How’d They Do That?

Brought to you by Neenah

Reinvent the Feel

Have you ever looked at a beautifully printed piece and admired the design, the paper, the printing techniques, and wondered, “How’d they do that?” At Neenah, we produce a lot of printed materials, so we get a lot of questions about the production. Those questions have inspired this “How’d They Do That?” series. For each article we head into the pressroom to look at the production of a specific piece.


This piece, titled Reinvent the Feel, is a printed sample found in The Design Collection: Pearlized swatchbook. It was designed by Design Army and printed at Fey Printing. It’s foil stamped with two colors on one side, and printed 1 PMS on the other. Let’s take a closer look at this piece, the steps it took to produce it, and key considerations when working with foil stamping.

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Surface Qualities

One remarkable aspect of this piece is the use of paper color as an integral part of the design, achieving a layered, three-color effect. The base color of the design is SO…SILK®, Fashion Purple paper; pink and gold foil stamps create the design on top.

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Metallics and Much More

Foil is an ultra-thin, metallic sheet. (Note: Foil is not just silver and gold!) If you’ve never seen the range of foil colors, ask your printer for a sample book. The variety of pigment, metallic, and holographic colors is vast. Available in roll sizes up to 40″, foil stamping is an option for most print projects.

The foil is applied using a heated, metal die (below) and the right amount of pressure — too little can cause the foil to lift off the paper, while too much can leave an impression in the sheet. The paper’s weight and texture also dictate the amount of pressure used. An experienced pressman will adjust for these factors.

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This is the die for the pink foil. The pink foil was laid down on the first pass and the gold foil was then registered to the pink foil on a second pass.

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Foil Stamping Perfection

See where the gold meets the pink? That is what is known as precision registration. If you’re planning to use more than one foil, and particularly if you have critical registration, ask your printer to test the foils. You want to be sure they adhere to the paper properly before running the job.

A key area of skill in foil stamping is the release. When a die is pulled away from the paper, you want what is known as a “clean release.” If it doesn’t pull away clean, it can result in “picking,” which is visible as holes or jagged edges where the foil picks away from the paper. Fine lines and solid areas require different releases. The pressman will work out the release pressure during the make ready.

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While it is possible to use foil stamping for small, fine lines and type — here is an example of 5.75 point type, with a 3.5 point used for the superscript 2 in the g/m2 —textured papers can make it more difficult to get a clean stamp. Ask your printer to recommend an optimal size if you’re working with textured papers.

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The back of Reinvent is printed with a single hit of metallic silver PMS.

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Ink Ready

Metallic inks work well when printing on colored stocks because of their opacity, so one hit is generally enough to get solid coverage.

Normally printing is done before foil stamping, if you’re designing a two-sided piece, you need to consider the felt (top) and wire (bottom) sides of the paper. Since texture can be seen through foil, and the wire side of a sheet can have a fine pattern, you must consider this in your design.

There’s one thing we can’t stress enough when it comes to foil stamping, or any print production: your printer is your friend and your best source of knowledge. Consult with them early in the process and don’t be afraid to ask questions…printers love to talk about production.

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More from The Design Collection

Reinvent the Feel can be found in The Design Collection: Pearlized swatchbook. It’s produced on Fashion Purple, one of the vibrant colors in the SO…SILK® Papers portfolio.

Want to see more papers from The Design Collection? Click here to get a sample pack.