epic     Gray Cutting/Embossing Platform
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Clear Cutting Mat
  Vagabond     Solo Platform
  Standard Cutting Mat
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Standard Cutting Mat
  Craftwell eBosser     Plate D
  Plate C
  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder
  Plate A

Throughout this tutorial, if you wish to see a photo closer up, you can click on the photo to open it at a larger size then use your browser's back button to return to the tutorial page, or right-click (ctrl-click on a Mac) to choose to open the photo in a different tab or window.

Next, here is a little warning about your choice of materials for embossing...if your material has a right side and a wrong side it is important to always be sure to insert it into the folder correctly! In general, the right side should be against the side which has the pattern indented rather than against the side whose pattern is raised; the embossing (raised pattern) will end up on the right side and the debossing (indented pattern) on the wrong side.


Embossing Different Materials

  • Vellum

    Vellum is beautiful when embossed, but it is a little bit fragile and sometimes tears or breaks when embossing. I find that if I sandwich the velum between two pieces of text-weight paper before inserting into the folder I have better results.

  • Transparencies

    Getting a photo of an embossed transparency is definitely difficult, but the embossing is child's play; simply insert the transparency into a folder and emboss as you would card-stock! The results are fabulous even when the photo isn't!

  • Metal

    Only thin metals (foils and foil card stock are wonderful!) should be embossed; thicker metals can damage not only your folder, but also your machine! The metal I used is aluminum from a soft drink can.

    Note: thin metals can be die cut with steel rule dies like the original Sizzix dies before embossing. These flowers were cut with a small (green) Sizzix Originals die.

    Also try embossing flashing tape (not to be confused with duct tape!); it is very metalic looking, embosses easily, and is self-adhering!

    By the way, once embossed metals can be colored with alcohol inks for a wonderful effect!

  • Chipboard

    Chipboard can be difficult to emboss because it is stiff and it is thick. Only thin chipboard (the weight of a cereal box) should be used in the folders.

    Thin coasters can be embossed in the same way as chipboard.

  • Velvet paper

    Velvet or suede papers can be embossed with a beautiful yet subtle result. These specialty papers are less stiff than standard cardstock but still hold the embossing beautifully.

  • Craft foam

    While it is possible to emboss craft foam it is difficult to get a good, deep emboss. It helps some if you HEAT the embossing foam prior to embossing, but to do so you need to work quickly. Use a heat tool to heat the foam and as soon as the foam starts to curl, place the foam into the folder and run immediately through the embossing machine. This is one case where having an extra set of hands would be a BIG help (I didn't have extra hands so this is not as deeply embossed as I would like.)

Embossing, Plus Color

  • It is easy to emboss anything that has already been colored. Add texture to your patterned papers or your stamped and colored images by embossing them! But here are some other ways to combine color and texture by using embossing folders.

  • DTP

    Using a light touch, simply rub an ink pad across the embossed image. Color will transfer to the raised parts of the image.

  • Chalk

    Apply chalk to the embossed areas of the card; smudge and rub in lightly. For this technique I use Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils I had from an old art class, but any quality art chalk, like the Pebbles and Craft chalks at FranticStamper, will work well. Use a white polymer eraser to remove stray chalk or to lighten areas if desired.

  • Gel Pen Highlights

    Use a gel pen to trace around all or parts of the embossed image to add highlights (especially effective on colored papers!)

  • Using Waxed Paper for a Resist

    Emboss a piece of waxed paper as you would any other piece of paper. Place the embossed piece onto a piece of card stock. Cover with a sheet of typing bond, and iron on high temperature (NO STEAM!) to transfer the wax to the glossy card stock. Sponge or brayer ink onto the card, and then buff off the excess ink with a rag or piece of paper towel. The pattern from the embossing folder will have transferred to the glossy card, and will act as a resist to the ink.

