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Dry Embossing With Dies

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Create Embossed Images With Dies

Dry embossing with dies and washi tape creates beautiful backgrounds and images

Dry embossing with dies and washi tape creates beautiful backgrounds and images

Dry Embossing With Dies-The Basics

Usually, we think of using dies to cut out shapes and make cuts in a project. That is only part of the story. These wonderful tools can make impressions that will be as unique and creative. Once you learn this technique, you will want to create more impressions on all of your papercrafts

So, the dry embossing technique with dies is similar to the effect that you would get with an embossing folder. You get the die impression without the die perforating through the paper.

Like an embossing folder, you either get a positive impression (a raised side) or a negative impression ( the indented side.) The embossed side is the one where the shapes are coming out toward you and the debossed side is when the impression is pushed down and away leaving recessed shapes.

The way that the impression is made without cutting through the paper is with the use of a silicone mat.

No matter what machine and mat you are using, you basically face the cutting part of the die away from the paper to create the impression. Easy, right?

OK, so what’s the big deal about embossing with your dies? How about it instantly DOUBLES the usefulness of all your dies? It’s like getting a 2-for-1 deal! A 50% off coupon! A buy-one-get-one-free offer! Count me in!


Die-cutting machines are either manual or electronic

Die-cutting machines are either manual or electronic

A little About Die Cutting And Embossing Machines

If you are new to die-cutting and embossing, there are a few basics on die-cutting machines and embossers that would be helpful to understand.

Most die-cutting machines are also embossing machines. That generally means that you can die-cut and emboss (using embossing folders and /or dies) with one machine.

Die-cutting machines are either manual or electronic. Manual machines usually come with a hand crank. Electronic machines operate with electricity. If you have issues with your hands, then the electronic version has a lot of advantages.

Both types of machines create the die-cut or emboss with pressure. The pressure is exerted on the die or embossing folder with a series of plates and or mats. How the mats are stacked with the die or embossing folder is called a sandwich.

Each manufacturer has its own sandwich recipe for that specific machine. There are times when you need additional pressure to get the results that you need. That is where a shim can be added. A shim is mostly the addition of a piece of cardstock or a metal or plastic piece added to the sandwich. It creates extra pressure.

The one thing to remember when you are using dies to emboss is that the cutting face of the die is always up. That way you will not get a cut on the paper, only the impression if the die.

Embossing Mats

Just about every company that makes an embossing machine makes an embossing mat for their product

Just about every company that makes an embossing machine makes an embossing mat for their product

More About Embossing Mats

No matter if you are using a manual or an electronic embossing machine, the embossing mat is an essential tool for this technique. There are two mats available for manual machines. One is black and the other tan. Both are made of silicone and are surprisingly resilient when used.

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When we cut with dies, we usually place a sheet of paper with the die between the two clear cutting plates. We also make sure that there is enough pressure supplied by adding or subtracting spacers like magnetic or plastic sheets or even pieces of cardstock. In the case of the Big Shot, the correct pressure is obtained by using the multipurpose platform with both tabs (plastic sheets of different thickness) placed beneath the die sandwich. When embossing with the die, we don’t need quite as much pressure to create the image, so, therefore, the sandwich doesn’t need to be as thick. To use as much pressure as usually needed to cut would tear the cardstock and damage the silicone embossing mat when it’s run through the machine.

In the case of the Big Shot, the correct pressure is obtained by using the multipurpose platform with both tabs (plastic sheets of different thicknesses) placed beneath the die sandwich.

The black mat (made by Sizzix) is both thinner, by about half a millimeter, and softer than the tan mat (sold by Spellbinders and a Chinese generic).

Sizzix also recommends an additional impression pad be used with their black silicone mat but when using a die to emboss, it can be substituted out for an old cutting plate. I have found just a little adjustment to a typical die-cutting sandwich can give great embossing results.

There are also specified mats for the Gemini machines that are made with rubber. So if you have any of the Gemini machines, you will want to have that on hand.

Silhouette also has one line of embossing mats

Many people have both mats in their stash. The tan mat seems to be better for the stronger sturdier dies. The black mat seems to work better with the lighter more intricate dies.

