The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

While I’m away on vacation I’m running a series of guest posts on the various printing processes, from digital printing to engraving.  I’ve asked some designers and printers to share their expertise and lots of photos to fill you in on what you need to know about different stationery printing methods.  Today we have Peter Hopkins from Crane & Co. talking about one of my very favorite specialty printing methods – printing with foils!  Take it away Peter!

What is Foil Stamping?

Foil stamping is a specialty printing process that uses heat, pressure, metal dies and foil film.  The foil comes in rolls in a wide assortment of colors, finishes, and optical effects.


The Printing Process

Foil stamping is somewhat similar to letterpress and engraving, in that the color is applied to paper with pressure.  As a result, the foil process leaves a slightly raised impression on the paper.


Crane-Stationery-Factory-Foil-Stamp-Printing-Process Crane-Stationery-Factory-Foil-Stamp-Printing-Process


{photos from my tour of Crane & Co. last September}

Once the design is finalized, metal dies are created in the appropriate shape for each color foil to be applied, and for embossing if a three-dimensional effect is desired – most commonly known as blind embossing.




The dies are heated and then stamped with enough pressure to seal a thin layer of foil to the paper.

Tips and Advice

As with any printing process, there are pros and cons.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re considering foil for your wedding invitations or personal stationery.


Foil is an opaque medium. Unlike thermography, lithography and letterpress, foil stamping does not use any ink.  As a result, the foil color does not change based on the color of paper on which you are printing.  This makes metallic or lighter color foil great for darker or colored papers.  Foil can be used for a variety of finishes, including metallic, matte, glossy, pearlescent and patterns such as marbling.  There are also semi-transparent tint foils, if you do want to allow the paper color to show through.

Crane-Stationery-Foil-Stamping-Ribbon-Die-Red-Foil Crane-Stationery-Foil-Stamping-Red-Stamped-Foil

Metallic foils have a shiny, lustrous finish. With thermography, lithography and letterpress, metallics can fall flat and don’t have much in the way of shimmer.


Because foil is applied by heat, it should not be applied near text or designs already applied by thermography.  The heat will melt the thermographic resins.

Thanks Peter!  To see more of the foiling process, check out the awesome video below that Peter took at the Crane & Co. production facility!

Photo Credits: Peter Hopkins for Crane & Co., except where noted

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