Foil stamping: everything you need to know about the process (2023)

What is foil stamping?

Foil stamping is the application of metallic print and foil to materials such as plastics, paper, and cardboard using heat and pressure.

It can be used to create a variety of textures such as metallic, matte, glossy and holographic textures on the media.

This printing process differs from stampingTampondruckorscreen printing, and is ideal for printed products with dark surfaces as it does not use ink and is therefore unaffected by the color or texture of the medium.

This printing process, foil stamping, has been around since the 19th century and has been used to produce products such as Christmas cards, baby announcements, scratch-off foils, wedding invitation ideas, save-the-date cards, business cards, presentation folders, book covers, etc.

How does hot foil stamping work?

Foil stamping is a specialized printing process that uses heat, pressure, and metal foils to create shiny, metal-like designs, text, and graphics in a variety of colors and textures.

It is also known as hot stamping or hot foil stamping because the process depends largely on the heat used to transfer the images from the hot stamping die to a selected surface.

"Dry embossing" or "dry foil stamping" is another term for foil stamping. This is because the technique does not use any kind of liquid ink for printing. Instead, dies and carved metal plates are used for the stamping process.

Foil stamping uses a special multi-layer foil. Typically, the different types of layers in the film are:

  • A backing layer made of polyester,
  • a separating layer,
  • coats of paint,
  • the image bones,
  • metal layers (gold leaf or gold leaf or silver leaf or foil paint) and
  • An outer adhesive layer

In hot foiling, heat and pressure are applied to the foil, which is pressed against the media, which is supported by a platen or cylinder.

This heat and pressure activates the adhesive layer in the gold or silver foil, melting the release liner and bonding the machine's hot foil to the media.

The machine used for this hot foil stamping process is called hot foil stamping machine / hot foil stamping machine. It could either be an independent, stand-alone machine, or it could be connected to a printer or other such equipment.

The dies used in the hot foil stamping machine are usually made of brass, which is etched or engraved manually or by other systems.

What are the applications of foil stamping?

Hot foil stamping or hot stamping is used for the decoration of a variety of products. It is also used as an anti-counterfeiting method.

It is often used in the finishing of packaging products such as food, medicines, beverages and high-quality luxury products. Foil stamping is also used on banknotes, artworks, greeting cards, wedding invitations, book covers, paper materials, etc.

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From simple business cards to brochures, invitation cards or regular business stationery (reports, envelopes, cards, etc.), foil stamping techniques are widely used and appreciated.

Foil stamping is also used in the packaging sector. From stickers, labels or scratch and prize tags, foil stamping is a quick and easy way to add a luxurious factor and an eye-catching effect.

What are the Different Types of Hot Foil Stamping Machines and How Do They Work?

There are commonly three different types of hot foil stamping machines depending on the type of operation.

These are:

  • Flach-flach
  • Round-flat and
  • all around

Flat-Flat Foil Stamping Machines:

The foil stamps are either mounted on a honeycomb plate for variable positioning or on a flat metal plate when positions are fixed. The medium and the film are inserted between the plate and a counter plate fastened underneath.

With embossed foiling, the bottom panel consists of protrusions to form the embossing pattern when the panels are pressed together.

The main advantage of flat foil stamping is that it is easy to set up and the tools and parts to do it are readily available in the market.

Round-flat foil stamping machines:

Round-to-flat foil stamping machines have a rotating cylinder instead of the stationary flat backing plate that is present in the flat-to-flat foil stamping machine.

The foil is pressed against the medium by horizontal pressure from the rotating cylinder and the foil design is transferred to it.

The advantage of this type of foil stamping machines is that they are a perfect solution for smaller orders with few pieces.

Round-round foil stamping machines:

These machines work on a similar principle as printing presses. Both sides of the machine have rotating cylinders that rotate in opposite directions. Both the foil and the medium are brought together between the two cylinders and the cylinders are pressed together under pressure.

This type of foil stamping machine can rotate at very high speeds and can be used for very intricate designs. It is perfect for creating highly complex foiling effects on the medium.

What are the two types of foil stamping methods?

The two main types of hot foil stamping processes used today are the traditional hot stamping process and the digital foil printing process.

Conventional hot foil stamping:

In the traditional foiling process, the design to be embossed is first engraved or etched into a metal plate (known as foil stamping or stamping).

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Heat and pressure in the foil press then transfers the design from the die to the printing surface (the surface that needs to be foiled).

If more than one colored design needs to be foiled, separate metal dies need to be prepared for each colour. The stamps are then individually applied to the media to create the final result.

Embossed designs require the preparation of a special effect foil stamp that can create this type of effect on the media.

Digital hot foil stamping:

A digital hot foil press is similar in appearance to a conventional hot foil press. However, the difference between them lies in the way the foil is attached to the surface of the medium.

