the term “Debossed”

You know, the term “Debossed” sounds like someone is saying that they’ve just told off their employer, and either quit or got fired!

“Well Hallelluhla! I’ve been de-bossed! I told that mean old so and so a good what for, and to kiss my grits! Now I’m BOSS FREE!!!” ….. thus the term de-bossed.

( OK…. that’s not exactly a discussion of the printing aspects of the term…. so to keep this post about printing, here’s my take on it: It’s ok by me. What do you think? )

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I’m a little bit puzzled by the term ‘de-bossed’ as well. Shouldn’t it just be ‘embossed’? Where does ‘de-bossed’ come from?

Too bad “Boss” doesn’t seem to derive from the same “-boss” in emboss. This one source suggests that “-boss” came from “boce”, meaning “a hump, swelling, tumor.”

I bet plenty of folk would notice the similarity to their employer!

But I don’t think clients would take me up on an offer to tumor up their ephemera.


Embossing is pushing an image from behind the sheet to raise it above the paper surface.

‘De-bossing’ sounds like we’re trying to flatten an embossed image and make the paper flat again!

Surely the term for pressing something into the paper to sink it below the surface should be ‘impressing’. It’s the principle of our beloved letterpress.

In French the difference can be made with ‘haut-relief’ (raised) and ‘bas-relief’ (lowered, or engraved). By the way, ‘em’ comes from the old French ‘into’ and ‘boce’, stands for protuberance.
Debossing is as much a mystery to me as ‘deep letterpress’.

actually, I think the term is one of those pseudo-sophisitcated words that somebody recently made up to sound more intelligent than us mere mortals.

In my entire carreer, which has been a long one, I’ve never heard an experienced designer, or a veteran printer use the term “deboss”. The only place I’ve encountered it is in the amateur hobby-printing world…. and even then it’s mostly used by inexperienced folks.

BUT hey…. I personally don’t care what words a person uses as long as they are sincere in trying to learn the techniques.

However….. to keep things lively, I’d like to throw a challenge out there: can anyone who now uses the term “deboss” or “debossing”, actually find a reference to the term that predates maybe 2000 or so? If they CAN then maybe it’s a legitimate term…. if not then is it a pseudo-made-up term? Hhhmmmm?


Aren’t panel cards debossed?

I just looked at all my panel card boxes…. none o them are labelled as debossed

Debossing Debunked. Let’s hear it for “Deep Impression”!
When we look at quality English language dictionaries and explore the words “bossing”, “embossing” and then can’t find “debossing” that just about says it all.
To take “debossing” to a conclusion it would be infact be returning the surface of the stock back to its original state, flat, however one could only imagine the mess made to the surface of the stock. So, please no more cute and poorly thought out terms for this process.
Most of what I’m saying has been stated by others earlier in this stream. I think “deep impression” is a more appropriate term as it is more positive and reflects the excellent results being made in letterpress printing. “Excess impression” is also acceptable but the use of the word “excess” implies poor makeready. “Crash” numbering or impression is appropriate for letterpress numbering machines, the intention is to crash through the stock, ie carbonless paper or carbon papered sets to
save on press time and facilitate accurate collating of the parts. A bit rough on the numbering machines, but in the cost of things, cheaper to wear out a numbering machine than to often feed offset printed sheets through a letterpress machine, technology has moved on since then in this area. So let’s hear it for “Deep Impression” rather than the other term.
William Amer, Rockley NSW

Actually, the correct term is blind impression, but deboss is just too widespread in use to ignore.


Deep Impression it in and since I’m my own boss the term of throwing me out is now out. Over and out.

Folks, the traditional terminology is what it is. What? did we just have a wipe out of intelligence here?


One of the engraver’s web sites defines emboss and deboss as….

Embossing dies provide a raised readable mark, whilst debossing dies mean a sunken relief can be achieved.

Strangely, “deboss” is not in the dictionary, but if it is used or abused enough it will be!

The term used for panel cards is ‘plate sunk’. It may be a UK term though.

I’ve had 35 years in the trade and never heard the term deboss until about 4 years ago, when a customer rang up and asked for a logo debossed on a leather folder. Essentially he wanted it pressed into the leather.
I find the term very confusing. I envisage a customer collecting a debossed job only to find it’s been embossed, or vice versa!

