Embossing was created as a security measure for European royalty and other aristocrats when sending orders or decrees to their subjects. The initials, monogram, or indicium would be stamped on the sealed envelope to signify authenticity of the documents inside. In the 1600’s some the earliest stamps of Italy and Switzerland would also use embossed images in order to authenticate the postage and allow transfer within their borders. Embossing occurs when paper or other substrates are manipulated to create a raised image on the paper. Debossing is the same process but the image is pushed down into the paper. There is no ink involved in either embossing or debossing. However, embossed or debossed images are often used in conjunction with an inking or foiling process to give the image some color. When embossing or debossing occurs with ink or foil the correct term would be a registered emboss or deboss because the emboss or deboss will have to print exactly in the same place as the ink which his known as tight registration.
There are two main types of dies in embossing and debossing; they are single level or multi-level dies. The single level die is typically made from copper and has a raised image that is all the same height from the paper. A multi-level or sculpted die is made from brass and adds a shape and texture that is more sophisticated and harder to create. While a single level copper die might depict a state seal or a monogram, a sculpted die can show the rounded features of a globe or human body. Both sculpted and single level embossing dies are attached to a base while a sheet of paper is feed into position. Through pressure and sometimes pressure and heat the paper is stamped with the image that is etched into the die.
Embossing and debossing are used commonly on letterheads, envelopes, business cards, wine labels, announcements, and invitations. An emboss or deboss is used as a way to provide the recipient with a sense of quality that heightens the awareness of the brand they are portraying.