Design Options

There are more metallic design options than ever due to continual industry innovations that meet market demands for impact, speed, efficiency and sustainability. There are many realms of reflectivity in metallic products and degrees of dazzle offered by holographics. Regardless of budget, timeline or brand strategy, your project can shine.

The following information provides aesthetic, protective, production and security comparisons for your various options. These options can be used independently or combined and layered for a boundless array of creative possibilities. High-end applications in particular are increasingly combining several different decorative print finishes on a single sheet.


Hot foil stamping and cold foiling are applied to add a reflective quality to a surface. They can be used alone or in conjunction with inks and with one another. While hot foil stamping is most often applied pre- or post-press, cold foil is typically applied inline with printing. Hot foils are available in various colors, diffraction patterns and finishes, while cold foils tend to be silver.


Foil laminate substrates (laminations) and transfer metallized substrates have a reflective surface, which is typically silver or a diffraction pattern. With these printable products, the metallic surface can be maintained overall or can be muted selectively with inks for aesthetic effect.


Films can be used to apply decorative effects on press, in the case of UV film casting which gives a reflective and/or holographic quality to printed work. Films also can be laminated onto a thicker substrate for a metallic / holographic surface and the additional benefits of durability and some barrier properties.

Aesthetic Considerations


From a discretely luxurious accent to a fully reflective or holographic surface, there are numerous ways to achieve varying degrees of coverage.

Spot applications are possible with Hot Foil Stamping, Cold Foil Transfer, and UV Film Casting.

Full coverage and heavy coverage is usually acomplished with Foil Laminate Substrates, Transfer Metallized Substrates or Cold Foils. UV Film Casting can be an additonal overall effect.

Degrees of Brilliance:

Cold Foiling can be very reflective, but no mirror-like finish.

Transfer metallized substrates can be highly reflective, though not quite mirror-like.

Foil laminate substrates are both highly reflective and mirror-like.

Hot Foils are both highly reflective and mirror-like.

Finishes, Patterns & Colors

Foils and substrates come in a variety of finishes, colors, patterns and levels of sheen, offering a range of potential brand implications. Any can be customized for further differentiation.

Metallics are the most popular choice of foils due to superior opacity and reflectivity. For hot foils, metallics come in a wide variety of colors and finishes.

Clear foil imparts an effect similar to a thick varnish and is also available in diffraction patterns.

Holographic (Diffraction) products change color as they diffract light across the color spectrum in various patterns that create the illusion of a third dimension.


Colors: Hot foils can be formulated in custom colors.

Diffraction Patterns: Hot foils, films and substrates can be customized with diffraction patterns for branding or aesthetic enhancement.

Holographic Images: Films and substrates can be customized with holographic imagery that enhances or even registers to printing.

Custom Origination

“Custom origination” is the process of creating one-of-a-kind holographic treatments. Holographic specialists can work with your provided design to integrate holography. The result of this process is a light-diffracting surface that registers to your artwork, imbuing it with striking and impactful dimensionality. This unique and unified look for package design is not possible with stock patterns. Added to branding potential is the possibility of including anti-counterfeit and security features to packaging. So, instead of using ‘off the shelf’ wallpaper patterns, active collaboration between packaging designers and holograph designers can open a new world of profitable possibilities.
Now that there are simple, quick and accurate ways to proof decorative substrates, there will be a growing trend towards customized decorative substrates, particularly the previously difficult-to-proof composite substrates.
Proofing custom holography: Holographic originations with opaque white and ink overlays give a reasonably accurate representation of finished product. After approval of the artwork process, films are generally available in three weeks for stock patterns, to five weeks for new designs.

Cost & Turnaround

For quick-turnaround projects, cold foils and UV Film casting are increasingly popular because they require no up-front tooling and can be applied on press. Used together, they can roughly simulate the look of holographic metallized substrate. The availability of these options has broadened the market for metallic and holographic options in categories like POP and retail packaging.

For high-end products, hot foils and metallic substrates still are the top choice for characteristics like performance, compatibility, brilliant reflectivity, dimensionality, and robustness.

Custom origination is growing in popularity due to increased efficiencies with direct-to-plate technology and quick proofing methods. Once thought to be cost prohibitive and time intensive, this process is a growing trend with its proven value in brand differentiation and protection.

Brand Protection


Foil products are often used to ensure the authenticity of brands and to help thwart product counterfeiting and piracy. Holographic effects are used both in packaging and on-product as a method of ensuring authenticity because they are difficult to duplicate, and can support embedded messaging, some of which can be read only by specialty readers. Holographic foils are used as a security feature in numerous product applications. These include protective seals on products to indicate product tampering and ensure authenticity, as well as holographic and magnetic threads in currency to combat counterfeiting.

Barrier Properties

Foil Laminate Substrates and Films can offer the added benefit of barrier protection against moisture, temperature, vapors and handling. Many are available in formulations that are safe for food and pharmaceutical use.