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Hot Foiling: A designer’s guide

By October 20, 2021News

If you’re a designer then you may have noticed how much attention hot foiling is getting right now, and how many businesses are keen to include it in their branding and designs. Perhaps you can see all the benefits of working with this aesthetically appealing technique but you’ve never quite felt confident about doing so. Whether you’re used to designing for offset litho or digital print, or you just don’t quite see how hot foiling functions, this guide will help you understand how, and where hot foiling can work for you.

Impression-based printing

If you’ve worked with embossing and debossing before then you already understand the basics of hot foiling, as they are all types of impression-based printing and use a die to create the final design. The die is basically crafted as a mirror image of whatever you want to end up on the final surface, whether that’s a logo, wording or an image. When it is applied with a certain amount of pressure to wood, paper, leather, card etc it will produce a perfect replication. Hot foiling heats the die to around 100 degrees and before the die is applied to the surface a piece of foil is placed in between. When the die is applied to the surface it will create the image in a 3D textural version via the foil.

How to approach hot foiling?

  • Be creative. Hot foiling can create great designs in gold or silver but there are also many more options out there, including coloured foils. You can even use foils with holograms embedded in them or just a clear film that makes the foiled area look extra glossy.
  • A manual process isn’t going to be precise to the millimetre. For many people it’s this authenticity that makes hot foiling really appealing – each design is basically unique. If you’re working with flat surfaces, such as business cards or letterhead then it will always be easier to line everything up so that most items look identical. However, the position isn’t guaranteed and, especially if you’re working with a more adventurous material, it’s worth remembering that the hot foiling finish may not be in exactly the same position every time.
  • The best designs for hot foiling are simple and bold. Overly complex images can lose their impact but if you’re working with a design that is simple and designed to grab attention then hot foiling is a great way to ensure that this happens.
  • Finer details can still be hot foiled. Although there are some limits, for example, if you’re using a face like Times New Roman you’ll need at least 10pt minimum type. Light and superlight typefaces may not work that well where hot foiling is concerned and it’s best to avoid specifying very fine line weights.

For designers, hot foiling offers the opportunity to set creativity free and create some incredible finishes that are really distinctive. It’s a process that is well worth familiarising yourself with so that you can use it in your work.