Supplies And Tools For Embossing With A Die

  • A die cutting machine -either manual or electric
  • Wafer thin dies
  • Card Stock
  • Washi or low tack tape
  • Plates for your machine
  • Rubber embossing mat

How To Emboss With A Die

  1. Line the die up on your card stock with the cutting edge up.
  2. Adhere the die to the paper with washi tape or other low tack tape
  3. Create your sandwich following the manufacturers direction
  4. The cutting blade of the die is placed down and the paper is up
  5. Use a card stock or light cardboard as a shim underneath the cutting blade of your die
  6. The rubber embossing mat goes over the paper
It is important to tape the die or dies with the cutting edge up, Taping them with a low tack tape to keep them in place

It is important to tape the die or dies with the cutting edge up, Taping them with a low tack tape to keep them in place

Die Cutting/ embossing machine can also be used for dry embossing using dies. Another way to get the most out of your investment

Die Cutting/ embossing machine can also be used for dry embossing using dies. Another way to get the most out of your investment

Sandwich Receips For Die Cutting Embossing

When you are using dies of any kind, you need plates and embossing mats. The way that the manufacturer directs you to use these tools in layers is called a sandwich. Each manufacturer gives you directions on how to create the sandwich for their product.

Here are some sandwich directions for die cuts embossing


Big Shot

  • Cutting plate
  • Dies, facing up
  • Cardstock
  • Embossing mat (either black or tan)
  • Cutting plate

Cuttlebug

Although we hear that this manual machine has been discontinued, we included it as there are still machines out there

  • A Plate
  • B Plate
  • Embossing Mat
  • shims (if using them)
  • cardstock
  • dies face down
  • B Plate

Nestabilities

  • Master Emboss Mat
  • tan rubber embossing mat,
  • cardstock and
  • die positioned at the desired spot on the card front with cutting edge down.
  • second Master Emboss Mat.

When adjusting the pressure of a sandwich, things like a metal shim or cereal box cardboard, or even layers of both may be enough to get the impression you’re after. Don’t try to use corrugated cardboard, the run-through machine will flatten the two layers together and will leave an uneven surface to emboss on. Adding cereal box cardboard (or similar) should be considered for any plate sandwich that isn’t quite thick enough, regardless of whether you’re cutting or embossing. When running the embossing sandwich through your machine, it should almost feel like there’s not enough pressure on the sandwich to make any dent.

It’s also a good idea to save any old cutting plates and to use them as the plate you put next to the mat. Over time, the plate next to the mat will bend and using an older plate saves your cutting plates from that dreaded buckle that inhibits cutting precision. This is another reason why you can use my sandwich in the above order. My “no cut plate”, placed directly on the platform, doesn’t get buckled and will last much longer as a result.

Cutting plates and shims make up the sandwich that you will use for your die embossing technique. Every machine has it;s own unique recipe.0

Cutting plates and shims make up the sandwich that you will use for your die embossing technique. Every machine has it;s own unique recipe.0

Adjusting The Pressure On Your Sandwich

To use the dry embossing with dies technique, you do not need as much pressure as you would use for cutting a die.

You will need to experiment with your machine to create the right pressure to get the imprint of the die on the paper. For example, a newer machine may need far less pressure than an older one. A difference of even one millimeter can make a difference in how your embossed image looks.

You can add different types of shims (layers that are added to the sandwich to create Extra pressure ). Things like metal shims, cereal box cardboard, or both can be added to your sandwich to create enough pressure to get a terrific embossed image.

When running the embossing sandwich through your machine, it should almost feel like there’s not enough pressure on the sandwich to make any dent.

If your die repeatedly buckles the card, try lessening the pressure on the sandwich.

If you are using thicker cardstock, you may have to change and lessen the shims. You would, of course, increase the shim for lighter cardstock. The weight of your cardstock should be taken into consideration.



You can use a manual die cutting machine like the Big Shot or an electronic die cutting machine

You can use a manual die cutting machine like the Big Shot or an electronic die cutting machine

Step By Step Directions For Die Cut Embossing

Using Magnetic Paper To Die Emboss

Dry Embossing With Dies

Using nesting dies to create a dry die cut embossing technique makes a big impression

Using nesting dies to create a dry die cut embossing technique makes a big impression

Using Nesting Dies To Create A Pattern

Nesting dies are the perfect way to create a pattern on your projects. Most nesting die sets come with 5 dies of varying sizes. You can select one, two or three does to create your pattern.

  • Use a large die and then use every other die to create a pattern of three.
  • Place the dies as straight as you can. Then use a piece of tape to secure the does in place
  • Run the dies through your manual or electronic die machine.

Remember that the dies should be run with the cut side up. That way the die will nit cut into the paper.

