Embossing Folder Basics

Updated on May 3, 2020
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Embossing Folder Basics

Do you have a collection of embossing folders that are sitting around gathering dust? It's time to learn how to use those folders on all your cards and other paper crafts.

What are embossing folders? They are translucent white plastic folders that have a design embedded into the plastic. When you place a piece of paper between the pages of the folder, then press the folder in an embossing machine, you get the image or design on your paper.

There are several machines out that will emboss your paper. Some machines are manual, mostly hand cranked. The other type of machine is electric. The electric machines give more pressure and get a better embossed image. Both machines use several types of plates that create additional pressure to create the design.

They come in different sizes and themes. Some make frames or borders while others create a background design.

What kind of materials can you emboss? Paper, of course, would be the most obvious material. But they can also handle metals, chipboard, foam, and vellum.

Remember, there is a positive side and a negative side on the folder. The raised side is considered the positive side and the depressed side is considered the negative side

What Are Embossing Folders?

They are hard plastic folders that have two sides. One side has a raised impression. The other side has an indented impression. The pressure of a manual or electronic embossing machine presses the paper together creating a design on paper, and they come in many different sizes.

Common Sizes

There are two common sizes, but the sizes vary by manufacturer. For the most part, the makers of these wonderful tools tend to not put their sizes on the packaging, so a lot of folks have taken to carrying rulers or tape measures when they purchase them.

Why is this important? So that you know if the folder will fit in your embossing machine.

The smallest of them are made for borders. They average between 1" to 2" wide and normally 6" long.

The next ones would be the standard folders. These would be more for card fronts and mats. Again, depending on the manufacturer, these can run sizes like 51/2" by 41/2" or 5" x 7".

Examples of borders. They create very dimensional additions for your cards, scrapbook pages and journals
Examples of borders. They create very dimensional additions for your cards, scrapbook pages and journals

Manual Embossing Machines

Manual machines are convenient because they require no electricity and are portable. That makes a difference if you attend a lot of crops or classes. They come in different sizes and price points. While some may have unique features they operate in the same way. The paper or cardstock is laced into the folder. Then the folder is sandwiched between two or more plates. The plates are placed on a platform. A handle is used to move the plate forward. As it moves through the machine, the cardstock is pressed between the folder which imprints the design.

Most of these machines include the plates that you need to emboss. The number of plates that you get will depend on the functions and features of the machine. Some will also have die cutting abilities.

Manual Embossing Machines

Manual Embossing Machine
Average Price Point
Cuttlebug by Cricut
Works with most embossing folders and cutting dies and can be used on a variety of materials: cardstock, paper, tissue paper, foil, acetate, and even thin leather.
Sizzix Texture Boutique
Comes with a pair of embossing pads and 1 Mylar shim. It measures 8 x 5 x 9 inches and accommodates folders up to 4.5 inches wide.
Sizzix Big Shot
Features a multi use platform, that will emboss many different materials using Sizzix brand folders. (To ensure compatibility with materials, always check machine and accessory requirements. Machine accessories may be sold separately.)
Big Shot Express
Comes with a standard cutting platform and two cutting plates.
Evolution by We Are Memory Keepers
Comes with two mats for pressing and cutting. Manual, but you can purchase a seperate motor system to make it electronic.
Spellbinders Platinum
There are several different tyes in this series. Comes with pair of clear cutting plates, standard platform, embossing plate and embossing mat.

Electronic Embossing Machines

Price points
Comes in three different sizes-Full size, Junior and the Go Model. Offers edge to edge cutting. Comes in a bundle. All sizes feature quiet motor. Can do several folders at the same time depending on the size of the folder. The only difference in the models is the size of the platform.
Comes with power adapter. Platform will accomodate to 8.5 inches wide up to 12 inches in length.
The Vagabond 2 works with everything from Sizzix’s smallest dies up to the 6” wide plastic backed treasures and embossing tools. This machine is not compatible with Sizzix’s Bigz Plus and Bigz Pro dies. Use the Extended Wafer-thin Die Adapter to work with Framelits and other brand dies and embossing tools.

Embossing Vs Debossing

Embossing vs Debossing

Embossing is when the pattern shows as a raised image. Think of it as a raised or 3D effect on your paper. Debossing has the pattern indented rather than raised.

Most folders have a name imprinted on them. For an embossed project run the folder with the name or logo on top. For a debossed project run it with the logo down.

You can emboss more than just card fronts. Think about tags, mats for photos, and envelopes. Let your imagination run wild.

Inking An Embossing Folder Image

  1. Cut your card stock to the size of the embossing folder.
  2. Ink the side of the folder that you want to appear, either the positive side or the negative side. A brayer is the best tool to apply ink.
  3. Use enough pressure on the pad to get complete coverage on the folder.
  4. Swipe the pad across the design.
  5. Put the paper into the folder.
  6. Run it through the machine, following the manufacturer's directions.
  7. Run it through twice to get the best results.
  8. Allow the ink to dry.

Another Way to Use Inks

You can also use Distress inks and Oxide inks. Spritz them with a little water to get a watercolor look. The point is to experiment and have fun with them!

Adding Embossing Powder To An Embossed Paper

This technique is as easy as it gets. The best thing about it is that you don't need an embossing machine. All you need is the folder, some VersaMark ink, and some paper.


  • Card stock
  • An embossing folder
  • Versamark or other embossing ink
  • A brayer
  1. Gently dab the VersaMark ink onto the raised part of your folder. Don't use a lot of pressure as you apply the ink pad. Just a gentle tap will work fine.
  2. Insert the paper into the folder and carefully close the lid. You do not want to shift the paper.
  3. Apply pressure to the top of the folder with a bone folder or a brayer. Hold the end of the folder to prevent the paper from shifting.
  4. Apply embossing powder to the card and remove any excess.
  5. Heat the card with an with a heating tool.

