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Embossed Labels or Debossed Labels?

embossed labelsIf you’ve ever encountered a product label that has a 3D texture, you’ve probably touched an embossed or debossed label. Whether it’s the visual or tactile aspect of this design strategy, psychologists say, it makes a huge impact on customers’ decisions to buy products.

For that reason, it’s incumbent on business owners and their marketing staff to become familiar with these types of labels and their impact on their customers’ perceptions. Deciding whether embossed labels or debossed labels best meet a business’s marketing goals is essential for sales success.

Embossed Stickers Create a Three-Dimensional Feast for the Senses

To create embossed stickers and labels, printers press a custom die with the desired design into the label’s paper backing. This technique raises the designs, using light and shadows to make each label appear three-dimensional.

When customers pick up items with embossed stickers on them, they can feel the ridges on the label, giving them the sensation of luxury. In fact, printers can even provide their customers with multi-level embossing. This is when the embossing resembles the object, animal, or person it portrays as it is in real life.

Creating the die for embossed stickers and labels, of course, is essential for a successful print run. Printers, therefore, take great care during this step.

First, a designer creates the image itself. Next, the printer hand tools, photoetches, or routers the image onto both the die and the reverse mirror image into which it fits. This creates a “sandwich” that presses the design into the paper.

Similar to the way plumbers speak about hose and pipe connections, the projecting die is called the “male” die. The one that it fits into is called the “female” die. Embossing, of course, means that the female die will go on the top of the visible part of the label. The male one will go underneath—against the backing paper.

Embossed Foil Stickers and other Special Effects

Printers can also add foil or colored ink to the die to add another layer of visual texture to the design. With the shadowed and lighted areas already on the sticker, the shimmery foil accentuates the highlights on embossed foil stickers for a personalized, elegant look.

High-end companies often use embossed foil stickers and labels to set their products apart or to give away as promotional items during trade shows and conventions. It brands their business as one that cares about putting its best face forward.

Combining metallic foils with striking color on  labels that are embossed can blend a company’s logo colors into a world-class label for gourmet food and wine, hand-crafted soaps, or even as a seal on a gift box for an expensive piece of jewelry. The shimmery tones of embossed foil stickers, then, are a must for businesses who want extra cachet in their labeling.

Debossing Gives Labels an Engraved Look

A debossed label is one whose design is pressed into the printing medium. Like an engraved invitation, it gives your design a formal, elegant look.

To deboss a label, the printer will put the male die on the top, allowing the female die to serve as the mold for the indented text and images. Like an embossed label, the printer can fill in the indented areas with foil or ink, adding color and shimmer to the design.

Which Type of Label Should I Choose—Debossed or Embossed?

  • Advantages of embossed labels: To get a three-dimensional design to stand out from the product label’s surface, an embossed label is the best choice. With an embossed label, too, applying foil is easier. If there will be an intricate design or text on the label, an embossed label can show more detail than a debossed one.
  • Advantages of debossed labels: While labels with embossing are better for foil-accented labels, debossed labels make it easier to apply ink to the label’s design. If you plan to use the back of the label, debossing is a better choice since it doesn’t affect the back of the material.

It’s always best to consult with a professional printer with experience in both types of printing. This is to make sure the design and label choice will align with the company’s brand and the individual product. Professional printers have one job—to make their customers look good. Trust in their expertise to choose your best option.

One Caveat…Medical Labels

According to FDA guidelines, it’s best not to use either embossed labels or debossed labels on bottles or packages of medicine with transparent, clear, or translucent containers because they’re not as legible as other types of labels.

The government watchdog recommends that if the container already bears an embossed or debossed label, the suppler should overwrap the label with a plain, legible label that stays on the product until the patient opens the container to use the medication.

How to Prepare a Design for Embossing or Debossing

First, start with a vector image. Vector art, created by mathematical formulas, enables a design to look good at any size. It’s also easier for the printer to translate a vector image’s geometric shapes into a die.

Secondly, with embossed and debossed labels, less is more. Simple designs with distinct, easy-to-see lines work best. Don’t use shaded or colored images. They cause the embossed or debossed image to appear distorted or cloudy.

For a multi-level design, let the larger sections of the design be the deepest sections on the embossed label. Otherwise, the printer might risk tearing the label. Smaller areas are easier to penetrate with the die.

Use the heaviest paper stock possible. Not only will it hold up better under the pressure of the die, but it will also give more detail and depth to the design.

Finally, most professional printers have in-house designers that can help tweak designs. This way their customers have the best shot at an attractive, textural label that will draw customers to your products.

If you’re wondering about which type of label would work best with your products, our team of printing experts can help. To learn more, get in touch with the Nova Custom Label Printing team today.


Quick turnout, solid communication, and great execution for a last minute label order. Thank you.

Nathan Phalen Avatar Nathan Phalen
June 5, 2024

The Nova team was able to fulfill my order within a short window of time and still produce an amazing product. Our team is so happy with the results, and it was delivered timely. Michael was super flexible and easy to communicate with throughout the process, ensuring nothing would get lost in translation. Every step of the way, he updated me on progress. We will definitely be using them again for many more orders. Thank you, Nova team!!!

Juliet Fern Avatar Juliet Fern
June 5, 2024

By far the most positive experience ever! Michael is professional, prompt, and an absolute pleasure to work with. Finally found our go-to print shop, no reason to work with anyone else for all our printing needs. Simply the best!

Emily Gray Avatar Emily Gray
June 4, 2024