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According to one recent study, seven in 10 consumers agree that a brand’s packaging design influences their buying decision. Across all industries, markets are flooded and competition is fierce. You need designs that stand out and turn heads, and hot foil stamping can get you there. 

This is a unique imprinting process that can deliver a customized look and feel for any product. Today, we’re sharing how it works and the steps that go into it. 

What Is Hot Foil Stamping?

Foil stamping is the process of printing metallic designs, words, and images onto a base material. You can apply foil stamps on a range of different surfaces, including:

  • Cardboard
  • Corrugated board
  • Paper
  • Plastic sheets

The machine requires three elements to create the shiny metal design: pressure, metal foils, and a heat source. The most important element is the heat, which will transfer the images from the hot stamp onto the surface you select. Depending on the techniques you use, the resulting product can take on a variety of textures, including:

  • Matte
  • Metallic
  • Holographic
  • Glossy

You can use a foil stamp to create something as small as a wedding invitation or as large-scale as a global product launch. When talking about this process, some people confuse hot foil stamping with other similar printing methods, including pad printing and silk screening. 

This method is different in that it does not use any type of liquid ink. Instead, it relies on dies and special metallic plates to create the stamped design. For this reason, hot foil stamping is also called “dry stamping” or “dry foil stamping”.

You can apply a foil stamp to many different materials without worrying about any of the colors or textures from the surface bleeding into the design. This makes it especially appropriate for dark-colored surfaces that would otherwise be hard to print on using traditional ink. 

Main Foil Stamping Applications

What are some of the ways you can use foil stamping to create a tailored design? Above all, it’s used as a special type of packaging, meant to help products stand out from the competition. From food and beverage to healthcare and luxury products, many companies rely on foil stamping to give their offerings an edge. 

It’s also a popular way to emboss and decorate paper products, such as:

  • Artwork
  • Business cards
  • Greeting cards
  • Event invitationns
  • Baby announcements 
  • Business stationery
  • Book covers

On an even smaller scale, you can find stamping machines to create tags, stickers, and labels for your products. This adds an eye-catching touch to your packages and elevates their appearance. 

An Overview of the Foil Stamping Process

The exact type of equipment required to perform this process depends on the scale of your project. If you’re working in small batches, then you can use a manual foil stamping machine or foil stamper to get the job done. If your project is bigger, you may want to invest in an automatic machine that can handle a high-volume output. 

Regardless of which gear you select, the process is essentially the same. We’ll dive into the specific differences in later sections, but let’s start with a high-level overview. 

First, you’ll start with your foil. This is a specialized type of foil that contains multiple individual layers, including:

  • Carrier layer (made of polyester)
  • Release layer
  • Lacquer layers
  • Image layers
  • Metal layers (e.g. gold leaf, gold silver leaf, foil-colored)
  • An adhesive layer (outermost)

The machine you use will apply heat and pressure to the foil. The foil will press against the medium that you use (cardboard, plastic, etc.), which is supported by a sturdy counter plate. 

The heat and pressure catalyze the outer adhesive layer, causing it to melt. In turn, the hot foil attaches securely to the medium and the design is complete. 

The Tools You’ll Need

You can find hot foil stamping machines in many different sizes. As mentioned, there are even automated ones that can eliminate the need for manual work. 

Let’s take a look at some of the materials you might need. 


Before you can complete the hot foil stamping process, you need to finalize your design! Most people choose to take care of this step on their computer, using graphic design software. 

Your design can be anything from a corporate logo to a handmade drawing. If you aren’t sure how to tackle this step on your own, you can always hire a graphic designer to create the image for you. 


You’ll also need metal dies. These bond the foil to the medium, acting as the “stamp” of the process. While you can find some inexpensive stamps made from other materials, they tend to wear down quickly and aren’t as sturdy.

Traditionally, it was best to stick with solid copper or brass dies for optimal results. However, newer models are more flexible and versatile than ever, offering unmatched precision and performance. Check out UniFlex Flexible Rotary Dies to learn more. 

Die-Cutting Machine

Once you’ve finalized your design, the die-cutting machine will etch the image onto the metal die of your choice. You can find machines that incorporate both die-cutting and hot foil stamping in one piece of equipment. Here are three of the most common choices. 

Flat-Flat Foil Stamping Machines

These machines can work one of two ways. The foil dies can attach to a honeycomb-shaped plate that allows you to change their position. Or, you can use a flat metal plate if you only need to work with fixed positions. 

You’ll add your medium and foil between the plate and the counter plate on the bottom. 

Round-Flat Foil Stamping Machines

These work similarly to their flat-flat counterparts, but instead of a stationary counter plate on the bottom, they feature a cylinder that rotates. These are ideal for smaller projects, but it can be more challenging to find parts for them on the market. 

Round-Round Foil Stamping Machines

With round-round machines, both plates consist of rotating cylinders. These cylinders rotate in opposite directions. You’ll insert the foil and the medium between the two cylinders, pressing them together to create an adequate amount of pressure. 

If you need a machine that operates at a high speed and can create an intricate design or logo, this style is preferred. 

Foiling Machine

There are a few different types of foiling machines to research. If your operations are on the smaller side, you can find low-budget clamshell presses that are manually operated. If you require a larger machine to handle commercial projects, then look for roll presses or straight stamp presses that incorporate more automation. 


Foils are where you can really get creative. Take your time and look for ones that reflect the finished look you want. A few of your different choices include:

  • Metallic foils (shiny appearance: silver, gold, copper)
  • Pearl foils (pearlescent appearance: subtle and transparent, no color)
  • Pigment foils (colored, non-metallic appearance: glossy or matte)
  • Holographic foils (rainbow/holographic appearance when light hits)

Step-by-Step Process

Now that we’ve covered how hot foil stamping works and the materials you’ll need, let’s review how it works. 

  • Step 1: Create your design on the computer
  • Step 2: Engrave your stamp onto the metal die using a die-cutting machine
  • Step 3: Position the foil on the surface of your product
  • Step 4: Before pressing the die onto the foil, heat it first
  • Step 5: Use a foiling machine to press your die onto the foil
  • Step 6: The heat and pressure will bond the design to the surface

Check your work to make sure it’s properly positioned, and the process is complete. Note that if you need to foil more than one colored design, you’ll have to prepare separate metal dies for each color required. 

What About Digital Hot Foiling?

While hot stamping is the traditional technique, this process is increasingly becoming more digital. While these two machines might look nearly the same on the outside, they apply the foil to the medium in different ways. 

With digital hot foiling, you can digitally print the image onto the medium, eliminating the need for a die. You’ll do so by using a special type of foil that sticks to the surface. In this way, it’s similar to traditional ink printing.

One benefit to digital hot foiling is that you don’t need to prepare a new metal die for each color or design that you need to foil. If you’re working with big batches, this can save you a significant amount of time. 

Try Hot Foil Stamping to Stand Out

Modern buyers are more discerning than ever before, and they’re selective with the brands they choose. If your products are on the shelves with other competitors, you need packaging that grabs their attention from the onset. 

Likewise, you also need a one-of-a-kind design if you’re sending a special invitation or making a formal announcement. In both cases, hot foil stamping is the way to go.

This method produces long-lasting, eye-catching designs that stand out from the rest. Consider it for your next special project and notice the difference! To stay on top of more trends, check out our Buzz section!

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