MMT- Part one surface distortion-Project 4- scratching and embossing

Project four scratching and embossing

Exercise 1 Embossing

I started with white A4 copy paper and collected some items to emboss- A potato masher, paper clip, a chip mat, a small metal ruler, a pair of scissors, a water bottle lid and a bay leaf. I used various sized ball ended embossing tools, the end of a paintbrush and a sculpting tool to rub over the paper with the item underneath. I placed the items onto a lightbox and laid the paper over the top, so it was easier to see the image. The paper clip embossed very well, as did the potato masher and the metal ruler. The chip mat pattern came out ok but was time consuming as the holes were tiny. I tried just rubbing over the mat to see how that worked and the indents showed up, just no where near as detailed as doing each hole individually. The bay leaf took a lot of pressure to get the veins t show up and the embossing of the scissors didn’t come out very clean as they were quite chunky. 

Embossing household objects and Stencils on A4 copy paper

Next I tried some shop bought stencils, designed by Seth Apter, I had for art journaling. These worked really well and gave a clean, crisp emboss. The indented side and the embossed side both look good and well defined.

I decided to make my own stencils and templates for embossing, so I used some thin card and cut out circles. I used both the cut-out circles and the stencil created from the cut outs. I used A4 copy paper on the light box, so it was easy to see the templates and stencil underneath. I used various sized embossing tools to see which worked best. The marks came out better with a smaller ball tipped tool. The lines were not as crisp as they were when I used the shop bought stencils, probably due to not taking enough care with the cutting out. I experimented with a piece of purple scrapbooking vellum. This was very easy to emboss; the tool glided effortlessly and gave a good mark. Where the vellum is pressed it shows as a white raised line on the back of the paper which highlights the mark well. It is also very tactile as the lines are very prominent. The embossing worked much the same on the glassine paper, giving a good prominent mark and changing the colour where the paper was marked.

Cardboard stencils A4 copy paper

I tried delicate handmade paper next. Although the image embossed easily it is very difficult to see the image on the paper. If you hold it up to the light you can see the embossed image a little clearer. I thought the paper might tear as it feels very fragile, but it didn’t.  I used a thick mixed media paper (a little like watercolour paper) and embossed on both sides with the circle stencils and templates. This gave the paper, both the embossed and indented marks on the same side. I liked the mixture of the two as it gave a very tactile finish on both sides. Next, I used more of the core-dinations cardstock. I thought the core colour might show through when embossed but it didn’t. I used a paper file and filed away a little of the surface of the raised image and this did reveal a little of the core colour. As I couldn’t see through the card stock the image embossed is not very clean. I had to feel my way around the stencil with the embossing tool and I veered away from the edge of the stencil in a couple of places It definitely works better if you can see the stencil or template underneath. Next I attempted to emboss on a sheet of foam. I thought this would work well but, again, I couldn’t see the stencil under the foam. The foam was much thicker than paper, so it was also difficult to feel the stencil as well. None of the tools marked the foam very well, some scratched up the surface, some took lots of pressure to even indent the foam. The embossed shapes did not last as the foam sprung back into place after a couple of minutes.

L-R top row- foam, core-din-ations cardstock, handmade paper
middle row- vellum
bottom row- glassine paper, handmade paper
first 2 are on mixed media paper, last one on core-din-ations card stock

Project four scratching and embossing

Exercise two Scratching

Tools I collected to scratch materials with included, a pronged sculpting tool, distressing tool, scratchy sculpting tool, awl, 4 sided file, craft knife, fork, drill tipped bradel, needlepoint sculpting tool, knitting needle, triangular sculpting tool, seam marker, plastic serrated tool and a pair of scissors.


I started with a sheet of A4 copy paper and experimented with scratching with the tools I had collected. The scratchy sculpting tool and the plastic serrated edge tool didn’t do a lot. The scratchy tool left the paper a little rough to the touch but wasn’t very visible, and the plastic serrated tool gave a very slight indent to the paper but mostly made it look shiny. The distressing tool visibly scuffed up the paper and left it feeling rough, the needle point sculpting tool created good linear marks, went through the paper in places and left rough little marks. The drill tipped bradel ripped the paper when used sideways but made fine score lines when just using the tip. The file tip made rough lines but when used sideways it ripped the paper, leaving a triangle hole and crumpled paper at the bottom of the mark. The craft knife used upside down made small linear holes in the paper. Used the right way up it made score marks that didn’t quite go through the paper. 

tools on A4 copy paper

I tried various tools on cellophane but none of them were very successful. The distressing tool needed a lot of pressure and it left very faint scratch marks that made the cellophane surface matt in that area. The craft knife worked well to create linear marks and also squiggles. The Core-dinations card stock was interesting as when scratched, the core colour shows through. This created interesting marks and contrasts. On the vellum paper the tools worked well. You could visibly see the marks made on the front but on the back they were even clearer and raised and whiter in colour. It was also easier to create curved lines without the paper tearing when I changed direction. On the mixed media paper some of the tools roughed the surface up and some made very fine indentations to the surface. I used foam next and scratching into it worked much better than trying to emboss it. The marks that were made stayed in place- the foam did not spring back into shape. Because the foam is thicker than the paper the marks made were a lot deeper and defined, giving a very tactile sample. This method would work well to print from, either as a collagraph or used in mono printing. 

Foam, cellophane and vellum
Core-din-ations card stock
Mixed media paper

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