With digital foil stamping, the graphic design is digitally printed onto the media using a special foil that adheres to the media. With this process, there are no stamps that are made separately.

Digital foiling is very similar to traditional ink printing processes. Multiple passes through the machine are not required if more than one color or design needs to be wrapped.

Types of foils used in the foil stamping process

To achieve different types of finishes and designs,various types of customized film materialsare used.

Some commercial foil materials used in the foil stamping process are

  1. metallic foils,
  2. pigmented foils,
  3. pearlescent foils,
  4. Special design foils, etc
  5. scratch foils

1. Metallic Foils:

These are the most common types of foil used in the foil stamping process. They add a classic metallic finish to the design and usually come in gold and silver colors, although other colors are also used.

2. Pigmented Foils:

Pigmented foils create a matte or gloss non-metallic finish on the design. They are very versatile and can be used on a variety of media materials from paper to plastic. They can be any color you want.

3. Pearlescent Foils:

Pearlescent foils give the design a beautiful pearlescent sheen. They are mainly used on greeting cards and wedding invitations and are available in both transparent and translucent versions.

4. Special design foils:

These foils are of many different types (such as holographic foils) and are used to create a wide variety of patterns on the medium. You can create special effects such as holograms, stripes, sparkles, and other patterns for custom printing.

Of particular importance are holographic foils that have a three-dimensional or rainbow-colored design. They are used to prevent counterfeiting in the production of banknotes, ID cards, credit cards and other high-security items.

5. Scratch Foils:

These films are designed to be easily scratched off with a coin or fingernail. They are mainly used for items like lottery tickets and phone top-up cards.

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The foil print on the paper or card is not permanent and can be easily scratched off. Because of this, they are perfect as a temporary cover forhighly sensitive information.

foiling is dying

Depending on the pattern and color/foil types to be used, a foil die is prepared for each design.

There are three different metals used to make foil stamps depending on cost and application.

1. Magnesium dies:

They are usually made of magnesium, a cheap and soft metal that can be easily machined into various patterns. They are lightweight, take less time to etch, and heat up very quickly.

However, they don't last very long and get damaged after a few thousand trips on the wrapping machine.

2. Copper dies:

Copper matrices are more expensive than magnesium matrices. They take longer to etch and are heavier.

They are more durable than magnesium dies and can produce quality designs that last longer.

3. Brass dies:

These are the most expensive and undoubtedly the most stable of all three metals. They are sturdy and will last many runs. They are usually made by CNC systems, which basically use different sized drill bits to etch the designs onto the die.

The matrices are prepared using a process called acid etching. Each cube can be reused several times and stored when not in use.

4. Other types of foil stamps:

Besides the dies mentioned above, there are also dies made of steel and dies made of rubber. These types of matrices are created for specific purposes.

There are three other types of dice you need to know about:

  • Single stage die:

A single level die is usually referred to simply as a foiling die and is the most common die used in foiling. The die has one surface that is smooth and the other surface that embosses the foil.

  • Patterned die:

This cube has a textured foiling surface.

  • Combination Matrix:

This die allows you to foil and emboss a design in a single pass.

(Video) Everything You Need to Start Foil Stamping Pencils!

Advantages of foil stamping

Wondering what makes foil stamping so unique and in demand in the printing industry?

Foil printing offers a wide range of prints, colors, textures and finishes. While gold and silver were the most commonly used colors, various other metallic colors and effects are used to replicate the appearance of metals.

How does foil printing actually benefit printing projects?

Below are some key differences that the technique adds to a normal print job:

Stands out from the competition:

Foil printing (hot stamping) gives the prints a more visually appealing appearance. Using this technique for your products is an easy way to grab the consumer's attention and drive more sales.

Almost all well-known brands use foil stamping as part of their product packaging design. It is usually associated with superior quality and a luxurious feel.


Foil stamping offers the opportunity to add a range of metallic, eye-catching colors to your product packaging designs. The availability of a wide range of shiny metallic colors makes it possible to create unique designs that can be associated with a product.

Multiple high-quality options are available to create personalized designs that match your brand name.

Options for different types of finishes such as painting etc. are also available.

Other advantages of hot foil stamping are:

  • Photogenic resolution
  • Large selection of metallic colors, tones
  • durability
  • Moisture and chemical resistant
  • dry process
  • sustainability

Last words:

There is something unique about foil stamping that means glamour. It's hard not to be drawn to the glitz and glamor in the world of print.

(Video) Hot Stamp Foil Process - Packaging

The article covers the important aspects of foil stamping, the different steps, components, benefits and applications in everyday life.

We hope we've made the process easy for you to understand. Contact Unipipes Malaysia for more information on how to use foiling in your projects!


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