Foil Blocking – The History
The process of foil blocking or foil stamping has gradually evolved from similar processes that were used hundreds of years ago. The method started in ancient Egypt for decoration when a hammer was used to beat gold until the thickness of paper.
In the middle ages, monks used improvised machines to beat gold in order to print their books – leather bound books were stamped by machines to emboss the book covers and once the design was created on the leather, the gold was then added by impressing with their hands. This was the earliest form of foil blocking and was widespread until the start of the 19th century.
In order to simplify the addition of the beat gold to the stamped design, the process evolved so that the gold was fixed on to paper and entire paper rolls with gold were created. Heat was used to remove the gold from the paper and to transfer it to the stamped imprint and ensure that the foil attached to the paper.
As gold was very expensive to use, at the start of the 20th century different metallic foils started being produced, evolving the process of foil blocking.
Foil blocking, typically a commercial print process now, is the application of pigment or metallic foil to paper where a heated die (engraved metal piece) is stamped onto the foil, making it adhere to the surface and leaving the design of the die on the paper. The foil is often gold or silver, but can also be various patterns or what is known as pastel foil, which is a flat opaque colour.
From the finalised design, metal dies are created in the appropriate shape for each colour foil to be applied. The dies are heated and then stamped with enough pressure to seal a thin layer of foil to the paper.
When & Where is it Used?
Foil blocking creates a special end result – offering a metallic finish over fine or larger areas. Today, foil stamping has found many applications and is increasing in popularity as a method of printing.
An extensive range of colours and finishes are available from pastels to metallics. Most generally used on business cards, stationery and brochure covers.
Author: Gavin Ellis, Print & Studio Manager far’n’beyond