best packing for blind impression with detail?

Looking to do a blind impression with fine details and am curious what the best packing setup is to bring out as much detail as possible.

Crane Lettra #220lb paper
Boxcar deep relief photopolymer plates
C&P 10x15 press



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Hi, Joshua—

We’ve had customers several times that wanted this with a magnesium photo-engraving mounted on wood. After some thought and experience, I came to the conclusion that they were asking for a deboss made without heat, without a counter die, and from a wooden die. So I now attempt to make a counter die from a soft thick paper that I tape to the platen and wet down, closing the press on impression by hand and letting it set a spell. This paper I use is made for embossing, I believe—I get it from our foiling/embossing department, and can probably find out more info if you like. There is a danger that the paper will tear when the press is reopened—perhaps oil, or silicone, or a thin plastic film over the counter would prevent this; I haven’t got that far into it yet. When I run the job, I cover the counter with tympan.

Hope this helps—it’s not something I recommend. I’d be interested in hearing how other printers have handled this.


Joshua, how big is the deboss you need to do, i can send you a piece of the board that brian is talking about. it is used to make a counter for embossing, it can be trimmed then peeled off in layers, it is mounted on double sided tape and stuck directly on your platten, i don’t think your supposed to wet it, if interested let me know and i’ll stick it in with the cutter manual. Dick G.

With that weight of Lettra, I would use a very hard packing and try to keep the impression within the paper, showing little on the back. This will preserve the finer details of the image.

You might try slightly dampening the paper to make the impression as sharp as possible.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Best way to do it is to use a debossing die with a counter.
To make a counter you can get the image into position, then use a piece of thin chipboard with double stick tape on the back. Use the double stick tape to put the chipboard over the image area on the platen. Use a small amount of Bondo, spread it onto the chipboard *use a thin piece of mylar over the Bondo* so the bondo doesn’t stick to the plate or die…close the press and let the bondo harden. Open up the press then use an xacto blade to cut away the excess bondo …and you have a counter for your image.
It’s a little tricky but as long as you don’t get any bondo in your plate you’ll have plenty of chances to try it out.
The best plate is a 1/4” mag or wood mount mag plate.
Good Luck…

I second Printer Tim, but we’re both referring to real embossing, not the ‘blind impression’ you’ll be doing.

For real embossing, I buy two-part embossing dies or make my own counter using bondo. Paper mache may make a good counter as well. And strong clear plastic wrap serves well as the mylar - it gives more to the pattern than something stiff would do.

BUT with 220 Letra, you’re going to need a lot of impression to do real embossing - more than I’d put on a 10x15 C&P. Simple blind impression is no problem, but 220 Letra is a bit thick to even handle the stresses on the paper fibers to truly emboss.

Your plate may hold up, and the 10x15 should handle it okay, but be careful.

If you’re just going to deboss all you need do is soften the fibers of the Letra. I steam sheets to soften them. On 220 Letra, you’ll really want warm, moist paper to impress. Warming helps as much as moisture, and steaming does both. You can use a baking tin on a hotplate, a bbq grill and a top baking tin to make a great and handy steamer.

For packing, make it hard - oiled sheets will do, that board that Dick uses is best. You want the impression to go into the Letra, not your packing, so avoid soft packing.

Besides, soft packing can lock up your press on impression.

If you press gets jammed stuck, don’t force it - back off the impression bolts to relieve the pressure otherwise you can break your press. C&Ps can snap at the roller assembly drive arm where it mounts to the front of the press- left of the delivery board. I have an 8x12 that was broken at that point. Don’t break your press trying to make it do something it really wasn’t designed for…

10x15s can emboss and die cut to an extent, but they were designed and sold for printing. 12x18s, and presses like the Colt’s Armory and Thompson were made to handle more impression.

- Alan

Thanks to all of you above for your thorough replies. In looking through my previous posts, I just realized that I neglected to follow up on this. My apology. As always, of your insight and shared knowledge is greatly appreciated.

For this project, I ended up debossing in a manner similar to Alan’s recommendation of steaming the paper and using hard packing. It worked quite nicely. The steaming really slows down production so I’m considering looking into other options (humidor, etc.).

Brian, that is a very interesting counter die approach. Thanks for the offer to get more info on the paper you use. I’ll let you know if I decide to try this.

I’ve been using photopolymer plates so far but it makes sense that magnesium plates will yield better results.

DickG, I’d be very interested in purchasing the board mentioned above (for counter embossing). I’ll look to see if NA Graphics carries it. Thanks again for the cutter manual, it was a big help in getting my Challenge 30.5” up and running. Much appreciated.

Thanks again, everyone.


the white layered engraver’s board spoken of, works best with a LITTLE moisture, (like a quick mist from a spray bottle) pressure then heat to dry. try preheating the die with a hair drier at a minimum. i can do this for a “quick proof” of a die, but with a foil press, heat is built in. for a simple debossed effect. a thick, soft counter can be used. get some blank mylar to cover the image area say from a foil dept.