CB22-006 - How to emboss paper or cardstock

How to emboss paper or cardstock

How do you emboss paper or cardstock?

You can use three main techniques to emboss paper or cardstock in your own home: 

  • Stencils
  • Embossing with heat 
  • Using an embossing machine

Heat embossing requires you to sprinkle embossing powder on ink and apply heat from a heat gun. Machine embossing embosses your paper as you run the paper through the machine. Stencil embossing requires you to use a stencil and a stylus to create your embossment.

Embossing paper or cardstock can add texture and unique touch to your cards, scrapbooks, or other papercrafts. 

Luckily for you, I’ll show you which paper you can emboss and why some paper is better than others. I’ll show you how to emboss cardstock through each of the three methods. You’ll be on your way to embossing in no time

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Types of Paper You Can Emboss

You can emboss light, dark, patterned, glossy, cardstock, textured, drawing, or specialty papers, but not all paper embosses equally. Generally speaking, the thicker the paper is, the stronger it will hold up against embossing – especially if you plan to use the heating technique. This is why cardstock is a family favorite when it comes to embossing.

If you plan to emboss lighter papers, like vellum, you can place them between books as they cool. Regular printer paper, newsprint paper, marker paper, and cotton paper are not recommended for embossing.

Embossing Using Stencils

Embossing using stencils is also called dry embossing. For those wondering how to emboss paper or cardstock easily and affordably, dry embossing is for you.

This method is straightforward and requires minimal tools to do. You can create various embossed designs that can be as creative as your imagination – and stencils – allow.


To emboss your paper or cardstock using stencils, you’ll need:

  • An embossing tool
  • A stencil
  • Cardstock or paper
  • A lightbox OR a transparent surface

First, you’ll need to purchase an embossing tool. The basic embossing hand tool is called an embossing stylus. It resembles a pen with a metal tip on one or both ends. You can find some 5-piece embossing tool sets for as low as $5-$6 online.

The stylus tips can have various shapes and sizes depending on the type of embossing you want to do. Thicker tips are good for large surface areas, while thinner tips are good for precise marks and fine areas.

Next, you’ll need to choose the stencil you want to emboss. This will be the design that you imprint onto your paper or cardstock. You can choose from various general stencils sold in stores or online, or order a personalized stencil from a small vendor like those on Etsy.

Third, you’ll need to choose your paper. As mentioned, cardstock is the voted winner when it comes to ease of embossing, but plenty of other papers can be embossed too. Think of what you’ll use this paper for when deciding on the material. Stencil embossing is also a bit less destructive than heat embossing can be, so you can opt for a lighter paper if necessary.

Finally, you’ll need a lightbox – which can be purchased for $10-$20 – or a transparent surface. This will be used to help you trace your stencil, so you don’t need to purchase the lightbox unless you plan to use it again in the future.

Otherwise, you could use a window, glass table, or even a clear plate with a bright light behind it. You should be able to see your stencil through your cardstock or paper on this surface.

How to Emboss Using Stencils

  • Step 1: Position your stencil. Place your stencil on your lightbox or transparent surface. Tape it to the surface so that it does not move around. Make sure there is plenty of light behind it. If using a window, you must emboss during the day.
  • Step 2: Set up your paper. Place your cardstock or paper on the stencil. You should be able to see the stencil outline through the paper.
  • Step 3: Emboss your paper. Using your embossing stylus, apply pressure to the interior lines followed by the exterior edges. If embossing a thinner paper, decrease the pressure you use to prevent tearing.

Embossing with Heat

Embossing with heat is a fun activity that lets you watch the embossment in live-action. This is a great option for those with an extensive rubber stamp collection.


To emboss your paper or cardstock with heat, you will need:

  • A rubber stamp 
  • Ink (preferably slow-drying)
  • Embossing powder
  • A heat gun
  • Cardstock or paper (the thicker the better)
  • Scrap paper or a mantle to protect your work surface

When embossing with heat, you can use any of your favorite rubber stamps. While you need to purchase a couple of other materials, this is well worth the investment if you already have a ton of rubber stamps ready to use.

Slow-drying ink is best for this type of embossing, but any ink choice will do. If you use fast-drying ink, you’ll just need to speed up your embossing process.

Embossing powder will be distributed over your stamped design, which is what melts and raises during the heating process. You can purchase it in clear, glitter, colored, matte, and more forms.

The heat gun or tool is the key to embossing with heat. This melts the embossing powder and creates the embossed effect. You cannot replace a heat gun with a hair dryer, as the hair dryer blows too much air, doesn’t get hot enough, and can ruin your design.

Finally, as always, you’ll need your trusted cardstock or thick paper and an additional paper or mantle to keep your surface area clean.

How to Emboss with Heat

  • Step 1: Set up your paper. Place your scrap paper or mantle on your work surface, then place the paper you plan to emboss on top.
  • Step 2: Stamp. Dip your stamp in its ink and place it firmly on your paper, leaving the design you will emboss.
  • Step 3: Use the embossing powder. Before the ink dries, pour embossing powder over the design. Then, lift the paper so that extra powder falls onto your covered work surface. Tap the card lightly to get rid of any excess powder.
  • Step 4: Apply heat. Plugin your heat gun and hold it about 2 inches away from your design. Move the gun in small circles so that the heat is evenly distributed across the design. Keep a close eye on your design. As the powder melts and appears shiny, you can turn off the heat gun and allow the paper to cool.

Embossing with an Embossing Machine

Embossing with a machine is fast and easy. If you’re a fan of embossing and want most of the work done for you, this method is here to help.


You will need:

  • An embossing machine
  • An embossing folder
  • Cardstock or paper that fits inside your folder

Most embossing machines run in the $100 price range, although you might be able to find some cheaper deals. When choosing your machine, be sure to read customer reviews and watch some review videos to see how well each works. Many embossing machines also double as cut and dye machines for additional crafting.

Embossing folders are similar to stencils, except in folder form. They are made of plastic and have one side with a raised impression and another with an indented impression. You will choose the embossing folder that has the design you’d like to emboss.

Finally, you’ll need your embossing paper which must fit inside the folder.

How to Use an Embossing Machine

  • Step 1: Set up your materials. Position your paper inside the embossing folder.
  • Step 2: Emboss the paper. Put the embossing folder at the entry point of your embossing machine. Crank it through or run it through electronically. For deeper impressions, run the folder through 2-3 times.

Summary: How to emboss paper or cardstock

As you can see, there are three main ways to emboss paper or cardstock:

  1. Heat Embossing
  2. Machine Embossing
  3. Stencil Embossing

Heat embossing requires you to sprinkle embossing powder on ink and apply heat from a heat gun. Machine embossing embosses your paper as you run the paper through the machine. Stencil embossing requires you to use a stencil and a stylus to create your embossment.

Cardstock is the ideal paper to emboss because of the thickness. Thicker paper tends to last longer for embossing.