How to Dry Emboss

  • 01 of 06

    What Is Dry Embossing?

    embossed paper
    Rita Shehan

    Are you a crafter that wants to incorporate some embossing into one of your designs, but doesn't want to spend a lot of money purchasing an embossing machine for a one time project? Hand embossing might be the answer to your problem. You can get surprising results just using a stencil and stylus that will rival the look of embossing from a high priced craft machine.

    Dry embossing, also called relief embossing, is done by tracing a stencil with a special tool, called a stylus. The result is a stunning, raised pattern on the object you are embossing.

    It is wise to remember that hand embossing should only be used for small projects. If you get bitten by the embossing bug, you might want to consider purchasing an embossing machine for future use. You will be able to quickly crank out many beautiful embossed papers with the help of a machine.

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  • 02 of 06

    Gather Materials

    tools needed for dry embossing
    Rita Shehan

    The supplies needed for dry embossing by hand are:

    • Cardboard, plastic, or brass Stencil
    • Masking tpe
    • Card stock or another type of heavy paper
    • Embossing stylus
    • Lightbox (optional)
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  • 03 of 06

    Secure Your Stencil to a Window or Lightbox

    brass stencil on window
    Rita Shehan

    Select any stencil with deeper grooves such as one made out of brass, plastic, or cardboard. Using a few little pieces of masking tape, secure the stencil to the center of your lightbox. If you don't own a lightbox, there is no need to purchase one for relief embossing. Instead of a lightbox, you can tape your stencil to a bright window. Another hack for a lightbox is to place a lamp under a glass-topped coffee or end table and tape your stencil onto the glass surface. You now have an instant DIY lightbox, that works every bit as well as a high priced lightbox purchased from the art supply store.

    When taping down your stencil, remember the side of the stencil you want facing up should be the reverse of what your finished design will have. This is especially important when dry embossing any lettering.

    If you want to make a complicated dry relief embossing, you can use 2 or more stencils to produce interesting designs. Just plan out your design and use one stencil at a time. You are only limited by your imagination.

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  • 04 of 06

    Secure Your Paper to a Lightbox or Window

    paper over brass stencil on window
    Rita Shehan

    Place the paper over the stencil and position as desired. Carefully tape the corners or edges with masking tape. You may want to test your tape first to make sure it will remove cleanly. Painters tape works exceptionally well for this type of project. Your paper should lie flat over the stencil and not move when you begin embossing.

    Card stock or any heavier paper will work best; thin sheets of paper rip easily. Vellum–although it is a thinner paper–also works well! To help your stylus glide over the paper more comfortably and reduce the risks of tears, gently rub wax paper over your paper surface before you begin embossing.

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  • 05 of 06

    Tracing Your Design With a Stylus

    hand holding embossing stylus
    Rita Shehan

    Turn on your lightbox, or stand in front of the window and carefully trace around the edges of the stencil design with your stylus. A stylus has two ends; each a different size. Use the size that best fits the size of the design. Press firmly, but be careful not to rip the paper. The center of the traced design will automatically raise. You can gently emboss the center of the stencil if you wish to add more depth to the embossed shape.

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  • 06 of 06

    Admire Your Finished Design

    stencil, stylus, lotus candle and paper
    Rita Shehan

    When you've traced the entire design, carefully lift the paper off the light source. Turn it over and admire the raised design! You can leave your embossed design as is or you can color or embellish it. It can be painted with acrylics, dusted with chalk, or highlighted with glitter. Explore all the possibilities! If you are interested in taking your embossing skills to the next level, you might want to experiment with heat embossing. 

    You will find that embossing a paper project is easy to do with fabulous results. You will be amazed that even a first-time project can have a professional look.