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Adding a die cut or emboss to your print job can make a striking visual impact; it's a way of sculpturing and increasing a reader's engagement with your work. Learn about the various types of embossing and die cutting as well as the proper ways to set up your documents to achieve consistent results. Author Claudia McCue covers manufacturing concerns like cost, time, choosing the appropriate paper stock, and file formatting; preparing your artwork for embossing and stamping; and then designing your die-cut project in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.
As you start planning a job that's going to use embossing, stock is a consideration. You should consult your printer if that's who you're dealing with. Or if you have a direct relationship with the die maker, talk to them. If you think of it this way, paper and embossing is sort of a recipe, and you want to be a good cook. The stock weight, of course, is important as you might expect, heavier stock responds well to embossing. But the die may have to be created deeper in order to provide definition for certain artwork if it's very heavy stock. One of the things that happens with heavy stock, is that, even though it will hold shape well.
It can also try to collapse. It tries to go back to its former shape. So it may have to be pushed deeper than what the finished emboss level ought to be. The surface or the texture of the stock is important. You'll find that felt finishes are the best for maintaining detail. If the stock has very pronounced texture, it could complete with small details in your embossing art. Although the contrast between textured stock and the slight smoothing that happens during embossing can actually be kind of interesting. Long fiber stock works better than short fiber stock for deeper embossing because it stretches better and still holds together.
Stock grain is important, too. If you have artwork with, let's say, horizontal components and you're aligning those horizontal components with a horizontal grain in the paper. That could cause cracking, so you might consider changing your artwork, or perhaps changing the angle that you're embossing. As much as we want to be sustainable, as much as we want to recycle, you may find that recycled stocks can be inconsistent under embossing, and that's because they're created out of a combination of original fiber.
So it's a good idea if you use stock that is composed of less than 30% post-consumer waste. If you're using coated stock or varnished stock, or stock that's already printed, you have to keep in mind that paper stretches but coatings don't. And so coatings may crack or split. Especially with deeper embossing. And often, there's heat applied during embossing, and with thin stocks that are coated, they can become brittle. And that may not be obvious early on in the job, but during the life of that printed piece, it may become a problem.
Now, shallow embossing may be okay with these stocks, because you're not pushing the paper quite so far, and maybe you don't break the integrity of the coating. Stock color can be used as sort of part of the artwork. For instance, if you're using blind embossing on white stock, that makes for a beautiful result. If you're embossing on darker stock, you may find that your embossing needs to be deeper, so that you can see sufficient contrast between the shape of the emboss and the color of the stock. And if you're embossing stationery keep in mind that, that may be run through a laser printer.
And that means that it's going to be subjected to pressure and to heat. So it might flatten the embossing back out. So in anticipation of that, you might go for a more shallow emboss. And that way, if it gets flattened a little bit, maybe it isn't so apparent. But as always, have good conversations with your printer as early in the job as possible. If you're dealing directly with the die maker, help them give you advice about how to create your artwork and how to set your expectations for the success of the job.
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