When gold foil isn't actually gold foil

There is no doubt that metallic foil is bang on trend in the world of stationery, and in particular, wedding stationery.  You would have seen those amazing looking invitations with the gold, silver or copper accents.  Absolutely gorgeous.  But did you know there can be a HUGE difference between what you see on the screen, and what you end up with?

The look of foiling has very little to do with what you see on the screen, and absolutely everything to do with how the stationery is printed, and what it is printed on.  So you don't get a surprise when receiving your invitations, I've put together a bit of a comparison about various printing and foiling options available, so that you can make an informed decision when ordering your invitations.

So, firstly, what you may see on the screen, either when ordering off of an internet site, or when approving a digital draft from your favourite wedding stationer:

TNC001 Business Card_Front.png

Pretty nice representation of gold foil, and when printed, exactly what you would expect to see, right?  Well, maybe not.  There are three common techniques to make this design come to life:  digital printing, heat transfer foiling, and foil stamping.  There are a couple of other ways, but these are the most common for medium to large quantities.  The pros and cons of each are below.


This is by far the most simple and cost effective option.  The design is simply printed, using ink or laser machines, and no other technique is required.

PROS:  cheap, quick turnaround times, and can replicate any colour foil

CONS:  does not give a metallic finish, and the quality of the printing is very dependent on the card stock used

Heat Transfer Foil

Heat transfer of foil requires a couple of steps, and the card stock used is extremely important. The foil attaches to pre-printed toner on the surface of the card, and therefore, staging of the design is extremely important. If there are any other printed areas they must be printed using an ink-based printer.

PROS:  slightly more expensive than simple printing (due to additional steps), but it does provide a metallic finish

CONS:  slightly more expensive ($1 to $2 more per invitation, compared to printing same design), the quality of the finish is very dependent on the card stock used, staging of other parts of the design is required, and the foil finish can wear with time

Pressed Foil

This is by far the most expensive option.  Foil stamping is a speciality process, similar in nature to letterpress and engraving.  'Oh So Beautiful Paper' has an awesome explanation of the process.

PROS:  gorgeous metallic finish

CONS:  expensive ($3 to $7 more per invitation compared to printing same design), and choice of card stock is still important

So Which is Better?

As to which technique is better, is entirely dependent on your budget, your design, and the finish you like.

At Coffee+Hops we work with you, when designing your stationery, to ensure that your project meets your budget, while keeping you informed along the way, as to what you can expect the finished product to actually look like.

(Big thanks to Tracey from That Nice Celebrant, for the use of her business cards as an example in this article)