‘De-construct’ is to undo a construction, would ‘de-boss’ mean undo em-boss? Let’s just stick with ‘emboss’. That has been the correct term for decades.

Gerald…. are you asserting that “Debossed” and “Debossing” are traditional terms? Or just the opposite?

You might be right…. but I can’t find any reference in print prior to about 2005 or so that actually uses the term in relation to printing or the book arts, and I’ve got dozens of reference books. If it were a “tradtional term” wouldn’t it appear in reference works? The closest I can find is “embossing”, “blind embossing” and similar terms.

There are a few current websites that use it in relation to deep blind impressions as “debossing” but they all appear to be newcomers in the field.

So…. as far as I can tell is a NEW term, not a traditional one. BUT if you can show us a reference that is old enough to be considered “tradtional”, I’m more than willing to change my ideas.

What a muddle. I certainly heard people using the term deboss by the ’90s,but only to refer to blind impression. You mean the neo-neologism now applies to an inked deep impression?
Even so, it is hardly as disturbing a term as “letterpressing”.

Wow….. a neo-neologism! Would that be a “new new word-ism”? Or is it a “new, new study”? Being “olog” I’d guess it’s a intellectual study of some sort. Either way, it’s a great example of language in action!

jeez… being in the foil stamping/embossing/diecutting bizz,,, i have been able to call any die maker and order my die as a “debossing’ die for about the last 30 years. it basically requires a female counter.(either made in shop or ordered along with the die). debossing dies will typically come with a much shallower “edge/side angle” than a flat out foil die. however, if the substrate can take the “sheer” involved, any die, type or,even wood, can be used to deboss. a debossed “effect” can be achieved on a heavier substrate simply by hitting it hard. you will have an ironed out effect on the back of the sheet. a true deboss, using a female counter would results in a raised impression on the back of the sheet. most greeting card Co’s won’t mention a debossed panel on a description, and if they do it is usually mentioned as a “recessed” panel.

Hhhmmmm Eric makes a semi-valid point. His having been in the business of making raised / depressed imprints for quite some time does lend some creditiblity to his assertion.

I’m still not 100% convinced, though. I’ve got several catalogues from die makers going back to the 1970’s, and they show Embossing die sets, but don’t list “debossing dies” in their literature.

BUT…. Eric might be right, so to confirm what he’s saying I’ve posed the question to Basil…. who is a third generation diemaking / engraving / “raised and engraved image in metal” guru. If anybody would know, it’s him.

So…. that’s what I’m going to base my personal opinion on: If Basil says it’s ok… it’s ok.

I’ve heard the term used only in last 10-15 years. Another “new” term I’ve heard is “flood coat”. First time I encountered it was from a graphic designer at an ad agency. I asked him what the term meant and he said a full coating of ink across the sheet. What I referred to as “full bleed” or “100% coverage”.

Anyone come across others?

OK…… my buddy Basil…. the Guru-designee and unilaterally chosen arbiter of the matter, even though he doesn’t realize that he’s been appointed to this task….. has spoken, and here is his opinion:

” I like debossed and embossed because I understand the kind of tag that is being requested. If it is made up, then it is a handy word.”

Does this mean that the current usage is right or wrong? I’m not sure, but it seems to indicate that the Debossers might have a point.

So…. in my view, the matter is settled. I’m going to stop rolling my eyes in superiority whenever I hear a newbie use the word. Now I’ve got to think up a new term to roll my eyes over! Dang…..

I started in the screen printing industry in 1983. We printed labels, decorative trim, control panels, emblems etc. We printed on various materials; polycarbonate, polyester, pvc and metalized mylar. We “debossed” the metalized mylar on Thompson Clamshell presses using magnesium plates that were teflon coated. We also embossed the polycarbonate and polyester sheets with tools that had a male and female parts. The “debossing” ws pushing the image from the front into the surface, displacing the adhesive that was between the mylar and the backing. When “embossing” the male part came from behind and “formed” the material by pushing/stretching it into the female side of the tool, changing the structure of the material. “Debossing” is basically the same as the blind impression. When we ordered the tooling for a “deboss” the graphic image was backwards.

I do this technique where I push the background back and leave the rest in a mock-embossed state. That’s the term I use, as inelligant as it is.

