View Full Version : Need Help Developing a Breakthrough in Color

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 4:32 PM
I know this idea has potential......but I need your help developing it.

I've searched the forum for embossing and didn't really find anything. The closest thing seems to be powder coating, but it didn't really seem like anyone had really developed it at all.

I've been doing a little research and testing on embossing and it seems to hold great potential.

I went to a local craft store and bought two colors of embossing powder and some ink. Crafters put the ink on a rubber stamp and then stamp paper (almost exclusively), then they literally pour the powder over the inked stamp and the powder sticks only to the part that is inked. Then they heat the powder with a heat gun and the powder hardens.

One company that makes the powders is Ranger Ink (.com) and they are actually resins.....acrylic resins.....and we like acrylic! The inkpad that I bought was called Versamark.

In my first test, all I did was completely ink a number of different surfaces (stainless steel, glass, wood, acrylic, fabric, fun foam, rocks, clay pots, leather, cardstock, cork, and anodized aluminum).....then I covered the inked spots with the powder and used the heat gun. The powders bonded to every one of these surfaces and it seems to be moderately permanent (ie. they passed the scratch off test).

I also inked some cardstock, covered it with the powder and lasered (10 squares at 100s and power from 10-100 in increments of 10), And at the lower powers, the embossing seemed to stick.

Now, the way I see it, there are a number of different ways we can test this stuff.

The first is to ink up a substrate (lets say wood) and cover in powder and then test various laser settings to see which one will bond the powder, It should be noted that any ink/powder where heat is not applied to it, should be easily removed.....thus leaving only what is engraved as embossed.

The second test should be to completely cover a substrate with ink, cover with powder and then heat with the heat gun.....THEN engrave off all the embossing that is not needed.....again, we need settings for this.

The third test is to use the clear embossing as a paint resist.....in other words, completely ink the substrate, cover with clear powder, heat with the heat gun, engrave something (ie. some text) and then paint fill and see if the embossing really works as a paint resist and possibly prevent bleeding into the wood grain.

The fourth test should be to cover a substrate with a mask, vector cut some text, weed out the letters, ink the letters, cover with powder, heat with a heat gun and see how it looks,

The fifth test should be for durability.....ink, cover with powder, heat with heat gun, then see if the embossing can be removed by water, a dishwasher, a brillo pad, etc.

The sixth test should be to figure out how to use multiple colors.

The seventh test should be to mask a substrate, engrave some text, fill the test with a COLORED ink, add clear powder, and heat with a heat gun.

It should be noted that the embossing powders come in a rainbow of colors including clear, metallics, flourescents, pastels, and even scented. Also, you can put multiple coats on.....ie. ink, powder, heat....ink, powder, heat.....ink, powder, heat.....etc. Also, the ink MUST be used or else the powder will not bond......and the ink actually keeps the powder from being blown away when put into the laser (although I would not recommend using air assist).

If anyone has used heat or thermal embossing powders before......please share your experience. Also, there are a ton of You Tube videos on different embossing tecniques (but only with paper) and I high recommend that you view a couple to get some ideas.

I bought the heat gun for about $15 from Michaels (with a coupon) and the powders run about $5 each.......but for our testing purposes, you really only need 1 or 2 colors. And the powder goes a LONG way.

Let me know what you think.

Martin Boekers
12-29-2009, 5:15 PM

You have been a busy guy!

Do the embossing powders expand with heat or just cure?
With the exception of clear, are the rest of the colors all opaque?

What temp do they set at? Instead of a heat gun could I use my heat press in an open position to heat it?

What is cost for the powders?

Are they a different formula that toner?

I've been real happy with CLT but am limited to size that I can use.
I may have specialised projects that are more fitting for this process.

Could you use a double stick tape similar to mounting photographs
to substrates with? This would allow for a "pemanent mask" that maybe cut with a laser then applied to the substrate and powder added.
(search Coda MacTac for double sided adhesive).

More ?'s than answers:D


Gary Hair
12-29-2009, 5:17 PM
I think that's a great idea and I'm curious to see the results.

I have had success with powder coat, but only black. The other colors I tested just burned and never really got a good color.

I laser the text / graphic at 30 watts and about 48 ips then I apply the powder and squeege off with a business card, then laser at 9 watts and 56 ips to adhere the powder coat. When finished I wipe off the excess powder and the piece is done. I have used this on every substrate that I can laser any depth into - wood, acrylic, etc.


P.S. My laser is 30 watts and runs 80 ips so I converted my % settings to actual watts and speed so you could use them for whatever machine you have.

