Formed using two matching moulds, a male and a female, called a die, Embossing and Debossing create raised and suppressed images respectively that add texture and dimensionality to an otherwise flat surface. Impressions can be as thick as 1/8″ and can contain multiple levels for a layered effect. A common method of Embossing/ Debossing, referred to a s blind embossing, is to create the texture without adding ink; this is done in part because it looks great but also because registering a die with pre-printed design is difficult and often yields poor results. As embossing/ Debossing is a relatively costly technique and alternative is to use letterpress and ask for a deep impression.
Just like a cookie-cutter, with equally delicious results, die-cutting can give a unique contour such as rounded corners, angled edges or tabs, it can punch out specific shapes within the edges of a piece. Thin metal strips are bent and moulded in the desired shape and pressed in place onto a wooden block, creating a die on which paper is pressed for cutting. If the press is gentle enough, labels can be kiss die-cut so the backing remains intact. Dies are also used for creating perforations and for scoring; sometimes all three functions are performed at the same time on the same die. Because dies are costly to make, it is canny to ask printers if they have existing dies from previous jobs that can be recycled. Some printers keep a stock of common dies for items like pocket folders.
Because die-cutting is done by hand and requires bending strips of metal that have finite malleability, the intricacy and detail of a design is limited. Laser-Cutting however, provides exponential freedom in the kind of artwork that can be, literally, burned away from paper surfaces to create complex and highly detailed designs with more holes than a colander. Working from a digital file, the laser cuts through the paper; it can either vaporise the material or cut the contour of a shape and air-scoop the remaining knocked-out material. If there is one drawback to laser-cutting, it is that it leavers a burn mark around the edges where it cuts, but this is nothing a dark paper stock can’t fix while vast improvements are being made on this issue.