Hot Foil Printing for Print & Copy Shops

Posted on Fri, 30 Jan, 2015

Introduction to Foil Printing for Print & Copy Shops

It is a misnomer that foil printing is difficult to source and expensive to produce ,but I will perhaps agree that many companies can not find a local foil printer in their area. I know these are sweeping statements but as a foil printer for nearly 20 years I hear this all the time!

What I would like to do is dispel a few myths and perhaps give a few explanations to the above statement , but also over the series of the next few articles talk about some of the trends that we have seen in Foil Printing over the last few years and go back and explain a little bit about the recent history of foil printing from a perspective of a small print /copy shop and there requirements.

Lets go back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when foil printing for the small user exploded in this country. This was a time before the internet ( who can remember that now – it really does seem like a distant memory) a time of recession and mass redundancies and a time when the print industry was yet again in a transition and changing from older technologies to newer practices. Many typesetters and compositors were being laid off and often with their redundancy money they had a great knowledge of printing where going out and buying small hand operated hot foil printing machines and setting up in business, times and profit margins for these people were good . Through their industry contacts business came to you, you did not have to go out fighting and competing for work. For a small set up fee you could purchase and run your own business from home or small premises – those were the days – my friend ( Mary Hopkins – 1970’s singer /songwriter). Hot Foil Printing was popular to the small business owner as it would give them access to good quality looking printing, in small quantities at an affordable price with a fairly quick turnaround – and it looked unique. Colour printing was mainly Lithographic and expensive in comparison, Ohh! How  times have changed.

Fast forward 30 years, all these people who bought hot foil printers have long since retired or passed away. Most processes are now digitally printed and automated; business print owners do not wish to or want to print by hand. Printing is now not the craft it used to be , we rely on computerized programmes for everything we do, therefore foil printing has been left behind , at this end of the market it has not adapted, just stayed the same, but as I will come onto later it is now attracting a whole new and different sector of individuals . It is still popular and going strong you just need to open your mind to the possibilities it offers.

To give you an idea of its rise and fall and now rise again, I can give you some figures from the early 1990’s as one of the  founding members of Foilink and in later years the Chairman of The National Foil Printers Club – an organization dedicated to the smaller foil printer , we had around 900 members at our summit of membership and just less than that number attending our annual exhibitions, when we closed down in 2009 we had less than 100 members and very little new blood coming into the profession.

Lets not dwell on the past, but lets move onto the future. Foil printing for the smaller organization is still ‘Alive and Kicking’ in 2015, but still as equally difficult to find, Why? To be brutally honest Foil Printers are just not good at marketing themselves, in fact they are lousy at it and letting people out there know who and where they are and what they can do , in fact I bet you every city and large town will have several beavering away in small back room ‘s and sheds all over this nation, you just can’t find them, unless you know them! I have to say that the internet has at least helped with this in some way.

Now perhaps a little ‘Fanfair’ for Foil Printing

It can be great for small runs of items from 50 – 2000 pieces by hand ( an average order size)

It looks expensive , but is relatively cheap to produce

You can not do it on your own small printer at home

It adds class & quality to whatever it goes onto

Turnaround can be fairly speedy ( quicker than most people think, to dispel the myth)

You can print not only on Paper and Card but also onto Plastic and Leather, Wood and a variety of other substrates

Foil printing is not just Gold and Silver but so much more, not only Matt and Gloss Colours, but other Metallic Colours and Holographic Foils which lend themselves to create unique effects on printed matter

Great for printing onto made up promotional items

Ideal for the latest trends which are Double Thick / Heavy Duty Boards that can not go through digital printers such as 540g, 700g and 1050g GF Smith Board ( Duplex and Triplex Stock)

Also for the current trend of Debossing onto Business Cards ( I shall come onto Debossing and Embossing at a later stage, everyone always mixes these two up) – this can not be done by Litho or Digital machines. For this reason because it can’t been done via ‘mass production’ I think this is perhaps the appeal of the cards.

It seems as the economy improves business people are looking for alternative idea’s and ways for promoting their business’s . The trend seems to be creating a simple but elegant business card, with simple type faces ( please see Picture). Popular Colour combinations are often Gloss Black Foil on Matt Black or just a debossed impression on a solid Black or colour. Also the use of vivid coloured board along with a plain board ( either Black or White print).