David Fairfield
12-29-2009, 6:06 PM
Very cool! No experience with that stuff here, but I think it might have some potential. Experimenting with stuff and pushing the envelope is what I love most about this work.

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 6:10 PM

I really think this process would be faster and easier than the powder coat method you are using. After engraving, you would simply use a dauber to apply the ink onto the engraved area, add the powder and use the heat gun......maybe five minutes tops.


I think the powders actually shrink slightly.....so more than one coat maybe necessary......but the embossing is actually textured to some extent.

I know they have DOZENS of colors.....so I'm sure some of them are less opaque than others.....and again, multiple coats will create a more opaque look. But when I put this stuff on glass (I bought gold and red) and clear acrylic, it completely covered it so that you could not see through.

The box that the heat gun came in listed 680 degrees.....it's supposed to be comparable to a hair dryer, but without all the blowing. I'm sure your heatpress would work. Anyone know the temp of our lasers?

As I mentioned, a one ounce jar of powder is about $3-6 but it goes a long way....you could probably cover an 8"x10" sheet 20-30 times.

I think they are a different formula than the toners. As mentioned, it's an acrylic resin and I know part of it melts, so after you heat it, any excess that comes off cannot be used again. But any excess that falls off BEFORE you heat it CAN be reused.

I'm not sure I understand your double sided tape question.....I can't envision what you want to do.

Mitchell Andrus
12-29-2009, 6:18 PM
Gotta love the mind of a reverse-engineer-er. If you lived closer I'd be at your door by now with lots of Mountain Dew... and a cot.

Have you tried wood dye powders?

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 6:21 PM
Gotta love the mind of a reverse-engineer-er. If you lived closer I'd be at your door by now with lots of Mountain Dew... and a cot.

Have you tried wood dye powders?

Like that LaserDarc? No.

Dee Gallo
12-29-2009, 6:23 PM
Interesting subject, Steve-

I've used this stuff a lot for making greeting cards. I just hold it over the electric stove until the powder goes shiny.

It will be interesting to try it in the laser (you KNOW I will, heeeheee) and see what the results are, especially the comparison of wood, metal and ceramic.

Have you tried any of the long list of possible ways to use it? I'd be interested to know what you got. Post pics!

thanks for the push in a new direction, dee

David Fairfield
12-29-2009, 6:24 PM
Did you try laser instead of the heat gun? I mean, dusting loose powder on the material surface, then lasering on low power over the powder? If so, what happened?


Lee DeRaud
12-29-2009, 7:08 PM

Gary Hair
12-29-2009, 7:31 PM

I really think this process would be faster and easier than the powder coat method you are using. After engraving, you would simply use a dauber to apply the ink onto the engraved area, add the powder and use the heat gun......maybe five minutes tops.

Since I haven't tried your method I can't say how long it would take me, but the powder coat method I use takes very little time. Maybe an extra 30 seconds per plaque to apply the powder and scrape off the excess. Your process is three steps and all need to be done by you - apply ink, add powder and use the heat gun - mine is one step, apply powder and laser.


Dan Hintz
12-29-2009, 7:47 PM

Happy to put in my two cents worth. I honestly think if certain people (you, me, Dee, Steve/Scott, Frank, etc.) lived in closer proximity, we would somehow manage to revolutionize the laser world with our ideas and testing ;)

Instead of purchasing special inks, try something custom. You need a repeatable coat thickness with a repeatable and consistent stickiness. I would suggest a thinned varnish to start out with... when it begins to dry on metal, it remains tacky for quite a while. You should be able to sprinkle on some powder with an el-cheapo baking sifter, then tap on edge to get any extra powder off. If you're not happy with the varnish, consider a thinned-out honey and water solution. Experiments will have to be done to find a base that will not affect the powder's ability to bond with the substrate.

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 7:53 PM
Gary.....the time issue is more the laser time.......if an image takes you 22 minutes to raster......wouldn't the heat gun be faster?

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 7:58 PM
Lee....I recommend that you try the "Do you Lilac it? Scented Gelly Powder" or the "Extra Foam Vanilla Latte Scented Gelly Powder".

Lee DeRaud
12-29-2009, 8:00 PM
Gary.....the time issue is more the laser time.......if an image takes you 22 minutes to raster......wouldn't the heat gun be faster?If it's a raster image, won't it take just as long regardless of how you put down the substrate/colorant?

