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Partial/Selective Embossing Techniques

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Partial dry embossing creates a plain area within an embossed design

Partial dry embossing creates a plain area within an embossed design

Embossing Basics With Embossing Folders

Let's start with the basics of using embossing folders. Embossing folders are two pieces of plastic that have been embedded with a design. There is a raised side and a depressed side. When paper or any other material is placed into the folders and compressed with an embossing/die cutting machine, the impression is created.

What Materials Can Be Embossed:

There are quite a few materials that can be embossed and partially embossed with embossing folders:

  • Paper: probably the most popular
  • Vellum: creates amazing options, delicate so you may want to layer two pieces of copy paper inside the folder
  • Thin metal: foiled cardstock and very thin metal-like a soda can
  • Flashing tape: has a metallic look and has adhesive on it
  • Chipboard: use only very thin chipboard (about the thickness of a cereal box)
  • Velvet and suede paper: you get a subtle but delicate look

What Is Partial Embossing?

Partial embossing or partial dry embossing creates a plain area within an embossed design. That area can be used for a stamped or die cut sentiment or a stamped or die cut image.

A shim is created or used where you want the plain area to appear within the embossed area. You can purchase a shim (also called an embossing diffuser. Or you can create one from a couple of pieces of light cardboard like a cereal or macaroni box.

To create a shim, you simply die cut the shape that you want (most often a circle square oval) in the place that you want it to appear on two pieces of cardboard that are then taped together.

Place the ‘shim’ on top of the embossing folder and run it through your die cutting machine. The pressure from the rollers will only transfer the indentations from the folder to the cardstock where the shim is directly touching the folder, leaving the ‘circle’ area flat and allowing you to stamp on this space.

This wrap around embossing technique uses a diffuser to create this partial embossing technique

This wrap around embossing technique uses a diffuser to create this partial embossing technique

Partial Embossing Options

There are many ways and options o do partial embossing. You can use the techniques that make your designs shine.

  • Top and Bottom Embossing: Emboss the top and bottom. Place a sentiment in the space between,
  • Center Partial Embossing: Mark the amount of space that you want to leave plane. Then emboss the space in the center.
  • Top 3/4 of the Card: Use the embossing folder, leaving part of the base outside of the folder. The sentiment is placed on the bottom of the card.
  • Wrap-around Embossing: the embossing wraps around the right or left side only.
  • Double Embossing: Emboss only the outer edges of your cardstock, leaving the inner part smooth to stamp on.

More Partial Embossing Options

Tools and Supplies for Partial Embossing

There are just a few things that you will need to create your partial embossing techniques. Most of these supplies you more than likely have in your stash. If not, they are all readily available both online and in your local craft store.


You can emboss any solid cardstock that you would like to use. The only thing to consider is the weight of the paper. I would tend to use paper that is at least 90-110 lbs. in weight. That way you will get crisp clean embossing.

Die Cutting/Embossing Machine

Most of these machines have dual functions. So, you get many different ways to use them. We are focusing here on the embossing side of these machines. Most of these machines come with the plates that you need. Usually, they come with at least one embossing folder. make sure that if you are purchasing or replacing a machine, that you know and understand what comes with the package.

You want the most bang for your dollar, so take time to research before you buy. Once you have narrowed it down to the machine you are most interested in, type in your favorite browser, best buy for (whatever machine). Take into consideration the price, the shipping cost and what is included in the package before you make your final decision.

Embossing Folders

There are lots of different embossing folders to consider. Take time to understand your options before you purchase any. Have a variety of basic folders for backgrounds first. Then you can get into the fancier designs. There are lots of choices with different price points to consider.

You can also find embossing folders with windows already built into them. This takes a few steps off of your technique. But they can be a bit pricier, and you may not always find them in the design or size that you want or need.

Finally, there are dies with partial embossing designs built into them. But again, they are limited, and you may not find what you need.

Nesting Dies

These dies allow you to create a window anywhere on the front of your card that you may desire. They give you options for the size of windows as well as the placement of them. They will also help you create frames where you have created an opening. They are a good investment as there are many other ways to use them in your paper crafts

You can also create your own shims to block off a section of a card where you do not want embossing.


