How to emboss leather

Embossed leather gives it a unique branding look. Apart from embossing a brand, you can also emboss words, icons, and so many other things that a customer would love. Overall, embossing leather is a cool way to personalize leather products.

Today, we will show you ways how to emboss leather. Our practical guide to embossing leather should open new doors for you to enhance your leathercraft.

How to emboss leather
Embossing and stamping leather are the same things. It is the art of pressing a stencil hard enough to make a mark. Before we start, it is important that your metal stencil is negative. As such, once you press it on the leather, it marks a positive image.

Step 1: Case the Leather
Casing the leather means spraying water on the surface. Some artists soak the leather in warm water. It is up to you to choose a technique. In both ways, let the water penetrate the leather for at least 30 seconds up to a minute.

What this does is it softens the grain of the leather, making it easier to stamp it. It is highly recommended that you case the leather first.

You can emboss the leather, but it will not be as crisp. If the leather is cased, it takes shape more accurately.

After soaking, part the leather dry. If you spray water, you could start embossing leather once it is drying up. If you have no spray, you can use a sponge, wet it, and apply water to the surface of the leather.

Step 2: Press the Leather
Once the water has evaporated, you can now stamp your mark. Now, there are two ways you can do this. The first is manual, and the second is with a pressing machine.

In a manual way, you put your stencil on the leather and press it hard with your hand. Some use a hammer to push the stencil in.

With a press, you use the device’s force to make the mark or stencil embed its shape on the leather. Take note that the stencil should be on the leather’s top side, not on the underside.

Between the press and the manual way, the press is better. It provides even pressure, and you are not likely to harm yourself. Just imagine if you have to stencil 50 pieces of leather—your thumbs will be so sore if you do it the manual way!

Are leather embossing patterns expensive?

Yes, and no. Most of these are made of inexpensive metals, so they are generally affordable. For example, on Amazon, you can buy 70 pieces of embossing patterns for less than £25.

Now, if you want a personalized stencil, such as a brand icon for your business, prepare to spend money. What you need to do is look for a company that offers a CNC milling service. CNC means computer numerical control milling.

In this process, the engineer will upload your design on their computer. The machine will mill the metal. The end product is your stencil.

Generally, the cost of a CNC, milling service is about £30 per hour. It does not include the cost of the service for designing your logo.

There are also plastic embossing materials that people typically use for cards. However, these plastic moulds also work with leather.

These plastics are folder-like. One side has the stencil, and the other does not. Put the leather material inside, press the folder, and the shapes will emboss on the leather.

How do you colour emboss a leather?

To color emboss, you can buy foil stamping kits. However, you are better off buying paint for leather. The trick is you stamp it first, and then you paint the embossed part with a brush.

Paint for leather is water-based. You can also buy paint applicators to make the painting easier. These applicators are bottles where you put the paint, and then they have a fine tip.

To color emboss, you glide the tip of the paint applicator without pressing the bottle. The paint will drip on its own. Right after you are done, you must wash the tip of the paint applicator, so the paint does not dry. Once done, just wait for the paint to dry.

Are there other techniques to transfer images to leather?

Yes, there are other ways. Embossing is not the only way to add a mark to leather.

Pyrography
Pyrography is a technique where you burn the leather. Here, you use electric heating to draw the mark on the leather. This technique is the same one used in drawing on wood.

Of course, pyrography is done manually. You need to have a skill for drawing letters or images to get it done right. Unlike embossing, you cannot buy ready-made molds or stencils.

Laser-Engraving
In this technique, you use a high-powered carbon dioxide laser. It also burns the material, but the burner uses concentrated light.

Unlike pyrography, you can use a laser machine that draws the mark itself. You do not need to guide the laser by hand. However, not all leathers are suitable for laser engraving.

Here are the best types of leather for this type of marking:

  • Natural leather
  • Suede
  • Nappa
  • Nubuck
  • Alcantara suede
  • Synthetic

The beauty of laser engraving is that it is contact-free. The tooltip that emits the light does not touch the leather, so there is no wear and tear.

Carving
Like wood, you can carve shapes, letters, and any design on the leather. This process, however, requires much more skill.

With carving, you first draw the image, and then you carve out pieces of leather from the main material. Like embossing, you need to wet the leather so it can absorb moisture.

Once the leather is getting back to its original color, you can use a metal stylus to carve out the drawing’s edges. In this process, you are tracing a pattern, but you are not pressing too deep. You just want lines that you can see.

The main tool you use to carve is a swivel cutting knife. It is a specially designed tool where you can use your forefinger, not your entire hand, to press the knife down to make a cut.

Like woodcarving, there are many tools you can use to carve leather. There is a camouflage tool, pear shading tool, and many other things. All these are made to help you make the right texture and shading to the carving.

Carving leather also requires a lot of hammering. There is a mini hammer you can buy and use to push the bevelers and caving tools to create depth and impressions.

Summary: How to emboss leather

Embossing leather is an easy process. You only need water and a stencil. What makes it difficult is the pressing part. You need physical strength to do it. The alternative is to use a pressing machine.

Apart from embossing, there are other ways to add a print or mark on leather: Some examples are pyrography and heat techniques.

If embossing is your ideal method of making a mark, you can buy stencils online. For your own icon or brand, you will need to speak to a CNC milling service company.