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Embossing Folder Basics

As a professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to turn 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, and foam.

Of course you can make greeting cards with your embossing folders. But there are more ways to use them.

Using Embossing Folders on Scrapbook Pages

Think about your scrapbook page. Embossed pieces are fine design accents:

  • You can use embossing pieces to mount your photos on
  • You can use partial pieces to create accents
  • You can use them under the journal pieces

Using Embossing Folders on Journals

  • Use pieces to enhance designs on junk journal pages
  • Emboss the flaps of envelopes
  • Edge a pocket in a journal with an embossed piece

Embossing Folder Sizes

There are a few different sizes to choose from when you are selecting embossing folders for your projects:

  • 4” x 6”
  • 5.5” x 4.5”
  • 5” x 7”6” x 6”

Embossing Folders Come in Different Sizes and Designs

You can find embossing folders in almost any design you can think of

You can find embossing folders in almost any design you can think of

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.

Embossing folders are a great way to create gorgeous cards and other papercrafts. The translucent white plastic folders have designs embedded into the plastic that transfers to paper when using an embossing machine.

Generally, the term “embossing” refers to any technique that results in a raised pattern or design on a surface such as paper, metal, leather, or textile. Embossing folders, on the other hand, are used in a technique called “dry embossing.” Dry embossing, much like heat embossing, also results in a beautiful 3D effect. However, it raises the paper itself. When you place a piece of cardstock or paper inside the folder and run it through an embossing machine, the pressure will transfer the design into the paper. This will give the paper an instant raised effect.

Types Of Paper To Emboss

White card stock can be elegant when used with embossing folders, but why limit yourself when there are more and different papers that you can emboss!

Try other papers to see the effects that embossing folders can make on them.

  • Vellum (always use thicker vellum so you do not get cracking)
  • Parchment
  • Colored cardstock
  • Shimmered cardstock
  • Glitter paper

Consider Using Embossed Paper Strips to Create a Card

Rainbow strips of embossed paper make a truly beautiful card. The strips are 1.5 inches and overlapped

Rainbow strips of embossed paper make a truly beautiful card. The strips are 1.5 inches and overlapped

Standard vs. 3D Embossing Folders

Over a period of time, the craft industry has come up with new products and ideas to create more embossed papers. One of these newer products is the 3D embossing folder. There are some differences between the two types.

Standard Embossing Folder

These are also known as 2D embossing folders. These are perfect for creating quick and instant backgrounds and adding texture and layers to any paper craft project. Sizes may vary depending on the manufacturer, but these are usually 1/16” thick.

  1. Comes in a single unit
  2. Has a raised and an indented side
  3. Made of thinner plastic
  4. Needs two embossing plates

3D Embossing Folder

Like 2D embossing folders, these will also add an instantly gorgeous raised effect on any paper or cardstock. There are also a variety of sizes available: 4” x 6”, 5.5” x 4.5”, 5” x 7”, and 6” x 6” and are usually ⅛” thick.

  1. Comes in a single unit or sets
  2. It has an indented side, a recessed side, and a few undulations and layers
  3. Made of thicker plastic
  4. Requires only one embossing plate

Using Oxide Inks To Color Embossing Folders

You can use distress oxide inks to color 3D  embossing folders. Learn more

You can use distress oxide inks to color 3D embossing folders. Learn more

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

About Embossing Sandwiches

The sandwich is the layers of shims, embossing folders, and material to emboss. The manufacturer of your machine should offer you the list of the sandwich that will give you the best results for that machine.

It is the pressure of these layers that actually cause the material to be embossed,

If you are not getting a crisp, clean result when you emboss, you can try adding one or two pieces of cardstock to your sandwich.

But never force the sandwich into your machine, You may crack the embossing folder and damage the machine as well.

Common Embossing Sandwiches

Always follow the manufacturers recommendation for building your sandwich

Machine NameSandwich

Big Shot

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

Craftwell eBosser

Plate D Plate C Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Plate A


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

Original Sizzix

Standard Cutting Plate Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Sizzlet Machine Concerter in place on machine

QuickCutz Epic

Gray Cutting/Embossing Platform Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Clear Cutting Mat


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


Blue Mat Cuttlebug Embossing Folder Tan Embossing Pad White Mat

Manual Die Cutting Machine


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 MachineFeaturesAverage 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/Die Cutting Machines


Electronic Embossing Machines

NameFeaturesPrice 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.


