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Foiling and Photo Print

This month’s photo print update takes the focus away from photo printing and brings in a new topic – toner foiling.

It might seem odd to bring this topic in, however, on a weekly basis we field a number questions from people curious about toner foiling, a large portion of whom already own one of our photo printers for their artworks and craft projects. It’s particularly common to hear from people who use pro photo machines for creating custom cards and stationery.

What is Toner Foiling?

Toner foiling is a process that allows you to stick metallic or coloured foils to areas of a laser printed page. The result of toner foiling can be seen in the following image and shows a multicoloured metallic foil. The effect can be quite striking and is often used to highlight text and designs on wedding stationery and invitations.

How does it work?

The process is simple but requires several things:

A suitable laser printer (mono)
Suitable media
Toner foils
A hot foiling machine or similar heating device such as a laminator.

The process consists of printing out a design onto your chosen media then passing the page with foil placed over the required areas through the hot foiler/laminator. The process of applying heat to it causes the toner to re-melt and become tacky which in turn causes the foil to adhere to it. Once you peel the foil sheet away the areas covered in toner now have a foil finish.

Equipment and Limitations

By far the most common thing we are asked when it comes to foiling is for advice on which machines are suitable. The general rule is to use a mono laser printer, preferably with a high resolution to give the foil a larger area to adhere to.

Not all toner works equally well for foiling – it used to be that most mono devices worked for foiling but due to changes made in the composition of toner, they now contain more wax-like substances that do not lend themselves well to the process. At present, we have found that Samsung mono machines have proved the most successful for the foiling process.

It’s possible to use a standard laminator for the foiling process, although the best and most consistent results are achieved when using a specialist foiling machine.

The main limitation to toner foiling is media handling, unlike inkjet devices, the media handling capabilities of a laser are much more restrictive, with 220gsm being the upper limit in most cases. This often means that there is a requirement to mount the work after foiling onto thicker card, particularly for those looking to create custom invites and stationery.

Hybrid printing

Toner foiling appears to be having a resurgence of late in craft circles, despite there being a fair number of limitations around media handling.

It’s possible using a combination of inkjet and laser machines to create hybrid designs that contain both colour images and foil. Using a paper suitable for both laser and inkjet (uncoated stock) you can first print a colour design using an inkjet device and then run this design through a laser machine afterward to add the foil design pattern. After then foiling the document using a hot foiler/laminator you are left with a hybrid design combining the best of both processes – think floral background and foiled text on a wedding invitation for example!

But what’s the best laser printer for foiling?

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