(Binding & Finishing)

EMBOSSING: "Impressing an image in relief to achieve a raised surface; either overprinting or on blank paper"

external image Embossing-stationery.jpg
  • external image img_3242-450x337.jpgcredit cards
  • invitations
  • business cards
  • text books
  • magazine advertisements
  • posters
  • notepads
  • etc..

Embossing is covered under the finishingaspect of the printing process.
"The combination of pressure and heat raises the level of the image higher than the substrate, while "ironing" it to make it smooth. In printing this is accomplished on a letterpress."(Wikipedia "Embossing") The effect of embossing can make or break a printed copy- it can be used as a highlighting mechanism or it can be something totally distracting. Having a variety of finishing processes, including embossing is something that the print industry has grown to love- having options.

Although it is truly unknown as to who "invented" embossing, people believe that it was monks and philosophers who wrote manuscripts with bright inks on fine fibrous papers are the ones to be honoured with this invention. Their use of golds, whites and other forms of "highlighting" made parts of their works stand out amongst the rest, just like embossing. Although the 3-D form wasn't' created until much later from wood blocks- almost stamp like, the term embossing can be described as a stamp from behind the work, punching out the desired copy. (Yahoo! Answers Discussion Forum) The image on the right is another perfect early example of embossing styles: an example of an embossed postage stamp, called an indicium, on an 1861 U.S. letter sheet. Note the raised portions- INDICIUM refers to the markings made on a piece of mail to allow view of paid postage by the sender
external image 220px-1861-LetterSheetIndicium.jpg

external image DP154789.jpg This image to the left is a hieroglyphic from ancient Egypt. Embossing could even be considered to go as far back as this image for example and how the civilizations would carve, paint or stencil images and symbols into/ onto walls and the ground to preserve stories and memories.

Embossing is a process that includes:
  • using extreme pressures to imprint an image/ copy into slightly dampened pulp/ paper products to format the desired embossed area
  • it is best to keep the desired embossing selection from .25 inches away from the edge to avoid wrinkling or tearing of the paper- if embossing is being done on a finished piece- professionals advise keeping a .5 inch margin away from the edge
  • keep the design/ font simple and organic
  • choosing paper thickness/thinness is the most important part in any embossing process (thin VS thick stock)

external image il_fullxfull.202320484.jpg This image to the left could even and has been considered as a form of "embossing" note the raised negative space surrounding the initials. This specific format was used with candle wax and an engraved firm object to be pressed into the wax and left to cool. Usually used on important documents and formal letters/ invitations- this was a trademark of importance.

The paper that is associated with the embossing process can really make an impact on the finished product of a printed image. The process can be completed with inks, powders and either using heat or pressure. Most companies will use pressure, as almost like a stamping solution. The machine will press into the papers- bunches at a time to complete the desired selection. Powder embossing is used along with a (blow dryer looking gizmo) that applies heat to cement the solution down. This allows for glitters, matte and glossy finishes. Along with the heat embossing comes the gun styled embossing- this uses a pen like tool that allows the creator to go free hand on the product and the gun can be used on paper, metal, toys, plastics etc. to create designs and personalized effects. Embossing allows the creator to take their simple selection and create a professional appeal for viewers etc.

The process of embossing is a 3-Dimensional copy that is raised up (like the image above right) This also covers a wide variety of braille purposed reading material for the blind and is also one of many finishing styles in the print industry. For example, these are a few- but not limited to:
  • bindingexternal image bookbinder.jpg
  • stapling
  • covering
  • reseting
  • laminating
  • stamping
  • highlighting


During the finishing process, a company and the client need to address costs, ideas and final copies for what the goal of the
product will be. Such things like cost, materials, formatting etc. need to be cleared up in order to produce while minimizing waste. The
designer/ company will usually address this topic during the first meeting just to see where his/her client's ideas are heading. Some
things that might come up in conversation include:
  • die cutting
  • overall look/ format
  • trimming
  • binding
  • collating
  • resetting
  • laminating
  • stitch binding
  • stapling
  • etc...

The image called "Parts of a Typical Case- Bound Book" (above right) is a great visual example of a book binding process that is ready for distribution. The layers of paper and adhesive that helps to hold the books shape is all specified for book binding, similar to magazine binding, except with magazine binding, it is loose glossy papers held together by edition/ saddle stitching.

  1. saddle stitching
  2. edition binding
  3. perfect binding
  4. changeable binding

  • The process of stitch binding has quite a variety and they each have their own specifications. For example: perfect binding can hold between 40-1000 pages, changeable binding doesn't use stitches- it uses coils or combs to hold pages together. Coils/ combs are usually used on cookbooks, mandates, office proposals etc. Coil binding (the image
right) is a pliable option that can be reset and used over again.
external image binding_coil.jpg

This video link PubPress Youtube Video is a great example of a company that offers a variety of binding and finishing methods for print publications.

This video link breaks down the letterpress as well as embossing and de-embosisng as a printing process.


The process of LAMINATION is: "The process of lamination that refers to a very thing plastic coating/ sheet that is sized to fit the exact (or a little off the edge) of the copy." (Wikipedia) Lamination gives printed products a professional finish or just the allowance of preserving important documents. Businesses like Staples and Office Depot offer laminating services at very little charge.

This video link is a great video for learning about the printing process- it also includes some other information regarding graphic design and how the full colour printing press works. "Four Coloured Printing Press Explained"

The final process of finishing a print product are from a variety of options. From die cutting, lamination, embossing, stapling, cover binding etc. A final product doesn't just have to be limited to one final selection. The process and combinations are endless. In the graphic design industry it is all about simplicity, affect and the client. The tools to create beautiful final print products have come a long way and the processes are continuing to move forward into the future. Some of the finishing techniques mentioned here are just a few under the embossing topic, but with the finishing process comes the finale of your present project and the anticipation of the next.
With regards to embossing, the effects are great for adding a little personality to a product or simply following fellow inspirations. When you look at your debit/ credit cards, take the time to run your finger across the embossed text and when you do, you'll know how the process is created.

RELEVANCE OF PRINT INDUSTRY TODAY: The print industry is being tossed around with regards to its future in the graphic design field. With eBooks and tablets taking over, print might die- but with the great debate of whether or not print is truly better than digital- the people seem to be at a tie with their thoughts. The tablets are taking over and with more of a "take with you, in your pocket" mindset, people are preferring to take one tablet with ten books as compared to going to the library and actually borrowing ten books. Although the future is moving forward, with digital taking over, the processes of embossing, stapling, die cutting etc. might die out and then we will be flicking our fingers over an LED screen to turn the page, instead of feeling the pages between our fingers.

1. HOP (Have Our Plastics) Inc. (Coil Binding Image) Nov.2011
2. Wikipedia.org/embossing (Embossing Stationary Images) Nov. 2011
3. www.au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090311184734 (Yahoo! Discussion Form- "History of Embossing")
4. www.youtube.com- "Embossing & Debossing in Print" (Dec. 28, 2007. Nov. 2011)
5. www.youtube.com- "Four Colour Printing Process"- Printing for Less Dec.8,2010. Nov.2011
6. Jezak, Geno."What is Embossing: The Process of Embossing" 2006. Nov.4, 2011
7. "Pocket Pal: The Handy Book for Graphic Arts Production" International Paper. Memphis, TN. 2007.