Foil application is a premium process that gives decorated items an attention-getting metallic
shimmer. It’s a highly effective way to add a bright accent to traditional screen printing or can
be applied to large areas for maximum shine and impact. Foil printing involves screen printing a
layer of adhesive onto the garment, curing the adhesive, and then using heat and pressure to apply
foil. It requires skill, attention and the right materials, but achieves a special look with a high
As with screen printing, create a customized graphic using professional graphics
software. The graphic must be separated by colour, with each colour – including the foil
portion of the design – printed on its own clear positive film. Foil must be the
top-most layer of the design, applied after all other ink has been applied and cured.
Using a darkroom and photographic chemicals, make a stencil – known as a screen – made
for each ink colour and for the foil. For the foil screen, use a mesh with fine thread
and high tension.
Place the foil screen in the screen printer. Use a soft squeegee and slow stroke to make
a smooth even thick film of adhesive on the shirt. A sequence of print, flash, print may
be necessary to both have the adhesive engage the fibers of the shirt and be above the
shirt enough to adhere the foil. Too little glue causes poor adhesion; too much will
cause the glue to melt from under the foil, resulting in uneven edges. The printed glue
should have a smooth, glass-like finish. Foil will adhere to both plastisol inks as well
as foil adhesives so you must either combine foil with water-based inks or else use a
“foil resist” additive in the plastisol inks in the non-foil portions of your print.
You may print a grey layer of ink under a silver foil and a gold/yellow layer of ink
under a golden foil, etc., or dye the glue grey or gold. Doing this means someone will
not see that the foil is peeling or falling off of some pin spots after the first
washes, and the image will look fresh for longer.
Set your heat transfer press to the foil and ink manufacturers’ recommended time,
temperature and pressure. Make certain that the hot plate is clean, the rubber pad is in
good condition, and that the press applies consistent pressure across the entire surface.
Position the item in the heat transfer press, place the foil sheet over the
adhesive-printed area and apply heat and pressure. Make several test prints to ensure
that the foil is adhering smoothly and completely, and that your design has sharp, even
LONGEVITY AND CARE:
Foil printing is one of the least permanent decorating processes, with a tendency to
tarnish or flake after numerous washes. A quality printing job produces in a more
durable result, and proper care can substantially increase the life of foil prints.
Encourage your customers to turn foil printed items inside out before washing;
launder using their washing machine’s delicate cycle or hand wash; hang to dry.
Also let them know that they should never use an iron on a foil print.
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