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What are Embossed Postcards – Types of Vintage Postcards

What is an Embossed Postcard


As you collect Postcards, it will not be long before you encounter an embossed Postcard.  It has a rich and elegant appearance.  It has a raised image or design,  They are Called Embossed Postcards.  The Process is very interesting and we will explore it in detail  as we research it

An Embossed Postcard is a Postcard that has a raised surface on the front of the card.  A raised, 3 -D appearance.  You are able to feel the design or Lettering part of the image that is raised.  Heavily Embossed Cards have a paper mache appearance.  It is creating a raised surface on a piece of Paper, Foil, Tin, Aluminum, Leather, and Wood.  The Dies in these processes can also be heated.  It started with Louis Braille in 1824 – Developed Commercially by Curt Otto Teich into what it is today.  The process of embossing is extremely simple and cost-effective. It is one of the cheapest ways to enhance the look and feel of any surface be it paper, cloth or metal even. 

Wiki Example of Embossed image of Carnegie Library
Wiki Example of Embossed image of Carnegie Library

What is the History and story of Embossed Postcards

History of Embossing


Printing Postcard Processes

  • 1725 – Stereotyping – Scotland

  • 1800 – Iron Printing Press – English – First Printing Press Made entirely out of Iron

  • 1819 – Rotary Printing Press – Napier

  • 1829 Embossed Printing – Braille

  • 1841 – Type Composing

  • 1844 – Electrotyping

  • 1846 – Cylinder Press – 8,000 sheets per hour

  • 1863 – Rotary Web Feed

  • 1865 – Double-sided Printer

  • 1886 – Linotype

  • 1830 – Paper from wood pulp begins mass production

  • 1890 – Mimeograph

  • 1892 – 4 color rotary press

  • 1907 – Commercial AScreen Printing

  • 1938 –  Xerox

  • 1947 – Phototypesetter

  • 1955 – First xerox Printer

  • 1962 – Brother

  • 1968 – Epson

  • 1969 – Xerox Laser

Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born in 1809 in Coupvray France.  He had 3 brothers and sisters.  His Parents were  Monique Braille and Simon-Rene Braille his father worked as a village saddler.  When Louis was, he was playing with some tools trying to make holes in a piece of leather with an awl. While pressing down to drive the point in, the tool slipped and struck him in one eye.  at the age of 3,  By the time Louis was 5, he was blind in both eyes from the infection.

In 1821 he became fascinated with the military communications system Captain Charles Barbier of the French Army.    He had an invention they called “Night Writing”  Making impressions in paper with dots and dashes.  This allowed the military to be able to read secret messages at night, without having a light that could be spotted on a battlefield.

From there Louis devised his own system from Barbier’s original series.  He made the original series of dots into 63 combinations in the space of a dime, all by the age of 15.

Braille published his own system in 1829 and added symbols for both mathematics and music. He had a number of publications about Braille and by 1833 he was offered a full professorship where he taught history, geometry, and algebra. Braille’s ear for music enabled him to become an accomplished cellist and organist.  At the age of 40, Louis was forced to move back to Coupvray due to a persistent respiratory illness.  In 1852 Louis Braille died, just two days after his 43rd Birthday.

He invented the Braille system in 1829 while he was at the National Institute Blind Children in Paris France.  He was a Frenchman and was the first person to emboss paper for reading.  As technology has progressed you can buy Braille Machines cost in today  Range from $ 2000 – $ 150,000.  This is kind the very beginning of Embossing a transforming invention changed the life of all Blind people but also was the beginning of the embossing Technology.  That is why the embossing of Postcards was so important.

Sculpture of Louis Braille Father of Braille Writing for the Blind
Sculpture of Louis Braille Father of Braille Writing for the Blind

For Postcards themselves, it was  Curt Teich who finally solved the problem by embossing paper with a linen texture before printing. The embossing created more surface area, which allowed the new heat set inks to dry even faster.

Curt Otto Teich

Curt born in Germany in 1877, his family trade was a printer and publishers.  he started as an apprentice, and he moved to the United States in 1895.    He then moved to Chicago in 1895 and started his legendary company.  They were best known for their large letter postcards.  The company printed postcards, view postcards, and advertising cards, and became the world’s largest printer of postcards. In the beginning, most of the companies postcards had white borders.  They then began printing linen postcards in the 1930’s.