These are created to block off an area so that it does not get embossed. While you can purchase shims that can be used over and over again, you can also make your own shims that will last for quite a long time.

The shims that you create are customized to the size and design that you need as well as where you want your embossing to appear. They are generally made of cardboard. Packing materials work just fine. Cardboard from your pantry glued to a couple of layers for strength would also work.


A bonefolder is used to create creases or folds on your cards. Once you have scored and folded your card, they create just the right crease that takes you card to the next step

Scoreboard (optional but handy)

A scoreboard has measurements that help you score your card in the right place every time. There are groves that allow you to use the bonefolder (that usually comes with the scoreboard), to make perfectly measured and straight lines for all of your folds. If you make cards, this is a great investment.

Paper Trimmers

To me, if you make paper crafts, you need a good paper trimmer. I have a terrible time cutting straight lines with a scissor, so a paper trimmer is a necessity. It is also a time saver especially when you are making multiple cards. There are a few options and prices ranges, so find the one that fits your needs.

Low Tack Tape

You can use washi tape or any other low tack tape on your projects. It is used to secure your paper and /or embossing folder to your plates so you get just the right partial embossing.

Common Sandwiches for Embossing



White A Plate B Clear Cutting Plate Cuttlebug Embossing Folder B Clear Cutting Plate


Blue Mat Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Tan Embossing Pad White Mat

Original Sizzix

Multi-Purpose Platform, open at Tab 1 Clear Cutting Pad Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Clear Cutting Pad

Big Shot

Multi-Purpose Platform, open at Tab 1 Clear Cutting Pad Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Clear Cutting Pad


Gray Cutting/Embossing Platform Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Clear Cutting Mat


Solo Platform Shim Standard Cutting Mat Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Standard Cutting Mat

Craftwell e Bosser

Plate D Plate C Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Plate A

A shape is cut into two pieces of cardboard  taped together. Then the created shim is placed over the embossing folder(with cardstock in it to create a plain area within an embossed design

A shape is cut into two pieces of cardboard taped together. Then the created shim is placed over the embossing folder(with cardstock in it to create a plain area within an embossed design

Creating Your Shims

It is easy to create your own shims with cardboard and some dies. Nesting dies make this project easy because you can use the same shape with different dies. You can also create your shim with other materials to make your openings. try different jar lids to create circles in your shim.

Create a Shim

Creating shims ahead of time, saves you time later when you are partially embossing.


  • Cardboard
  • Paper trimmer / pencil & ruler
  • Nesting dies
  • Scissors
  • Low tack tape
  1. Cut the cardboard to the size of the card you want to make. Use the paper trimer. Or measure the size with a ruler, mark the lines and cut with the scissors.
  2. Place the die on the cardboard where you want your opening to be. Tape the die with low tack tape. Or use a lid or other tool to draw an opening.
  3. Die cut the shim following the manufacturer's directions. Or cut the opening with a pair of scissors. You may want to run the shim through your die cutting machine several times depending on the thickness of your cardboard.
  4. Store your shims with your embossing folders.


  • You can make the same shim placing your opening in different places
  • Make sure that your die is straight on your shim before cutting.
  • Look at your embossing folders and make shims to match the size of your folders.

More Shim Ideas

Using Your Electronic Cutter to Create Windows

There are two ways to create windows on your partial embossing cards. One is to use nesting dies, which is probably the most popular ways to go. But if you do not have nesting dies there are ways to add that window without a die or die cutting machine. Of course, you will still need a die cutting/ embossing machine to do the embossing.

Most of the software programs on your electronic cutting machine will allow you to import cutting files. So, if your machine does not have the shape that you need, find a free SVG file (or purchase one) to import to your machine.


  • Cardstock -white or any color-80-110lb.
  • Electronic cutting machine
  • Ruler/pencil (or the line tool for your cutting machine)
  • Bone folder
  • Paper trimmer
  • Embossing folder
  • Die cutting/embossing machine
  1. Cut the size for your card base with the trimmer or a scissor. Or you can choose a card size from your software.
  2. Use the bone folder or a score board to create your crease for the card fold. If you have a score tool for your machine, you can use that.
  3. Select the patterned cut and place it where you want it on your card.
  4. Follow the directions for your machine to cut the window.
  5. Then, take your card and place it in the embossing folder of your choice. Emboss the card front as well as the back if you chose.
  6. Cut a backing for your window and decorate as desired.
Partially embossed Halloween card with themed paper to continue the design.

