I planned to purchase foil-pressed stationery from a website, but after realizing it would cost me upwards of $1000, I decided to seek out alternatives.  I sought out articles and watched tens of YouTube videos for tips on how to make gold foil stationery at home with a laminator, and went to work.  I experimented for hours (with 7 sheets of gold foil) and came up with these results — hope my findings will save someone else some time and money!

I will go over the equipment I used and troubleshooting tips.  This article assumes you already know the basics of foiling with a laminator.

Equipment

The following products are what I used in my discovery process.  I might earn a small commission if you click on a link that leads to a product purchase; read my advertising disclosure. If you found this post helpful then please support me by using the links below.  I did not receive any of these products for free and this is not a sponsored post.


Monochrome Laser Printer for DIY gold foiling stationery
 

I picked this laser printer because:

  • I’ve read a monochrome printer is better for foiling
  • I was going to print on cardstock and I wanted a printer that wouldn’t curl the paper too much. This one has a rear outlet for the paper to exit without needing to curl around the top.
  • It was cheap (only $80 when I bought it)


A laminator for DIY gold foiling stationery
 

I picked this laminator because:

  • There were some reviews of it that mentioned other people having success using this machine for foiling
  • It has 2 heat settings, and I’ve read a higher heat setting is better for foiling
  • It was way cheaper (<$20) than that other laminator made specifically for foiling (Minc Laminator Machine)

Do not use the laminating pouches that come with the laminator as the “transfer folder” — it will just laminate your piece!  I tried tracing paper in lieu of parchment paper or a baking sheet but ultimately just used a regular piece of folded copy paper because it didn’t wrinkle up.


Heat transfer gold foil
 

This particular package had 5 sheets — I ended up using it all just for experimenting so I purchased a larger roll.


Smooth cardstock for gold foiling
 

I ordered 100 lb cardstock in nude, black, red, and gold. Some of the colors have sold out and have been replaced with a “grocery bag” color.


Best paper for gold foiling
 

I bought ivory-colored parchment paper, but also had 100% cotton paper, and Staples brand white copy paper.


Paper cutter
 

Last but not least, this paper cutter came in pretty handy and it was only $13.

With this set up, there are still a lot of variables that can contribute to the quality of your gold foiling.  I kept seeing black specks where the foil didn’t adhere to the toner in the final product so I had to ask myself the following questions:

  • What setting should I use when printing my design on the laser printer?
  • What is the minimum dpi I should print at?
  • How do I get my image to be the best black and white quality for printing?
  • Is my laminator hot enough for gold foiling?  If not, how can I compensate for this?  Should I just use an iron?
  • What’s the best card stock or paper I should be using to achieve the best results for gold foiling?

Because the answer to these questions is “it depends,” I sprinkled the answers below within the context of varying factors.

Experimenting

I started by printing out a test of a design at 50% of its original size on various types of cardstock.

DIY gold foil on black cardstock

gold foil on black cardstock

It looked terrible on the black cardstock, but I think that was because I had the printer’s Media Type to “Plain Paper” but I needed to set it to “Thick.”  It looked bad on the gold glitter cardstock — the foil barely stuck to the toner.  It almost looked like I intentionally only applied half the amount of gold on so if I was going for an antiqued look, it may have been good for that.  The best result I got was on the nude-colored cardstock.

Testing DIY gold foiling

gold foil on ivory cardstock

I printed each row with different dpi (Thick 300dpi, 600dpi, Thicker 300dpi, 1200dpi) and I ran it through the laminator twice on the left side (over the words “Thick”, “thicker”, etc), and once on the right (over the numbers 300, 600, etc). You can see that it looked much better when I ran it through two times, and the dpi I used didn’t really seem to matter unless I was running the cardstock through the laminator only once.

Patchwork DIY gold foiling

gold foil on cream-colored cardstock

I then tried foiling different types of paper.  100% cotton paper had the most inconsistent results, so I stuck with the ivory-colored parchment paper but I still couldn’t achieve professional-quality foiling.

DIY gold foiling settings for laser printer

gold foil on ivory paper

The best-looking result seemed to be when I set Media Type to “Plain Paper,” printed in 1200dpi, and laminated twice.  I tried both the 3 mil heat setting, as well as the 5 mil heat setting — always use the 5 mil!

Testing different results for DIY gold foiling

best result was achieved by running through the laminator twice

I was still trying to perfect the foiling and realized although the above setting looked good for wider fonts, there was still a problem when the fonts were thin.  I tried the same technique on some cheap Staples paper and the gold foil turned out better on the plain white paper than it did on the ivory parchment paper.

DIY gold foiling results for intricate fonts

gold foil on plain white vs ivory parchment

I did some more research and found someone else that that sampled different papers, and although they didn’t test any ivory-colored paper, it helped make my decision to get Hammerhill paper.  I guess they make really smooth paper that’s ideal for laser printers (which is optimal for gold foiling).  While I was waiting for the paper to arrive, I was also wondering if the laminator was too weak and I went to rage iron — this definitely did not work for me.

Results from using an iron for gold foiling

ironed on gold foil

One thing I should also mention is to make sure the image you’re printing is at least 300dpi (in Photoshop or whatever you’re using) and that the lines are solid black.  When I zoomed in on my image, it looked like this on the left:

Printing in pure black and white for DIY gold foiling

not solid black and white on the left

I ended up trying a few different techniques to get the image as black and white as possible while keeping the image fidelity high.  To get an image black and white, go to Image > Adjustments > Replace Color… and click the middle eyedropper to Add to Sample, then click on the part of the image you want to turn to black.  Then drop the Lightness down to -100.  To fix the issue in the image above where the edges of the lines are pixelated, go to Select > Color Range… and Select: Shadows, hit “Ok” and then Layer > Layer Style > Color Overlay… and select Black (#000000).  You should be able to get clear solid black lines like on the right side of the image above.

Finally, after nights of experimenting, I produced something I was happy with.

DIY gold foiling comparison

good vs bad foiling

You can see on the left, the foil applied smoothly throughout, whereas on the right, there’s still speckles of black of where the foil didn’t get applied.  Everything about these two samples were the same except I used the Hammerhill paper on the left, vs the Southworth parchment paper on the right.

Conclusion

There are a lot of factors involved when trying to create near-perfect gold-foiled stationery yourself at home.  In conclusion, if I could go back in time and give myself some tricks to foiling with a laminator, I would tell myself the following tips:

  • Print on the smoothest paper or coated cardstock you can find.
    • For my print settings, I used: Media Type: Plain Paper / Resolution: HQ 1200 / Print Settings: Text or for cardstock: Media Type: Thick / Resolution: 600 dpi / Print Settings: Text
  • Run the paper through the laminator multiple times (at least twice).  The major advantage of purchasing the Minc Laminator Machine is that there are 4 rollers instead of the standard 2 rollers in a regular laminator but the price was still not worth it for me so I just bought a second laminator.
  • You’re going to waste a lot of foil in the beginning while experimenting so use it economically and label all your tests and sample paper so you don’t forget what combination you used.
  • Use a folded sheet of plain white paper as a “transfer folder” and always feed it into the laminator with the folded edge first, or else it might not come out the other end properly and jam the laminator.
  • Zoom in on the image before printing it and make sure it’s solid black and white.
  • Let the foil cool a bit before peeling it off.

Feel free to leave a question or comment below and “Like” this post if it’s helped you!

Laser printer cat


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