Create special print finishes in InDesign

Emboss and deboss

the plates for issue 262 featuring the designer's guide to money

Issue 262 features a spot UV, a matt laminate and an emboss

Although the terms are sometimes confused, embossing and debossing are two different techniques. Embossing is when a design is pushed up into the paper so it creates a textured relief above the surface. Debossing is when an image is pushed down into the paper so it lies below the surface, creating an indentation.

You can create some great results by aligning an emboss or deboss with your artwork to enhance certain areas. Alternatively, a blind image embossed or debossed onto a solid colour can look very effective.

Best practice for embossing and debossing

emboss guide and printed cover for the designer's guide to money

The printed cover and the emboss guide
  • Avoid embossing or debossing very fine lines, as this doesn't tend to work.
  • Try to leave around 2mm space between embossed/debossed lines.
  • You can create a double-layered emboss and have elements at different heights – just be aware that the more layers you add the weaker the paper becomes.

Combining different finishes

Combining these different techniques can take a bit of thought and preparation. It’s good to know you can’t foil over a varnish, so if you want to use these finishes together remember to leave the foil area out of the varnish. Embossing and foil works well together, so long as you don’t over-complicate the design. Finally, if you're including multiple special finishes on one document, make sure you clearly name the PDFs to save any confusion.

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Jo is group art director on the events team at Future and has worked on a number of magazines and brands, including Computer Arts, What Hi-Fi? and T3. She recently led the redesign of Creative Bloq's sister site, TechRadar.