Foil Screen Printing all you need to know by screenprintingnow

Learn how to create stunning, eye-catching designs with foil screen printing. This guide covers the essential materials, equipment, and techniques needed for successful foil printing projects. Discover tips, tricks, and special effects to take your screen printing to the next level.


Foil screen printing is a specialized technique that involves applying a metallic foil layer onto a garment or substrate to create a shiny, reflective effect. It adds a luxurious and eye-catching element to screen printed designs. Foil screen printing is used to create bold, metallic designs that stand out. It offers a premium, high-end look for apparel and promotional products. Foil printing is durable, long-lasting, and can be combined with other techniques for unique effects.

Materials and Equipment needed

To get started with foil screen printing, you’ll need the following materials and equipment:

  • Foil adhesive ink or a plastisol ink: Special foil adhesive ink or a plastisol ink that is not fully cured before applying the foil is essential for successful foil screen printing.
  • Foil sheets: Various types of foil sheets are available, including standard metallic colors, holographic or iridescent foils, and patterned or textured foils for added visual interest. Choose foil sheets in your desired colors and finishes to create stunning designs.
  • Screen printing equipment: Standard screen printing equipment, such as screens with the appropriate mesh count and emulsion thickness, squeegees, and a press, is needed for printing the adhesive ink. Ensure that your screens have the proper mesh count and emulsion thickness for optimal ink deposit and foil adhesion.
  • Heat press machine: A heat press machine is used to apply the foil onto the printed adhesive at the recommended temperature, pressure, and time settings. This equipment is crucial for bonding the foil to the adhesive ink and creating a long-lasting, high-quality finish.
  • Additional materials (optional): Other optional accessories, such as caviar beads or puff ink, can be used to create special effects when combined with foil printing. These materials allow you to add unique textures and dimensions to your foil screen printed designs.

By having these essential materials and equipment on hand, you’ll be well-prepared to start your foil screen printing projects and create eye-catching, professional-looking results.

Step-by-Step Process

Step 1. Preparing the screen

  1. Choosing the right mesh count: A low mesh count screen (e.g., 85 mesh or in metrics 34T) is recommended for printing the adhesive ink to achieve a good ink deposit.
  2. Applying emulsion for a thick stencil, check your proper EOM! The screen emulsion should be applied thickly to ensure a sufficient ink deposit for the foil to adhere properly.
Foil printing step1 by screenprintingnow

Sample of coated Screen with good EOM.

Step 2. Printing the adhesive ink

Foil printing step 2 printing the transparent foil ink on the white garment by screenprintingnow

Printing the Foil adhesive Ink (Here is the Ink Transparent) on the Garment.

  • Setting up the screen on the press: The prepared screen is set up on the printing press, ensuring proper registration and alignment.
  • Printing the adhesive ink onto the garment: The adhesive ink is printed onto the garment using the screen, applying even pressure for a consistent ink deposit.

Step 3. Gel curing the adhesive ink

  1. What is gel curing? Gel curing, also known as flash curing, is the process of partially drying the printed adhesive ink, so it becomes tacky but not fully cured.
  2. Curing the ink just enough to make it tacky: The adhesive ink should be gel cured just enough to make it tacky, allowing the foil to adhere properly in the next step.
Infrared temperature guns are commonly used in the screen printing department

A great Tool is here the Infrared Temperatur Gun, To check and control the Temperature on the Spot, as you Gel the Ink.

Step 4. Applying the Foil

step 4 placing foil over adhesive ink by screenprintingnow

Step 4. Placing Foil over the printed adhesive on the Transfer Press and Press.

  • Placing the foil sheet over the printed adhesive:
    • The foil sheet is placed over the printed adhesive, with the shiny side facing up.
  • Using a heat press to apply the foil:
    • Temperature settings: The heat press should be set to the recommended temperature for the specific foil and adhesive being used (e.g., 330°F 165°C check with suppliers TDS).
    • Pressure settings: Medium pressure is typically used when applying the foil to ensure proper adhesion without damaging the garment.
    • Time settings: The foil is heat pressed for the recommended time (e.g., 20 seconds) to allow the adhesive to bond with the foil.

Step 5. Peeling the foil

  1. Allowing the foil to cool: After heat pressing, the foil should be allowed to cool before peeling to ensure proper adhesion and prevent damage to the design.
  2. Peeling the foil away quickly and smoothly: Once cooled, the foil sheet is peeled away quickly and smoothly, leaving the foil design adhered to the garment.
step 5 remove cold foild quickly from garment by screenprintingnow

Remove the foil after cooling

Special Effects and Techniques

Foil over Puff Ink

  • Printing a puff ink design: A puff ink design is printed and gel cured only, creating a raised, textured surface.
  • Applying foil over the puff ink: Foil is then applied over the puff ink design using a heat press with light pressure, resulting in a unique raised, metallic effect.
foil screen printing effect

Foil with Caviar Beads

cavier beads foil screen printing by screenprintingnow

Here is a screenshot of my video below as I can’t find the original image. Black caviar beads on a black t-shirt with silver foil.

