22 Creative Techniques On How To Use Embossing Folders

 Various greeting cards and card backgrounds made from different embossing folder techniques

Embossing folders are transparent hard plastic folders with designs on the front and back. They can be quite pricey, that's why knowing how to use embossing folders creatively is important to avoid mistakes.

To use embossing folders, just put your cardstock in between the folder of your choice. Then, sandwich it between the cutting boards of your embossing machine and roll it to embed the design.

You can use whatever embossing folders you have and play around with the design that works best for you.

How to Use Embossing Folders

What You’ll Need

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Put your cardstock in your embossing folder. 
  2. Sandwich your embossing folder between your cutting boards. 
  3. Roll it in your embossing machine.

Here is a video showing how to use an embossing folder:

Other Creative Ways to Use Embossing Folders

1. Tone on Tone on Dry Emboss Technique

tone-on-tone embossed card on top of a cutting mat

This embossing folder method is the easiest to do. It is also the most commonly used technique that you can use for almost any occasion. You can use this card background for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and even for Christmas. 

Things You'll Need


  1. Rub your embossing buddy on your embossing folder and cardstock to remove any moisture and static.
  2. Apply clear embossing ink on the background side of the embossing folder.
  3. Emboss your cardstock as recommended by the embossing machine’s user guide. 
  4. Add clear embossing powder to the cardstock, tap the extra embossing powder, and brush off any excess powder.
  5. Let the heat set the clear embossing powder.

2. Clear Embossing On Dry Embossing Technique

an embossed cardstock applied with heat using an embossing heat gun 

Things You'll Need


  1. Emboss your cardstock as you usually do.
  2. Using an ink blending tool, rub a light-colored pigment ink on the raised parts of the embossed cardstock.
  3. Add a darker shade of the same color to some parts of the embossed cardstock to make it pop out.
  4. Gently rub the clear embossing ink on the embossed card, careful to touch only a few points to serve as a highlight.
  5. Apply clear embossing ink on the card, remove the excess powder by flicking on the back of the card. Use a small, dry paintbrush to remove stubborn flecks.
  6. Heat set the clear embossing powder. You can also try holographic embossing powder for more effect. 

3. Faux Letterpress Technique

white cardstock with a light yellow background added through faux letterpress embossing technique

Ink the side of the embossing folder where the parts end up depressed in the finished card. We recommend using a 15-color ink pad bundle so you can choose the color that fits your mood.

In this example, the embossed flowers remain white, while the background gets colored. This technique works best in embossing folders that have wide spaces to emphasize the colored background.

Things You'll Need


  1. Choose a color that makes your white flowers pop against the background. Add 2-3 layers of ink, so you have thick ink on your card later. 
  2. Lightly rub the ink pad over the side of the embossing folder that ends up depressed on the finished card.
  3. Place your cardstock carefully inside the folder and run it through your embossing machine.   

4. Ink on Dry Embossing Technique

a dry embossed cardstock colored with light pink dye ink

Let’s use a blind embossed cardstock to add character to your card. Then, we’ll add a hint of color using a blending tool. Be sure to use one with a flat surface, so the ink remains on the embossed pattern and not on the background. 

The blending tool we used here comes in a pack of two blending tools and 24 one-inch replacement foams, so you have one for a different color. 

Things You'll Need


  1. Emboss your cardstock using the embossing folder of your choice. 
  2. Dab your ink blending tool on the ink pad lightly, then rub it on the embossed part of your cardstock to give a soft, light color to your design. 

5. Two-Tone Embossing Technique

colored background embossing technique and inked embossed flowers

Did you like the number 2 and 3 tutorials? Why not combine them into one lovely card background? Try out two contrasting colors on a piece of paper to see how they work together before starting on your card.

Things You'll Need


  1. Choose a bold color and apply it to the part of the embossing folder that goes to the background. Rub it two to three times, so you get a good amount of ink into the embossing folder. 
  2. Put the cardstock into the folder and run it through your embossing machine as usual. 
  3. Using the ink blending tool, rub a contrasting color on the embossed parts. Keep it light so the ink doesn’t go to the background.

6. Distress Ink Blending Technique

a cardstock embossed with a sunburst embossing folder and designed with multicolor distress ink

This card background uses distress ink over the embossed card. You can try different embossing folders, color combinations, and patterns on your card. 

Instead of a flat blending tool, we used washable ink blending tools with ergonomic handles. The slightly curved brush makes sure you apply distress inks everywhere. 

Things You'll Need


  1. Emboss your white cardstock as usual.
  2. Using an ink blending tool, rub your distress ink on the card, following the preferred pattern. Use a different brush for each color and blend the colors where the inks meet to avoid harsh lines. 
  3. Spritz some water over the cardstock, then use tissue paper to blot out the excess water. Let it dry before using it for your card.

