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Screen Printing with Foils and Metallic Inks: Weighing the Pros vs. Cons

Plus four design tips to help you maximize these techniques.




Screen Printing with Foils and Metallic Inks: Weighing the Pros vs. Cons

IN SCREEN PRINTING there are different types of inks, finishes, and techniques. Foil and metallic finishes are a good way to make your print stand out. These types of screen printing techniques add textures and vibrancy to apparel prints as well as flat stock prints such as posters. We’ll take you into the ways these techniques are applied and show you examples.

Screen Printing with Foils and Metallic Inks: Weighing the Pros vs. Cons

What Is Foil Screen Printing?

Foil screen printing is similar to traditional screen printing but an adhesive glue ink is used instead of plastisol inks. The foil is cut in squares off of a large roll of foil. It is then placed over the glue adhesive print and heat pressed. The heat press activates the glue adhesive and grabs onto the foil. After the print cools, the foil sheet is pulled off and the excess foil is peeled off of the garment.

Foil works great for simple accents to a design as well as a loud bold statement. Foil prints give a mirror like effect to your screen prints and really shine when any light hits them.

There are a few different types of foils, holographic foils gives the most dynamic effect as it reflects light creating a variety of different colors as seen on the example image.

Check out how to screen print foil transfers with Wilflex HD Clear Foil Adhesive here.


  • No set-up costs
  • Can be used on all types of products/garments
  • Great for letters and numbers
  • Fast process
  • Perfect for single color designs
  • Perfect for sports garments


  • Material isn’t breathable
  • Durability not as good
  • Struggle with gradient designs

Screen Printing with Foils and Metallic Inks: Weighing the Pros vs. Cons

What Is Metallic Screen Printing?

Unlike printing with foil, to achieve a shiny metallic print you don’t need an overlay treatment or transfer because there are metallic inks that are used in the same way plastisol inks are utilized. The most used metallic inks are silver and gold and give off a shiny but non-reflective finish. Metallic inks work best when there are no small details to fill as the ink is a bit thicker than normal.

Metallic inks not only look nice, they will also help take your marketing materials to the next level by providing a more “expensive” look. When you incorporate metallic inks, you create a shiny and glossy effect that will make your full color postcard, business card, catalog or brochure stand out from the pack.


  • Smoother print finish than glitter inks
  • Plastisol ink based so the cured inks are very robust and long lasting
  • Available in a surprising amount of different colors


  • Not good for fine detailed artwork
  • Plastisol based metallic inks have a rubbery hand feel

List of Metallic Inks:

  • Pantone 873 – Metallic Gold
  • Pantone 877 – Metallic Silver
  • Pantone 8003 – Metallic Platinum
  • Pantone 8021 – Metallic Champagne Gold
  • Pantone 8062 – Metallic Pink
  • Pantone 8100 – Metallic Purple
  • Pantone 8201 – Metallic Blue
  • Pantone 8281 – Metallic Green
  • Pantone 8381 – Metallic Moss

Screen Printing with Foils and Metallic Inks: Weighing the Pros vs. Cons

How to Design For Foil Prints and Metallic Inks

  1. Choose your apparel blanks with color pairings in mind
    While starting with a well-chosen garment is important for every custom apparel project, the look of unconventional and eye-catching metallics will change greatly with the blank you choose.Muted colors like olives and soft earth tones will tone down and refine metallics, while jewel tones – like emerald, deep reds and royal purples or blues – will create a flashier look.
  2. Consider surface area for an impactful design
    One of the ways to get the most impact from your metallic embellishment is to incorporate it into a larger surface area, which will best catch the light and give your design the most noticeable sheen. On the reverse, incorporating metallics in smaller areas or a design with thinner lines can bring an ink that’s admittedly not for the faint of heart to a more approachable level. Make sure to consult your printer.
  3. Use metallics as an accent with other inks
    Not every design needs to go full-on with foils or metallics, all of these specialty services can be paired with standard inks. Use metallics and foils to highlight a specific aspect of your design, whether it’s a word you’d like to emphasize or an element of your graphic you want to really stand out.
  4. Typography heavy tee
    A popular and easy way to include metallics and foils is with text. The above tips can be equally helpful in designing your typography tees.To emphasize the sheen of your specialty ink, choose a bold, blocky font and a larger text size. To include metallics in a less overt way, use a thinner font or combine inks to highlight a specific word or letter. Don’t be afraid to play with positive and negative space. A knockout (or reverse text) design is a great way to increase surface area while using the color of your apparel blank to your advantage.

This article was originally published by Family Industries.



Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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