Paper Matters Blog
Foil Stamping Print Technique Options

When it comes to print techniques, foil stamping is a favorite among the design community. And with good reason. Foil stamping is highly reflective, imparting vivid color, texture and dimension to any print project. But as with any production technique, understanding when and how to use it can make all the difference in the final results. Three widely available types of foil stamp methods on the market today are hot foil stamping, cold foil and digital foil.

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Rainbow foil stamping example. [Photo Credit: Parse & Parcel]

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Copper Foil Stamping. [Photo Credit: Parse & Parcel]


Here’s a look at each one along with some tips for determining how to know which is right for your project.


When the industry refers to foil stamping, traditionally that means hot foil stamping. This process uses a metal plate (die), that has a raised impression of the design to be foil stamped onto the surface of the substrate. The plate comes in contact with the foil and transfers a thin layer of the foil film into the surface of the paper. As the plate is heated, the foil adheres to the surface of the paper in the areas of the desired imprint. This results in a highly reflective image.


  • The pressure based process imparts dimension to the final result. A combination foil-emboss die can be used to achieve foil-stamped and embossed image in one pass.
  • The process works well with all types of paper stocks.
  • Numerous options of foil colors and effects are available (ex. Gloss/matte, gold, silver, white, clear, pearlescent, rainbow, holographic etc.)
  • Provides greatest contrast especially when using darker colored paper stocks.


  • The process requires a die, increases cost and time needed for production.


Cold foil is an inline process in which a UV-curable adhesive is printed on the paper using traditional offset litho method, much like an inline varnish. Foil is then pressed onto the paper, adhering to the printed area while the liner stripped away. The foil is cured by passing under a UV light on the press and can then be overprinted.


  • The process requires no dies and is done in-line, thereby reducing cost and turnaround time.
  • Inline process results in excellent registration between foil and overprinted inks.
  • Flexibility to produce large, solid areas of foil with detail, including smaller type and knockouts.
  • Good for large runs.


  • Limited foil color options.
  • Not receptive to embossing.
  • Problematic with uncoated and textured paper stocks. Limited to coated paper.
  • Color is not as vivid or deep as those used in hot foil stamping.


Digital foil (foil sleeking or foil fusing) refers to the process in which the design prints directly from the file to the substrate, just like digital printing. The desired foiled area is built as a separate color in the file and printed with electronically charged black toner which acts as the receptor for the foil. A thin layer of film (foil) is laminated onto the paper and fuses to the area printed with black toner.


  • Cost effective, requires no dies. Affordable for small print runs.
  • Versatile process, can be used with spot UV or gloss, can be overprinted with any color.
  • Ability to use digital variable data.
  • No make-ready, fast turnaround time.


  • Limited to coated paper stocks.
  • Limited foil colors.
  • Limited current market availability.
  • Not recommended for design with thin rules, scripts, tight registration.

As the technology around foiling continues to evolve, so does the market availability, product offering and pricing. And all this is great news for creatives looking to add a little bling in the way of foil to their next print project.


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