Partially embossed Halloween card with themed paper to continue the design.

Partial Embossing

  1. Decide where you want your sentiment to be on your card.
  2. Place the paper in your embossing folder where you want the embossing to be. The edge of your paper will stick out of the folder. Make sure that the edges are straight You can start with the plain folder or the floral.
  3. Create the sandwich that the manufacturer of your die cutting machine recommends for embossing folder. You can use some washi tape to tape the embossing folder to the platform of your die cutting machine.
  4. Now reverse the card. Use the other folder and do the exact same process.
  5. Create a score line to make as edge to both sides of the card.
  6. Trim the edges of the card if you wish taking a 1/4" edge at both sides of the card as well as the top and bottom The card should measure 3 3/4' by 5".
  7. Cut a piece of solid cardstock to 3 7/8" by 5 1/8".

Single Panel Partial Embossing

  1. Cut a piece of cardstock to 4 3/4" by 3 1/2"
  2. Do the same technique except you will only do one panel on the edge that you choose.
  3. The background piece will measure 3 5/8" by 4 7/8"
  4. Die cutting machines vary in size to rather than embossing it horizontally, you may have to make the panel go vertically.

Two-Sided Panel Card

  1. Again, you will cut a piece of cardstock 4 1/4" by 3 1/2"
  2. Now you will emboss the panel on both sides of the card instead of just one.

Partial Embossing Tips

  • You can add one or two pieces of cardstock on top or in your sandwich to get better pressure for a clearer embossing folder impression.
  • The two-sided embossed card can be used as a side opened card or as a bottom opened card.
  • Tape the top acrylic plate at the place you want the embossing to stop.

Double Embossing

Emboss only the outer edges of your cardstock, leaving the inner part smooth to stamp on. This form of partial embossing does not give you a window but rather a sort of closed frame where you can feature a stamped image or sentiment.


  • Die cutting/embossing machine
  • Embossing mat
  • Nesting dies
  • Cardstock
  • Cardboard
  • Ink
  • Stamps
  • Paper Trimmer/scissors and a ruler
  1. Cut the cardstock panel in the size that you want.
  2. Cut a piece of cardboard to the size of your cardstock panel
  3. Chose the nesting die size appropriate for your panel
  4. Center the Die to the cardboard. You can secure it with low tack tape.
  5. Build your sandwich as recommended by the manufacturer for die cutting. Note you may have to adjust the shims in your sandwich. Remember, never to force any sandwich into the machine. You may destroy your machine and void your warranty. If it acts like it will not go in, adjust by removing one shim.
  6. Run the sandwich through the die cutting machine. If for some reason, the cardboard did not cut through, run it through the machine a second time.
  7. Pop the center out of the cardboard
  8. Insert the cardstock into the embossing folder
  9. Place the cardboard frame on top of the embossing folder. Make sure it is secure, especially if using an electronic die cutting machine.
  10. Secure the frame to the embossing folder with low tack tape so there is no chance of it slipping.
  11. Run this sandwich through your machine again following the manufacturer's directions. You should see embossing with a smooth center
  12. Now you will create another sandwich: Cutting Plate embossing mat. cardstock. die, -cutting side down, lined up with the smooth center of the cardstock Cutting plate. Or follow your manufacturer's directions for using an embossing mat.
  13. Run the sandwich through the die cutting machine.
  14. Stamp and decorate as desired.


  • If your cardboard is too thin, cut two pieces and tape or glue them together

Center Embossing

Center partial embossing is easy. You simply mark off the areas where you don't want to emboss. Run one side through and then the other. Great way to highlight an area

Center partial embossing is easy. You simply mark off the areas where you don't want to emboss. Run one side through and then the other. Great way to highlight an area

More Ideas for Partial Embossing

DIY Embossing Diffuser

You can create your own custom, diffuser with just some cardboard and a craft die. It is so easy to create your own diffusers in any shape that you would like. They can be used over and over again.

