embossing technique on a letterpress?

I have a sample book of Savoy papers, and on the inside cover, there is a raised graphic. It appears as though it was printed on a letterpress with the opposite effect (i.e. it almost looks like maybe it was printed on the back side so that when it is turned over, the front side graphic is a blind relief). My guess is that there is some other sort of technique or process for this, but just in case I’m wrong, I’m submitting this post. Is there any way to achieve this effect on a letterpress?

Log in to reply   9 replies so far

Embossing is a separate technique from letterpress. You print using a set of “male” and “female” dies which deform the paper into that raised shape.

There are several ways to fake this technique on a letterpress, but true embossing is a thing all its own.

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

I wouldn’t consider an embossing done on a platen press using a die and a counter-die to be a faked embossing. That’s just how it’s done!

You can order the necessary dies to do this from companies such as Owosso.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Thanks so much!

Hey Daniel,

I was thinking along the lines of “crash printing from the back” as a way to fake it. Matching dies is definitely the way to go, IMO.


using normal type and hitting from the back, wouldn’t image on front be backwards? this would mean getting a die (one piece) that would be right-reading from the front of the piece. so if needing this die, why not just order/make the embossing die with counter and get much better results?

There is already fake embossing, its called thermography, ericm is right, i you’re going to do embossing just get the dies and do it right. Dick G.

I would never use type to crash print. But if you’re working from photopolymer, it’s easier enough to reverse your file.

Still, “true” embossing is the way to go.

I have had some success with embossing using photopolymer plates, using the plates sold by Box Car for intaglio techniques.

These plates are .030” total thickness and have a .020” relief (plenty of relief for plain paper and card stock). You create the die by creating a film positive of the image and exposing as a normal plate.

Mount the plate in the proper position on your base and create the female portion on the platen usinghand-cut blotter paper, molded bondo, cast polyester resin, or hot melt glue.

The technique works well for die making if the image is not too fine or complex. Great technique just for fun or simple embossing jobs, but for the best effect, a machined brass die is the way to go.

The photopolymer plate method does not allow one to use heat in the embossing process, which is a great aid in getting a good finish on the top surface of the raised areas, and nice sharp edges.


Just curious…could it be engraving? Sounds like what our engraving dept. does. RREEBB