Combining Embossing Powder with an Inkjet Printer
Within the crafting world, one of the hottest trends has been the combination of rubber-stamping, inks, and embossing powders. I think who ever came up with this method was inspired by something everyone did in grade school, were something was traced with a bead of glue and then had glitter dumped all over it. The excess glitter was then knocked off, leaving the traced object enhanced by the glitter. When using rubber-stamps, the process is quite similar. Slow-drying inks, usually labeled as suitable for embossing, are applied to the stamp and then the paper. The embossing powder is sprinkled over the top, with the excess knocked off onto a spare, clean sheet of paper. (This allows for the recovery of excess powder so it can be used again in a later project.) A heat gun or similar device is then used to melt the powder and ink together. There are a number of different finish types available within powders, ranging from simple metallic, glitter types, to multi-color prismatic.
My thought, upon seeing the technique the first time, was how to combine that with use of my ink-jet printer. Unfortunately, my printer, like most ink-jet printers, uses fast drying inks to avoid smears. Most of the time, this suits me just fine, as I would not want a smeared output. The challenge here is that the ink must stay wet long enough for the powder to stick. After much experimentation, I found a variety of techniques to accomplish this aim to work depending on the printer type.
The most important aspect, I found, is the finish of the paper stock itself. Smoothness, and even coatings, is the key to delay the drying time for the ink. Here are some of the stock types I have found to work well: glossy papers, transparency films, photo papers, and parchment or vellum stock. Another idea I hit upon, when working with some matte paper types, was to spray them with a sealing spray used for chalk drawings. Others have told me they have gotten good results with ordinary hair spray or spray on varnishes. This idea certainly has merit however testing would be needed to ensure it would not discolor white paper areas. When using any kind of spray sealer, always follow the manufacturer’s directions as to drying time before printing whatever you plan to emboss.
Another important point is the quality setting for the printer’s output. The driver for most printers include controls to change the quality of the print out as well as paper type used. On many, in fact, simply changing the paper type setting automatically changed the amount of ink applied to the paper. For example, I found when I used the high quality print settings that the machine deliberately took much longer in doing the print job to give the ink more time to dry. As this runs counter to our desire for this kind of project, try using the normal or draft setting so the printer does its job quickly.
One other point to keep in mind is the density of coverage within the artwork itself. Within the illustration accompanying this article, I show two very different flower designs. One is far bolder than the other which will produce better results than the fine-line, shaded pencil type drawing. Avoid using any kind of clipart for projects of this kind that contain such thin lines or tiny details as the amount of ink applied to the paper will be smaller and thus dry faster.
Another is to break apart the components of the clipart. Let’s say someone wanted to use embossing powders only on the center of a flower. Provided you were using some sort of vector-based artwork, the grouping of the shapes used within it can be accomplished inside an illustration program. One of my favorite programs for this kind of work is Xara’s Designer. Before buying such a program, do take time to check out the controls and options in whatever program you already own to see if it can provide the same functions.
Here is how I would proceed in making such a project:
- Create the complete design using whatever program is available.
- Save the file with everything included.
- Delete from that any objects you wish to emboss, and print the project as you would normally for whatever kind of stock you are using. (Ensures photos, if they are used, would be of high-quality.)
- Allow the printout to dry fully for at least 15 minutes.
- If using a matte finish paper type, experiment with spray coatings as mentioned previously and allow it to dry thoroughly. Repeat 2 to 3 more times, allowing each coat to dry. (Lighter coats ensure more even coverage.)
- Load the paper back into the printer positioned for another printing pass.
- Open the saved design file and now delete all of the objects that were printed in the first pass.
- Have your embossing powder handy, and print the project.
- Immediately upon emerging from the printer, sprinkle the powder over the wet ink areas. Give it a second or two to ‘stick,’ and then knock off the excess. Use a dry paintbrush or cotton swab to remove any stray excess.
- Use a clipboard to hold the printed item in place while using the heat gun to melt the embossing powder.
Wow! Who would have thought you could do that with an inkjet printer!
Update 2012 - Unfortunately the inks used in my last few printers have been even faster drying. This is great to prevent smudging, of course, but has really killed the usefulness of most tips provided here. However, this has prompted me to try one of the newer items I have been finding in most crafting stores/sections; that being felt-tipped embossing pens. The one I purchased had tips on each end, with the one being a fine tip.
After I have printed out whatever I plan to emboss, I simply give it a minute or two of drying time to avoid the ink from smudging. Then I trace over those aspects of my design to which I want to add my embossing powder. This has indeed been working quite well!
© 1999 - Present Irene M. Kraus. Ms. Kraus is a writer, graphic artist, web developer, and owner of Design Works Internet in addition to being the President and Webmaster for Computer Erie Bay User Group (CEBUG) based in Erie County, Ohio. This article published for the first time in October 1999 within the CEBUG Swatter newsletter. It was first published on the web in May of 2003 and has undergone several revisions since.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.