Metal Embossing Defined
Metal embossing or Pewter Repousse (French) is an ancient art form used to impart a design upon malleable metal sheets. Suitable metals include pewter, aluminum or copper. This craft is also referred to as repujado en lamina (Spanish) or Pewter work (British).
Embossing is the art of producing raised, 3-dimensional design patterns on the surface of the metal. The first step is to transfer a design or pattern of your choice onto the metal and then pushing the design from the back using an embossing tool or stylus in order to create a raised effect on the opposite side. This process gives it volume and texture.
Which Metals are suitable for Metal Embossing
There are various metals that can be used in metal embossing. These include pewter, aluminum, copper, bronze, copper-plated and colour-coated aluminum.
These metals normally come in sheets or rolls and are around 0.3-0.5 mm thick. If you live in the United States, the thickness of the metal is also expressed as “gauge”. When you’re shopping for supplies, you will want to buy metal that is between 36 and 38 gauge. In general, the higher the gauge, the thinner the metal.
In this short video, I give a quick recap of what metal embossing is, and also explain which metals can be used.
Basic Techniques used in metal embossing
The 4 main techniques include:
1) Low Relief:
Low relief is the process of creating a single, raised line on your metal. If you have a look at the picture below, you can see that these designs were done entirely in low relief.
This technique works really well for simple designs, where you want to highlight the design pattern and keep the rest of the metal surrounding the area flat and even.
Low relief is done by transferring your chosen design onto the front of your metal. You will then flip your metal face fronting down onto a layer of felt/cloth, and trace over the design with your stylus tool using medium pressure. This will push out the metal and raise it on the front of your design.
After raising your line, flip the metal face fronting up onto a hard surface and define on both sides of the raised line. This will create a nice, sharp line and flatten the metal surrounding the raised line.
2) High relief
High relief is the process of raising certain parts of your design pattern to higher levels. These will need to be filled with wax/filler in order to support the design.
In the Mandala design below, I used the high relief technique to raise the “dots” around the center, the rounded flower design and the pointed flower part of the design.
The rest was done in low relief and engraving.
To do this technique, the design is transferred to the front of your metal again. Repeat the same steps as for low relief, but when flipping the metal over, front-facing up on your hard surface/work board, you will ONLY define the OUTSIDE of the raised line.
This will create a little border. Next, you will flip your design over facing down again on your soft surface. Using a paper-pencil/tortillion, gently “colour” over the inside of the design to push the metal out and raise it on the front of the metal.
Flip your metal over front-facing upward on your hard surface and define the outside of the design again if needed. Make sure the raised parts are raised evenly, before flipping it over back facing upward again to fill it with wax or the filler of your choice.
Engraving is mostly used to create depth and texture around the raised parts of your design, but is also very effective to use for writing words or quotes onto the metal.
In the picture below, I mounted a ceramic tile on my pewter as the focal point and then created zentangle doodle patterns around it using the engraving technique.
Engraving is done with your metal laying face up on a few sheets of paper or cloth (depending on how deep you want the lines), and is then worked from the front, pressing down with your stylus tool.
Stencils can be used to create effect in metal embossing, but it is such a fun topic, we’ll save it for another day!
Here are some examples of how I used stencils to create a cross and heart design.
In this short video, I demonstrate the 3 main techniques: Low relief, high relief and engraving.
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