  • Sanding white core paper

    Emboss white core or double sided papers as usual. (Using Core'Dinations cardstock for this technique is fabulous! A wide selection of Core'Dinations is available at FranticStamper .) Use a sanding block to lightly sand away the top of the embossed areas of the paper. Sand away a little, or a lot, depending on the look you are after.

  • Ink the folder

    Rub dye based, pigment, or chalk ink directly onto the inside of the embossing folder from the ink pad (do not use permanent or solvent based inks as they will not transfer well and will not come off the folder.) Rub onto the flatter side of the folder, the side with the indentations of the pattern. When embossed the ink will become the background for the embossed images.

Partial Embossing

  • Back out

    Roll the sandwich only part way through the machine and then back the folder out.

    Note: all of the manual machines have a method for reversing direction of the sandwich's progress through the machine. On the Cuttlebug, for example, simply turn the crank in the reverse direction.)

  • Small folders

    Use a piece of Spellbinder's tan embossing mat (this stuff cuts easily!) or a chipboard shim (you might need a couple of layers) just a little smaller than the folder to replace one of the plates in your sandwich (on a Cuttlebug the sandwich would be A plate, folder with cardstock inserted, embossing mat or shim, and C plate... experiment with your machine's sandwich). The embossing will only happen where the mat or shim makes contact with the embossing folder, preventing the edges of the folder from being embossed.

    Note: This selective embossing technique can be used to emboss a shape or a window. Simply cut a shape out of chipboard and use with a full-sized embossing folder to emboss only the shape. Here are a rectangular frame and a circular shape embossed with the Swiss Dots folder.

Long Embossing

To emboss a long strip of paper that is no more than 5" wide you can use one of the A2-sized folders that has a repeating pattern (Swiss Dots, for example). The preferred method uses a piece of the Spellbinder's tan embossing mat, just a little smaller than the A2 Folder, and a C plate.

Place the paper in the folder so that the top edge is inside the patterned area. Place the folder SIDEWAYS onto the A plate on the base of the embossing machine so that the bottom edge of the paper extends beyond the end of the plates. Put the embossing mat on top of the folder, then put the C plate on top of it all to complete the sandwich. Roll through the machine.

Remove the paper from the folder then reposition the paper so that you will emboss an un-embossed area; carefully align the end of the embossed area onto the pattern of the folder. You will be able to feel it almost "lock" into place.

Rebuild the sandwich, pass through the machine and then repeat until the entire strip is embossed.

Alternately, you can use the standard sandwich (A plate, B Plate, folder, B plate) with the same repetitive process. The difference is that the B-plate will cause the edges of the folder to flatten out a small amount of the pattern that previously has been embossed. First emboss all the way across the strip, ignoring this flattening effect. When the whole strip has been embossed, simply align the paper onto the raised side of the pattern of the embossing folder and rub your fingers around the area that had been flattened, applying slight pressure. You will cause the previously embossed area to push into the pattern, and the embossing will re-imerge. Repeat this on any flattened areas. The strip (2 1/4" x 12") in the photo was embossed with this method.

Double embossing

This technique involves using two different embossing folders and inking, and can use either of a couple of the coloring methods discussed above. The ink will highlight the first folder's pattern, while the texture will show the second.
  • Ink positive

    Emboss your first folder and use the DTP method to add color to the raised image. Next, emboss with the second folder.

  • Ink negative Use the Ink the folder method with the first folder to add color to the background of the raised image. Then emboss using the second folder. The texture of the second folder will be the only texture left on the cardstock, but the negative of the pattern of the first folder will be printed on the cardstock.

I hope you have enjoyed at least some of this lengthy post and perhaps have found it useful. I promise to try to make my next technique post a little less involved!

(Be sure to check out this article by Sharon Jeffs for more examples of these techniques, plus a few more techniques!)



  1. Anonymous2:12 PM

    Thank you for a wonderfully informative post. It is not too long. I appreciate having all this info in one place.

  2. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is such a great help to so many of us!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. It's a wonderful reference that I will definitely be going back to:)

  4. great reference but how about what is needed for the original sizzix die cutter? I am pretty sure I am not the only one still using it...? tfs!

