Printing - A guide to Foil

Credit Alexia Roux, Behance

Credit Alexia Roux, Behance

A glance at premium fashion and beauty brands or design inspiration on Pinterest will reveal the growing popularity with printing in Foil.

Foil, as it suggests is a metallic film that can be added during the print process to business cards, invitations, books and so on, giving a high end and eye-catching luxury feel. Go beyond CMYK with a metallic foil in a range of beautiful colours.

There are two main processes that can be used when it comes to Foiling - 

DIGITAL FOILING - The simple and more cost efficient process uses special metallic or clear foils that adhere only to a digital dry toner, meaning no specialist print blocks need to be made. This is ideal for smaller print runs, thinner paper stock and smaller budgets.

FOIL BLOCKING OR HOT FOILING - This is a traditional method of hand printing.
A metal plate is engraved with your design (or part off the design that needs to be in foil). This block is then heated up and is used as stamp to press firmly onto your paper stock - but with a layer of foil placed in between. The result is a metallic finish branded into the card. This process has a higher cost to allow for the metal plate to be made with your design on and the longer process to produce the print job.

Credit: Decimal Creative Studio

Credit: Decimal Creative Studio


Foil looks great on plain or unprinted card stock - This gives a great contrast to simple and paired back design. A wordmark or logo in foil looks great against an uncoated or even recycled based stock with the smooth metallic against a rustic feel. 

Use over photos - Another option is to print foil elements such as text on top of photo or textured photo based background.

Line stroke / thickness - For best results a minimum stroke thickness of any design elements (logo, text, pattern) should be no less than 0.5mm. The thicker the stroke, the cleaner the results will be and ensure that there is at least a 1mm gap between foil elements to reduce the risk of foil 'bleeding' into other areas.

Allow for movement - Printing plates can move during the process so always allow for a 1mm tolerance when it comes to printing the foil ontop of standard printed elements. For example, if you want a silver square printed ontop of a coloured square, increase the foil shape size by 1mm, or remove the coloured inkfrom your artwork design so no elements from underneath can be seen if the foil layer is slightly out.

Colours - Different printers have different options and those that specialise purly in foil printing will have a much larger range. Ask to see swatch guides so you can be certain that colours are correct for your brand rather than assuming that all silver, gold and even copper shades are all standard.


File setup - This will vary between printers so it is always best to speak to them first to check their artwork specs. Some printers ask for the foil elements as an extra layer to your design artwork, while some request a particular swatch colour to indicate where he foil should be placed.

Print turnaround time - Due to the advanced process the lead times are longer than standard print. Be safe and allow at least 10 working days, or even better check in direct with your printer so you don't miss any deadlines.

Hopefully this article has given some handy pointers on the foiling process. If in doubt, always speak to your chosen printer who will be happy to work with you to get the best results. 

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