Saturday, October 18, 2008

Making the Invite: Dry Embossing

I know this isn't something everyone will incorporate, but my invitations involve dry embossing, and I think it's a handy technique that can produce some really beautiful results, so I thought I would go ahead and blog about it.

Basically, dry embossing is a technique that creates a raised image on your paper. To start, so y'all know what I'm going for, here is the design of my invitations:

However, instead of printing the flower, I am embossing it onto the invitation.

Supplies: light box ($5, e-bay); stylus ($3, Joann); paint brush ($1-2, Palace Art Supply); masking tape; pigment ink pads ($2 each, Palace Art Supply); stencil

Before I get into it, I want to say a couple things about the supplies. Light boxes can be very expensive. I got a small cheapo one, and it works just fine. This is not something I would reccommend splurging on. For paint brushes, something with fairly stiff, short bristles works best. I believe craft stores actually sell brushes specifically for stencils. Now, about the stencil. You can purchase a wide variety of very nice metal or plastic stencils intended for dry embossing. Once I got that flower graphic into my head, none of the stencils I looked at seemed quite right to me, and I'm stubborn, so I made my own stencil using a thin piece of cardboard and an X-acto knife. My stencil's a bit flimsy, but it works.

So let's begin!

The first step is to position your stencil where you want it and attach it to the front side of your paper using masking tape. Tack the tape on lightly so you can be sure to get it off without damaging your invitation. [Note: I did notice that the tape pulled of a teensy bit of the ink from my VistaPrint invites, so perhaps try to keep the tape to white areas.] Next, flip the invitation over (with stencil attached) and place it on the light box; turn on the light box. The light box allows you to see clearly through the stencil.

Now take your stylus and trace inside the stencil. This pushes the paper out through the stencil. Note that you do not have to rub the stylus over the entire area; just tracing the outline will work. Keep the thickness of your paper in mind, and be careful about how hard you push with the stylus because your paper might rip. Also be careful about going over the same spot too many times.

Once you've finished tracing your image, you can turn off the light box and turn your invite back over. If you don't want to apply any color, remove the stencil, and you're done!

If you do want to color your image, leave the stencil on. Apply color to your brush by tapping/rubbing it on the ink pad. I've never had a problem with getting too much ink on my brush, but you may want to try it out on a normal piece of paper first to make sure you won't blot your invites or something. And of course, the amount of color you want to apply is totally up to you.

Use your brush to paint on the color inside the stencil. Don't brush really hard or you might push your paper back out and it will end up looking, well, not great. I mean, don't worry about this too much, it's never happened to me, just something to think about if you're a very forceful sort of person :) Anyway...if you are using two different colors and are worried about your ink getting somewhere you don't want it, you can tape over the area you don't want to color. For example, on my flower, I am coloring the stem and leaves green and the petals pink. Part of the stem is very close to the petals, so I could tape over the petals while I was coloring the stem and vice versa. And don't worry about getting ink on your stencils; if you're not stupid like me and you have a normal metal stencil, you can wash it right off.

Remove the stencil and, voila! You have a colored, dry-embossed image! My invites are 4.5" x 6.5", which means they don't take up the whole sheet of paper, so now all that's left to do is cut off the excess.

And here is my completed invitation! Check out this website for some other examples of dry embossing. Browse through their art galleries and you can see images that haven't been colored at all, some that have been shaded or lightly colored (like mine), and some that have been fully colored.

No matter how formal or informal your invites are, I think dry embossing can look really good. I once saw a Knottie's invitations that were on white Stardream paper (that really pretty metallic-y paper), and she had embossed bamboo along one side and colored it in a very pretty blue color, using some very nice shading. I probably explained that horribly, but it was just gorgeous. I've also seen people dry emboss an image on their inner envelopes, or on the envelope flap, or pretty much anywhere you can think of. So if you think you might want to use this technique, find some stencils you like and just mess around with them for a while! I hope you've enjoyed this installment of "Making the Invite." ;)

Up next: making a pocketfolder!

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