Hot foil blocking vs cold foil blocking – what’s the difference?

Any printed item you see with a shiny foil design on it will have either undergone hot foil blocking or cold foil blocking.  It’s a very common design feature often seen on invitations, business cards, letterheads and the like and can add a striking and sophisticated visual effect to a printed item.  If you’re after this effect then you might have come across the options of hot foil printing or cold printing.  This article will outline the main differences between these two techniques and subsequent benefits of each.

What is hot foil blocking?

Hot foil blocking, also known as hot foil stamping, hot foil printing or just hot foiling is a technique which transfers a foil design onto a substrate.  A block is made of a particular design; this block is known as the hot die; then a combination of heat and pressure transfer the design onto the paper or board.  Hot foiling is done post-press which means that printed areas cannot overlap foil sections.

You can get hold of foil in almost any colour and even with hologram or pattern designs.

And cold foil blocking?

Cold foil blocking is similar to hot foil blocking, but as implied by the name, doesn’t involve heating.   It’s an inline process so it happens during printing.  The design is applied via UV activated adhesive rather than heated die, and therefore uses a UV lamp instead of heating equipment.

Hot foiling vs cold foiling


Better quality, brighter and doesn’t suffer from pinholing which can be a problem with cold foiling. Significantly cheaper.  Adequate where very high quality isn’t a concern.
Hot foiling can be combined with embossing and stamping to produce a tactile effect.  Cold foiling can’t. In-line foiling means it can be completed after or in between printing processes.
You don’t need an ultra-clean environment to hot foil; you do to cold foil Much quicker process than hot foiling
You don’t experience problems with UV lamps which can be common during cold foiling.

Hot foiling is generally favoured by those looking for real finish and quality.  Cold foiling is becoming increasingly popular however as techniques develop to iron out the problems with quality which originally put people off.  Cold foiling also has the appeal of being generally cheaper than hot foiling which is why a lot of printers offer both techniques.

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