The Time to Think About Finishing... Is At The Beginning
by Brian Gebhart
Embossing and foil stamping are the means of creating some of the more spectacular "special effects" available to graphic arts professionals.
Embossing creates raised (or depressed) lettering or art work, and foil stamping applies a micro-thin metallic or pigment film to paper-either "flat" or in combination with embossing.
Precisely because of the unusual effects stamping and embossing can create in printed materials, designers love to specify these techniques. But few designers are thoroughly familiar with all of the potential problems that can arise when embossing and/or foil stamping; and in this era of increasing specialization, many printers recognize that they, too, may not be totally expert in regard to these specialty-finishing processes.
This article is the first in a series. We'll deal in this issue with some of the basics that apply to planning a job that will involve either stamping or embossing, and in future editions of Solutions we'll address some of the more detailed technical aspects.
First Things First
Whether you are a designer preparing to send a job that will require stamping and/or embossing to your printer, or a printer who will be sub-contracting the post-press work to a specialty finishing company like Bindagraphics, there are four major areas you need to think about well before the first drop of ink hits the first sheet of paper.
- The type of paper stock your job will run on has major implications for back-end stamping and embossing.
You need to pick a stock that is compatible with the stamping/embossing you plan.
For example, if your stamping design includes a lot of precise detail, you should probably use a coated stock-it will hold the detail best. On the other hand, the coating on the paper may crack if embossing height is very high, so your designer should be conservative about deep embossing if you're going to use a coated stock (you can limit the depth of your die to as little as 0.006"). If you really need deep embossing-you can go to a depth of 0.024" on a single-level die-you should probably plan on using uncoated paper.
If you want to use metallic foil, it will maintain its brightness much better on coated paper; some of the glitter will be lost on a uncoated sheet.
Heavily textured uncoated sheets are best for deep embossing and also are highly compatible with combination stamping of metallic foil over embossing, since the embossing will smooth the paper's surface as well as raising it.
If you're in doubt about what paper to specify for a complex stamping/embossing job, call me. I've been working with these specialized applications for 12 years.
- The layout of your job on the sheet might make a big difference in the cost of stamping or embossing.
If multiple areas on the sheet will be stamped with different foil colors, a simple change in imposition could change a multi-pass stamping operation into a single pass. Or if stamping and embossing will be combined, the layout of the sheet could determine whether we'll need separate stamping and embossing runs or can combine the two in a single operation. To be certain you're taking advantage of every efficiency possible, check your layout with Bindagraphics before the job goes to press.
- Remember that registration matters in stamping and embossing, too!
If you guillotine-cut your sheets before they come to Bindagraphics for finishing and remove the gripper and side guides, we'll be stamping and embossing in the dark. If you think of the finishing process of stamping or embossing as if it were printing another color on the sheet, you'll see the importance of registration.
- Always keep in mind what stamping or embossing will do to the other side of the sheet.
For example, the other side of an embossed area on a sheet will show the emboss in reverse, so you should avoid small print or extremely detailed art in this area. Remember, too that stamping involves heat and pressure, so the back side of a stamped area will be somewhat dulled and discolored. These effects are most pronounced on a coated-two-sides sheet (but less so with heavier papers; above 80# cover, the problems should be negligible).