Sand the paper on your design to make your paper look old and distressed.

Sanding A Embossed Image

Another option for embossed image is to gently sand the raised areas. This brings up the white core of the paper and gives a rustic look to your project. You can use a very fine sandpaper to just gently kiss the paper and bring up the white core.

You will want to have a very light touch to do this technique, otherwise you will loose the embossed areas.

Coloring Your Finished Embossed Pieces

You can add color to your embossed pieces with supplies that you may already have in your craft area.

  • Stamp pads: Lightly run a stamp pad across the top of your embossed paper.
  • Chalk: Apply chalk to the embossed area and rub in lightly.
  • Gel pens: Highlight areas with gel pens.
  • Sanding: Good for white core or double-sided paper only! Lightly sand the top of the embossed area.
  • Use a blending tool to color with your ink. Blend from the edges inward.

Heat Emboss Your Embossed image.

You can actually heat emboss your embossed image using some simple supplies.


  • Zig Emboss Writer or any other fine tipped glue pen
  • Embossing powder
  • Heat gun


  1. Emboss your design on the paper size of your choice.
  2. Carefully follow the design with your glue pen.
  3. Sprinkle the embossing powder over the design.
  4. Heat with the heat gun.

If you use metallic types of embossing powder you will get a stunning effect. You can do either the entire design or sections. Either way, you will get a special effect.

Embedded And Embossed Card

This lovely technique is easier to do than you think
This lovely technique is easier to do than you think | Source

Embedding Die Cuts Into An Embossed Image

Who would ever think to embrace two techniques into one. Easy and so effective ! You will want to make more than one of these beauties. You are impressing two layers at once. Both a die cut and an embossed image.


  • Card stock
  • Embossing folder-select one that has a good dense pattern with open spaces
  • Die cuts
  • Glue
  1. Cut your die cuts. You can make the die cuts of your choice on a manual or electronic die cutting machine. You can also make die cuts on your Cricut or Scan an Cut as well.
  2. Cut the card stock to the desired size for your card
  3. Adhere the die cut to the paper. Use as little glue as possible in the center of the die cut only
  4. Allow to dry
  5. Place the card stock with the die cuts in the folder
  6. Run the embossing folder through your manual or electronic embossing machine
  7. Remove the paper and enjoy the results

You can use a Deco gold pen to outline your embossed design.

Regal Cut

Crafter's Companion makes this Regal design.
Crafter's Companion makes this Regal design. | Source

Cut and Emboss Folders

Some folders do two jobs at the same time. These are called Cut and Emboss folders. They have a standard embossing feature, but they also cut out sections of the design to create a multi-level image.

3D Folders

3D folders are a step up from the standard embossing folder. They come as either single units or in sets.

What makes them different is that they have an embossed base. Then on top of that is a completely different raised element. In addition to that, they can also feature cut outs ! They are beautiful in that they have so many layers of embossing in them.

The Sizzix 3D ones come in a different color than the two D folders. That is a nice feature when you are storing them.

Sometimes with the 3D folders, you may have to adjust your sandwich to avoid cracking. This is especially true with manual embossing machine. My Gemini cuts and embosses these types of perfectly, so I avoid using my Cuttlebug.

There can be some issues regarding cracking with these folders. Here are some tips to get a perfect emboss:

  • If you are getting cracks when you emboss this folder, lightly spritz with water before you emboss it. Spritz on both sides and wave it in the air to dry it a bit.
  • Place a sheet of waxed paper between the card stock and the folder.
  • Whatever embossing machine you are using, always place the folder with the hinge going into the machine first.
  • To get the optimum embossing , run the folder through forward and backwards.
  • You can use ink with these folders. Just ink the top and you will get even more dimension.
  • Shimmer paper and adhesive backed foils are stunning with three D folders.

Garden Gate Cut

Card by Linda Correa
Card by Linda Correa


Most people store their standard embossing folders in a box or a drawer. This is a smart idea. Recently I saw an idea on Youtube that really made more sense than just putting them randomly in a box.

I use an Iris box. This is a plastic container generally used to store photos. The nice thing about it is that it has plastic dividers that organize your folders. This system works well on standard size folders. For my larger folders, I need another system.

Write on each folder what it is, either the name or the pattern. You can then file them by brand or alphabetically.

Store your border ones in the front of the box. They fit in nicely.

Use a book that has inserts or envelopes to store them
Use a book that has inserts or envelopes to store them

Always store any folders that come with stamps together as a set.

Store your embossing folder in a box with defined categories, For me, I like finding them by theme or subject, Special holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, ect would be their own category,
Store your embossing folder in a box with defined categories, For me, I like finding them by theme or subject, Special holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, ect would be their own category,

Other Methods of Storage

Don't limit yourself to one idea. Use the storage system that works best for you. Here are some more storage ideas.

  1. Create a catalog by giving each one a number and store them in number order.
  2. Store them by theme, such as birthday, Christmas, pattern, etc.
  3. Create a 3 ring notebook that has categories. You can file them in page protectors.

How to Make Your Own Embossing Folders

Questions & Answers

© 2018 Linda F Correa

Share Your Experiences, Ideas And Thoughts

Submit a Comment
  • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda F Correa 

    16 months ago from Spring Hill Florida

    Thank you for your comment. Embossing folders are one of the most creative ways to make viable art available for everyone


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