3 Tips for Foil Transfer

For some people it’s pictures of their kids. For my brother, it’s his famous chocolate chip cookies. You know, that gift you give every year, that if you don’t give, people are asking about? For me, it’s the Printers Guild calendar. A different member of the Guild prints a different month of the calendar for the exchange, and the result is a year of art. If I miss giving it to someone, they’re like, “So, no calendar this year?” with sad puppy dog eyes. At least, I like to think so.

I always do a cyanotype print for my month (tutorial to come later), but this year, in addition to the September prints I made, I felt like the month for January needed a little more pop. So I decided to redo that month with a laser foil transfer. It was my first time successfully printing with foil, and it definitely took some troubleshooting, so along with the how-to below, I’ll share some tips I learned along the way.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

What you’ll need:

  • Design
  • Laser printer or copy machine (or a nearby copy shop)
  • Reactive foil transfer sheets, like iCraft deco foil
  • Coated paper or cardstock
  • Laminating Machine
  • Scissors
  • Extra sheet of copy paper

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Step 1

Tip No. 1 is that if you’re printing on your own laser printer, print from a program like Photoshop. For whatever reason, if I printed from Illustrator, it wouldn’t work as well. You can do a screenshot from Illustrator or InDesign to open it in Photoshop. I’ve read that others had similar problems printing from Word, but Photoshop works. This matters less if you’re making copies instead.

Make sure to create your design in all black. You need to print with toner; an ink-jet printer just doesn’t work. If you are going to print at a copy shop, go ahead and print it out so you can make a B&W copy in the store. I had great results on a B&W copy machine at my local shop (better than my home laser printer), but not as good results at FedEx Kinkos multi-copier. I can’t tell you why.

Top No. 2: Choose a coated stock (sorta glossy). It works much better than uncoated. I had to scour my local craft store for coated black paper, but I did find an option that works.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Above you can see the black cardstock printed in black. The original copy is on the right.

Step 2

Cut the foil transfer sheets to cover the image on your paper. I used two colors of iCraft deco foil. This foil is toner-reactive foil. Some tubes come with one sheet and some tubes come with five sheets, so make sure you get enough for your project.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Step 3

Cover the paper and foil with a plain sheet of copy paper, and run it through a laminating machine. I was hesitant to get a laminator only for this purpose, but I read that you can get them pretty cheap and they go on sale all the time. Sure enough, last time I was in the office supply store, this Swingline laminator was on clearance for under $20! Plus, if I ever want to laminate something, it’s good for that, too 🙂 Put it on the hot setting. Tip No. 3: I ran my stacked sheets through twice for good measure.  I’ve heard you can use an iron too? But I haven’t tried that myself.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Step 4

Once the foil is cool (less than a minute), peel up the foil.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

Hopefully, the foil transfers to your design completely. If it doesn’t, try making a copy of your design on a B&W-only copy machine. The transfer on this go round was sorta flaky, and I’ve had much better results previously with the same paper and foil. The only difference was the copy machine I used, so I’m attributing it to that.

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar


Here is the successful foil transfer (from my first round of prints). I love the way the metallic foil pops against the black stock, and it’s just the right look I was hoping for to start the calendar off this year!

Foil Transfer 2016 calendar

2017 Calendar

For next year’s calendar, I decided instead of a print exchange, I’m going to create 12 months of the calendar myself for gifts. So I’ll try out 12 different artistic styles or printing methods. Look for more posts about the 2017 calendar to come!

Have you tried laser foil transfer? What tips do you have to get good results?

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4 comments on “3 Tips for Foil Transfer

  1. Robin says:

    I definitely felt sad puppy dog eyes – ish when I realized I wasn’t getting a new calendar this year (yet). My desk so far is still stuck in 2015. Love the pop of the new January!

    • createmore says:

      Don’t worry, Robin… yours is in the mail! Sorry for the delay 🙂

      • Robin says:

        Thank you! It’s the best January yet! My roommate was so impressed with it that I decided to leave it in the kitchen for us both to enjoy!\