Artwork: All original copy: text, images and illustrations intended for printing. Files may be pixel or vector based.


Bevelled edges: The edges of the die's perimeter are machined to form a neat flat edge, usually at an angle of 10° or 20° from the vertical. They enable the die to be clamped securely onto the press platten using clips.

Bitmap: Artwork is often presented in bitmap format, produced from an image that has been converted using 50% threshold. In doing so, the file only contains black or white pixels and no shades of grey. See also DPI below.

Blind embossing or debossing: A raised or sunken impression on the workpiece surface created without the use of ink or foil.

Brass die: Ideal for foiling and embossing, long production runs and very versatile. Less expensive than copper. Allows multilevel and sculpted embossing dies to be manufactured. Easy material to machine.


Calliper: The thickness of the workpiece material (microns, μm), as well as its weight (gsm) should be provided in order that dies can be correctly tailored for the application.

Chemical etching: Sometimes known as chemical machining. A process of using corrosive chemicals to remove unwanted metal from a metal plate in order to produce artwork, plaques, dies and tooling.

Chemical machining: See chemical etching above.

Chiselled: A shape put into embossed or debossed images resembling a V-shape.

CNC-engraved die: A die produced using computer controlled machining equipment, programmed using computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software.

Coated surface: The stock material’s surface must be considered. Smooth coated surfaces are well matched to fine detail and shiny foils. Textured surfaces require extra press pressure and produce an indented, sometimes duller foiled look.

Combination die: A die used to emboss and foil in one operation. Sometimes known as a recess or foil/emboss die. See also fluted die.

Copper die: A copper die produced by chemical etching. Perfect for flat foiling and some single level embossing. Good for long production runs. Can be used with higher press pressures. Retains heat well and good for crisp edges.

Counter: See counterforce below.

Counterdie: A duplicate die made solely with the intention of producing repeat orders of counterforces as and when required.

Counterforce: A male counterpart usually moulded from the original female die, used to press the stock paper or card into the die to form embossed and/or debossed impressions. Also used with combination dies. Counterforces can also be CNC-engraved. Sometimes known as force plates.

Counterforce pins: See registration pins below.

Counterplate: See counterforce above.


Debossing die: A die used to create an impression on which is sunk into a surface of the stock material (opposite of embossing).

Deep etching: In order to prevent unwanted foil marks, thicker and softer stock materials often require deeper dies than our standard depth of 1.3mm.

Depth: The vertical measurement from the main surface of the die to the bottom (or top if debossed) of the engraved image. The depth is critical and has to be specified to suit the process, image and the stock material (paper, card, leather etc).

Die: A tool crafted from artwork and typically used to create embossings, cut shapes or apply foil.

Die trimming: The perimeter of the die should be finished to suit the application. The specification for this may include bevelled edge angles, flange widths and other special requirements. See bevelled edges above and flange below.

Domed: A shape engraved into an embossed or debossed image which resembles a semi-circle or half-moon.

Double etched die: A die etched in the same way as a flat foil die, but with an additional etching process that adds a very finely etched pattern or detail to the foiling surface. Often used for artistic effect or security reasons. Also see micro etched die.

DPI: The resolution of the artwork image file is normally expressed in units of "dots per inch". 1200dpi artwork may enable a better image to be produced than 300dpi artwork. Bitmap based artwork should be provided at suitably high enough file resolution. Low DPI may degrade the image which will subsequently contain unwanted digital artifacts.

Duplicate die: Dies were often duplicated by using the original die to manufacture plastic castings or mouldings. Today, we prefer to machine originals and exact copies in brass, thus ensuring that all the superior benefits of using a metal die are realised.


Embossing die: A die used to create an image that is raised up from the surface of the stock material (opposite of debossing).

Emboss textured: Finely embossed patterns can be used to enhance backgrounds, as well as combined with foiling and other designs to create visual and tactile effects.

Engraving: The process of chemically or mechanically removing metal to reproduce an image on, below or above the reference stock material surface.

Etching: See chemical etching above.

Expansion rate: Every material expands with heat and contracts when cooled. It’s length change is proportional to the original length and the change in temperature. This has implications when using a metal foiling die at elevated temperatures and must be allowed for. Copper and brass are superior choices for good registration as their expansion rate is about 25% that of magnesium.


Flange: The amount of metal between the image and the edge of the die. Expressed as a width in mm and dependent on the application, may be specified differently for each edge.

Flat foil die: A metal die that when heated, transfers foil onto the stock material and leaves a flat surface.

Fluted counterforce: Male counterpart used to press the workpiece into the contours of a fluted die whilst simultaneously applying foil. See counterforce above.

Fluted foil die: A brass die used to emboss and foil in one operation. Sometimes known as a combination, recess or foil/emboss die.

Foil: Metallic or pigmented coating usually supplied on a polyester substrate. Used in foil stamping and foil embossing.

Foil blocking: The process of applying the foil to the stock material using a metal die.

Foil embossing die: A die used to simultaneously raise an image or text and apply foil in order to emphasise a design. See combination die.

Force plate: See counterforces above.


Gauge: A historical standard range of metal thicknesses. Imperial sizes persist e.g.16 gauge is 1.63mm and is commonly used for intaglio dies.

