Foil blocking: add a new dimension to your printing

Foil blocking

Foiled & die-cut greetings cardIf you’re looking to add an extra visual dimension to your design and printing then you would do well to consider foil blocking. As the name suggests the result is an area of printing which has literally metallic or even mirror-like qualities – whether used for a logo, border, decoration or other image. With foil blocking, the amount of reflection achieved is far greater than standard Pantone ‘liquid’ metallic inks which, although attractive and metallic to a degree, are rather more subdued and far less like highly reflective metal in comparison.

So how is foil blocking accomplished?

Foiling dieFoil blocking is traditionally accomplished by using a hot metal ‘die’, which carries the required design in relief. This is used to force a sheet of wafer-thin metal foil against the paper surface which is to carry the final design. By applying the die under high pressure and heat, the wafer-thin foil adheres only to those parts of the paper or card which come into contact with the raised relief on the hot die. Resulting areas which show the ‘printed’ foil are slightly indented (debossed) due to the pressure exerted on them. This slight debossing can also add a subtle extra dimension (literally) to the printed piece and is particularly effective when the foil blocking is used on textured card, for example a posh ‘Report & Accounts’ or high specification corporate brochure. Not only does the foiling process deboss the textured cover, but it also flattens the texture in the parts which are foiled. So the result is a mixture of textured and flat surfaces along with a beautifully accomplished logo or design made out of metal foil. Being debossed, the foiled areas glint in the light more readily for a jewel-like quality, as you can see in the photographs above.Holographic foil blocking

Foil finishes

Foil options include high gloss mirror finish, satin and matt as well as holographic foils rather like you see on bank notes (used because they’re so tricky to forge). Whichever finish is used, the result is an eye-catching metallic foil logo, symbol, border or design which catches the light, glinting and reflecting as would any highly polished metal.

Cost considerations

Foil blocking in one ‘metallic’ colour is generally a little more expensive than litho printing in one ‘ink’ colour. There are several reasons for this. Firstly a metal die is required and this generally costs more than the equivalent litho ‘printing plate’, although it does depend on the size of the die in question. Secondly the metal foil itself is likely to cost more than the equivalent liquid ink used in the litho comparison. Thirdly the process tends to be a little slower than standard printing so fewer sheets are usually printed per minute if foiling. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the greater the size of the foiled area, the larger the foil roll and die will each need to be. Large areas of foil can therefore be quite expensive compared to litho but small areas like a simple logo or symbol can be surprisingly inexpensive considering the eye-catching, high quality result. That is the thing with foil blocking … even if the foiled area is only a tiny detail, the printed piece will usually ooze quality.

Foiling with traditional printing

Foiling can, we should mention, be used in conjunction with other printing processes. For example we can litho or digitally print a booklet of other document in full colour and then foil block on top. We can also foil onto laminated sheets. So we could matt laminate a corporate brochure and then foil block a logo in gold or silver on top of the laminated surface. The combination of matt vs. metallic gloss has a great feel to it.

Foil colours

As well as being available in the standard colours including various shades of gold, silver, bronze and copper, metallic foil is also available in a selection of colours (reds, greens, pinks, blues, gun metal, oranges, purples, black, white, even transparent) as well as the aforementioned holographic options, of which there are several embedded patterns available.

Looking for a printer in London?

If you’re interested in graphic design, foil blocking, litho printing, digital printing or large format printing Firstpoint Print have 3 branches to choose from (London Bridge SE1, Victoria SW1 and Clerkenwell EC1). Simply ask for a print quote (there will be no pressure or obligation) or use this form to tell us what you need printed. We’ll come back to you with a highly competitive price quickly and efficiently. Telephone your nearest branch here.