What is Foil Stamping?


A print brokering client of mine produces an annual case-bound book covering the past year’s activities of Congress. It is produced on a heatset web press. The fabric covered binder’s boards that comprise the hard-back cover are decorated with gold foil stamping, listing the title of the book, ISBN number, etc.


How is foil stamping done?

First of all, the short answer is “with heat and pressure.” A heated metal die cuts through a ribbon of gold foil (it may look like gold, but it really is a base metal) and deposits the diecut letters onto the substrate, pressing them into the fabric of my client’s book so they will adhere.

This is a time consuming and expensive process since it requires the making of a metal die from an InDesign file. My client lays out all wording that will be on the book cover exactly as she will want it to appear, and a metal appliance not unlike a cookie cutter is created that will stamp out the foil letters onto the back cover, spine, and front cover of the book. For this reason, a new die will need to be made each year (this is an annual publication), and if my client finds any errors in the proof, the die will need to be made again as well.

Once the die has been produced, it is locked up in a foil stamping press. As the press runs, the die will strike each case side (composed of fabric-covered binder’s boards for the front and back covers and spine). The die strikes the gold foil, deposits the foil on the binding fabric, affixes it with heat, and then moves on to the next cover.