Because customers and in fact printers get it muddled up all the time here is the definition of the various methods. Embossing is when an item is raised above the surface of the board or paper, when you are embossing you use a Male and Female embossing plate, so do not that the item if double sided printed will have a reverse image punched through on the back of the card and also if you are using stock much thicker than 540 gram Board this will also be difficult to emboss.

Debossing is when you make an impression into the stock or Board often by the application of extra pressure on your machine and this creates an indent, the more pressure the greater the deboss. Blind Embossing or Debossing is using these methods without a foil or ink colour and is becoming increasingly more popular with customers as it gives a very subtle and classic effect on stationery creating a high quality finish.

The enquiry that ‘always gets me’ is when people ask for a Card or an item to be embossed when they really mean Foil printed it always takes a time just to educate the customer a little but often you will find that it is worth it and in the long run I have found the customer will always be delighted with the outcome.

The other bonus to you as a Copy Shop/Digital print Shop is that foil printing can not really be achieved at home or by the budding graphic designer as it is a slightly specialist area and they will need to come back to you time and time again for reprints as you will hold the Blocks/Plates on their behalf and once they have paid for the initial plates to be made which in most cases are relatively inexpensive ( these can be used for well in excess of 50,000 impressions) you have a good loyal retained customer.

You can as I am sure you are aware Foil print onto most types of stocks and media from Serveittes to inch thick books to 4 inch high boxes and so much more. Every paper variety from a 45gram to 2000 gram Board, as well as foil print onto Plastic, Vinyl, Wood, Leather, Acyclic in fact almost everything apart from Glass and Metal and foils are available in 100’s of Colours, not forgetting Holographic Foils as well.

So who are the new breed of Foil printers and to what area’s do we sell most of our machines. Over recent years there has been a massive trend towards the personalization of products especially. IPad covers, Notebooks ( such as Lectruums and alike), Pen Cases, Leather Tags and Telephone covers with either initials or names and often using type ( who would have ever thought that might make a reassurance) and also small independent designers/artists and copy shops wanting to provide a bespoke service, have different and originals products to offer the high street. Also there seems to be a growing demand for personalized book covers for both private use and for dissertations & Thesis’s. The Wedding Market as always stays strong and attracts many people to hot foil printing, often these are folk who are just starting out in Business.

Like all things these days everything seems to follow fashion trends. If I go back 10 years ago perhaps a good 70% of items I printed regularly were printed in Gold compared with 30% in Silver, in the last couple of years that has almost exactly reversed with 30% being printed in Gold and now a massive 70% in Silver ( or if you want to be posh call it Platinium). But the biggest trend in the last year has certainly been our customers all asking for Rose Gold ( basically it’s a pink/gold colour mix as the name suggests ) and I have to say it looks absolutely stunning and is now the height of fashion. My tip for the future is also Copper and Bronze – you heard it here first.

What a lot of people are often unaware of is that foils do not necessarily need to be Metallic, we are all used to Gold , Silver and Copper and all the other metallic shades, but a lot of people do not realize that foil also comes in Matt and Gloss Colours with no metallic finish at all and it is one of the most effective ways of printing White onto a  coloured solid  background ( please see Picture). Again one of the best ways of printing White on Black and other varieties of reverse out printing.

Another trend which seems to have come over the water from our American Friends is Edge Painted Cards particularly popular on the thick GF Smith Board. Using specialist Japanese Inks you can now offer a range of cards with thick edges painted in your colour of choice to give a little bit of the ‘WOW’ factor. Choose a vibrant colour and really make your cards stickout from the competition. Please see Photo. The thicker the card the more dramatic the impression but it works particularly well on 540, 700 and 1050 gram Boards. Edge painting I doubt will every become mainstream because it really needs to be done by hand on small quantities, but it really does make a difference.

These days in a difficult and competitive market you need to be able to offer your customer a product that is either unique or you are unable to achieve from a home printer to get them into your premises or onto your website, foil printing can achieve this

We have the tools, talent and experience to handle any printing job with style!