Graphic Foil: Metallic hot stamping foil available in many colours and shades.


Hand engraving: The skilled art of manually cutting, carving and creating detailed shapes and text in metal dies by hand.

Holographic die: A die that has a holographic image micro-etched onto the surface. It can produce "hidden" foiled effects which appear to be three-dimensional to the viewer. Can be used for embellishment and security applications. They have the advantage of not requiring special registration during set-up.

Holographic foil: Sometimes known as diffraction patterned foils. Many designs available ranging from simple dots to attractive snowflakes and in many coloured metallic foils.

Hot foil stamp: Also known as hot foil block, hot foil die or foiling die.


Intaglio die: A tool used to transfer ink onto the surface of the stock material. Produces a high quality image and/or text that is raised and has a tactile crafted appeal.


Jacket: Removable cover of a book or brochure.


KV counterforce: A counterforce made from PVC materials. A cost effective and mechanically flexible design.


Laser exposure: A digitally based process of accurately transferring an image, pixel-by-pixel onto a photographically pre-sensitized metal plate prior to chemical etching. Resolutions of up to 2400dpi are possible.

Letterpress die: A die used for printing with ink. When used with pressure it can also create an ‘indented’ effect.

Location System: A mechanical system of pins and holes which allow counterforces and dies to be accurately positioned with respect to each other. See counterforce pins.


Magnesium die: A magnesium metal die produced by chemical etching. Least expensive die material, good for short production runs. Fast to produce, used for foiling, embossing and debossing.

Make ready: Materials used during the press set-up to ensure that uniform results are achieved when using dies. Make ready also helps to compensate for any irregularities between the die to press interface.

Multi-level die: A die where the image is engraved across more than one engraved depth. The image can be embossed and/or debossed.

Multi-textured: An engraved image that has more than one style of texture.

Micro embossing: Often used for security applications, enables small image details and/or text to be lightly embossed into the surface of foil.

Micro-etched die: A die that has very finely etched image details on its foiling surface. Also see double etched die above.


Negative image: An image where the light and dark areas are the reverse of the original e.g. shadows are white, highlights are black.


Paper level: The reference point for all embossing or debossing. Dimensionally it is the "zero" position, usually the top surface of the stock material.

Photo etched die: A photographic image is graphically interpreted via greyscale halftone, which is in turn micro-etched into the metal surface to create a foiling die.

Pigment foils: Foils which produce strong uniform patches of colour, available in seemingly limitless shades and tones.

Pillowed edges: Sometimes, in order to prevent non-image areas of a die marking the stock material, the top corners of the die are radiused in order to remove the angular corners.

Positive image: An image where the light and dark areas are the same as the original e.g. shadows are black, highlights are white.


Raster file: A digital file composed of pixels. Not scalable like a vector file.

Recess die: See combination die.

Registration pins: A system of pins and holes that enable the dies and counterforces to be perfectly aligned whilst setting up the printing press. Often referred to as counterforce pins.

Resin counterforce: A counterforce made from a grade of polyurethane on an epoxy glass resin backing board. They are tough but not brittle, can be used at foiling temperatures and replicate fine details very well.

Resolution: See also bitmap and DPI above.

Reverses: Open parts of an image where the workpiece background and/or paper show through the printed or foiled areas. Also applies to text.

Right reading: An image and/or text which is the right way around and has not been horizontally flipped.

Routing: A machining process which further removes material from “non image” areas. Routed areas further reduce the risk of the die from marking the stock material, and/or unintentionally transferring foil.


Sculptured die: A die that raises and/or lowers an image, utilising any appropriate shape, angle or edge to create a sculpted realistic effect.

Security die: A die often made by both CNC machining and fine chemical etching. Sometimes used with special foils where it’s very finely detailed etched textures produce patterns and images that are extremely difficult to replicate. Sometimes known as a ‘Quality Seal’ die. Available with matching counterforces.

Single level emboss die: A die that lowers an image from paper level to one depth. In the main, this depth will be achieved in all bold image areas, but may be shallower in narrower sections.

Step and repeat: The same image repeated more than once, horizontally and/or vertically at set intervals. These intervals are referred to as 'centres' when measured from a point on the image, to the corresponding point on the adjacent image.

Stock: The material to be printed, foiled or embossed/debossed.


Textured foil die: A die which can apply foil as normal, but where the foil is slightly impressed to create a matte, diffractive or patterned texture on its surface. Many designs are available.

Textured emboss die: A die used to produce a lightly embossed repeating pattern on the surface of the stock. Many designs are available.

Type high: A term often used with letterpress. It is the distance between the foot (or base) of metal-type to the top i.e. the overall height. Different heights have been used in different countries. See wood mount below.


Uncoated surface: See coated surface above.

Up: Printing ‘two up’ or ‘three up’ means printing multiple copies of the same image on the same workpiece.


Vector File: A digital file which can be infinitely adjusted in size without losing resolution. They are more suitable for some types of images than raster files.


Wood mount: Often used for letterpress dies which are often securely fixed to a wood base in order to raise the printing surface to the correct height. See “type high” above.

Wrong reading: An image and/or text which is the wrong way around because it has been horizontally flipped.