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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.
You're frequently going to be combining embossing and printing. Now, if you're performing blind embossing, which is embossing that takes place on unprinted stock, that's not an issue. If you're performing blind embossing on an unprinted area of printed stock, that's usually not a challenge unless it's too close to the printed area. And then, there might be some buckling. So that's something to take into consideration as you're designing. But registration to a printed area, as you might expect, requires precision. And that usually requires the creation of brass dye.
As for the embossing, they're more expensive, but they can hold finer detail, and they're capable of longer runs as well. Brass dies almost always require some hand work. And that's time-consuming, and it's expensive. And if there are errors, those can be really costly. Because if you're embossing and you find out it's not what you want, if you find out you just simply can't hold the detail that you want, or it's having awful results on the printing. Then you're going to have to go all the way back, reprint the job, recreate the dye, essentially you have to start over.
And this is why you want to test early on and you want to make sure that you understand how everything's going to behave when it all falls into place. You can do some really neat things with this. This is a cute little bit of artwork, but the customer wanted to make it dimensional, they wanted to emboss it. And they used a multilevel die, so you'll notice that the circle comes up to one depth and then the horse is a little big higher and then the stars are higher still. So, it looks really nice on white heavy stock that's just got a little bit of texture to it because the embossing smooths out the embossed area.
And then of course it raises it up and it gives it that sort of textural feel. Here's what could happen, and this is an exaggeration, but if things went wrong. If the dye wasn't registered correctly with the printed area, naturally this is going to be unattractive. And this is what I'm talking about when I say, if things go wrong, then you're going to have to reprint. You can't re-emboss the sheet. You need a fresh unembossed sheet to start over with. This is highly unlikely that things would ever go quite this badly but it's something to keep in the back of your mind. Maybe you're over complicating your job. Maybe you can get a nice effect but do it with a little bit simpler approach. And you always have to keep in mind that there's going to be some distortion when you emboss because really you're sculpting the paper, you're stretching it. And if it's a really deep emboss, it may distort the artwork, or it could distort adjacent printing.
So you want to have it in sort of an open area. And of course larger details are easier to emboss than little, tiny ones. And one of the things that's sort of unavoidable. If you're embossing a printed piece, keep in mind that paper stretches, and coatings and inks don't. If it's a very heavily printed piece, if it's a dark piece, dark ink, heavy graphic coverage, you have to worry a little bit about cracking, and what do you do to fight that. Well perhaps you don't emboss as deeply as you originally planned. And pieces with varnish you should avoid if you possibly can, trying to emboss a piece that's varnished or coated in any way.
But any time you're considering using embossing, you want to consult with a printer and if you're consulting separately with a die-maker, talk to them, and start early on. Let them know what your plans are, and they can help guide you so that you don't get yourself too far down the line in production and then find out that things are not going to work the way you expect. After all, you're going to all this extra effort, you want it to be a beautiful piece when you're done.
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