His trip was monumental in the fact that he sold – At the low price of one dollar per one thousand cards, Teich solicited an astounding $30,000 ($767,000 in 2010 dollars) worth of orders during this cross-country journey.  They made postcards illustrating views of over one hundred countries.   But it was the postcards of small, quaint American towns and their businesses—their boutiques, diners, hairdressers, theaters, launderettes, and hotels—that would comprise the bulk of the company’s production.  He was the one who initiated the selling of scenes of individual postcards to small businesses across the United States.

His Company also produced over 3 Million Maps for the US Army Map Service.  They produced all the invasion maps for WWII

He hired hundreds of traveling salesman selling his postcards across the United States.  Curt Died in 1974 then His business closed in 1978.  After Curt Teich’s death in 1974, the business was sold to Regensteiner Publishers who continued to print cards at the Chicago plant until 1978.   After the business was sold, son Ralph Teich donated the entire Teich collection, contained in five semi-truck trailers to the new Discovery Museum.  So many of the postcards you see in collecting are a direct result in the life of Curt Teich.  The donation makes it he Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection was transferred in December 2016 to the Newberry from the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois.  The Collection is widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards and related materials in the United States.  It is estimated of 2.5 Million items with over 500,000 individual unique postcard images.

Curt Teich Father of Embossing Postcards
Curt Teich Father of Embossing Postcards
Curt Teich Publishers Postcards Factory
Curt Teich Publishers Postcards Factory


Early greeting cards are some of the most beautiful cards ever printed. Publishers competing for sales, printed cards using intricate embossing techniques, high caliber artwork, superior inks, expensive lithographic processes and even novelty additions such as glitter, ribbons, silk, and feathers



  • For Beginners what is embossing and how is it done

As we examine the process, let’s begin with the paper,  A printer will take card stock and place it between two dies.  One of the dies will have a raised image on the die, the other die will have a recessed image to match it.  Putting that into a high-pressure press and stamp it.  That pressure creates the raised image.  The same process is used in manufacturing stamping processes.  The dies are usually very expensive in metal stamping.  I have easily seen $300,000 for a complete die.  The dies themselves are made from  Magnesium, Copper, Brass, Steel, Stainless, Aluminum on some of the cheaper ones.  The dies have a lifespan since so much pressure is involved, then they will need to be replaced.  So the manufacturer will figure that in.  They also install stroke counters so the manufacturers know how many hits so they can measure replacements and repairs.  Below is  a description of the embossing Machines that were originally used and how they developed into today’s products

Embossing Machines

  • Hand Press – Describes the process well – one at a time, a persons strength does the work

Wiki Picture of a hand Embosser
Wiki Picture of a hand Embosser
  • Clamshell  Press – it sandwiches the paper between two dies, hot stamping press.  This type of press has quick Change capabilities which allow you to make smaller runs.  If you can imagine a clam squeezing its jaws shut – kind of describes how it works.

  • Straight Stamp Press – here the dies are fixed and you feed the paper or stamping stock through the machine.  many Metal presses are built like this, a lot fewer moving parts – Just up and down.

  • Roll Press – The male and female dies are mounted on a roller, and the paper or stock can be fed on Rolls.  This is a high volume machine.  These dies are very expensive.  Easily have run in the millions.  Life of the dies depends on stamping Materials.


What are Embossed Postcards - Types of Vintage Postcards 1

What Materials are used for Embossing

  • Paper – what are embossed postcards paper – when postcards are made from paper – sometimes the process begins with pre-textured paper to enhance the finished product.  Heavy Long fibered sheets are best since they are more easily stretched and formed.  If too short cracking takes place.  Recycled paper is usually avoided because it is not very pliable, the recycled paper is weaker and cannot withstand the pressures of Embossing

embossed Seal and star raised image
embossed Seal and star raised image

If you look closely you can see the amazing detail that is possible.  You can even read the Lettering

  • Foil – Foil stamping is a versatile printing technique that involves applying a metallic or pigmented foil to a surface in order to create a decorative finish. The process makes use of metal dies, combined with heat and pressure, to permanently bond a thin foil film to a paper-based substrate – usually type of cardstock

  • Brass – Thin metal consists of copper and tin.

  • Leather –  leather is pressed by a stamp or engraved rollers, leaving a pattern. Heat is usually involved and often the leather  has a property to help hold the pattern; cotton, for instance, is usually resin-coated

  • Fabric – any type of fabric is pressed by a stamp or engraved rollers, leaving a pattern. Heat is usually involved and often the fabric has a property to help hold the pattern; cotton, for instance, is usually resin-coated

  • What is embossing made of

  • Embossing powder – This is a powder that can be applied to a postcard and treated with heat to give the card the appearance of embossing.  It usually is not a high volume process

  • What are embossed postcards paper – when postcards are made from paper – sometimes the process begins with pre-textured paper to enhance the finished product.  Heavy Long fibered sheets are best since they are more easily stretched and formed.  If too short cracking takes place.  Recycled paper is usually avoided because it is not very pliable, the recycled paper is weaker and cannot withstand the pressures of Embossing

  • What is embossed postcard tin

Types of Embossing

  • Foil stamping – Where Metal is the stock that is used, and when the stock is stamped the material is stretched.