  5. @Jennifer, I just added the Original Sizzix to the chart. All that is needed is the Sizzlet converter. Simply put the converter on your machine and use the folder right on your standard cutting plate; nothing extra is required!

  6. This was really interesting. Thanks!

  7. Anonymous8:22 AM

    You put a lot of time into this!! Thank you for sharing such helpful info and your time as well!!

  8. I just bought a Grand Calibur by Spellbinder and they have a tutorial that shows the double embossing. I was glad to get this as well from a friend.

  9. Wow! What a great list of ideas! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. Anonymous11:13 PM

    That was very helpful and I will be using it alot. Thanks for doing it and for sharing.

  11. A very comprehensive tutorial. Thank you so much.

  12. I just ordered the Big Shot and can not wait to try the double embossing. Thanks so much!

  13. My cuttlebug just came in the mail yesterday. I've never used one before, so was so thankful this post showed up on pinterest today. Lost of great info to get me started. Thanks so much.

  14. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ideas and techniques. I have always wondered how to emboss a long strip without the lines of the folder showing. Thanks for this technique alone, and so many other great ideas I never even thought of.

  15. Wow these are some great ideas and techniques...TFS

  16. Anonymous7:09 AM

    I do not have an embossing machine but have looked at options. Since I don't plan on doing a tremendous amount of items is one machine better than others. Cost is also a factor. I looked at the Cuttlebug. Do you recommend it?

    1. I have had or used several of the machines listed above, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Wizard has far more pressure than the Cuttlebug, and the Big Shot has a wider roller. Before you choose a machine you really need to know what you are going to expect to be able to do with it, and pick the machine that can perform those tasks. While I do love my Cuttlebug, I love it because I use it for things I know it can do well; I wouldn't try to pound flowers with it (I save that for my Wizard), BUT I do use it to add texture to paper/cardstock all the time!

  17. Mary Jane Ciurla6:54 AM

    What a wonderful collection of great information on how to use our folders in different ways. I just discovered your website today, and I am so inspired.

  18. love the information!! Not too much at is very much appreciated! Thank you!

  19. Great resourse....thanks for the time you took to write it out!!

  20. Anonymous3:57 AM

    Amazing! And like the other commentors, this is not too long. I have learned several new techniques from your post and appreciate your time and effort to put it all together. Thanks for the great pics as well because it helps to drive home the end results. Just love the double embossing and inking technique.

  21. Can mulberry paper be embossed? Has anyone ever tried this? I love this article and have bookmark it so I can refer back to it. Thanks for sharing this with all of us! Also has anyone ever try using duct tape? With all the different designs you can find now on duct tape this could be interesting....hmmm maybe another use for duct tape?!?!?! LOL

  22. Thanks so much for all this info.. and your time:) I just got the Sizzix Texture Boutique which isn't mentioned per se, but I can still apply so much of this info.. thanks again, awesome!

  23. Thank you , Thank you ,Thank you ,
    what a great help you have been to me a mere novice.
    Am off to try some of the techniques you've shown me.

  24. Thank you! I didn't know you could do all these things so I've learned a LOT and gathered a lot of new ideas. Cool! :)

  25. Anonymous7:44 PM

    What a fantastic article! thanks for all the time and effort taken to explain to us all. much appreciated.

  26. Awesome! Thanks so much for incredible information! :)

  27. Anonymous11:50 PM

    I LOVE my embossing folders...this was fantastic! Thank you!!

  28. Great tutorial...I see that when you inked the embossing folder that some of the images come out blurred on one side. I've been having the same problem and can't figure out a solution to keep the paper from moving as the embossing folder presses the paper. Any ideas???

  29. Thank You so much for sharing this. Im New in using my BigShot so all these ideas is so usefull to me. Thanks for your time :) Regards form

  30. Great informative post! Thanks for sharing!

    Be sure to check out the Teresa Collins eBosser! We think you would love it!