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As an english language educated english speaking englishman ,i see deboss as the reverse as emboss albeit you could see it as the “un doing ” or properly reversal of embossing . However that would be pretty pointless as an exercise so you would have to recognize it as it is used regardless of how new or old the term is ,after all deep impression into the stock is a new thing , if we produced a job that had such heavy impression not only would the job have gone in the bin you would be thrown out the door with it .
the reference to panel cards is embossed , lay one flat on the table and you will see that the panel contacts the surface of the table the surround is raised “embossed” if this were not the case the panel would distort when impressed by the type .
Flood coating was used in the eighties in my use to describe a bit of a bodge on litho press when we just used an un burned plate on the press ,removed the damper rollers and dry offset a solid coat of ink or varnish full out machine width rather than conventional spot varnish with a proper plate and dampening as it was meant .
You could probably find the term in screen sprinting to describe the same use “all out ” coverage, a bit like the process used by carton sealing , a pool of sealer between two rollers that literally just gets rolled across the sheet as the sheet passes through the machine.
Terminology gets looser and looser , people order scored christmas cards , if i do that without question the job would probably get rejected but people forget that scoreing is not creasing .

Metal mermaid,
Not wanting to be horrible but did your influence come from colouroll the seventies wallpaper manufacturer ? If you had printed that in a light green you would never convince me it was not wall paper in that picture .

Reverse embossing? Just another idea….Ron

Wow! This may be the first time that I am actually scared by the responses to this chain.
Eric M’s posting of last June is spot on.
Debossing is a die stamping process with a male & female dies to create an impression “debossed”, or effectively pushed into the paper or substrate. Usually used with heavy cover weights of fine text papers. If you ever saw one you’d get it right away. The current infatuation with “deep impression” is not debossing, although I supposed it could be pawned off as debossing.

Peter, in my experience, screenprinters use the term flood-coat for the act of pulling ink (without much pressure) back across the open areas of the screen, while the screen is raised from the substrate.

This is done both to ensure full coverage of the open areas before pulling an actual print, and so that the printing stroke is pulled towards you, making it easier to control the pressure on the squeegee. When using solvent-based or other inks that dry quickly, the flood can help keep the screen from drying out between strokes.

It also results in a slightly thicker ink deposit.

how about embossing/impression “recto and verso”???
recto is right side of a book page, verso is looking at left hand page of a book …..but…..presumably some people emboss /deboss both sides of of a job, could be emboss in and emboss out ……..
interesting terminology flood coat for litho and silkscreen, can confirm silkscreen terminology……


I understand (as does Peter) the term Floodcoat to mean a solid printed image across the full width and height of the sheet peing printed.

The term flood stroke is used in screen printing to denote the pulling of the squeegee back across the screen between the printing strokes to flood the screen with ink and return the squeegee to its original position. This keeps the open areas of the screen from drying if using a fast evaporating solvent in the ink. Semi-automated screen presses allow this flood stroke to occur just before the print stroke or just after as best suits the materials being printed.

John Henry

verb (used with object)
to indent (a figure or design) into a surface: The design on the book’s cover is debossed.

Sounds about right to me.


Over the period of nearly two years I think we have pretty much beat this word to death with a stick. It has been a good discussion. Not all will agree with the other guy.
The English language as it is spoken in the United States is a variation of the Queen’s English. It is often times confusing, even to we colonists. It is dynamic and new words are invented to fill perceived needs. That offends the purists, but it serves the purpose of the young. I have played with printing over 60 years and was a sailor for 30 years. Both have their own vocabularies. I like the standard terms and teach them to others.
I always called heavy impression smash printing. That should probably annoy someone. That is not the intention. The point is that if there is not already a term commonly used in the trade or craft, it is probably OK to make one up. Just do not expect all to accept it.
Get to work. Get some ink on your shirt.

Polygraph Dictionary for the Graphic Arts
Frankfurt am Main 1987

Emboss Relief Gaufrage the image is raised

Deboss or deep embossing Tiefpraegung The image is sunk into the surface.

In the foiling Trade, the terms emboss or deboss have been around for ever as long I have been doing this and that’s 30+ years.

So, for the printers out there who smash the type into smithering, what you do is debossing.

For the Printmakers , what you do is embossing.