Hot vs. Cold Foil Printing: 5 Points to Consider

Cold Foil Offset Printing

So you’ve decided to integrate foil in your next print project. It’s just the touch you need to draw your reader’s attention to the right place or to bring your advertising to a more luxurious level.

The two methods used to apply foil in print—cold foil transfer and hot stamping—differ in performance and production. So even though the visual differences of the finished product are almost impossible to recognize by an untrained eye (and even by a trained eye at this point in the advancement of the machinery), they each lend themselves better to certain project requirements.

What’s the difference? The process.

Cold Foil

A UV-curable adhesive (ie. a type of glue that is dried by UV light) is printed on the paper in the shape of the design that is to be foiled. Then the foil is pressed onto the paper, and is stripped away where no adhesive was printed. After a quick run under the UV light, the product is finished. (See a simple diagram of the whole process on Wikipedia.)

Hot Foil

A die, or stamp, of the design to be foiled is mounted on the stamping machine above the paper and is then heated. The sheet of foil runs between them so that when pressure is applied from the die onto the paper, the foil is fixed to its surface. Because pressure is a main ingredient to hot foiling, the foil has dimension and a distinct feel.

Which one is right for your project?

Five points to consider…Cold Foil Offset Printing

1. Your production schedule.

Because a die does not need to be made for cold stamped foiling, production time is cut down considerably. The adhesive is printed onto the paper in the design to be foiled just as quickly as regular ink would be, and the UV light to dry it is inline on the press.

2. The color of the foil.

Hot foils come in a growing number of shades, however the cold foil process allows for the broadest range of colors. This is because the color is actually applied after the foil is on the paper—the color gets printed on as a stain with the rest of the print after foiling.

3. Coverage.

In general, foil can be applied with greater precision, at a higher resolution, and across a larger area with the cold foil process. Jobs with a smaller region of foil, however, may be better suited for a hot press.

In other words, if the foil effect for your piece falls within a small section of the total print piece, hot may be the way to go. On the other hand, if precision is what you’re going for, say to create tiny foil dots or thin lines across a larger area of the piece, or if foil covers a large area of the piece, a cold foil press will be your best bet.

4. The desired effect.

Embossing: With the application of pressure in the hot foil process comes a little added dimension to the end result. Embossing of the foil can be done in line with hot foil whereas with cold foil, embossing is a separate function.

Gradients: Gradients can be applied to foil through the cold foiling process because the color of the foil is printed after the foil is glued on.

Finish: Cold foil can also achieve different looks through application of a coating—for instance a dull coat for a more muted effect.

5. Budget.

The reason the production schedule is quicker for cold foiling is the same reason the cost is less—almost half—than hot foiling. No stamping tools or dies need to be made prior to production, and it can be done in line with the offset full color printing.


Don’t hesitate to reach out to our foil experts to discuss what solution is right for you. We’ll help you consider your production schedule, budget and aesthetic goals for the project. Contact us. >>


Be sure to check out our print definition series seeking to uncover unfamiliar terms in the work of print.

About Dual Print & Mail

Dual Print & Mail ( provides high quality, green printing solutions for all your commercial print and mail needs. Headquartered in Cheektowaga, NY, Dual Print & Mail’s specialties include magazine, publication, and inline foil printing. Dual Print & Mail can be reached at 800.358.4348 or
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3 Responses to Hot vs. Cold Foil Printing: 5 Points to Consider

  1. A.Abdul rawoof says:


  2. Scott Solomon says:

    The one thing that was not mentioned above was that it matters what type of paper you are going down on the only kind of paper Cold Foil will work on is Coated Stock if what you are trying to produce is going to be on an Uncoated or Dry Stock you will have to go with Hot Foil Stamping

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