    Team Craftwell

    1. I have just gotten one and hope to add it to the chart soon. I do love it!


  31. Very helpful and informative. Thank you very much!

  32. Thank you for the info!! I've been "playing" with some embossing folders I have and the available ink pads I have. I have pigment, chalk and regular dye ink pads. Its a bit confusing though.. Some people say not to use dye ink pads because they dry too quickly or chalk ones. I've used both, they seem okay, although I have to work at better coverage. Also the pigment ink pads I don't like using much on the folders because even though I clean them very well, they seem to "stain" the folders a little. I know that it is very thick ink so maybe it has something to do with that!! Thank you again for sharing!

  33. Anonymous10:11 PM

    Thanks for the tutorial. Much appreciated

  34. Great post with so much info.

  35. Awesome post!! Great having everything in one post. TFS:)

  36. Thank you so much for all these wonderful tips. I am definitely going to be pinning this for future reference.

  37. Heidi6:02 AM

    This was extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your information.

  38. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Fantastic guide; it'll be so helpful to refer to it since I regularly use my embossing folders (but just for "normal" stuff - now I'll be able to get more creative!!!).

  39. Thanks a lot!!! Very exaustive tutorial

  40. Deb L4:10 PM

    Great post and not too long . Thank you for spending the time to share. Deb

  41. Anonymous2:51 PM

    You well informed me in quite a few ways and keep up the posts. . . I'm loving it !! Happy Embossing, everyone from Canada !!

  42. Anonymous3:06 AM

    Thank you for your time and patience, I am so pleased to be able to vary my embossing,wonderful ideas to try. Flossietilly, Happy Christmas x

  43. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Wonderfully helpful. Thank you!

  44. Where have you been all my life? Thanks this was super informative and has opened a few creative windows for me.

  45. Great job! And SO appreciated!!

  46. I have a Big Shot and have tried many times to do the "selective embossing technique" to leave an area smooth to put a sentiment. Can you tell me what I'm doing wrong?

    1. Instead of experimenting with chipboard to find the right thickness for your machine you might want to try cutting the shape out of cardstock, 5 or 6 sheets, making sure to cut each piece exactly the same, and gluing them together. The cardstock or chipboard stack should be the same thickness as one of the clear plates, which would be omitted from the stack. You would have base plate, embossing folder, chipboard stack, and then the clear plate on top. Since each machine is a little different you will have to experiment to get the perfect thickness.

  47. Such a great post with so much good information. Thank you.
    Judy Wheeler

  48. Thank all info....bless you ..

  49. Dear Kathy!

    Many,many thanks for all the tips, tricks, and wonderful crafty ideas. I'm a Cuttlebug newbie, so I can definitely use all the help I can get!
    Happy crafting!

  50. Thanks for all the tips and ideas. Your site is great! I'm tagging so I can come back and reread this several times. In appreciation for you talent and detailed explanation.

  51. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I've just got a Sizxix Big Shot. I only have a few folders but they will go a long way with all this new information. Now where do I get the time for all these new ideas 😊

  52. Anonymous5:06 AM

    Definitely NOT too long! Great info and easy to understand. Thank you!

  53. Anonymous5:35 PM

    What a wonderful and informative Blog. I couldn't stop until I was through. And that took some time because I had to and then reread parts of it. I appreciate this information since most of these I haven't seen or heard of before. I will share with my friends.

  54. Thank you for an excellent resource.

  55. Great post - thanks for the tips. Now I'm going to go have a play with my folders and BigShot!!

  56. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Just got a cuttlebug - this article is extremely helpful (and not too long ;) ) - thank you!!

  57. Anonymous5:31 PM

    I just found your post via Pinterest I believe, and it is so awesome comprehensive! Thank you so much for sharing!

  58. Thank you. It was very helpful.

  59. Gabriela Moroaca5:28 AM

    thank you, it is very helpfull for a beginner.