Using Hot Foils

Luxurious Brilliance:

Hot foil stamping is the process of applying foil using a heated die. The metal die strikes heat-sensitive foil, pressing it into the substrate, thereby leaving foil only in the area of die contact and binding it to the substrate. Hot stamping produces crisp, durable impressions and provides the highest quality finished product with a subtle hint of dimensionality due to the pressure and heat involved. Because hot foil and foil laminates are vacuum metallized, they offer a level of shine and brilliance that other products cannot. Hot foils offer a high degree of environmental sustainability while also delivering unrivaled reflectivity. The distinctive, recognizable quality of hot foils is frequently leveraged in certain categories to communicate authenticity, tradition, and trustworthiness. Available in brilliant silver, gold, stock diffraction patterns and custom holographic designs.

Combination Hot Stamping 

Combination Stamping



Hot foils come in a variety of finishes, colors, patterns and levels of sheen:

  • Metallics are the most popular choice due to superior opacity and reflectivity. Metallics come in a wide variety of colors and are available in a variety of finishes.
  • Pigment foils provide deep, solid colors and can be flat or gloss in finish. Flat pigment foils provide a similar effect to that of a thick layer of opaque ink, while gloss pigment foils have more sheen, somewhat like enamel paint.
  • Clear foil imparts an effect similar to a thick varnish.
  • Diffraction (holographic) products change color as they diffract light across the color spectrum in various patterns that create the illusion of a third dimension.

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  • Available in many formulations to handle most production challenges
  • Opacity of metallic foils in particular provides excellent coverage
  • Technological innovations such as inline application of hot foil on a gearless flexography press continue to expand usage possibilities

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  • Ability to emboss affords a luxurious array of decorative opportunities
  • Can be applied in a myriad of ways, on almost any substrate
  • Can be used with various levels of detail and coverage
  • Comes in a wide range of colors

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  • Premium quality perception associated with the recognizable look of flat stamping
  • Tactile appeal and high gloss finish for increased visibility and differentiation
  • No need to sacrifice sustainability for shine—hot foil stamped papers and paperboards are brilliant and biodegradable and can be recycled using conventional techniques.

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  • Foil brand plays a key role in performance and quality. Dependent on brand, the following issues may come into play:
  • The hot-stamping process uses metal dies, which may require more time and cost than alternative methods of metallic decoration.
  • The superior reflectivity of hot foils and the variables of opacity, substrate choice and unpredictable lighting environments can affect color perceptions.
  • For the critical color matching required by certain brands, partnering with a foil manufacturer for custom color formulations is possible. ITW Foils is a leader in creating formulations that remain true on a variety of substrates.
  • Many hot foils enable overprinting, however it is wise to specify to the finisher if overprinting is needed. This will ensure that a suitable foil is deployed.
  • Hot stamps are also possible on and under UV varnishes. As with all special uses, substrate, varnish, printing ink and hot stamp type should be defined.

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  • To maximize the possibilities of hot foils, they can be combined with decorative substrates, overprinting, embossing, micro embossing, varnishing and lamination.
  • A gloss laminate over a gloss foil maximizes shine while simultaneously protecting the sheet.
  • Alternatively, gloss foil over a matte laminate produces an intriguing contrast and can be stunning, especially with the addition of embossing.
  • Transparent or colored foils can be used as alternatives to spot varnishing or laminating. This is especially useful on uncoated substrates when varnish is not particularly effective.
  • The effect can be further enhanced with semi-transparent holographic patterns.
  • Heavy coverage of hot foil can mimic a metallic laminate substrate while affording the possibility of “knocked-out” white areas ideal for overprinting.
  • Foil stamping can be overprinted prior to varnishing, laminating and/or embossing.
  • Foil stamping can be micro-embossed with safety features, textures and even complex images.
  • For more planning and production advice, order "Designed to Shine" A Comprehensive Guide to Using Metallic Effects.


  • With any metallic option, there are alternatives that may be considered. For example, the following options may be used as substitutes for foil stamping, depending on your design objectives, budget and schedule.
  • When complete coverage is desired, a metallic substrate such as foil laminate paper or paperboard may be a good choice. See page XX.
  • For high volume projects such as packaging, cold foil transfer can be applied directly on a printing press. Generally cold foil is not offered in such a wide range as hot foils, and normally the finish quality is not as brilliant as hot foil. It is also not yet possible to emboss or apply significant structure to cold foil.
  • Metallic inks may be used to roughly mimic the affect of foil stamping, however foil stamping is more brilliant and often environmentally preferable.
  • Metallic foils require significantly less energy to produce than metallic inks. In addition, stamping is a dry process, while metallic inks require water wash-up on press.
  • Other alternatives exist, such as “liquid metal”—a contour varnish, which can be applied as a rough screen or as a solid spot. This niche application is mostly promoted for its ability to be applied as a screen raster varnish and is not typically considered a substitute for foil stamping.