Hot Foil Stamping vs. Metallised Ink: Which is Better?

Metallic Ink Printing

Hot Foil Stamping vs. Metallised Ink: Which is Better?

Metallised decorating is an easy way to bring a touch of luxury to packaging. Many brands use these design tricks to give their products an upscale look, which consumers often associate with superior quality.

Moreover, adding a metallic sheen to your packaging also makes your merchandise more visible. People will be able to see your products easily even when they’re placed in grocery aisles and retail stores where consumers are regularly bombarded with options.

If you’re planning to invest in metallised decorating for your packaging, you can choose between two of the most popular techniques: hot foil stamping and metallic ink printing.

Learn how these two methods differ and which one best suits your business needs here:

Hot Foil Stamping

Hot foil stamping machines use heat and pressure to impress a foil design onto your packaging material. The design is etched onto a metal die. Then, the stamp die is heated and pressed onto a layer of foil on top of the packaging material. The heat causes the foil to bond with the surface of your product.

Because the foil is stamped on, this design technique also creates a texture effect on your packaging. The foil has a smooth, metal-like feel that gives your product a tactile finish. This, in turn, elevates the consumer’s unboxing experience. In contrast, metallic ink printing doesn’t produce this kind of texture since the metallic sheen just comes from the ink.


  • A variety of finishes available: You can create a matte, glossy or satiny finish depending on the foil you use. Some of the most popular types are holographic, metallic and effects foil.
  • More detailed designs: Hot foil stamping captures fine details since the design is etched onto the metal die. That’s why this technique is commonly used to create labels and intricate product packaging. You can also combine hot foil stamping with embossing and debossing techniques to further elevate your packaging.
  • Environment-friendly: The Foil Stamping & Embossing Association (FSEA) confirmed that the foil used for hot stamping is recyclable and repulpable. This is a huge advantage for brands who want to cater to environmentally conscious buyers without losing out on the luxurious appeal.
  • Durable and long-lasting: Foil stamping has a longer lifespan than ink printing. The ink used for metallised printing has metallic particles that can degrade over time, dulling its shine.


  • Relatively more expensive: Hot foil stamping is more expensive compared to ink printing. You have to make new metal dies for every project or product, which may add up to a hefty total.
  • Process complexity: The process is complicated and time-consuming since you need to create and test new stamp dies every time. The foil also needs some time to cool down after the stamping process to make sure it sets properly.

Metallic Ink Printing

printing machine

Metallic inks have real metal particles that rise to the surface when the ink has dried. Close to the surface, the metallic particles catch the light and make your packaging sparkle. You can make the finish shinier by adding multiple coats of ink.

The metallic ink is applied early in the printing process, unlike in hot foil stamping where the foil is added towards the end. Afterwards, you need to coat the ink in some type of protective finish to keep it from degrading.


  • Colour variety: Although foils are available in a wide range of colours, metallic inks are easier to tweak to get the exact hue you want.
  • Subtle finish: The gloss provided by metallic inks is more understated compared to the kind you get from hot foil stamping. You can adjust the prominence of the ink to suit the overall design and the material it’s printed on.
  • Cost-efficient: Metallic ink printing requires no further tooling, so its overall costs are lower compared to hot foil stamping. All you have to pay for are the inks you’re using.
  • Simple: The metallic ink printing process is considerably simpler and faster. It can be done when printing the label or the design itself, unlike hot foil stamping which is a separate process.


  • Prone to fading: Metallic inks fade gradually, just like any ink. The metal particles can become brittle, too, which diminishes the ink’s shine over time. You need to layer a protective coating over it to prolong its lifetime.
  • Incompatible with some paper stocks: Metallic inks don’t work well with uncoated paper stocks because the metal particles can sink into the material’s pores. According to Graphic Arts Magazine, the metallic effect is more pronounced on hard paper stocks that are less porous.

Choosing a Metallised Decorating Technique

When cost is less of a factor in your process, hot foil stamping is the superior metallised decorating option. It’s compatible with all kinds of paper stocks and can be combined with other finishing techniques, such as embossing and debossing. The hot foil stamping technique also captures fine details that are difficult to emphasise with metallic ink printing.

However, hot foil stamping is only cost-efficient in high-volume productions. Otherwise, the tooling costs might put you in a loss. In this case, metallic ink printing would be the better option.

To conclude, if a variety of finishes, a superior level of shine and durability are what you need, then opt for hot foil stamping. If you are trying to drive down your operational expenses, however, then metallic ink printing would be the wiser choice for you.

Trusted Packaging Equipment Manufacturer

SBL Machinery has been manufacturing trusted packaging equipment since 1968. We offer a range of packaging solutions, including hot foil stamping machines and automatic folder gluers, all equipped with options for customisation to fit your unique requirements.

For enquiries about our hot foil stamping machines, call SBL Machinery at +886 2 2680-2199 or fill out our contact form.


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