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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Foil Stamping Wedding Materials

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I’m a great believer in marriage. Between the two of us, my fiancee and I have already been married five times. So when I found an article on foiling wedding materials on, I was interested. The article is entitled “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published on 09/29/21.

The article provides everything the title implies, but first here are some technical explanations and a bit of history regarding the technique of foil stamping, or hot stamping, from the printer’s point of view.

The Technical Description of the Process

Foil stamping is done on a letterpress, or with similar equipment that uses relief plates and heat to adhere foil to a substrate. The foil comes on rolls (of carrier material), and when the foil is placed between the relief die and the paper, leather, or other substrate, the die cuts the foil (i.e., separates the type and/or images from the surrounding non-image areas), and attaches the foil to the base material (i.e., the substrate). Scrap material is not adhered and falls away from the printed product.

Metal or silicone rubber dies can include significant detail, and can be used to foil stamp everything from paper to leather (think about the foil stamped leather books from the 19th century). Moreover, the foils used can be metallic (chrome or vacuum-metallized aluminum made to resemble gold, bronze, silver, or copper) (Wikipedia), or they can be colorized but non-metallic. The latter includes all number of non-metallic colors, plus black (black foil on black paper can be striking), plus holographic foil paper, which provides a 3D effect. Colorized, non-metallic film (also called pigmented foil) can have either a matte or gloss finish. So you have lots of options.

In contrast to an offset print run, in which a rotary press with multiple blankets and rollers deposits ink on a press sheet, a foil stamping print run is usually performed on a vertical open-and-shut press. As a print broker, if I’m looking for a commercial printing supplier with certain foil stamping equipment, I look for Heidelberg or Kluge presses for larger foil stamping jobs, although other manufacturers offer foil stamping equipment as well.

In fact, I have even seen small, hand-operated foil stamping equipment. A designer I worked with in the ‘90s had her own foil stamping product not much larger than a hair curling iron. (It looked like a cross between a soldering iron and a hair curler.)

Foil stamping offers one key feature that offset custom printing does not (beyond the aesthetic appeal). Foil stamping provides a completely opaque image (text or other line work), so it’s great for adding text to darker paper stocks. For instance, you can print colored foil on black paper. If you did this with offset ink, you would need a double hit of the color, or opaque white underprinting, and this still might not provide text and images as smooth and consistent as those foil stamped on the dark paper.

As two final points of information before moving to wedding-product design:

    1. “The first patent for hot stamping was recorded in Germany by Ernst Oeser in 1892” (Wikipedia). So this is a technology with a history, primarily related to bookbinding.


  1. For the last two-plus decades, foil stamping has been used in security printing. It has also been useful in decorating plastics (like automotive parts), and in producing RFID (radio frequency ID) tags. So foil stamping has established a presence in the functional commercial printing arena as well (Wikipedia).

Now, on to

With the preceding technical background in mind, let’s move on to Lidia Ryan’s article, “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations.”

Ryan notes that foil stamping is “classic and timeless…super luxurious and makes a great impact” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21). Furthermore, Ryan noes that the process can be applied either flat or with a slightly indented look with letterpress (the raised type of letterpress digs into the paper substrate slightly, and combined with the colored or metallic foil, this can be very attractive).

And as noted above, the print can be rendered in multiple colors or metallic foil. It can also be used to decorate the edges of printed products (such as the edges of wedding invitations).

As Ryan says, you can “foil print the text—all of it or just some–[or] you can opt for foil edges on thick card stock, beveling, a foil jacket, foiling on the envelope, or a metallic card to place behind a translucent invitation” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

So you can compare and contrast colors, metallic effects, and levels of transparency. Ryan even suggests combining “foil letterpress printing with a secondary print style such as watercolor digital printing or a blind letterpress or emboss” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

Blind letterpress refers to the indentation made with a relief letterpress plate but without any registered ink. You can do similar things with foil combined with embossing (that is, raising or lowering the foil treatment by raising or lowering the paper substrate with a metal die).

Ryan’s article also mentions printing on darker papers (as noted in the technical section above), but she adds forest green and navy blue to the list of suggested paper colors. She also suggests coordinating elements of the wedding printing package by using similar design, paper, and foiling (“programs, menus, signage, custom maps, and itineraries”) (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

In terms of design trends, Ryan’s article notes that gold is always in style because it is traditional and opulent, especially due to the metallic sheen. It is classic but it can be contemporary as well. She also suggests black on black and holographic film, particularly when rose gold is paired with the slightly pinkish/purplish cast of the holographic film (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitation,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

Ryan does caution us to be conscious of pricing. This is not an inexpensive treatment. As noted above, in the technical description of the process, foil stamping requires a separate metal die for each color. And in my experience as a printing broker, I’ve seen dies run from $200 to $500 for each color depending on the size and complexity.

If price is an issue, Ryan suggests purchasing pre-foiled invitations with a floral element in metallic or non-metallic foil. You can then digitally print the remaining information on the card. She also notes that both digital printing and offset printing are less expensive than letterpress.

To this I would add the following: If you need to save money, look for a printer who has Scodix foiling capabilities. This is essentially the marriage of 3D additive manufacturing and digital commercial printing. You can print multiple colors of foil (or simulated embossing) on a press sheet, varying the information and without paying for metal dies. The process just builds up a flat or 3D (embossed) plastic relief image (colored or metallic). I have seen samples of Scodix (and similar manufacturers’ digital foiling capabilities), and I have been impressed. It’s a good way to save money, and it looks good.

Finally, “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, suggests that you take your invitations to the Post Office directly, not to a mailbox. Furthermore, Ryan encourages you to have the stamps hand-cancelled rather than machine canceled to avoid any damage to the printed pieces.

After all, for the most important day in your life, your wedding day, it’s smart to go the extra mile to make sure everything is perfect.

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