Once only associated with the decoration of leather goods, embossing and debossing are now in high demand by clients seeking a more elegant and professional way to decorate apparel items. Nancy Kor of Signature Logo Solutions, a company that provides contract embossing and debossing services, says "We have found this to be especially popular with businesses needing corporate apparel for their employees, as well as a professional means of advertising their company on apparel items given to their customers."
Embossing textiles leaves a tone-on-tone relief "image" of the artwork in the desired fabric (some areas of the fabric are raised, giving off a puffy or soft appearance). Debossing leaves the opposite impression - the image of the artwork in the fabric is pressed down in the fabric. The process begins when a client's artwork is made into a metal die plate. Heat and pressure are added to the plate, and the plate is then pushed into the fabric (think of a heat press).
When the plate is removed, the design remains in the fabric. In the past, the washability of embossed apparel items left much to be desired, and it still remains a concern. Backings are used in the embossing/debossing process to help support the design, and are soft enough to maintain the overall feel of the garment after the process is complete. Although backings aid in prolonging the life of an embossed garment, the process is most successful on heavier fabrics, such as polar fleece and sweatshirts.
Embossing and debossing techniques also add sophistication and originality to other apparel decorations, such as embroidery and screen printing. "We found this option to be popular with schools and sports teams," says Kor