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Design A to Z – Foiling

Today we are going to talk about foiling, often referred to as hot foiling. This is another print finishing technique that is used in many different ways by designers and printers.

The type of foil we are most familiar with in day to day life is good old kitchen tin foil which is not too dissimilar from the type that we are going look at, it is thin, shiny and comes on a roll!

To help understand what I am talking about, take out any bank note from your pocket or wallet (if you are lucky enough to have one!) and have a good look at the fancy shiny silver strip or shape on the right hand side of the front of the note. This is a type of foil that is applied to the note after it has been printed. In this instance it is used to verify that the note is genuine. This is a special type of holographic foil that is specifically designed for euro bank notes. It has textures and numbers designed into the foil to prevent counterfeiting. Concert tickets and some vouchers also use a very similar type of foil.

Foiling is also used on book covers, leather products, business stationery, packaging, greeting cards – the list is endless!


This image shows gold and silver foils on black card, image courtesy of design context

The process of hot foiling begins with the artwork that the designer intends to be foiled. This artwork is given to a die making company who etch or carve the negative of the design into a metal block or die. The dies are usually made of magnesium which is a cheap metal and can only last for a short period. Sometimes they are made of more expensive copper which lasts a lot longer and can be used again and again.


The first die shown is made of magnesium and the second is copper. Images courtesy of profoil.

The next step involves the die and the item to be foiled being positioned accurately onto a machine. Just like kitchen foil, the foil used comes on a large roll. The foil is sandwiched between the item and the die. When the heated die presses the foil against the item, it is forced onto the item and the design is created. The pressure used also leaves a slight indentation.

The range of foil colours and textures available are infinite and pantone colours can all be matched, the possibilities are endless!

If you would like to find out more about foiling or if you have a project in mind that you think would suit this technique, give us a call!

One Response to Design A to Z – Foiling

  1. […] printing processes include screenprinting, thermography, engraving, gravure, foiling and […]

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