It’s one thing to put pieces of cardstock and pretty papers together to make a card – that alone got me started in this hobby. Heat embossing is the thing that really got me HOOKED. There’s something about watching these powders melt into a beautiful finish….
You can heat emboss just about anything – sentiments, background stamps, images to be coloured, images on inked backgrounds, even die cut and chipboard elements. There are MANY techniques that include heat embossing, and the tools for this technique are well worth the investment.
It’s quite a simple technique – stamp your image, cover the stamped image with embossing powder, shake off the excess and melt the powder with the heat tool (quite different to a hairdryer which blows warm air rather than heating in a concentrated area). The result is a shiny, glossy finish with a little bit of raised texture.
Be careful not to overheat – the result is a kind of watery effect around the heat embossed lines. Tilt your head to watch the powder melt and move the gun along to the next section of unmelted powder.
Most cardstocks can be heated with the heat gun. Make sure your gun has had around 30-60 seconds to warm up fully before bringing the heat to your project – this reduces warping somewhat.
Some cardstocks and specialty papers need to be heat embossed gently. Acetate will generally melt and distort when heat embossed, but there are heat-resistant acetates available. Vellum and Yupo papers can also be heat embossed gently.
Gently heat emboss by bringing the heat tool to the project for a pass or two, taking it away for a few seconds before bringing it back again for another pass. Repeat this until properly embossed.
Depending on the powders in your collection, you can achieve a matte finish, glossy, pearly, glittery, iridescent or even a puffy finish.
Most importantly, you need these three things to be able to heat emboss images and sentiments on your projects:
One further handy thing to have in your toolbox is a powder bag such as the embossing buddy and/or powder tool.
Embossing powders have a habit of clinging everywhere on your project, that static cling can be quite disheartening!
Powder bags and tools can reduce the frustration considerably. Wipe, swipe or bounce the bag/powder tool over your project BEFORE you start.
This is especially important when stamping onto recently inked backgrounds, as any hint of wet ink will hold the embossing powder in places you don’t want it.
Powder bags and tools are inexpensive. They are generally filled with cornstarch, or talc – something you could make for yourself if you weren’t keen on buying the product.
I like the Stampin’ Up! Embossing Buddy because it easily swipes across the surface of my project.
I use the EK Success Embossing Powder Tool to get powder into smaller spaces – such as when I’m creating a shaker card and want to reduce the ‘stickiness’ of the foam adhesive within the window. It also brushes powder across the surface of your project easily.
The powder tool is also scented.
Heat tools are around $40-$60 to purchase new. They are much hotter than a hairdryer, thus able to melt embossing powder and dry inky art quickly.
I personally own the Stampin Up! heat tool with the two heat settings, as well as their older version which I bought second hand from TradeMe.
I have also previously owned a (second hand again!) Ranger heat tool – the one that looks a bit like a hairdryer – I just haven’t found an NZ stockist to include it here.
Inks for Heat Embossing
VersaMark Watermark Ink is the most commonly used ink for heat embossing. It is a clear ink and can also be used on its own for tone on tone stamping as it simply stamps a darker image of whatever colour cardstock you are stamping on.
VersaMark Onyx Black Pigment Ink is a crisp black ink. Whilst this ink is great on it’s own and perfect for sentiment stamps, using clear embossing powder on top really gives a brilliant finish.
I had struggled to get a tidy finish with black embossing powders for quite some time before coming across this tip!
You can use almost any coloured ink (dye or pigment) for heat embossing. Stamp your image and cover with CLEAR embossing powder, shake off excess and heat. Dye inks dry quickly, so get the powder onto the stamped image without too much delay. Pigment inks often require heating to set, so they are perfect to hold the embossing powder.
This is great, as you realise you don’t need to buy every coloured powder under the sun, plus you will have the perfect coloured sentiment to match other elements in your cardmaking project.
There are embossing techniques especially for coloured embossing powders, but that will be saved for a future tutorial.
OK, this is the fun stuff! There are so many different embossing powders available – a smorgasbord! I’ll briefly look at the different types below, but first we will concentrate on the staples of the craft room.
If you are just starting out, I would recommend collecting four powders to start with: CLEAR, WHITE, GOLD and SILVER. These four will compliment and enhance any card making or scrapbooking project you have on the go.
PRO TIP: Look for “Fine Detail” or “Super Fine Detail” on the labels – you’ll achieve crisp results for fine line sentiments and background stamping.
I have four Sistema sandwich containers – one each for Ranger Gold, Ranger Silver, Ranger White and Ranger Clear – all in Super Fine Detail. I use these the most, and have found having them in a larger container where I can shake the excess powder straight back in to be a real time saver.
There are many different brands of powder available in New Zealand, and the above are some of my favourites – Ranger, WOW! and Hero Arts. All offer a beautiful range of different colours, textures and sparkly choices.
I have these little plastic trays that are a very handy thing to use when embossing with other specialty powders. Rather than scrabbling about for a large (clean!) scrap of paper to sprinkle the embossing powders or glitters over, these little trays contain all the mess, complete with a funnel corner to easily return the powders and glitters back to their respective containers.
They come in a flat strip of sturdy plastic, which you separate the three trays and slot the sides up together to form the handy tray.
Specialty Embossing Powders
These embossing powders are beyond the basics in terms of building your stash for your craft room. They are not necessary to rush out and purchase if you are just starting out, but this article can be referred back to as you learn about embossing techniques.
This last powder technically isn’t an embossing powder. Once heated, it becomes sticky. The stickiness can hold glitter, gilding flakes, foils and flocking for lots of fun effects on your projects. Stamp in VersaMark, sprinkle with the powder and heat as usual, then adhere/rub on the glitter, foils etc.
These are just a few examples of what is out there. Once you have your basic supplies for heat embossing, you are good to go for years! Embossing powders last a long time.
Articles in Best of the Basics Series:
Adhesives Cardstock Ink – Stamping Die Cutting Machines/Trimmers Heat Embossing Colour Handy Tools
Thank you for visiting – I hope you have found the above information helpful in your card making journey. As new products are released and trends change, you might like to bookmark this page to keep up to date. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.