Skip to main content

Foil Stamping Considerations

Foil stamping is a print technique that uses an engraved metal plate with an image of the design to be foil stamped. The die comes in direct contact with the foil and transfers a layer of foil film onto the substrate’s surface. The plate is heated, allowing the foil adhesive to melt and press into the paper. When the pressure eases up, the foil cools and adheres to the surface of the paper where the plate was. The result is a finished design with a shimmery, foil image.


Foil is technically a film, therefore it’s a good choice for producing light colored design on dark paper stocks. Foil is opaque, while ink is translucent. For example, to produce the design effect of white type on black paper, foil might be a better consideration than white ink. The contrast between the white foil and black color of the paper is far greater than it would be using opaque white ink. To achieve that level of contrast using ink requires multiple passes and still may not yield the same effect.

Much like producing white design/text on dark stock, the use of metallic foil stamping yields similar results. Metallic ink will produce a more subtle effect than foil stamping, as the ink is applied inline during the printing process, whereas foil stamping occurs offline on a separate press. Depending on the type of paper, coated or uncoated, the results of printing metallic ink will vary greatly but the use of metallic foil will produce more uniform results on either type of substrate with a far greater impact.

Like paper, foil is available in many colors and finishes. Designers can choose from holographic, rainbow, colored pigments, clear, pearlescent, metallics and subtle tints just to name a few, in both matte and gloss finishes.


In terms of design considerations, foil stamping generally works best with larger text sizes than smaller, preventing areas of fill-in or plugging between characters. It is a good idea to be mindful of this when kerning and set the type for loosely and with more leading than normal.

Areas of large solids of foil or fine detail may require multiple passes, much like type, be sure to leave ample space. It is always a good rule of thumb to work with your printer early on to insure the design will produce the desired outcome.


Foil stamping works well on all types of papers, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Cotton papers tend to be more porous than other commercial printing papers, which can have an impact on the effect of the foil. Due to their tensile strength, some recycled papers may require more pressure and their fibrous nature may impact the longevity of the die. Paper color can impact the effect of the desired effect of the foil, especially when working with clear or translucent foil stamps. A good rule of thumb is to have your printer test the type of foil on samples of the paper specified beforehand.

Foil stamping is a great way to impart surface interest and add depth to any printed piece. Looking for a little foil stamp inspiration? Just ask one of our Design & Solution Centers for print samples.