Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to use Embossing Powder {+ A Comparison}

Today I want to help some people understand embossing powders a little bit better.  For some of you this will be preaching to the choir, but for others this is a whole new product that you may have been apprehensive in trying.  Some may be asking, "What is an embossing powder?"  Some may be asking, "Don't I need a special ink to use with the embossing powders?" Some would like a comparison of clear vs. colored embossing powders.  So hopefully this post will help all readers of all levels and interests!
[mild warning: this post is information heavy, so feel free to bookmark and come back!]

Embossing powders are powders that are designed to melt quickly from exposure to a heating gun to create a slightly raised image.

  This is the standard way of using embossing powders:
1.  Ink up your stamp with embossing ink (we'll get into inks in just a bit).
2.  Stamp your image onto your paper.
3.  Pour any color of embossing powder directly onto your stamped image.
4.  Pour the excess back into the container.
5.  Gently flick the back of the paper to remove any other loose powder and/or use a soft brush to dust it away.
6.  Using a heat gun (or tool - same thing), heat the powdered image.  IMPORTANT: Keep a distance of about 6 inches from gun nozzle to paper, keep the gun moving, and stop as soon as all powder is melted (you will see your powder become shiny).  If you fail to keep those last three notes in mind, you will likely either overheat/burn your paper, and/or melt your powder too much so that your image will no longer be raised or shiny.


Now onto the ink question.  What ink should you use?  Does it matter?

The answer is both yes and no.  Let me show you why!

I think most stampers use Versamark ink - which comes in Watermark, Frost Dazzle, and Champagne Dazzle.  Tsukineko makes an embossing ink called Emboss Clear.  Ranger makes several embossing ink products called Big & Bossy Embossing, Watermark Resist, and then my personal favorite - Distress Embossing Ink by Tim Holtz.  I'm sure there may be more more out there, but I'd assume these are the most popular and easily available.  Watermark basically means that it will show up on a medium colored cardstock, giving a 'watermark' look to the stamped image.  Some embossing inks are tinted so you can better see them (such as the Versamark Champagne Dazzle). 

A quick note on brands of embossing powders, then back to the inks.  Popular brands include Zing! (which I own), Stampendous, Adirondack by Ranger, Ranger's own line, Distress by Tim Holtz by Ranger, Hero Arts, Inkadinkado, and Tsukineko.

The whole point of using special 'embossing inks' is because they dry slower.  This is important because it gives the powder something to stick to.  If you use an ink that dries almost immediately, then the powder has no time to adhere.


I had a conversation with a friend on Twitter {shoutout to Melissa aka @LissyDoodlez} about using embossing ink + embossing powder vs. pigment ink + clear embossing powder.  I told her I had never done the latter, and she said she always does it that way.  So hence this whole post!! [If you want to follow me on Twitter I'm @PearlGateway]
Below is a comparison chart that I created to give you an idea of both of these concepts:


The top row is Distress Embossing Ink + Zing! Embossing Powders.  From left to right: Clear, White, Neon Red (Florescent), Gold (Metallic), and Green (Glitter Finish).  Note that the clear is very wet looking, and that although the cardstock is white, the white powder is whiter and brighter than the clear.  The neon red came out fine, and the gold looks quite smooth.  I wasn't that impressed with the green's glitter finish (ignore the spot below it where I dropped a stamp).

The second row is Distress Ink* + Clear Zing! Embossing Powder.  From left to right:  Peeled Paint, Dusty Concord, Tumbled Glass, Old Paper, and Black Soot.  I tried to get a range of color and saturation.  I think the Peeled Paint and Dusty Concord did the best.  The Black Soot is just okay.  The Tumbled Glass and Old Paper did not turn out well, although it may be attributed to user error - I think I overheated them as I could not see the embossing powder change.  It could be because they are lighter in color.  I might be crazy, but I swear that clear embossing powder melts quicker than any other color; it seems to melt in half the time.

Third row continues the experimentation with ColorBox by ColorSnap Pigment Ink** + Clear Zing! Embossing Powder.  From left to right: Lemongrass, Surf, Marigold, Heliotrope, and Metallic Silver.  I think all of them look great, especially the Marigold.  The Metallic Silver probably would have looked better had I not needed to stamp it twice (it obviously didn't line up quite correctly).

The bottom row is ColorBox by ColorSnap Chalk Ink*** + Clear Zing! Embossing Powder.  From left to right: Ice Blue, Ice Jade, Warm Violet, Rouge, and Dark Peony.  Chalk Ink isn't really recommended in general for this, as it dries very quick and doesn't allow the embossing powder to adhere in time.  As you can see, I worked very fast.  All look great (not as shiny though) but the Ice Blue - user error again as I couldn't see the embossing powder very well.


So what's the bottom line here? 

Should anyone even waste their money on embossing powders when they can just buy clear and create their own looks?
I say: yes and no.  (Don't you guys love that answer!?)

I think I won't be buying any more embossing powders for the most part and put that money towards ink pads.  Primarily because ink can be used in regular plain stamping and then also embossing, which makes it twice as valuable than just embossing powder alone. 

However, clear is the obvious needed powder for this technique, and I am a strong advocate for the white powder as well.  Additionally, I think metallic powders come out better than metallic ink + clear powder. 

Lastly, I would consider buying embossing powder in unique colors that can't be easily found in an ink pad (the neon red is actually a good example of this).  Also if you are looking for high shine with light pastel colors, you may again consider the embossing powder vs. say, the chalk ink.

Hope this post was helpful to my fantastic readers out there.  If you made it all the way down here, leave me a comment and let me know!  If you have any questions about embossing powders, inks, or my favorite ice cream, don't hesitate to ask!!

I try to do information posts often as I really feel they help someone out there.  If you like what you see, I'd love to share more with you as a follower! 

* Distress Ink is a dye ink.  Typically dye inks are unsuitable for use in embossing as it dries too quickly, but Distress Ink is designed a bit different and can be used.

** ColorBox Pigment Ink is a pigment ink.  Any other pigment ink will work for use in embossing because it has a slow drying time.

*** ColorBox Chalk Ink is a type of pigment ink that works rather well with glossy cardstock and recommended to be heat set with a heat gun.
I will discuss inks in more detail in the future.


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  1. WOW Thank you for this very informative piece on embossing powders. I so love to do embossing all of my stamped cards so this has been very valuable to me.

    Linda xxx

  2. You just saved me some $$$ girl ^_^ thanks!

  3. If I ever have a craft question, I know who to call! That was very informative - before reading this blog entry, I did not know there were embossed powders, but now I feel like I could buy some & know how to use them! Thanks for sharing your blog w/ me - great thing to read while baby is sleeping!

  4. @Linda

    Linda, glad I could help! I learned a lot doing this post and had to share!

  5. @Autumn R W

    Hey girl, so happy I helped you out! Now off to buy more ink...!

  6. @Kelley Best

    Hey Kelley, you can contact me any time with a craft question!! Embossing powders are easy to use and create great effects in papercrafting. Glad you enjoy my blog!


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