Embossed Foil Name Cards




About: I'm Phil, a recent graduate from San Jose State University. Although I studied Electrical Engineering there that is not all I am interested in. I've worked on Steel Bridges, Concrete Canoes, and founded a Ro...

My goal was to develop a process for easily creating embossed gilded letters for use on business style name cards. These cards consist of two layers of laser cut paper laminated together with a composite gold leaf in the middle.

I made this at TechShop.

Only use tools that you have had the appropriate training for. Always wear appropriate protection for environment and tools in use. Understand and accept the inherent risks associated with any operation.

Tools Used
Laser Cutter
Xacto (brand) Knife
Straight Edge (chunk of CLEAN aluminium)

Materials Used
Arches Hot Press Watercolour Paper
Strathmore Coal Black Drawing Paper
Glad Press'n Seal or Scotch Artist Mount (any laserable low tack mask)
Wax Paper
3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive
Spray Adhesive for Metal Leaf
Composite Metal Leaf

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Design

Ensure that your design has no islands. The card should stick together on its own. If the bridges are worked into the design they are hardly noticeable. Also, since the cut is centered on the line, adjust spacing of important elements to take this into account.

The aspect ratio was chosen to match US standard business cards, but shrunk a bit so the longest dimension is that of a credit card. This is to allow the finished product to reside in a wallet without damage. 

Make sure your design has cut marks and fit as many into one sheet as reasonably fit. I calculated that on my first production run each card took 6 minutes of my time to create- That is I completed four sheets of ten in four hours. If the sheets fit 12 I would have reduced that time per card by 20%.

Step 2: Cut Layers

Cutting paper makes a lot of smoke and soot. If the white card stock is not protected it will get a burnt halo around each cut. Applying a removable masking material to the card stock will make sure that the cut is as clean as possible. I used paper applied with "Artist Mount" a Scotch brand removable adhesive. If you let it dry for a couple minutes before applying the mask it will leave little residue, if you are not patient enough the residue usually comes off with a clean eraser. 

Careful testing and documentation of the correct settings is required to produce the cleanest cuts and etchings. 

Once the sheets are cut, weed out any stuck parts with something pointy.

Step 3: Gild

Before laminating the two sheets together the foil must be applied. I've wanted to learn more about gilding for a while (and would still like to learn in a more serious way) and decided that I would use a composite gold leaf for the foil center. Since the leaf is very thin, even though I cover the whole sheet, it is not noticeable in on the edges where it has been cut through. 

If you don't have the proper tools (pad, knife, size, bole...) you can get by with some wax paper and no intentions of cutting the leaf to size, that is fine with relatively inexpensive leaf, and faster too.

Before applying the leaf a cheap spray size can be found at the store that sold you the leaf. The one I got is advertised as a low mist formula, which seems to mean it comes out in large blobs. 

Make sure your work space is CLEAN. Any dirt will cause lots of problems.

Open the book to expose a leaf. If it is wrinkled use a light puff of air to flatten it out. Place a piece of wax paper on the bare leaf (pictured). Press medium firmly on at least the corner that is facing the primary direction of movement to keep it from peeling back while in motion. 

Gently pick up the wax paper and move the leaf to the final location. Press down. Slightly overlap the leaves, and press very firmly where overlap is. I have found that laying a sheet of card stock over the wax paper can help you apply pressure without distorting the leaf. Good application will reduce the chance that when removing excess a large area will peel up.

Step 4: Laminate

Apply spray adhesive to both surfaces. Wait for it to dry, then carefully align and press together.

Step 5: Cut

First cut the sheets into strips in the direction with the most parallel cuts. Save the ends with the cut marks and keep the strips in order. Then re-assemble the sheet and line up the strips, the other direction can be cut, while carefully holding the straight edge down.

Tables don't like knives. Cutting mats are very important. I don't have a big enough one for full sheets like this, so I used a piece of particle board. 

Step 6: Enjoy

Realize that photographing cards is hard. 

Project Notes
I used a 300 gsm white paper combined with a 160 gsm black paper. When a single card is viewed edge-on the black is nearly invisible.

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    11 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    technically, this is neither embossed nor debossed; but the apparent look is a debossed look, not an embossed look (embossed would be raised up, not sunken in).

    still, picked nits aside, great project!

    4 replies
    DIY-GuyPhil Cyr

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Perhaps "Gold foil embossed-look stencil cut" cards would be accurate.

    Is there a more slick way to say it though?
    Mine took 6 words and did not convey the dedication to craftsmanship implied by all the hand work.

    Great job on the look, well done!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Well, as I admitted in the post above, it was picking at nits to bring it up at all.

    But the nit I was picking wasn't really the fact it was a stencil instead of a debossing, but the fact it is debossed, not embossed.

    Apparently you missed that point, because your 6 word description was still wrong on that count. ;)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Looks like the laser was out of focus. I cut 300gsm aquarelle paper often with no scorching or even smoke marks. If cutting thin materials like paper the focus has to be good.

    1 reply
    Phil Cyrkimvellore

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the tip. I was doing great with origami paper, but I have not had much luck with this thicker paper. I'll try experimenting more, because I would LOVE to have cleaner edges.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I think "engraved" would be a better term than "embossed". The definition of "engraved" certainly defines what you have done.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Beautiful. I wonder if it would be possible to use a QR code generator to create a code that contains no islands.

    If so, you could burn it onto the "back" card.

    1 reply
    Phil Cyrsysadmn

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 6

    Thank you. That is an interesting idea. The laser can do raster scanning too, I have been trying to work up a process where I raster through a mask so I can apply an ink or paint to the cuts- like the painted letters in a carved wood sign. So far I have had issues with the ink bleeding too much. I think a sealant applied either before to the whole sheet, or over the mask before the ink could help.