Heat Embossing Tips

by Robert G. Wax


  • Stamping images and coloring them in is great fun. But heat embossing images to make them pop – well, that's magic.
  • Embossing on Paper

  • Heat embossing requires four basic tools: thermal embossing powder; a heating tool (NOT a hairdryer!); a rubber stamp; and pigment or embossing ink that stays wet long enough to hold the powder. Other useful items include scrap paper and a small paintbrush. An anti-static product, such as Faith's Little Miracle, ScraPerfect Perfect Printing Pouch, or A Little Bag by A Stamper's Touch, will help keep stray flecks from adhering.
  • First, place card stock over scrap paper. Ink stamp and press to card stock. Pour embossing powder (EP) over inked image, completely covering it. The powder will stick to the ink. Tip card stock and gently tap so extra powder falls to scrap paper. Use small brush to brush off stray specks. Return extra powder to jar.
  • Warm heat tool for about five seconds, then hold it 1" to 3" from image. If you tilt the paper at a certain angle, you can see the embossing powder change color as it melts. Don't overheat, or the powder and paper could become singed. Always use caution with a heat tool – it's very hot.
  • Embossing aficionados can feast on an appetizing array of powders from elegant and glitzy to metallic and distressed. Find gold as bright as pirate booty or as aged as ancient Rome. Add glitter. Tempt the palette with sorbet-like pastels. Dabble in distress, or just keep it clear and shiny. You can also mix and match EP, creating unique blends like blue with a dash of gold, or sprinkle a rainbow directly onto the image.
  • Not sure how a color will look? Make an embossing chart. Stamp a small image – perhaps a flower or word – on white card stock and emboss it with different powders. Do the same on black card stock, and soon you'll have a library of effects. Examine the cupcake images for various looks on white card stock.
  • Besides varying colors, EP also comes in different granule sizes. Matching powder type and granule size to the image design is important, says Judi Watanabe of JudiKins.
  • "Fine-line or detailed images work best with detail powders," she explains. "These powders have smaller granulation and the powder sticks to the fine lines or details of the stamped images. However, detail powders tend to be flatter. Bold or graphic images work best with normal embossing powders."
  • Thick powder, on the other hand, creates beautiful dimension. It acts as a protective glaze, can be cracked and stained like antique veneer, or embedded with glitter or beads. Layers of thick EP can also be imprinted with a stamped impression, a technique called intaglio.
  • You can also use EP as a resist for a batik effect; see two examples in Design Focus on page 99. Emboss image using clear powder, then wipe ink across paper surface. The EP resists the ink. Wipe off excess ink, then either leave the embossed area as is, or cover with clean scrap paper and iron off the embossed bits.
  • Clear powder will reveal the ink color, but for a more vibrant hue, match the powder to the ink. For a softer look, use semi-transparent or pearlescent powders, such as white pearlescent EP over navy blue ink.
  • Ink must be wet enough to hold the powder, which is why pigment ink works better than dye. Some super-fine powders, such as Faith's Transcendence, may work with dye ink on glossy paper.
  • "Many hybrid inks say pigment but do not emboss well," notes Watanabe. "Also, some pigment inks will look okay when stamped, but they are actually not wet enough and the powder will not stick well."
  • Embossing ink markers let you fill in images, write your own embossable words, or draw borders. Juicy markers sometimes work, too.
  • The type of paper also affects embossing. Paper that absorbs too much ink won't give good results. Don't limit embossing to just paper. Embossing powder works on metal, wood, clay, paper mâché, chipboard, and more. Use EP to change the color of a brad, paper clip or other metal embellishment, or forge your own faux metal by using metallic EP on card stock or chipboard.
  • So, ready to explore the magical embossing options? Oh, the choices you'll find.