7. White Pigment Ink On Dry Embossing Technique

a finished card made from embossed cardstock with colorful daisies 

Are you wondering how to use embossing folders creatively without neglecting your colored cardstocks? Don’t worry. Here’s a simple hack to improve your embossing result. 

You can try the two hacks for this technique. The hard part is to decide which one you’d prefer because they both look lovely.

Things You'll Need


  1. For the first hack using white pigment ink on dry embossing:
  2. Emboss your colored cardstock according to your embossing machine instructions.
  3. Dab an ink blending tool on your white pigment ink and gently rub it over the embossed patterns. 
  4. You can also try inking the diamond patterns on your embossing folder. 
  5. Choose one that contrasts with your colored cardstock.
  6. Emboss as you usually do. 

        8. Glitter Gel Technique

        a finished card made from embossed cardstock highlighted with pink glitter gel 

        Give your white cardstock a new look and texture without spending too much. Glitter gel is an affordable way of giving depth and character to your cards. 

        A jar of this goes a long way, so it offers real value for your money. Use a cardstock thicker than 110 gsm if you can.

        Things You'll Need


        1. Emboss your cardstock as usual.
        2. Spray a little low-tack adhesive on your work table to prevent your cards from moving during the gel application.
        3. Add the glitter gel on your stencil pal using a palette knife, then spread the glitter gel evenly over your cardstock.
        4. Let it dry on a flat surface overnight. If you’re in a rush, you can dry it using an embossing heat gun, although you may observe some curling on your cardstock. 

        9. Embossed Vellum Technique

        embossed vellum card

        Aside from cardstock, you can also add a new dimension to your card by using translucent vellum. Stack it on top of colored cardstock to give your card an understated look. Add some bling for a pop of sparkle. 

        Things You'll Need


        1. Emboss your translucent vellum as you usually do for cardstock.
        2. Cut it to size and mount it on colored cardstock. 
        3. Using a crafter’s tweezers, you can add some self-adhesive bling to your card. 
        4. You can also skip the colored cardstock. Use white cardstock as backing for your card, and then decorate with colorful rhinestone stickers instead.

        10. Embossing on Acetate Technique

         acetate embossed card in a window-type card

        Explore possibilities for your cards and try using acetate on your embossing folders. Add a lovely window effect on the card or use it entirely as a card cover, backing it with solid colored cardstock, similar to the vellum technique in the photo. 

        Things You'll Need


        1. Emboss your acetate film as you would a regular cardstock.
        2. Cut a rectangle from your colored cardstock and position your embossed acetate film behind it. Frame it with a rectangle cut from a different cardstock. 
        3. You can add other designs on your card, depending on how inspiration strikes you. 

        11. Flocked Sheet Embossing Technique

        finished card made from embossed flocked cardstock on a cutting mat

        Another paper you can use on your embossing folders is flocked paper. The velvety look adds dimension to your cards without having to go overboard on embellishments. You can also try this overlapping circles embossing folder if you want a more straightforward design. 

        Things You'll Need

        12. Resist Embossing Technique

        cards made from resist embossing technique 

        Why emboss once when you can do it twice? This method is also known as the resist embossing technique. The areas embossed with clear embossing powder remain white no matter how hard you add ink to it, resulting in a vintage look.

        Things You'll Need


        1. Run the embossing buddy over your cardstock to remove all the moisture and static from it.
        2. Apply clear embossing ink on the embossing part of the folder, then put the cardstock into the folder.
        3. Emboss as usual.
        4. Use an ink blender to apply colored pigment ink on the cardstock, and then finish by highlighting some parts with the glitter pen. You can also try adding two or more pigment inks and a contrasting gel pen for more highlights.

        13. Stencil Embossing Technique

         cards embossed using a heart stencil

        Did you know that you can emboss with stencils? You may need an additional shim, but you can use a stencil instead of an embossing folder for your card stock. 

        The result is not as pronounced as using an embossing folder, but it still does the job. For this technique, you can use pigment inks to highlight your design. If you want to leave it plain, add clear embossing powder on one focal piece to beautify your card.

        Things You'll Need


        1. Lay your cutting board and embossing mat on the platform of your machine.  
        2. Add your cardstock and the stencil over it. Cover it with another cutting board and add 4-5 cardstock to serve as shims. 
        3. Dab a few coordinated colored inks on the cardstock, blending them using an ink blending tool. You can now use this cardstock as the background for your cards.  

        14. Heat Embossing Over Foiled Cardstock

        embossed foil cardstock made into a greeting card

        Bring your card to a new level by adding a metallic embossing powder to the dry embossed foil cardstock. This method will lend an elegant look. You can even make any card out of it, depending on the embossing folder you use.

        You can cut the embossed card diagonally to give space for the sentiment stamp for this card. You can also use the whole embossed cardstock and add a die-cut cardstock for your sentiments—the possibilities are endless for this technique. 

