This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of hot foiling, looking at its beginnings all the way through to the different types of machine available, and how each one functions. After all, being a rookie needn't be so intimidating!
Hundreds of years ago, foils weren't accessible as they are today, so an artisan would have to undertake the Free Leaf Stamping method. Once leather book covers were sized with adhesive and left to dry, they'd have to hand-beat genuine gold leaf to an incredibly thin consistency and then apply it to covers. This, as expected, would take days to complete – so something had to be done about it.
Hot stamping presses were manufactured, in which a mounted stamping die would be gas heated to around 107 to 121 degrees Celsius, then brought down into contact with the gold-foiled book cover to permanently stamp the foiling into place. This method, in comparison to modern processes, was incredibly laborious for the machine operator, so over time foiling took inspiration from the Gutenberg printing press and developed similar hand-set lettering methods using multiple brass dies.
However as the 19th century progressed into the 20th century, the desire for books increased so production shot right up – and foiling with real gold leaf became incredibly expensive. A new, less costly lookalike material was required, so hot stamping foils were developed. These foils are made up of a top polyester carrier film layer with many extremely thin transfer layers, including a metallised one. Today, these foils are commonly paired with home foiling machines to quickly and simply produce your own foiled designs!