  • Singled level die – this is where the recess is process is one stoke, where it produces a single depth when it makes the impression.

  • Multi-level embossing – Thes have several levels of recesses, many times the image, then possibly the background pattern – many times these dies are made of brass for paper.

  • Tint embossing – this a newer process where thin metal – pastel foil, which is transparent so mostly white stock is used.  The process is in demand today

  • Blind embossing – This process does not use ink or metal to highlight the edges. This process provides a clean distinct sharp Image.

  • Pasteling – also called tint leaf embossing – these tend to produce antique-looking finishing.- it makes the finishing have a two-color appearance

  • Glazing – The embossed image has a shiny or polished appearance – many times this process involves heat to facilitate this look.

  • Dry embossing – also called relief embossing, is done by tracing a stencil with a special tool, called a stylus. The result is a stunning, raised pattern on the object you are embossing. It is wise to remember that hand embossing should only be used for a small project.  It is done by hand with a painstaking stretching to make a design with a stylus by hand.

  • Heat embossing – this is wearing the dies and materials are heated to achieve the desired stretching and appearance effects.

  • Aluminum embossing

  • Fabric embossing

  • Leather embossing

  • Image embossing – This is a modern process – where a computer graphics program will replace the colors of an image with Combination Light and dark pixels.

Image Embossing example computer generated
Image Embossing example computer-generated
  • Combination Embossing  – a process of embossing paper stock and adding a foil stamping process to add another dimension to the postcard.

Types of Embossing Dies

  • Bevel Edge Dies – Instead of sharp 90 degree angles, the edges are more angled – the wider the angles it gives more perception of height.

  • Chisel Dies – these dies have a V shape – it is the most common set of dies – they are also called roof dies.

  • Textured Dies – these dies you have seen a lot of – gives a feeling of texture – maybe alligator feel, a wood grain look – etched patterns, dots, designs like that.  Skin Textures.

  • Sculptured Dies – these are very detailed images – these are usually Hand-done – like sculptured animals – fish – birds – Flowers – detailed images similar to that.

Embossing Designs

  • What is the difference between debossed and embossed – Embossing is where relief is stamped and an image or print is raised on the front or face of the postcard.  Debossed is just the reverse of that, the image is indented into the stock.

  • How to apply ink to embossing – Ink and sometimes embossing powder can be applied to the dies prior to stamping which will then color the embossed raised section.  Used with Heat embossing.  Ink can also be applied by airbrushing (First Airbrush Abner Peeler patented the first airbrush in 1879 ).  Many times after ink applied to dies was not clear enough.  The airbrush solved the problem.  It meant that it was done by hand.  Many Postcards over the years especially in the earlier days of postcard production.  The Cards were sent to Japan to be hand Colored.

  • Choose a cardstock and an image that is well-suited to embossing – and to each other. Certain card stocks produce better embossing than others, so consult with your printing company. The same is true of images. An image with a lot of fine detail may not be a good candidate for embossing.

  • The type of stock you use will affect how the embossing looks. Softer, thicker card stocks will produce greater detail in the embossing while others will create a deeper image.

  • Embossing is more visible on paper stocks with lower brightness.

  • Don’t plan any embossing in the areas where the address and postage will be. Addresses must be easy to read.

  • Avoid printed text in the embossed areas.

  • Use the embossed pattern as a design element on both sides

  • Remember that embossed text will appear backward on the postcard’s reverse side.

When embossing is used alone it is known as blind embossing. It can also be paired with ink or colored metal foil (using a combination embossing and foil stamping die) to make the embossed design really “pop.” or stand out in a 3 – d direction.

As an alternative to a raised image, some design elements might work best as an indented image, which is known as debossing. In this case, the male and female dies are reversed.


Sculptured  and Foil Embossing Video

How to do Sculpture and Foil Embossing
How to do Sculpture and Foil Embossing


How to Do Foil Stamping Embossing Video

How to do Foil Embossing
How to do Foil Embossing


Ebay’s Selection of Embossed Postcards – 20,998


Graphics Designer Guide – 


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