Using Cold Foils

Fast and Sustainable:

Cold Foiling is a fast, cost-effective inline process that works in conjunction with most printing techniques, mimicking the effect of hot foil stamping. Cold Foil is applied to a UV-curable adhesive image using a standard printing plate. The foil, usually silver, is affixed to the printed adhesive, creating an image prior to the application of printing inks. When applied inline, a major benefit is that the registration between the applied foil and the overprinted inks and varnish is press perfect. Generally silver, but also comes in a limited pallette of gold, stock diffraction patterns and custom holographic designs.

How it works

Printer/Converter Benefits

  • Fast on-press application at normal press speeds
  • Quick turnaround and fast setup with no up-front tooling or dies
  • Efficient for both short and long print runs
  • Registration control with inline application
  • No special operator training necessary
  • Minimal investment for new market entry—existing presses can be retrofitted with cold foil transfer modules
  • Increased economies with "Foil Save" features available with certain equipment
  • Outstanding post-press flatness—process does not deform the substrate
  • No need for numerous foil SKUs—any color can be simulated by overprinting silver cold foil

Designer Benefits

  • Infinite spectrum of color possibilities by registering foil to overprinting
  • Increased availability as more print vendors begin to offer cold foil transfer
  • Viability for a broader array of applications due to budget and schedule efficiencies
  • Retain the texture of substrates, as cold foil transfer requires little pressure
  • Flexibility to produce large, solid areas of foil with fine detail, in addition to half tones, small fonts and knockouts.
  • Professional differentiation with the ability to provide cost-efficient value-added print
  • Full Coverage, Fine Details, Halftones, Heavy Coverage

Brand Owner Benefits

  • Cost saving and faster speed-to-market—no metal dies, post-press foil application or outsourcing
  • Expanded sales and marketing opportunities —any run length possible
  • Increased security possibilities—cold foil enables readability of EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) tags
  • No need to sacrifice sustainability for shine—cold foil transferred products are biodegradable and can be recycled using conventional techniques.

Production considerations

Foil brand plays a key role in performance and quality. Dependent on brand, the following issues may come into play:

  • Cold foil is not receptive to embossing due to surface sensitivity.
  • For fine detail, issues such as vignetting, lay-down and fill-in may require testing.
  • Using foiled halftones or screens can be challenging. For best results, a coarse screen such as 60 dpi should generally be chosen. Consult your print vendor for guidance.
  • When overprinting foiled halftones, avoid moiré effects by choosing a different line screen for overprinting. Stochastic printing is also a solution.
  • Dark cold foils and very dark substrates can be problematic, as they absorb the UV energy that is a critical part of the transfer process.
  • Variables such as drying time, suitability for overprinting and surface sensitivity can sometimes present printing challenges.
  • Due to the sensitivity of cold-foiled surfaces, and dependent on finished use, final varnishing may be recommended.
  • Cold foil does not flatten the texture of a substrate.
  • Uncoated or porous stocks are not generally recommended for use with cold foil transfer, due to the high absorption rate of the adhesive used in the transfer process. Smooth substrates work best, providing better light reflection.

Design Tips

  • Cold foiling is a great partner to UV casting for an efficient metallic holographic effect.
  • Experimenting with variations in ink opacities and cold foil screen values can offer highly variable metallic effects and gloss levels.
  • Overprinting holographic patterned cold foil offers interesting possibilities.
  • Cold foil can be hot-foil stamped for added depth. For example, the extreme shine of hot foil stamping can be used atop a cold-foiled surface of the same color for elegant monochromatic contrast. Embossing the hot foil adds even more impact.
  • Cold foil can be used to produce an overall metallic finish similar to laminate substrates, although not as brilliant or robust. A benefit of cold foils is that whites are easy to obtain, simply by "knocking out" cold foil.

For more planning and production advice, consult the "Planning Checklists" on page 30.

Hot or cold?

Cold foil is not a replacement for hot foil but instead an opportunity to expand the use of foil into more markets and applications. While hot foil is stamped into a surface using heat and pressure, cold foil is transferred onto a surface as a flat application. This differentiation results in different characteristics and performance attributes. Following are some considerations that may help you decide which way to go:

  • Small accents: Foil is indexed in the hot foil process, so if the foiled image is positioned only on a small area of a sheet, hot foil stamping may be more cost effective.
  • Porous stocks: The cold foil process is not as effective on dry, porous stocks. On these, hot stamping process far excels in performance and brightness.
  • Combination stamping and embossing: The cold foil process is a flat application only and cannot be embossed.
  • The brilliance achieved through the hot foil stamping process is like none other.
  • Certain applications demand the recognizable premium look and feel of hot foil. Some applications could employ either hot or cold. But there is a vast new area, previously inaccessible to foils that will benefit from the versatility and efficiency of cold foil.