Debossed Cards Can Be as Pretty as Embossed Cards

You can use bioth the embossed and debossed side of your embossing folder.

You can use bioth the embossed and debossed side of your embossing folder.

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. Every embossing folder has a positive side (embossed side) and a negative side (the debossed side) You can use both to your advantage.

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.

Embossing vs. Debossing


Bring Out the Beauty of an Embossed Image With Ink

Inking an embossing folder brings out the design to it's best advantage

Inking an embossing folder brings out the design to it's best advantage

Inking an Embossing Folder Image

Inking an embossing folder gives a new dimension to your cards and projects. Dye inks work really well and clean up flawlessly with a baby wipe and a paper towel to dry it off.


  • Card stock
  • Embossing folder of your choice
  • Brayer
  • Inkpad
  • Embossing machine
  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, following the embossing sandwich guidelines for your embossing machine to get the best results.
  8. Allow the ink to dry on the cardstock to dry.
  9. Mount the embossed piece on a card base with glue or double-sided tape,

More Inky Embossing Folder Ideas

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.

Sanding an Embossed Image

Another option for the embossed images 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 very fine sandpaper to just gently kiss the paper and bring up the white core.

Do it gently and lightly to avoid losing the raised areas of your embossed image.

You will want to have a very light touch to do this technique, otherwise, you will lose 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 Embossing Embossing Folders


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

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

Regal Cut

Crafter's Companion makes this Regal design.

Crafter's Companion makes this Regal design.

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.

3D Embossing Resources

Create a Letterpress Look With Embossing Folders

You can create some lovely notecards within minutes with this easy technique. It is so simple to do and extends the use of your cards. You can do the same design in all kinds of colors like a rainbow, or keep them all in one color. This design makes a perfect gift. You can also create a background for an artist trading card using the same idea.


  • Pigment ink refills in the color of your choice
  • Large Acrylic Block
  • Brayer
  • Card Base
  • Embossing Folder With Repetitive Pattern


  1. Squeeze a small amount of the pigment ink refill onto the acrylic block
  2. Roll the brayer through the ink on the block to create a thin layer of ink
  3. Roll the inked brayer onto the raised pattern in your embossing folder
  4. Place the front of the card in the embossing folder
  5. Place the folder within the sandwich and run it through the manual or electronic die-cutting machine.
  6. Add a sentiment to your notecard.

Garden Gate Cut

Card by Linda Correa

Card by Linda Correa

More Embossing Folder Techniques

  • Embossing Techniques | Bettes Makes
    There are 4 main embossing techniques reviewed in this article. You can use dry embossing, heat embossing, foil embossing, or die cut embossing techniques.
  • In Touch: Easy Embossing Folder Techniques
    (click on the pics to enbiggan) Embossing folders are one of the most versatile tools a paper crafter can have; long, long ago, in a galaxy far away (just kidding!), the only way we could deboss or emboss (create recessed...

Storage for Embossing Folders

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

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.

More Resources

How to Make Your Own Embossing Folders

Questions & Answers

Question: What kind of ink do you use on embossing folders?

Answer: Technically, you can use any kind of ink on an embossing folder. Personally, I would lean more towards pigment and hybrid inks. You can also consider distress inks and oxide distress inks. I would stay away from any permanent inks like Stazon. The key is to have a baby wipe nearby or to clean the embossing folder right away. The ink, even if it stays on the folder will not hurt future use. Hope that helps. Happy Crafting !

Question: What kind of tool is best for putting ink on embossed cardstock?

Answer: I would use a blending tool. You start inking from the outside edges and work your way in. If you want a darker look, you can also apply the ink by lightly brushing an ink pad over the embossing. Hope that helps.

© 2018 Linda F Correa

Share Your Experiences, Ideas and Thoughts

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on February 27, 2019:

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