This is a great way to extend the uses of both your dies and embossing folders. And you get to recycle some cardboard. Use any cardboard box that you may have. Cereal, macaroni, tea and any other box that you come in contact with will work perfectly.

You can place your die in any position you may like either in landscape or portrait position. In just a short period of time you can create a diffuser collection that will make your greeting cards look professional and very custom. It's your design, your way.

Ever wondered how they create embossing with just a small section open? Here is what you need to know

Ever wondered how they create embossing with just a small section open? Here is what you need to know

Using an Embossing Diffuser

Have you ever seen a card that has all over embossing except in the center where there is plain space where you can add a sentiment? These are often done with embossing folders that are designed with this blank space.

The diffusers allow you to make the most of your embossing folders by creating areas without embossing or embossing just a small area of a folder.

But if you have a special embossing folder that you love without that built in space, you can still use it and get the same result.

Using an embossing diffuser will help you do just that. Embossing diffusers are thin pieces of plastic or chipboard cut into the shape that you would like to use. You can purchase them (Sizzix carries packs of three) or you can make them yourself.

  1. Cut a piece of heavy cardboard or chipboard to fit the measurements of your embossing folder.
  2. Cut a shape such as an oval or square in the size and location of where you would like the unembossed area.
  3. Insert a piece of card stock into the embossing folder.
  4. Fix the card to the bottom of the embossing folder by taping around the edges with some washi tape.
  5. Close the embossing folder.
  6. Line up the diffuser with the closed embossing folder.
  7. Tape into place with washi tape.
  8. Emboss with your embossing machine.

The pressure of the embossing machine will emboss everything cut the area of your opening.

You can take your card to the next step!

  1. Once you have embossed your piece, open the embossing folder.
  2. Leave the card stock taped into place.
  3. Ink the top flap of the embossing folder with the ink of your choice. Make sure to ink all the areas of the folder. Be careful not to ink the unembossed area. Pigment inks work best as they seem to cling to the plastic. Lightly pounch the ink onto the folder top so that the ink stays on the top rather than in the grooves of the design.
  4. Close the embossing folder. The ink will transfer to the embossed area.
  5. Run through the embossing machine again.


  • You can use dies like nesting dies to create your diffuser.
  • You can use a die that matches in size to your opening that has some additional decor cutting side down taped to the top of your opening an added step.
  • Always dry emboss before you add any ink to your project.
  • Always tape the card down in the embossing folder. That way it will be in the same place if you want to emboss it again.
  • If your embossed design does not appear to be crisp enough, consider adding a shim to your sandwich (the order that the plates and embossing folder go into your embossing machine).

More Ways to Use an Embossing Diffuser

You Need This Tool

Partial/Selective Embossing on Die Cuts

We have all seen these beautiful variations of partial embossed cards with a plain oval or circle within the center. Creating these one-of-a-kind custom cards is not all that difficult once you understand the steps to get it done.


  • Cardstock-you could use a cereal box
  • A die-ovals and rectangles work well
  • Double sided tape
  • Die Cutting Machine
  1. Cut 2 pieces of card that measure 4-1/4″ x 6″ (11 cms x 15.5 cms).
  2. Place your die on the 1st piece of card where you would like your ‘window’, tape the die in place and run it through your die-cutting machine (picture 1). TIP: You can also make several smaller windows and have several area’s that aren’t embossed. It does look really effective.
  3. Keeping the die taped to the 1st piece of card line it up with the 2nd piece (picture 2) and run it through your die-cutting machine a few times until it cuts both pieces. If you have problems cutting through the 2nd piece of card run it through your machine a couple of times and then you should be able to slot the die into the indented area.
  4. After cutting through both pieces add your adhesive to the outside edges and around the edge of the window.
  5. To make it easier to line up both pieces I added a small amount of liquid glue onto the double sided tape and then adhered them. Lesson learned: Make sure you let the liquid glue dry before running your template through your die-cutting machine otherwise the glue will seep out. I know this because I thought it would be a great idea to run it through my Big Shot to make sure it was adhered properly and got glue on both cutting plates. Ooops.
  6. Adhere the 2 die-cut pieces you had left-over from your ‘window’. When you place these in an embossing folder it will only emboss the area where the die-cut is. This also gives a great effect.

More Partial Embossing Ideas

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