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The basics of foil stamping

From: Print Production Essentials: Embossing, Foil Stamping, and Die Cutting

Video: The basics of foil stamping

There's more than one way to add shine to your printed project. One method is called cold foil. Now, cold foiling happens on press. An adhesive is applied to the paper, much like ink would be, and then the foil is adhered to that adhesive area and then it's cured with UV light. One of the beauties of cold foiling is that it can hold very fine details like small type or thin art components, even halftones. And it's capable of large area coverage. You can over print it, which means that your range of color is pretty much unlimited.

The basics of foil stamping

There's more than one way to add shine to your printed project. One method is called cold foil. Now, cold foiling happens on press. An adhesive is applied to the paper, much like ink would be, and then the foil is adhered to that adhesive area and then it's cured with UV light. One of the beauties of cold foiling is that it can hold very fine details like small type or thin art components, even halftones. And it's capable of large area coverage. You can over print it, which means that your range of color is pretty much unlimited.

So you can apply process colors you can even use pan tone colors on top of that cold foil. Because it happens on press, registration is not an issue. And you don't have to create any dyes for cold foils. So that means that you don't have that wait time for a dye to be created. There's no change to the stock texture, because there's no pressure used to apply cold foil. And that also means that there's no stock deformation. You don't have the warping that you might have with. Application of hot foil, that means that you can put cold foil closer to a fold or to the edge of a sheet and you don't have to worry about sustainability.

Cold foil is easily recycled, it uses standard techniques, it doesn't require any kind of special handling. Now cold foil isn't quite as highly reflective as hot foil. It's getting closer all the time. You can't apply it as part of embossing, but you can emboss it afterwards, so you can apply the cold foil on press and then perform that embossing afterward. For maximum metallic look, you want to use hot foil. You have a wide range of color choices, very high reflective.

Now, when you hear foil, you naturally think metallic. But there are other kinds of foils as well, that aren't metallic. Why would you want to use that? And they come in both gloss and matte. If you've ever tried to print white type on black stock, you know what a challenge that can be. Printing ink is not opaque. And so that means that you have to apply two passes of ink. And even then, it's not really going to completely cover that dark stock. But foils can do that. Foils are opaque, so if you want to print white or other light colors on top of dark stock, you might find that foil is really a better answer than printing ink. And then there are clear foils.

Now, why would you use a clear foil instead of what seems to be the same effect, a spot varnish? Well there are some neat effects that you can do with foil that you can't quite do with varnish. For example, sort of pearlize looks and iridescent looks that are possible with foils. And then of course there are the holographic and diffraction foils. They look like metal but then they have these rainbow effects. Very, very attractive, really catches the eye. Some things to think about when you're considering using hot foil. It can be applied over or under inks, you can use it in a piece that's going to be laminated, you can use it in a piece that has varnish involved and, of course, you can combine hot foil with embossing and this is sort of counterintuitive some times hot foil is actually less expensive than metallic ink.

And keep in mind that if you've used metallic ink, you know that it doesn't really look like metal, but hot foil can really look like metal. But you also have to keep in mind that there's some lead time involved because a die has to be created in order to apply hot foil. It's applied offline. It's not something that happens on press, and you have to make some considerations when it comes to stock choice. Smoother stock, as I think you would expect, gives you a shiner, more reflective result. If you're using textured stock, the heat and the pressure that's used to apply hot foil, is going to subdue that stock texture, so you're going to see some flattening.

That can actually be kind of neat, you can see that contrast between the texture of the stock and the smooth area of the hot foil. And you can actually use that to your advantage. You want to make sure that you're using the appropriate formulation of foil for the stock, but that's not really something you have to worry about that's a result of the collaboration between your printer and the company that's going to be actually doing the foil stamping. You don't have to worry about sustainability or recycling, there's no special handling that's required for dealing with a piece that has hot foil as part of the printing.

There's an interesting process called UV casting. What happens is that a mold is made with little tiny grooves in it and then a UV varnish is applied on press and that mold is sort of pressed into it. This happens on press in very similar to applying a spot varnish or any other kind of coating. But then there's a diffraction effect that appears on top of that area. It's just like a UV ink. It gets a UV cure. It can be combined with cold foil, although usually that doesn't happen on the same pass.

Now, it's not as brilliant as diffraction foils. But the fact that you can apply it inline on press is kind of a plus. An you can put it on top of ink, or cold foil, or hot foil. Now of course we're talking about, foil stamping and things that happen on top of a printed piece. But you might want to keep this in the back of your mind. There are also substrates that give you shine. one kind is something called transfer metallized substrates. If you want to get technical, what happens is that aluminum is vaporized an then it's vacuum deposited onto a carrier. That carriers glued to the substrate and cured.

And then that carrier film is removed. And it just leaves the metal behind. In a way, it's sort of like you've plated that piece of paper. And it comes in gold and silver, and some defraction and holographic finishes. One of the beauties of this approach is that it does not delaminate. It really does become part of that paper surface. You have to keep in mind that if you're going to print light colors, like skin tones or pastel tones. You're going to have to print opaque white ink before you print those colors. It's sustainable, it's easily recycled.

Again, it doesn't require any kind of special handling. Another approach is something called foil laminate substrates. And in this process, metallized film is laminated to the paper substrate. Good ink adhesion. You can overprint any ink on top of that. Process inks or spot inks. Very striking visual impact. And on top of that shiny substrate, you can emboss and foil stamp. So you can really get carried away. Again, because you're printing on that sort of metallic looking substrate, if you're going to print pastels or skin tones, you'll have to print an opaque white ink first.

Now, this is something you have to plan ahead. You have to obtain that stock ahead of time. It's not something that's usually in stock at a printing company. But again, don't worry, it's sustainable, easily recycled Doesn't require any kind of special handling. So when you think about all this, you can see that you have a wide variety of choices when it comes to adding some shine to your printed piece. You can even combine them for additional impact. I think the hard part is going to be making up you mind what you want to use.

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