        Things You'll Need


        1. Dab your embossing buddy on the foil cardstock and embossing folder.
        2. Apply clear embossing ink on the background side of the embossing folder, then emboss your cardstock as usual. 
        3. Add metallic embossing powder, but use one that contrasts with your foil. Remove all excess ink and heat set it with a heat embossing tool.

        15. Embossing Folder Pop Technique

        embossed cardstock sanded over for the embossing folder pop technique

        This lovely cardstock got its distressed, scuffed look by rubbing a sanding tool over the raised parts. Both cards used a single embossing folder, using both sides to show how each can give a different effect. This method, however, works best on geometric 3D embossing folders.

        Things You'll Need


        1. Using a mini blending tool, add 2-3 coordinating colors of distress inks, then emboss it as usual in your embossing machine. 
        2. Rub a fine sanding block over the embossed side to reveal the white core of the cardstock. Be careful not to rub too much to avoid damaging your cardstock. 
        3. Wipe away any paper crumbs from the sanding. 
        4. Instead of leaving the sanded parts white, you can lightly rub an ink pad over it to give a different look.

        16. Wax Paper Embossing Technique

        card backgrounds made from wax paper embossing and a finished card

        For this technique, you’ll need a piece of wax paper that is a bit larger than your embossing folder. You won’t emboss the cardstock itself. Instead, you’ll transfer the embossed pattern from the wax paper to the cardstock.

        The good thing about this method is that you can use other supplies and tools in your house aside from the embossing machine and folders.

        Things You'll Need


        1. Emboss your wax paper per your embossing machine’s recommendations. 
        2. Sandwich the embossed wax paper between two cardstocks and put it in a folded bond paper. It helps if you use washi tape to hold the cardstock together to avoid shifting during the ironing process.  
        3. Iron on the cardstock, turning it over a few times to get all the wax from the wax paper to the cardstock. 
        4. Dab a mini ink blending tool on a distress ink pad and slowly rub it to the waxed cardstock. Rub the excess ink from the cardstock with a clean paper towel. 

        17. Two Embossing Folders in One Card Technique

        a card made by embossing with two different embossing folders and stamped with cow and sentiment stamps

        Try using two embossing folders on one card to add more texture to it. This method uses argyle and polka dots embossing folders, but you can choose other embossing folders that go well together. Or you can use the dots embossing folder and try a different pattern on one side. 

        Things You'll Need


        1. Make a stamp on the center of your card, depending on the design you want. You can skip this step and add the stamp later.
        2. Mentally divide your cardstock into three and emboss the lower third of your cardstock by putting that end on an embossing folder, then emboss.
        3. Emboss the upper third of the card using the same method.
        4. Turn the card over and add a score line just below the embossing so that the middle third gets a distinct area.
        5. Embellish your card as you prefer.

        18. Embossed Distressed Paper Technique

        birthday cards made from embossed cardstock with lace design 

        This method uses distress ink on the cardstock to give it a different look, so the lace design embossing folder gets a new dimension. You can try this technique using various combinations of distressed ink to achieve the effect that you want.

        Things You'll Need


        1. When using a distress ink pad:
        2. Dab your cardstock directly with the distress ink pad, or you can use a blending tool to apply the ink. 
        3. Spritz the cardstock with water, getting it wet to blend the inks. 
        4. When using a distress reinker:
        5. Add a few drops of distress ink on an acrylic block or any surface that won’t absorb the ink. 
        6. Add a few dabs of the ink to the cardstock, then spritz it with water, allowing the inks to blend.  
        7. Let the card dry overnight on a flat surface.
        8. Emboss your cardstock as usual.
        9. Rub a blending tool on the black pigment ink, then apply it slowly to the embossed pattern.
        10. Cut off the excess cardstock, leaving the lace pattern only. You can now use this lace cardstock for your cards.  

                19. Gilded Embossing Technique

                 gilded cardstock embossed with leaves

                Not all that glitters is gold; it can be a gilded cardstock! Crafters can go crazy with their embossing folders since there are no boundaries. 

                Go ahead and forget about powder glitters and try gilding flakes instead. It adds the shimmer without the sandy texture of glitters.

                Things You'll Need


                1. Stick a double-sided adhesive sheet on your cardstock. 
                2. Add gilding flakes over your cardstock with an adhesive sheet. Spread the flakes with a foam block. 
                3. Push the flakes down so they lay flat on the paper.
                4. Put the gilded paper into the embossing folder and run it through the embossing machine. 

                20. Faux Metallic Embossing Technique

                 Faux Metallic Embossing Technique

                Give your plain colored cardstock a makeover by giving it a faux metallic look. Gold and silver embossing powders are the most common supplies any crafter has, and you can maximize their use with this technique.

