Some of the very first manuscripts ever produced used real gold leaf to decorate intricate calligraphy. The process of applying raw gold leaf to paper was related to the craft of gilding, in which wafer-thin layers of gold were brushed onto items like bullae (amulets), picture frames, statues, and furniture.
After printing presses became more widely used in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, books became the focus of metallic foiling. The most beautiful and expensive books were bound in leather cases which were often embellished with gold leaf. This process of producing hot stamping foil was combined with embossing or bevelling, which left a relieved or raised impression on the surface of the cover.
hanna book cover
The gilded antique cover of an early 20th-century Jewish prayer book
Nowadays, the foiling process doesn’t use real gold leaf (save in exceptional, and very expensive, circumstances). Metallic foils are now made of aluminium or tin, and are combined with a color layer to produce the desired effect. For designers, this is a much-loved development, giving you a wider choice of colors without the risk of blowing your budget!
Although many printers will have a standard range of foil colors that they provide at a lower price point, which typically include gold, silver and copper, you can also request custom foil colors from an almost endless range of options. Want a metallic rainbow effect on your wedding invites? There’s probably a foil color out there to do just that.
business cards template
Stylish foil stamped business card template
Even though foiling is an added expense to a standard print job, due to the extra hours and resources that go into stamping the foil after printing, it is still a relatively economical method for producing an impressive effect that really ups the luxury factor of a product.
You’ll notice that designers use foiling across all sorts of things, from packaging to stationery. It’s a sure-fire way of making your design feel more expensive and aspirational, without the hefty price tag.
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