  • Adding caviar beads to the printed adhesive (But do not Gel the Adhesive, you need to apply the beads on the wet ink): Caviar beads are sprinkled onto the printed adhesive before applying the foil, adding dimension and texture to the design.
  • Applying foil over the caviar beads: The foil is then heat pressed over the caviar beads, creating an interesting tactile and visual effect. Just “KISS” the Foild on top, no need to flatten the Cavier Beards 😉

Distressed or cracked foil effect

  • Crinkling the foil sheet before application: To create a distressed or vintage look, the foil sheet is crinkled or wrinkled in your Hand before placing it over the printed adhesive.
  • Creating a vintage or distressed look: The crinkled foil is then heat pressed, resulting in a cracked or distressed metallic effect on the garment.
foil left over or smashed with your hand effect screen printing by screenprintingnow

For this effect, you can use even leftover foil, as in the image.

Foil and Normal Print

foild and normal ink mostly water based screen printing ink is used here by screenprintingnow

For this 2-colour print, full colour with foil, water-based ink is usually used. So you print your motif multicoloured in water colours and at the end the foil adhesive is printed. Make sure that the print is properly fixed later, by pressing it for a long time or using adhesives that shorten the drying time.

Tips and Troubleshooting

A. Importance of following the ink manufacturer’s guidelines for the ink you use: It is crucial to follow the ink manufacturer’s recommendations for curing temperatures, times, and pressure settings to ensure the best results and prevent issues.

B. Ensuring sharp, well-defined edges in the design: Designs with sharp, well-defined edges work best for foil screen printing, as they create clean, crisp foil applications.

foil printing with sharp edge

Sharp edges look pretty cool, as with this gold foil print.

C. Experimenting with different foils and techniques: If you give free rein to your ideas, you can achieve a lot and win new customers. What about Black Foil on a Black T-Shirt?

D. Common issues: The washing resistance is not great, many manufacturers of films or adhesives recommend hand washing. The best washability is clearly achieved with specially developed colours, such as Translac Bond, normal plastisol colours are unfortunately very poor when it comes to durability.

E. Maintaining a clean and dust-free working environment: Keeping the work area clean and free from contaminants to ensure optimal foil adhesion and prevent imperfections in the final product.

various metalic foil rolls by screenprintingnow

F. Factors influencing the foil print: Is quality, if you can get some samples first before you buy a roll (mostly sold in rolls) would be helpful. Fabric type (not too much “fluff” on it cloth, so smoother so better), design complexity (the lines are not too fine, it’s a problem).

G. Recommended suppliers or brands: I don’t really have a favourite brand. I have worked with many different films. From expensive to very cheap, ask your trusted suppliers or try through samples.

Cheap metal foils also tend to fade after washing.

I did a Short Video on Foil Printing

Screen Printing Foil | Screen Printing in 1 Minute

In conclusion

Foil screen printing is a versatile and exciting technique that allows you to create stunning, eye-catching designs on garments and other substrates. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this article, you can achieve professional-looking results with a luxurious, metallic finish.

Remember to choose the right materials, such as foil adhesive ink and the appropriate foil sheets, and to properly prepare your screen with the correct mesh count and emulsion thickness (EOM). Gel curing the adhesive ink and using the right temperature, pressure, and time settings when applying the foil are crucial for successful foil screen printing.

Experimenting with special effects and techniques, like combining foil with puff ink or caviar beads, can take your designs to the next level and create unique, tactile elements that stand out. Don’t be afraid to try different foil types and techniques to find what works best for your specific projects.

Foil films come in a wide variety of options, including traditional metallic colors like gold, silver, and copper, as well as eye-catching variations such as rainbow colors, oil slick effects, and even patterned or textured foils. This diverse range of foil options allows you to create truly unique and customized designs that will set your products apart.

I encourage you to dive into the world of foil screen printing and explore the endless possibilities it offers. With practice and experimentation, you’ll be able to create stunning, high-quality designs that will impress your customers and showcase your creativity.

Question and Answers

Can I use regular screen printing ink for foil screen printing?

While it’s possible to use regular plastisol ink for foil screen printing, it’s not recommended. For the best results, use a specialized foil adhesive ink or a plastisol ink specifically designed for foil application. These inks are formulated to create a strong bond between the foil and the garment, ensuring a long-lasting and high-quality finish.This concise answer directly addresses the question and provides a clear recommendation for using specialized foil adhesive ink to achieve the best foil screen printing results.

What types of fabrics can I use for foil screen printing?

Foil screen printing works well on most fabric types, including cotton, polyester (NO stretchable fabrics!), and blends. However, for best results, choose smooth, tightly woven fabrics that can withstand the heat and pressure of the foil application process.

How do I care for foil screen printed garments?

To maintain the quality and longevity of foil screen printed garments, wash them inside out in cold water with a mild detergent. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, and tumble dry on low heat or hang dry. Do not iron directly on the foil design, as this may cause damage.

How long does foil screen printing last on garments?

When applied correctly using the proper materials and techniques, foil screen printing can last for many washes and maintain its vibrant appearance. However, the longevity of the foil design may vary depending on factors such as the fabric type, washing conditions, and the specific foil and ink used.

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35 years of screen printing have taught me a lot. I would like others to benefit from this as well. I strive for accuracy, use professional writing aids, and personally review all content. Affiliate links marked with (#) support my work without incurring additional costs. If you have a question or suggestion, please leave a comment. Thank you for your support!

Over the decades, I've had the privilege of printing for a range of clients, from startups to recognized brands like:

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