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’re talking about one of my very favorite specialty printing methods – foil stamping!

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Elegant Gold Foil Wedding Invitations by Paper Bloom / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Invitations by Paper Bloom

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. Metallic foil is most commonly seen today – particularly gold foil, silver foil, copper foil, and holographic metallic foils – but foil rolls are also available in solid colors in both glossy and matte finishes.

Early foil stamping was done using hand-set lettering or custom engraved dies. Because foil stamping was so labor intensive, early foil stamping was primarily restricted to book covers and literary titles. To print gold text on a book cover, printers used separate fonts of lead or brass type, with text assembled by hand, one letter at a time, or a custom engraved die with a single image. Once the text or die was assembled, it was loaded into a press, which then pressed thin sheets of metallic foil into a book cover or other material.

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Gold Foil Baby Announcements by Lauren Chism / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Baby Announcements by Lauren Chism

The development of modern hot foil stamping took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ernst Oeser, a master bookbinder in Berlin, is credited as a pioneer in the development of hot-stamping foils as early as 1880. In the 1930s, an English foil manufacturer, George M. Whiley, introduced atomized gold on thin sheets of polyester film. Hot foil stamping using these rolls of gold foil increased in popularity in the 1950s through the late 1960s.

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Gold Foil Art Deco Wedding Invitations by 4th Year Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Wedding Invitations by 4th Year Studio

The Printing Process

Foil stamping is somewhat similar to letterpress and engraving, in that the color is applied to paper with pressure. Once the design is finalized, metal dies are created in the appropriate shape for each individual color foil to be applied for a particular design. The dies are heated and then stamped with enough pressure to seal a thin layer of foil to the paper, and each color is applied individually through multiple runs of the press to create the final design. A final die may also be created if an embossed (raised) image or effect is desired for the design.

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Thimblepress Gold Foil Embossed Cheers Card / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Cheers! Thimblepress Gold Foil Embossed Greeting Card





Photos from my tour of Crane & Co. in September 2011

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.

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Gold Foil Calligraphy Wedding Invitations by Lauren Chism / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Wedding Invitations by Lauren Chism


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, holographic, and patterns such as marbling. There are also semi-transparent tint foils, if you do want to allow the paper color to show through.

Metallic foils have a shiny, lustrous finish with a big visual impact. With thermography, lithography, and letterpress, metallics can fall flat and aren’t very shiny.

The Printing Process: Foil Stamping / Gold Foil Hand Lettered Wedding Invitations by Ladyfingers Letterpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Wedding Invitations by Ladyfingers Letterpress


Like letterpress, foil stamping is a labor-intensive printing method that requires multiple runs through the press to achieve multi-color designs. As a result, foil stamping can be expensive.

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.

To see more of the foiling process, check out the video below of some foil stamping in action from the Crane & Co. production facility!


Kathryn + Ryan’s Timeless Winter Wedding Invitations

You guys, if there’s anyone out there that loves paper as much as I do, it’s Kathryn from Snippet & Ink.  I’ve been poring over each and every detail from Kathryn and Ryan’s winter wedding (you can see the full series right here) and I’m honored that Kathryn decided to share the inspiration behind her gorgeous wedding invitations here today!  Kathryn partnered with Jill from PS Paper to create wedding invitations that truly represent her personal style – elegant, timeless, and totally stunning.

Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitations Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitations

From Kathryn: Our save the date design was a collaboration between me and Jill Sassa at PS Paper – I liked the idea of a vintage San Francisco postcard, so that was what we started with.  We used two vintage postcards for the save the dates, one of the Golden Gate Bridge for a note to our guests and one of a cable car for hotel and travel information.


Jill added the tiniest bit of glitter to the postcards, tied them together with bakers twine, finished them off with a little tag, and then mailed them in a glassine envelope with a wrap-around address label.

Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitations Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitation

For the invitation suite, I wanted something that was both elegant and playful.  After collecting inspiration and discussing the design with Jill and Laurie Arons (my planner), I played around in Photoshop with different fonts, motifs, colors until I got very close to the look that I wanted.


The final design, brought to life by Jill and letterpress artist Alan Hillesheim, used gray and red ink on thick 100% cotton paper from Crane’s in pearl white.  In addition to the red and gray letterpress, we incorporated a blind press wreath in each piece of the suite.

Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitations-Reception-Card Classic-Elegant-Red-White-Gray-Letterpress-Wedding-Invitations-Envelope

Red hand-painted edges on the invitations and envelope flaps were a simple touch that added a pop of color.  We wanted guests to receive something that they’d be excited to open, which I think we accomplished by using Betsy Dunlap‘s calligraphy and vintage stamps from The Paper Nickel.  Other playful details: on the invitations, our first names were the only thing printed in red; our reception cards were coasters, hinting at the supper club feel of our venue; and the RSVP cards gave guests room for personal responses (my favorite response was from my teenage cousin who wrote in gigantic capital letters: I WILL BE THERE. THAT’S A PROMISE.).


Can I just say how much I’m in love with this red, gray, and white color palette?  So perfect for a winter wedding – sophisticated and festive without being overly Christmas-y.  In addition to stunning wedding invitations and save the dates, Kathryn had some of the most adorable paper details at her wedding – from beautiful glittery menus to playful calligraphy button escort cards:

Winter-Wedding-Details-Silver-Wreath-Menu Winter-Wedding-Details-Menus-Napkins

Winter-Wedding-Details-Calligraphy-Button-Escort-Cards Winter-Wedding-Details-Red-Calligraphy-Button-Escort-Cards

Thank you Kathryn!  You can read more about Kathryn’s invitations (and the printing process) here and here, and see all of the amazing images and details from Kathryn’s wedding right here.

Invitations and Save the Dates: PS Paper

Wedding Invitation Calligraphy: Betsy Dunlap

Vintage Stamps: The Paper Nickel

Letterpress Printing: Alan Hillesheim

Escort Card Calligraphy: Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Messina, with the exception of the save the date photo by PS Paper

p.s. If you haven’t seen Kathryn’s wedding video… it’s the most beautiful wedding video I’ve ever seen and I dare you not to tear up while you watch it.  Go. Now.

{happy weekend!}

Happy Friday everyone!  It’s been a wet and rainy early spring week here in DC, but I’ve been taking advantage of the gloomy weather to get things done around the house and behind the scenes.  I love the sense of accomplishment and relief that comes from checking off an item that has sat on my to-do list for nearly a year (I’m also have awesome procrastination skills).  My plans for the weekend involve finishing this book in time for a book club meeting on Monday and taking my mom out to a movie – what are you all up to this weekend?  As always, in the meantime…

{the world’s most adorable cake from herriott grace}

…a few links for your weekend:

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

That’s it for me this week!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!  xoxo

Crane & Co. Wedding Album Launch Party

Last week I attended a party celebrating the launch of Crane & Co.‘s newest wedding invitation album.  I got a sneak peek at some of the album designs during my tour last September (which you can see here, here, here, and here), so I was really excited to see the designs in their final, printed form.  The Crane & Co. design team has worked on some cool new designs, including some more modern pieces alongside Crane’s more traditional and refined invitations.  Here are a few photos of the new collection that I took at the party:





{the envelope liner above is a gorgeous and vivid yellow in person – so pretty!}


{this invitation suite features modern san-serif engraved text – quite a departure from Crane’s traditional look}



{it’s hard to see in the photo, but this invitation has beautiful silver edge painting!}


You can check out a few more photos from the party on the Crane & Co. facebook page.  There’s a lot more where this came from, so if you’d like to see the album in person, you can find a list of Crane & Co. retailers right here!

{all photos by Oh So Beautiful Paper}

Happy New Year!

Happy 2011 everyone!  It was so nice to take a little break and unplug last week, but I’m slowly easing back into my routine.  I still haven’t really wrapped my head around 2011 yet, have you?  2010 was such a whirlwind and full of transition from start to finish.  I met some of my favorite bloggers (and make new friends) at Alt, moved to a new apartment that feels more like home, and lost my grandmother – all within the first month of 2010.  A winter storm left us with more than 2 feet of snow and kept us housebound for nearly a full week.  A bit later in the year I quit my day job (yay!), started a second blog, and then the months started to fly by even faster.  There are more big changes in store for 2011, but I’m optimistic about the challenges to come.

I’ll be back with some beautiful wedding invitations just a bit later.  But since I didn’t do my usual weekly round-up last week, I thought I’d do a quick round-up to start off the week:

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and New Year!

{image via mary ruffle}