Long before the days of printing 3D objects such as machine parts or even replacement human appendages, there were finishing techniques that made printed materials 3D.

Finishing techniques such as foil stamping and embossing can give your project a specific look and feel that can transform an ordinary design into something unique. Although the main purpose of any printed piece is to convey a message or information, first it has to draw the interest of the intended audience. Foil stamping and embossing are techniques that can be used to create an attractive, eye-catching look that will command attention.

Foil stamping immediately attracts the eye, creating visual interest and appeal. With a wide variety of colors and finishes there are infinite possibilities for your creativity. Embossing and debossing create a three-dimensional texture that provides a distinctive touch to any project. You can achieve an elegant embossed effect with a single level die, or a sculpted look with a multi-level die. For an even more striking 3D image, foil stamping can be combined with embossing.

The gold foil stamping on this piece brightens the overall etheral effect.

The outcome of foil stamping and embossing is unique and elegant. It can be used to add extra interest to any project including annual report covers, announcements, pocket folders, and stationery packages. These finishing techniques provide added dimension and impact providing a sense of value and special meaning.

This soft-touch aqueous coat is delicate to the touch but visually striking to the eye.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider putting the finishing touches on your printed piece.

Because a wide variety of stocks can be used, there are few limitations for your creativity. For foil stamping, the best choices are smooth papers – cast coated paper is most favorable. Papers to avoid are recycled stocks, heavily inked or heavily coated sheets (varnished or aqueous coated) which are not porous enough for the foil to adhere properly. For embossing, the best choices are heavy, dry, undercoated, long fibered, cover weight sheets. Avoid lightweight, heavy coated or varnished papers which will crack easily when embossed. The depth and degree of bevel is determined by stock choice. Textured stocks become smooth when embossed. You can achieve more depth on a felt finished stock rather than a linen stock.

Art Preparation

Foil Stamping

  • Font size should be 8 point or larger (avoid thin serifs)
  • Lines should be thicker than 2 points
  • Prepare images slightly larger than the desired end result
  • Use open images with few thin lines


  • Font size should be 12 point or larger (serifs must be large and defined)
  • Lines should be thicker than 2 points
  • Prepare images slightly larger than the desired end result
  • Create line art from solid color
  • Maintain ½ inch perimeter from edge

Production Tips

  • Consider stock grain and weight.
  • Heavier stocks yield greater dimensions and depth for embossing and debossing (Depth compensates for thickness, memory, and stock resistance).
  • Textured generally not recommended, but can be fun, creating texture & contrast for embossing (blind emboss is an exception).
  • Inconsistent results with recycled paper.
  • Score and emboss with the grain.
  • When foil stamping a printed piece, allow two to three days before foil stamping (darker inks or heavy coverage require four to five days of curing time).
  • Varnishes can prevent good foil transfer to the paper causing blisters.
  • Wax-free formulations of ink and varnishes are recommended for foil stamped projects.
  • When foil stamped products will be used in a laser printer, do a test of the product in the actual laser printer that is to be used. Not all foil can be successfully run through a laser printer.
  • Embossing or debossing can shorten the width of a cover and should be compensated for.

Now, we know we aren’t printing off human hands or intricate CAD products, but we still think that our little way of making print tangible is pretty neat.

2 responses to “THE ORIGINAL 3-D PRINTING

  1. Pingback: COATINGS MAKE YOUR NEXT PROJECT SHINE | The More You Know BBlog·

  2. Pingback: PRINT ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRY #8: PRINT BUDGETS | The More You Know BBlog·

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