Multiple nesting dies can also be used to emboss, but when using nesting dies it’s best to tape them together before placing them onto the cardstock. I’ve found arranging them can be problematic because they tend to slip while trying to get their placement right. I find that using a magnetic sheet (from my die storage) on my work surface helps keep them in place, while I’m arranging and sticking them together.

More Die Cut Embossing Inspiration

Dry Embossed Shapes

You can take a simple shape like a leaf and give it character with dry embossing.

You can take a simple shape like a leaf and give it character with dry embossing.

Using The Big Shot To Dry Emboss

Normally to cut with dies, we place a sheet of paper and a die between two clear cutting plates and make sure there is enough additional pressure supplied by adding or subtracting spacers supplied with the machine.

But in the case of the Big Shot, the correct pressure is obtained by using the multipurpose platform with both tabs (plastic sheets of different thicknesses) placed beneath the die sandwich. When embossing with the die, we don’t need quite as much pressure to create the image, so, the sandwich doesn’t need to be as thick. To use as much pressure as usually needed to cut would tear the cardstock and damage the silicone embossing mat when it’s run through the machine.

Suggested Sandwich For the Big Shot

  • Cutting plate
  • Dies, facing up
  • Cardstock
  • Embossing mat (either black or tan)
  • Cutting plate

Big Shot Dry Embossing Tips

  1. Keep the rough cutting plate away from the multipurpose platform, preferring to use it on the roller side of the sandwich. This stops any of the scratch marks from being embossed into the platform surface and this is one reason why you use the sandwich in the above order.
  2. It’s also a good idea to save any old cutting plates and to use them as the plate you put next to the mat. Over time, the plate next to the mat will bend, and using an older plate saves your cutting plates from that dreaded buckle that inhibits cutting precision. This is another reason why I use my sandwich in the above order. The “no cut plate”, placed directly on the platform, doesn’t get buckled and will last much longer as a result.
  3. The magnetic platforms cannot be used in this embossing process, as they can cause damage to the platform.
  4. If you need to make adjustments to your sandwich to get more pressure, try using a piece of cereal box cardboard. Don’t try to use corrugated cardboard, the run-through machine will flatten the two layers together and will leave an uneven surface to emboss on.
  5. If your die repeatedly buckles the card, try lessening the pressure on the sandwich.
  6. If you are still getting a lot of buckling, it may be due to the quality of the cardstock. Placing a piece (or even several pieces) of copy paper under the cardstock, between the card and the embossing mat can strengthen the cardstock just enough to get your impression.

Stencil Embossing

Yes, you can use stencils to dry emboss cardstock with the Big Shot.

The sandwich to use for this technique is

  • Multipurpose Platform opened to Tab 1
  • “No cut” cutting plate
  • Plastic stencil
  • Card, front facing down onto the stencil
  • Embossing mat
  • Rough cutting plate

Using Texture Plates

If you are using texture plates, here is the sandwich to use

  • Multipurpose Platform opened to Tab 1
  • Texture plate, facing up
  • Card, front facing down onto the texture plate
  • Embossing mat
  • Rough cutting plate


Enhance A Dry Embossed Image With Color

Use watercolors and markers to enhance your dry embossed projects

Use watercolors and markers to enhance your dry embossed projects

Using Die Plates To Emboss Images

Die plates are dies that cut an entire background. They often come in sets. These are often intricate designs so more often than not, you will just need layered words or sentiment to finish the project.

You will want to cut the cardstock to the exact measurement of the die plate. Usually, that would be 4.25" by 5.5". But plates can vary, so you will want to be sure that the cut is exact.

As with all other dies, follow the manufacturer's recommendation for your sandwich, remembering that the cutting side goes up and you need an embossing mat.

Once completed, you can use inks like distress inks and oxide inks to add color with a blending brush.

Another way to add color to dry embossed plates is to simply run an ink pad lightly over the embossed paper. Start in one corner and continue until the cardstock is covered with ink. If you want more color, run the pad across the panel again.

Layered Dry Emboss Die Technique

Create layered looking dry embossed designs in just a couple of steps

Create layered looking dry embossed designs in just a couple of steps

Final Thoughts On Dry Embossing With Dies

I love to find extended uses for the tools and supplies that I have in my craft room. Finding another way to use my die collection makes me happy. It means that I can look at these tools in a whole new way.

This technique gives you a new option for using your die-cutting/ embossing machine in a totally different way. Take time to look at your die collection and think about how you can create something totally new.

And that is what each of our craft journies is about-growing and learning as we go along.

Enjoy your journey ! Happy Crafting!

© 2022 Linda F Correa

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