Mementoes In Time

Introduction to Heat Embossing



In this next tutorial, we are going to look at basic heat embossing. I fell in love with heat embossing right back at the start of my card-making life and have never tired of the range of effects,  you can get with this technique. I always come back to it, as a basic technique to produce a quick and effective card.


The card shown above was produced for a custom order for a set of notecards and it was pretty simple to produce a large number of cards that didn't vary in quality. Of course, you can do much more with heat embossing and we will have a look at some of the other techniques in a future article.


What is Heat Embossing?

Heat embossing is a technique, which allows you to create a raised or embossed effect on your cardstock, usually achieved by stamping and adding a special powder which is heated until it melts.


Heat embossing is nothing new and has been a standard process in the industrial printing industry for many years, just think of headed stationery. The actual name for this process is Thermography.

What equipment or supplies do I need?

Like all cardmaking techniques, you can get by with the minimum or invest in more tools and supplies if you wish. To get started, all you actually need is

  • a stamp,
  • a pigment ink pad and
  • some embossing powder.



If you decide this is the thing for you, you can add a heat gun, a heat resistant mat, a tidy tray, an anti-static bag and lots more types of embossing powders.


How do I heat emboss my stamped image?



Firstly, ink up your stamp, with your pigment ink pad.  Pigment ink is best as it has a stickier consistency and stays 'open' for longer, which gives you time to apply the embossing powder.  



I like to use a clear ink like Versamark to do this, as the ink is covered with embossing powder, so  you don’t need it to be coloured.  The exception is when, you are going to be using a clear embossing powder on top and need the ink to show through.



Stamp your image onto your paper and sprinkle it with embossing powder. Tap off the excess powder and pour it back into the pot. Make sure that the powder has stuck to your image properly, if it hasn't try sprinkling it with powder again.




Now comes the fun part! Heat the embossing powder and watch it melt and change colour to produce the embossed image. You can use a heat tool but when I first started out, I managed to emboss by holding my image over a toaster and near to an iron.


Be especially careful if you are using the toaster method, as you don't want to set the house on fire! If you are going to be embossing a lot though, it is well worth investing in a heat tool.




Hold your heat tool around 6-10cm from your paper and move it over your image to heat the powder evenly. You will begin to notice a change as the powder melts and as soon as it does, move the heat on to the next part of the image to avoid burning it. You will see the embossing powder melt and change colour and this can be quite impressive. With some powders, like distressed embossing powders, there is not such a dramatic change.



Getting the right finish is very important. If you don’t heat the image long enough, the powder won’t cure properly and will brush off the paper. In the picture above, you can clearly see that the embossing powder has melted on the right but still remains as a powder on the left of the image.


Overheated image, loses definition


If you overheat the powder, it can burn and flatten, so that the mage is not clear. I have heard people advise to heat the powder from the reverse of the paper but I have never really found this to be necessary as it takes longer for the powder to melt, compared to heating the powder directly.


Sometimes, the embossing powder can stick to places other than the stamped image. This might happen if you don’t stamp the image correctly or even from oil on your fingers transferring to the paper.  If this happens, brush off the excess powder with a small brush before you heat. You can also wipe over your paper with an anti-static pad before you stamp. You can also use a fabric softener sheet.



Sometimes, there will places where the embossing powder hasn’t stuck properly and you only notice this when you have heated the powder.You can repair missing or patchy images with an embossing pen, which is just embossing ink in a pen form. The thin tip allows you to fill in details and you can then add more embossing powder and heat this patch again in the normal way.


There is a lot of mixed advice about the right way to heat emboss but the best thing is to just have a go for yourself.  Now that you have tried basic heat embossing,you can move onto more exciting effects with this technique. 



I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to basic embossing. In the next tutorial, we’ll look at double and triple heat embossing and some resist techniques.


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