How to Emboss Without using Any Machines

Embossing is a really cool effect that can make an ordinary letter or a greeting card a lot more interesting. Embossing can not only be seen but it can also be felt. I, as a graphics designer, worked a lot with embossing in the past, especially when designing interesting business cards or when I worked together with a bookbinder to create an embossed book cover.

But embossing nowadays isn´t as complicated to do anymore, so you can actually create your own embossed paper or cardboards easily at home and in this article, I will show you how!

There are a couple of interesting ways, that you can emboss paper and cardboard without the use of any machines but you will still need a few tools.

Don´t worry though, they are not nearly as expensive as an embossing machine or a press and most of the tools needed are household items. So you probably already have them at home.

Embossing Paper Without a Machine

Let’s start with how you can emboss paper. Paper is usually quite easy to emboss but you also have to be careful when embossing paper as it can easily rip if you are not handling it with enough care.

There are several ways to emboss paper without a machine, so we will start with probably the easiest method.

Embossing Paper Using an Embossing Folder

For this method, you will need the following tools:

  • Embossing Folder (more on that further down below)
  • A spray bottle filled with water or diluted ink
  • A rolling pin
  • Some high-quality paper to emboss

You have to get an embossing folder for this method but don´t worry, they are not very expensive.

An embossing folder is a hard-plastic folder, that has a design imprinted on one side and the same design raised on the other side.

You can get embossing folders in a lot of different sizes and with a lot of different designs. I like to use the embossing folders from Darice. Here is an Amazon link to one of their embossing folders with a floral design.

Some craft stores also have a section for embossing where you can get embossing tools and embossing folders. So if you don´t want to order them online, then you might want to check your local craft store out.

You can use any regular spray bottle but you will get the best results with a spray bottle, that sprays very fine water dust. You only want to dust your paper with water and not drench it in water. Empty perfume bottles are an excellent choice for this.

You will also need a rolling pin. Any regular old rolling pin will do.

And finally, you will need some higher-quality paper. Embossing will not work well with regular printing paper. Instead, you should opt for using higher-quality paper or cardstock, if you want to.

If you are struggling with finding a good paper for embossing, then you can simply get embossing paper by Silhouette. You don´t need the machine to emboss it. Here is an Amazon link for the paper.

Alternatively, you can also use drawing paper with little to no texture. Most drawing paper is sturdy enough to be embossed.

Now, that you have everything you need to emboss your first paper, we can finally start embossing.

Moisten the Paper

Fill your spray bottle with some water or diluted ink, if you want to color it right away.

Then gently dust both parts of the paper with the water. The paper should be moist but not drenched in water.

The water will make the paper malleable and allow it to be embossed without tearing.

Try to apply the water as evenly as possible.

Put the Paper Into the Embossing Folder

Put the paper into the embossing folder in the orientation, that you like.

Then gently close the embossing folder.

Use the Rollin Pin to Press Down on the Embossing Folder

Now grab the rolling pin and roll it over the embossing folder using some force.

You will need quite a bit of force to properly emboss the paper.

Go over the folder several times before you open it back up again.

And you are done. All you have to do now is take the paper out of the folder and leave it somewhere to dry for a couple of hours.

Using this method will not leave as deep of an impression as it would be when you are using a machine instead but the impression will still be very visible. You can use an ink pad to highlight the embossed area with some color if you want to.

Embossing Paper Using Texture Plates

For this method, you will need very similar tools, than before. This method is a little bit more time consuming but you have a lot more control over the outcome.

For this method you will need:

  • Embossing paper (the same as above)
  • Texture plates
  • Some tape
  • Wax paper
  • A ballpoint stylus or an impressor

Texture plates are a little different than embossing folders. A texture plate is solid and does not have a counterpart. Each side of the texture plate has a different texture on it.

Texture plates are generally a little cheaper than embossing folders. You can get a pack of 8 texture plates and they are still cheaper than just one embossing folder. Here is an Amazon link for a bunch of texture plates that you can start with.

You also need some tape to hold your piece of paper in place. Simple masking tape will do just fine.

Some wax paper is also necessary to lubricate the paper. This will make your life so much easier when you go over the paper with the stylus.

And finally, you also need a ballpoint stylus to emboss the paper by hand or an impressor.

You can get either of those in your local crafts store.

Preparing the Paper for Embossing

To start out, simply place the paper on your texture plate and fix it in place with some tape around the edges.

Make sure, that the paper does not move and make sure, that you work on a surface, that does not give in. A solid table top would be ideal.

Wax the Paper

Rub the paper gently with some wax paper to lubricate it. This will make it easier for the stylus or the impressor to move over the paper.

Emboss the Paper with the Stylus

Now use the ballpoint stylus to go over the paper. You can use an impressor (a tool specially designed for embossing this way), a ballpoint stylus ( you can get this in any crafts store in the clay tool section), or you can also use the round backside of a pen or something similar.

Gently press the paper on the texture plate to manually emboss the paper.

You can go over the paper multiple times to make the embossed areas deeper and you can go over the edges with a little more force to enhance the edges of the design further.

Don´t push down too hard on the paper though or you may damage it in the process.

Once you feel like you are done simply take off the tape and remove the paper from the texture plate.

Embossing Cardstock Without a Machine

You can use any of the methods, that I explained above with cardstock as well but this final method is only possible with cardstock. That´s why I separated the two sections.

This method is very similar to the texture plate method.

For this method you will need:

  • Cardstock
  • A Brassstencil
  • Some Tape
  • Wax paper
  • And a Ball end stylus

Brass stencils are basically stencils with simple two-dimensional designs cut into them. You can get them in any craft store. Don´t buy these on Amazon as a lot of them are cheap knockoffs, that break or bend easily.

I personally did not have any good experiences with any brass stencils, that I bought on Amazon. But, as I said, your local crafts store should have them.

The rest of the materials are pretty much the same as before.

Prepare the Cardstock for Embossing

Just like before simply fix the cardstock to the stencil with some tape. Carefully tape the edges of the cardstock and use tape, that does not damage the paper when you remove it, like masking tape.

Make sure, that your working space is fixed and does not move. A solid tabletop is best.

Emboss the Cardstock With a Ball Point Stylus

Use the wax paper to lubricate the cardstock, just as before. This will help the stylus to move across the paper.

Not use the stylus to press the design into the cardstock. Use very little force to do so and instead go over the areas multiple times.

You can define the edges of the design further by going over them more often. This will make the design look more detailed and it will give the design a clear defined silhouette.

Once you are done simply remove the tape carefully and separate the stencil from the cardstock.