Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heat (Thermal) Embossing Basics - Part I - Embossing Supplies

We're going back to basics today. 

A couple of months ago Cathy e-mailed me...she was wanting to try a technique she had seen but part of the technique required her to heat emboss a few images.  She mentioned she had a terrible time getting a good finished embossed image.  She had stray bits of embossing powder here and there, partial embossed images, etc.  So she asked if I could help her start over and just go over things from the very beginning.

Of course that's about the time all hell broke loose here.  Today I dusted off the e-mail and I'm ready go back to basics on embossing.

Basic Supplies for Heat Embossing
(a.k.a. Thermal Embossing)....

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Must Have Supplies:

Paper or other Foundation Material
Embossing, Pigment or other slow drying ink
Embossing Powder
Heat/Embossing Tool

Optional Recommended Supplies:

Embossing Buddy  (or similar) or Dryer Sheet
Micro Paint Brush
Tidy Tray

Let's talk a bit more about each item.....

Must Have Supplies

Paper or other
Foundation Materials-

You can stamp and emboss on many many different types of foundation materials.  Everything from cardstock, copy weight paper, acetate, wood, pattern paper, vellum, canvas, metal, plastic, chipboard and so much more. 

I have tried embossing on just about everything I bring into my craft room.  I have had great success with most items but I have had a few "teaching moments" I'd like to share....

* You can emboss on acetate but you need to be sure it is acetate intended for laser printers.  You can emboss on regular acetate but it tends to warp before the embossing powder has been completely melted.  I have used both and for some uses the warping can work in your favor.

*Embossing on non-porous items such as glass or metal should be sealed especially if it will be handled.  The embossed areas can be scratched or will flake off completely. 

* ALWAYS test plastic items when you plan on embossing it... All plastics are different ~ some will withstand heat while others melt very easily!  I would suggest testing all items first by hitting it with a heat tool in an inconspicuous area before you begin. 

Inks for Embossing

There are many different inks on the market specifically designed for embossing.  The most common types are clear or have a slight tint to the ink or black.  This ink is usually very thick and slow to dry which is the key to a great impression.    Some brands are Ranger's Embossing Ink, Distress Embossing Ink (my personal fav.), Versamark ink, etc.

You can also use most any pigment or hybrid inks which are also very slow drying inks and can be used just like the clear embossing type inks.  Many people prefer Versafine pigment inks.

Some people use Distress Inks (the colored versions - not the Distress Embossing Ink) for embossing but I personally have never had much luck with this.  Unless you're super fast it seems to me that the ink dries or soaks into the paper very quickly.    At best I've gotten partial images from this ink.

Dye or Ancient Inks dry far too quickly to be used for embossing.  Again you will get minimal to virtually no embossing powder to stick to these types of inks.

There are a few companies that offer embossing pens which are fun to play with.  You can write, draw, doodle and emboss it!  I've had a few over the years and they all seem to work about the same.

I have also embossed text and images that I have printed off my ink jet printer but you have to be SUPER fast on applying the powders.  Set the printer on the heavy ink setting, have the cap off  your ep jar before you start to print and sprinkle the ep on the paper as soon as the paper starts coming out of the printer.  It works best if you are embossing short phrases that print quickly. 

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Embossing Powders

There are TONS of different colors and types of embossing powders on the market. There are the normal ep's in clear, black, white and colors plus several "specialty" types.  Everything from puffy, glittery, fine, extra fine, UTEE, embossing powders with different finishes and even an embossing powder that turns into glue when the powder is melted.

All of these powders react differently to heat but I'll go into this in more depth on another day.

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Heat or Embossing Tool

There are quite a few companies with different embossing/heat tools on the market.  Personally I have found that Ranger's Heat Tool is hands down The Best.  It heats more than it blows where most other types of embossing guns blow more than it heats.  The difference is your powders aren't blown off the image before they are melted which makes a HUGE difference in the finished image.

Many times when people come to me with embossing difficulties I let them try my Heat Tool by Ranger and their troubles go away. 
I just cannot speak highly enough of this heat tool.

Optional Goodies....

Embossing Buddy

This is the brand name of Stampin' Up's static remover which contains something called Fullers Earth (a naturally occurring clay mostly found in Japan and Mexico) which helps remove static and neutralizes oils (from your skin) so the embossing powder sticks only to the ink not the paper. 

Another popular item to use is a sock filled with corn starch or talc.  They don't work as well as the Embossing Buddy but both work pretty well. 

Other options are: Used or unused dryer sheets; Swiffer Sweeper cloths; Pledge cloths; etc.  Just be aware that some of these can leave residues on your cardstock.

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Micro Brush

I always keep one of these micro brushes close at hand when I'm embossing...  Even when you use some sort of anti-static item there is still the possibility of stray bits here and there sticking to your paper.    I simply give those extra bits a flick with this tiny brush, blow the powder off and I'm set to go.

Now if you can't find a micro brush or don't want to spend the $'s to buy one you can do what I did and make your own!  I simply took my micro tip scissors (or other extremely sharp scissors) and cut away bristles until I got the length, size and shape I wanted.  For a .49 cent paint brush and a bit of snipping it works pretty darn good and the best part is that it didn't cost me $15.00 for the brand name one!
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Tidy Tray

This is a nifty little catch all that helps corral the extra embossing powder once you're image has been coated.  You simply dump the powder into the tray and use the funnel end to pour the excess powder back into the jar for another day.  Not a necessity but it sure makes embossing a much cleaner affair.

Tomorrow we'll proceed with the basic steps for heat embossing.


  1. Great information Roni! I learned a lot. Looking forward to the next segment!

  2. Wow Roni you have really de-mystified the art of heat embossing. Thank you so much for sharing you knowledge and experience with us. Blissful creating...

  3. Like going back to basics! Everyone can use fun refreshers!


Thanks for your thoughts and comments!