What is embossing in packaging?

What is embossing in packaging?

This is a process used to create raised or sunken designs or relief in paper and other materials. It’s often used to add a premium look and feel to packaging.

Embossing in packaging is a technique that involves creating raised designs on materials such as paper, thereby adding texture and dimension to the packaging. Debossing has the opposite effect, where the result is an indented design.

This method is frequently employed to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a package, giving it a premium and distinctive appearance. The tactile and visual elements introduced by embossing can significantly elevate a brand's image, making products more appealing to consumers and helping them stand out on the shelves. Embossing can be applied to various packaging types, including boxes, labels, and cards, making it a versatile option for brands seeking to add a touch of luxury and uniqueness to their packaging.

Challenges with Embossing

Misalignment with embossing

It's normal for there to be a slight margin of error when packaging is printed or produced, irrespective of embossing. However, one of the biggest challenges for embossing (or debossing) a printed design is aligning the embossing tool and the printed artwork. Given this, the larger the embossed area, the easier it is to align and the less obvious any misalignment becomes. However, if finer details are misaligned (e.g., thin text), a misaligned letter would mean the rest of the text would be misaligned.

Block emboss

One way to handle misalignment issues would be through block embossing. Block embossing is embossing a simple shape around more detailed artwork. For example, you might emboss the large square behind your logo and not emboss the logo itself.

Blind emboss

Another way to minimize any misalignment issues would be to blind emboss. Blind embossing is embossing just the material itself without having any printed artwork. Because there's no artwork, then there's no misalignment to the artwork.

Block emboss and blind emboss

Embossing across Different Materials

The type of material used can affect the embossed outcome. In general, the best result of embossing is when you use materials that are neither too thick nor too thin. In terms of paper-based packaging, there are three types of materials we use:

  1. Cardstock (300-400gsm): for products such as folding carton boxes.
  2. Corrugated materials: for products such as mailer boxes.
  3. Chipboard (1000gsm+) and the substrate (157gsm): for products such as rigid boxes.

Embossing on Cardstock

The 300-400gsm cardstock material is the perfect example of a material that is not too thick nor too thin. These materials allow embossed designs to have a nice visual and tactile effect. Products that use 300-400gsm cardstock material include folding carton boxes, display boxes, packaging sleeves, tray and sleeve boxes, foldable lid & base boxes, and pillow boxes.

Embossing on Corrugated Materials

Our packaging, including mailer boxes, is printed with offset printers. Mailer boxes comprise two materials: the corrugated board and the substrate layer. All print is done directly on the substrate first, then glued to the corrugated board.

Because corrugated materials include a wavy layer of cardboard and aren't a flat surface, it won't be possible to have a clean or consistent embossing effect. For embossing or debossing to be added to corrugated packaging like a mailer box, it's only possible on the outer substrate. However, because this substrate is thin, the outcome of embossing won't be as prominent. In addition, gluing the substrate to the corrugated board would press the embossed designs down even more. You might still be able to feel the raised effect, but it will be very subtle.

Therefore, we recommend avoiding embossing and debossing for corrugated packaging. If you'd like additional enhancements to your corrugated boxes, consider adding spot UV or foil stamping instead.

Corrugated Embossing

Embossing on Rigid Boxes

Rigid boxes, including magnetic rigid boxes, comprise two types of materials: the thick chipboard that gives the box its structure and the thin substrate that wraps tightly around this chipboard. All designs are printed onto this substrate first, and this substrate is then wrapped around the chipboard to form the completed rigid box.

Deep Emboss

A deep emboss is where the embossing is done through both the chipboard and the glued substrate simultaneously. Generally, deep embossing is possible if the embossed artwork is large or thick enough (e.g., large squares, thick letters).

Light Emboss

A light emboss is where embossing is done only on the substrate and not through the chipboard. Generally, if the embossed artwork is thin, has fine lines, or has intricate details, light embossing would be the recommended approach to minimize the likelihood of misalignment between the printed artwork and the embossed effect.

For reference, the outer rigid box substrate is typically thin (ranging from 128-157gsm in thickness). It can't be too thick because thicker materials are not flexible enough and are more likely to break when wrapped around the chipboard.

Because of how thin this substrate is, the embossed effect can only be as thick as the substrate allows, meaning it won't be as visually prominent but will still feel slightly raised upon touch.

Rigid boxes deep emboss and light emboss

Our recommendations on embossing

When it comes to embossing and debossing, the best results are when using 300-400gsm cardstock material. For corrugated boxes, we suggest omitting embossing and debossing completely and swapping it out for spot UV or foil stamping instead. For rigid boxes, be mindful of the limitations on the embossed outcome depending on your design.