                Things You'll Need


                1. Dab an embossing buddy over your cardstock and embossing folder to remove all the static from your materials. 
                2. Apply clear embossing ink on the background part of the embossing folder. You can use a brayer for even application. Just roll the brayer on the clear embossing ink and the embossing folder. 
                3. Put a green cardstock into the embossing folder and run it through the embossing machine.
                4. Add metallic gold embossing powder to the cardstock, and tap it on a piece of paper to catch all the excess powder.
                5. Remove all the unwanted embossing powder with a dry paintbrush
                6. Heat set the embossing powder with an embossing heat gun

                21. Smooth Ink Embossing Folder Technique

                a card embossed with white trees and colorful background

                This embossing folder technique uses a brayer to transfer the ink smoothly to the paper without any harsh lines. The look it achieves is an ombre finish that transitions smoothly from one color to another.

                Things You'll Need


                1. Dab two or three coordinating ink pads on a silicone sheet, lining them close to each other so you can pick it up with your brayer.
                2. Roll your brayer on the ink and apply it to the background side of the embossing folder. Apply 2-3 times so you can get enough ink on your cardstock later.
                3. Emboss as usual. 

                22. Torn Embossed Vellum Technique

                a finished embossed card embellished with torn embossed vellum

                For this method, use heavyweight translucent vellum (65lbs) and a detailed embossing folder. You can tear off the patterns or use a pair of fussy cut scissors for more detail. This design is an excellent embellishment to the embossed cardstock.

                Things You'll Need


                1. Emboss your vellum twice or thrice to deepen the impressions.
                2. Rip the patterns along the outlines of the design. You can also use a pair of detail scissors if you want a cleaner finish. However, the torn edges give your card a rustic look. 
                3. Use the torn vellum patterns to decorate your cards. 

                Common Issues When Using Embossing Folders

                We came across some issues while making this tutorial on how to use embossing folders. We did our best to address them, and we hope you’ll find these tips helpful.

                • How can I touch up any missed embossing powder on my cards?

                You'll see any missed parts better after heat embossing the embossing powder. Your best bet at touching up any parts of your cards is to use your clear embossing pen. Touch up as if your coloring in, then add more embossing powder on the area and heat it. 

                • My card gets cracked or torn when I use it in my 3D embossing folder.

                Cracking on your embossed cards may be caused by too much pressure or when you’re using recycled paper. Every paper and embossing machine may have different results, so this is not a true-to-all solution. We bet you’re wondering how to use embossing folders without wasting your precious cardstock. 

                One way to control cracking or tearing is to ease the pressure when embossing. Some crafters pass their cardstock twice on the embossing machine to have deeper impressions, but if you observe any cracking or tearing, then you should stop doing it. Adding a piece of print paper in between your folder and cardstock also lessens the pressure on the cardstock itself while leaving a good impression on it. 

                Another trick is to spritz the cardstock with some water, enough to moisten it a bit without being too damp. Emboss as usual, then allow your cardstock to dry well with a heat embossing gun or leaving it on the counter. But if you’re working with multiple cards, you don’t want to go through the whole drying process.

                On the other hand, recycled paper has shorter fibers, so it tends to crack more easily when embossed using an embossing folder. If you want to use recycled paper for embossing, try the spritzing method and lessen the pressure. 

                You may want to stick to a standard embossing folder instead of using a 3D one and stay away from folders with too close designs. It also helps to soften the cardstock by lightly running it in between your thumb and index finger. 

                • I don’t get crisp designs from my embossing folder.

                Less than perfect results of your embossing mean wasted paper and time. This imperfect embossing usually happens when the patterns are too close together. To solve this issue, try using translucent vellum on both sides of the embossing folder, carefully taping these on the folder to prevent it from loving.

                Sandwich your cardstock between these vellum pieces and emboss as usual. You will observe that your cardstock has a perfect, crisp design because the vellum served as a buffer between the two sides of the folder. If you don’t have vellum, you can also try regular print paper. Put your cardstock between a folded print paper and emboss as usual. 

                • My new embossing folder is longer than my older embossing folders. 

                Some crafters love using a 4 ¼ x 5 ½-inch or even a 6-inch square embossing folder because they fit both ways on a 6-inch embossing machine. Unfortunately, some companies started producing 6 ½-inch long embossing folders. This new dimension becomes an issue if you hate having to glue a face to a card base but prefer to emboss on the front of the card base itself. 

                Some crafters cut off a portion of the embossing folder to get a 5 ½-inch long embossing folder. However, this only works for repetitive patterns. Otherwise, you have to stick with cutting a card background to emboss, then glue it to the card base later. 


                Did you enjoy the various ways on how to use embossing folders? You can make intricate designs using a few embossing folders from the techniques we mentioned, so try them all out.

                Which embossing folder technique piqued your interest the most? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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