Dry embossing is an excellent way to create both backgrounds for your paper crafting projects as well as focal points. There are many ways to achieve this effect, and several methods are highlighted here.
The first, most cost-effective method is also the simplest. It involves a stencil of some variety, plastic, brass, or even card stock will do nicely. If you have a light table it will make this process easier, but you do not need one, a window will do just as well, during the day or with a light behind it. If you do not have a smooth, flat light source you can achieve this on any table, but it will not be quite a easy as you will not be able to see through the paper. The second item you need is a stylus. or any object with a small blunt tip, such as a a ball point pen that no longer works.
Now that you have your items assembled, simply tape the stencil to the table or light source, then tape your paper over the stencil, face down. If you do not have a light source take your finger and apply firm, constant pressure in a circular motion until you start to see the outline of the stencil. Now take your stylus and trace around the outline of the stencil. Gently remove the tape and turn over your paper. You now have an embossed image.
Now that you have a taste for what you can do with embossing, there are several items that can make embossing easier and more intricate. Fiskars has an embossing system and additional stencils you can buy to use with it. This is virtually a light table setup with a double sided stylus and pegged embossing templates that stay in place while you use them. Fiskars also has several sets of embossing plates you can trace with either your stylus or their Texture Embossing Tool. The Embossing Tool is for the purpose of making things quicker and easier, but personally I do not like this tool at all for anything more than to highlight the basic design.
Then there is the Cuttlebug. I love this product. It is versatile, can use almost any embossing plate or die cut plate, and Cuttlebug plates are inexpensive yet still give a great finished texture. It is also quick. It takes just a couple of seconds to place the paper in the embossing folder and crank it through the machine. Cuttlebug also has several background plates available that are the perfect size for your 4.25" x 5.5" cards. The Cuttlebug unit itself is somewhat pricey for what it actually is, but the trade off is in the plates, which are a good quality and cheap.
Quickutz has embossing tools and plates, but these are very expensive for both the main units, regardless of size, as well as the plates. They are made of metal, so they are somewhat more durable than the cuttlebug embossing folders, but also smaller and sharper, making it far easier to cut through your paper rather than just emboss it.
The most expensive item is the Cricut Machine (Any Cricut machine will work). With a stylus cut down to size and a piece of fun foam under your paper you can emboss any design in their cartridge library or any true type font, dingbat, or wingding (But more on this later!) You can also use any design cut out of card stock with the Cricut machine to cut your own embossing stencils.
Experiment and have fun with Dry Embossing. Whether you use it as a background for your stamping, or as a focal point for your background stamping, it is fun and easy to do. You will find it truly addicting as it adds a textural element to all your paper crafting projects.