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Foil or Ink, Which Should I Choose?

15 Mar 2022

Ever wonder how we get such crisp, picture-perfect printing on your favorite paper products? The answer may shock you! OK, not really, it’s actually quite simple. Read on to discover our two main types of printing: foil stamping and ink printing

Foil vs Ink Napkins

What’s the Difference?

In short, the major difference between our foil and ink products lies in the way the print is absorbed (or not!) into the napkin or paper product. Foil stamping is dry-pressed onto the surface of the paper. It’s what you see on almost all of our one-color products–the wedding matchboxes with delicate glimmery monograms, the party napkins with bold block letters, and so on. On the other hand, ink printing actually “dyes” the napkin or paper product and allows for a wider range of colors as well as multiple colors in one product. You can see this on our ink printed ranges of napkins, matches, coasters, and more! 

To recap: ink printing is “wet” and absorbed into the fibers of the paper, while foil stamping is a dry process where the print “sticks” to the surface.

foil vs ink gif on customized napkins

What Is “Foil,” Anyway?

First, let’s dispel a major myth of foil stamping: foil does not always equal “shiny.” This might be confusing since we all know “foil” as the shiny household product, but the kind of foil we’re talking about comes in varying levels of gloss and matte. Our Shiny foils are the closest to the aluminum foil you have in your kitchen drawer, with our Satin foils resembling the softer, less reflective flip side of that aluminum foil. Our matte foils have a similar look to acrylic paint or screen printing on a t-shirt–zero shine here! 

The Magic of Foil Stamping

So, many of our first-time customers are understandably curious about our striking foil-stamped products. We get so many inquiries about the process behind the beautifully crisp print. Is it printed? Is it stamped? Well, it’s a bit of all of the above. See, foil stamping is a process that uses pressure and heat to press (or “stamp”) a thin, dry piece of foil–think the delicate gold foil flakes you see atop extravagant cupcakes–into the paper product. Though the foil is dry, the machine uses heat and a metal plate to lay the foil on the paper and press it in, like a permanent sticker. 

customized foil cocktail napkins

Last But Not Least: Ink Printing

Ink printing is something you’re probably already familiar with from the good old days of inkjet printers. Nowadays, printing something out on paper is something that happens in the blink of an eye, usually with a neat little laser printer and toner. But some of us may remember a time when printing out a picture was a lengthier process that culminated in pulling out a nice, warm, damp sheet of paper and waving it around like a Polaroid until the ink was dry. That’s ink printing! Because the ink is actually soaked up by the fibers of the product, ink printing can result in a less dense or saturated look than would be achieved with foil printing. Remember, foil printing is more akin to putting a sticker on the surface of the paper product, so there’s no color saturation lost or absorbed. Meanwhile, ink printing will almost always look a little less saturated than foil.

Ink printed custom cocktail napkin

So Which One Do I Pick?

With all that being said, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing your preferred printing method–just because one type of printing is absorbed a certain way, doesn’t mean the final product will be any more or less striking than the rest. In the great beauty pageant of the paper products world, everyone’s a winner. Some things to consider when choosing a method? First of all, think about what you’re trying to convey–if all you need is the elegant simplicity of a monogram or a few lines of text, then one-color foil stamping may be right for you. If you’re looking for a more affordable option with additional color choices, then you’ll probably want to check out ink printing!

foil vs ink cocktail napkin

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Foil or Ink, Which Should I Choose?