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 8:05 PM

The ink (Versamark) that I bought really isn't that expensive ($7 maybe).....and to be honest, I think there must be some sort of chemical reaction between the powder and the ink that causes the bonding. So I'm not sure how other tacky substances would work......but it's definitely worth experimenting with!

Dee, I did ink a card and apply the powder and then lasered a grid. I think 100s/20p worked the best, but I only did 10 little boxes. I think the speed probably will need to be reduced.

Also, I tried engraving off the heat gun embossed powder from the glass, acrylic, metal and wood. The wood worked the best, but what was interesting is that I didn't get the embossing off the other three. The acrylic and glass almost looked crystalized. I'll post a few pictures later.

Steve Clarkson
12-29-2009, 8:09 PM
No.....because Gary lasers twice.....once for the depth and the second time to set the powder. I would only do the first raster.....then apply the powder and use the heat gun.

Bill Cunningham
12-29-2009, 9:29 PM
Printers have been using this technology for 'y e a r s' It's called thermography (not to be confused with other technologies called thermography)
Have you got 'raised ink business cards' that's thermography!
Thermotype.com is probably the largest supplier of equipment and powder. When paper comes off the press, the ink is wet, and as it moves down a belt it gets sprinkled with powder, usually clear which will transmit the color of the ink it's sticking to. The excess then gets vibrated off, and the paper heads for the heat tunnel which melts the powder onto the inked surface. I had a small unit in the shop, hooked up to the output of my digital duplicator. But alas in the long run, it's cheaper to send stuff out to trade shops to be done, than to tie up floor space with short run equipment...

Mitchell Andrus
12-30-2009, 8:33 AM
Experiments will have to be done to find a base that will not affect the powder's ability to bond with the substrate.


Gary Hair
12-30-2009, 9:10 AM
Gary.....the time issue is more the laser time.......if an image takes you 22 minutes to raster......wouldn't the heat gun be faster?

Yes, if I had an image that took 22 minutes to raster you would be right. Honestly though, I can't think of a plaque that I paint filled that took more than a couple of minutes to engrave.


Tim Eddings
12-30-2009, 10:47 AM
I got to thinking about this and did a little research on the MSDS for these powders.
Most did not have a MSDS sheet or just listed them as copolymers.
The one I did find was disturbing.
Listed ingrediants
Ferric Ferrocyanide
Titanium Dioxide
Burn hazards: toxic Hydrogen cyanide can be liberated under burnig conditions acute health hazard
Most had silica, mica, pvc and copolymers listed as main componds.
All had a warning about breathing the dust.

Just a thought,but be careful.


Martin Boekers
12-30-2009, 11:24 AM

Double sided tape:

Say I laser cut (or use a vinyle cutter) and cut a letter "A" out of the double sided tape, I now can peal the backing off one side of the tape and affix it to my plaque.

Now I can peal the top release side of the tape away exposing the adhesive.

Then sprinkle the powder or glitter, etc over that. The powder should adhere to the exposed adhesive. You would have to make sure the adhesive is heat resistant though so when you heat the coating it doesn't melt also.

Hope this helps,


Mary Geitz
01-04-2010, 10:05 AM
Wow! I feel like I can pipe in here because this is my area of expertise.

I probably have 150+ jars of "regular" embossing powder of all colors and consistencies. There's also UTEE, which is much thicker and can be poured into a melting pot and heated to liquid. This stuff is pretty amazing as far as the colors and patterns you can get. I've done mosaic pieces with it using an agate effect and it's pretty realistic. UTEE comes in a limited amount of colors but you can add liquid dye or other colored regular embossing powder to make any color you want!

The trick with using the embossing power is using pigment ink which is slow drying. Dye-based ink pads or Stazon for metal and slick surfaces dry too fast for the power to stick.

As far as lasering, the only thing I've tried so far was vectoring a sheet of UTEE into the mosaic pieces. It immediately started to melt and bubble so I stopped it. I believe the melting pot goes up to 300 degrees, so I'm not sure why I even tried. (Blonde moment I guess).

What may work, however, is using a pigment pen in a pre-lasered groove, fill with powder and re-laser on a low setting and see if it works as a fill. It does shrink though so it might have to be done more than once.

Personally I think the heat gun is still the best option. I use the laser to augment my card business but more along the line of unique effects with rastering and intricate vector cuts. I still do the hand made part by hand, but by experimenting over the years, I have found many unique ways to emboss cards, scrapbook embellishments, etc. I can even use my printer for graphics and with regular printing ink on the right paper, you can emboss that.

Way cool stuff.