Adding foil to any paper project is an easy way to elevate your work from "oh cool" to "Woah! How'd you do that?". The common misconception is that it requires a whole printing press or some special foil printer. In reality, you can do this at home and you don’t have to be an Encanto Paper Wizard to do it!
What you'll need
- Laser printer
- Thermal laminator
- Foil transfer sheets
(This tutorial also assumes you understand basic design programs like Photoshop.)
Foil stamping basically works by heating up the toner ink so the foil can stick to it. This won’t work with an inkjet printer. Laser printers aren’t too expensive and there are a lot of options. I’ve worked with paper for a while so I have my own preferences, but in reality any laser printer should do the trick. The Brother MFCL2710DW is a good place to start. Set-back is that it can’t print larger than 8.5" x 11". Laser printers like this one also often have a non-printable margin so it can’t print full bleed. Once you’ve mastered this printer, keep an eye out for wide-format laser printers so you can start foiling larger prints.
I could write a whole novel on paper uses and picking the right paper for each project. But foiling works best if you get a smooth paper. Foil tends to have a hard time attaching to textured paper. However, in some cases this can be a cool effect to create a worn and weathered look to your foil projects.
The simple answer for this is to grab yourself the Minc Foil Applicator. However, you could also just go to Target and get yourself a thermal laminator for half the price. The advantage of the Minc machine is that it produces pretty consistent results and it can foil wider-format projects.
Foil transfer sheets
Now logical thought would say that if you get the Minc machine, you should get the Minc foil. I would recommend you skip it however, and instead buy iCraft Deco foil transfer sheets. In my experience, iCraft foil performs much better than Minc’s equivalent and costs less. This foil comes in many colors so have fun experimenting!
How how it's done
Step 1: Design
When designing your artwork, there are a few things to keep in mind and some tricks I’ve learned over the years. Start with design that is ONLY black and white. Anywhere the laser printer prints, the foil will stick to. So no gradients or varying colors. For best results, use the darkest black possible. One thing to keep in mind is that thin lines and tiny details mean less toner. So the foil might not catch on those thin lines and fonts smaller than 9pt.
Step 2: Print it
Grab your paper of choice and load it into the printer. If you have the Brother printer I suggested above, it loads face down on the bottom tray. Before you hit print, let’s check a few things.
- Margins: most laser printers have a margin. So make sure none of your print is along the edge of the paper.
- DPI: make sure you are printing at the highest DPI possible.
- Ink density: go to your print settings and crank that ink density to the max.
Some advanced notes:
- Keep in mind the printer might not print exactly where you want it to. It may shift a bit to one side. It isn’t an exact science. If you are layering foil stamped art with ink-jet art, and the positioning has to be perfect, you may run into this problem. I would recommend design with this in mind and don’t make your creations rely too much on positioning.
- Brother allows you to set the paper to thick paper, plain paper, thin paper, etc. No matter what paper you are using, I’ve found the “plain paper" and "Bond Paper" settings work best.
Step 3: Flatten it out
This is so often forgotten, so I’ve made it a whole step. Many printers will cause your paper to curl a bit. Make sure to flatten it out before foiling it. Trust me, it will help you in the long run.
Step 4: Foil!
Cut out your foil and place it on your paper to cover all areas with ink. You may have to secure it with tape, another piece of paper on top, or a plastic folder. Set your Minc Foil Applicator to 2 and wait for it to heat up. I find the lower heat performs best, as higher heat may actually burn off the toner. Once it has gone through the applicator, slowly remove the transfer sheet. If there are some spots that didn’t work, place the foil back on and insert it again. It takes some practice and experimentation to get it right every time. Over the years we’ve learned some little tricks to get it just right. So if you have any questions please comment below! Good luck and have fun making beautiful creations!
Encanto Head Paper Wizard