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What is better – Metallic or Foil Printing?

By February 22, 2023News

If you’re looking to have a metallic element on printed materials, then no doubt you’ve looked at both metallic ink and foil printing. There are some clear benefits to including some kind of metallic feature on items like business cards, for example, as they tend to catch the eye, are more likely to be picked up and less likely to be quickly thrown away because they don’t have much aesthetic value. But when it comes to creating your metallic design is it better to opt for foil printing or metallic ink?

How does metallic ink work?

The ink used is infused with small particles of metals like aluminium, copper and gold. Once the ink is dry, the metallic particles in it start to reflect the light and it’s this that creates the metallic appearance. Once the metallic ink has been applied then, a laminate or varnish goes on top to stop it from cracking over time. Metallic inks are a spot colour, which means they can be run on the same print press as CMYK colours.

How does foil stamping work?

If you’re going to opt for foil stamping then this is a slightly different process. Foil is applied to your material of choice – such as paper or card – with the application of heat and pressure via a foil stamping machine. Foil sheets are used to create the final outcome in foil printing and there are a broad spectrum of different options available when it comes to the metallic colours, from gold and silver through to bronze and other coloured metallics.

What’s better: metallic ink or foil printing?

The answer to this is going to depend on the design that you have and what your priorities are so we have broken this down into four key categories:

  1. Shininess. If you’re looking for a very reflective, shiny and eye-catching finish then it’s hard to beat foil printing. Because the foil sits on the surface of the paper, card etc it’s not affected by the texture underneath and you can use it with many different colours, even dark shades like black. Metallic inks tend to be more subtle and you may need multiple layers to see the shine, depending on what’s underneath.
  2. Durability. Metallic inks contain metal and that tends to react to the environment around it. Foil is a much more durable substance, which means that it’s going to be a lot more long-lasting.
  3. Available colours. In theory, metallic inks provide access to the broadest spectrum of colours because they can be mixed at will and foils cannot. However, when it comes to impact and vibrancy of colours, foils win every time.
  4. Cost. There is no doubt that metallic ink costs less simply because there is no separate machine required and designs can be printed quickly. However, if the end result is less than impressive is it a saving worth making?

When it comes to metallic ink or foil printing, it’s foil that has more benefits.