Counter dies, also referred to as male dies, can be made from several materials: poured fiberglass, etched magnesium plates, embossing compound, or layered counterboard. Brass counter dies are poured fiberglass.
If holding as much artwork detail as possible is imperative to your job, poured fiberglass counters are the ones to use. The material used for poured fiberglass counters is extremely hard, specifically designed for crisp, clean stamping applications and for long-running jobs.
Magnesium Counter Dies
To ensure a crisply detailed raised image, it is important to etch the female die enough to accommodate a male counter die yet also leave spare room for the weight of the paper. The counter die is etched several thousandths of an inch deeper than the female die. When embossing, this allows the counter die to bottom-out without disturbing the texture of the surrounding paper. See the paper stock selection guide for embossing for additional details.
OWOSSO customers are reporting great results and increased simplicity of make-ready using poured fiberglass and magnesium etched counters for both cold and hot embossing.
If your image has a lot of extremely fine detail, your best bet might be to produce your own counter die on your press.
Pressed into Layered Counterboard
Layered counterboard is a material that can be found from sources that carry engravers materials. It is a board made up of several layers – 36 or more. This is another method of creating your own counter die on your press.