Metallic Foil Stamping vs. Metallic PMS Ink

If you want to add a metallic finish to your marketing collateral, you’ll have to make the inevitable choice between foil stamping versus metallic PMS ink. Both techniques enhance the look of your materials by simulating the shiny gleam of metal — conveying both a sense of class and authority. However, they are both completely different processes which create wholly unique metallic effects.

Metallic Foil Stamping

Foil stamping applies a metallic foil directly onto your marketing materials using heat and pressure.

Foil stamping is a process where a foil is adhered directly onto your paper stock using a combination of heat and pressure. In addition to metallic foils, there are also non-metallic glossy foils, clear foils and even special effect foils to choose from. Since foil stamping is applied directly on top of printed materials, it creates an effect that is not only visual, but textural as well.

Metallic PMS printing uses a special type of ink that is mixed with real metal particles to create a unique shiny appearance. Metallic inks differ from other PMS inks because they are less translucent and more opaque due to the presence of the metal elements. This ink is applied first during the printing process and may require multiple coats to achieve the desired effect.

The debate over foil stamping versus PMS printing with metallic ink comes down to what elements you want to give a metallic look to and the effect you’d like to achieve. Both techniques have their drawbacks, but both techniques also have areas in which they excel over the other.

  • Shiniest Finish – Foil Stamping

    Foil stamping provides a more realistic metallic finish over PMS spot printing because it is the last thing to be applied to your marketing collateral. Due to the runny nature of metallic inks, they have to be put down first during the printing process. Each time you add new ink to the material (on top of the metallic ink), the effect may become muddled.

  • Folder with Metallic Ink

    The text on this folder is printed with metallic ink, a special PMS tone that is mixed with real metal particles to create a subtle metallic effect.

    Best Subtle Metallic Effect – Metallic PMS Ink

    If you need a more subtle metallic effect, then metallic ink is a much better choice over foil stamping. You could make a metallic ink the most prominent color in a presentation folder for a very effective design; however, you couldn’t foil stamp the majority of a folder without it looking gaudy and overdone.

  • Best Choice for Embossing – Foil Stamping

    If you want to add a metallic shine to embossed elements, then your only choice is foil stamping. This is due to the nature of metallic PMS ink, which has real flecks of metal inside the mixture. If metallic ink were to become embossed, the ink would crack and the effect would be ruined. Metallic foil sticks perfectly to embossed elements, drawing attention to them.

  • Biggest Color Variety – Metallic PMS Ink

    Both foil stamping and metallic PMS inks offer a wide range of colors that resemble real metals, such as gold, silver and bronze. They both also have a number of tinted metal colors in reds, blues and greens. However, since metallic PMS ink is a mixture, it can be altered to many different degrees, allowing for a wider range of colors to select from.

  • Metallic PMS Ink

    Since metallic ink is applied during the printing process, it is a more cost effective way to add a metallic effect to your marketing materials.

    Most Durable – Foil Stamping

    The metal particles in metallic PMS ink can cause it to become brittle over time. This has the potential to leave your marketing materials with a cracked ink effect when they start to get old. Metallic ink requires a coating on top to make it last longer. Foil has a much longer lifespan which is actually lengthened if the foil elements are debossed, because it creates a better seal onto the stock.

  • Least Expensive Option – Metallic PMS Ink

    Metallic PMS ink is generally the most cost effective way to add metallic elements to your printed materials. On average, an area that is spot printed using ink will be less expensive than foil stamping an area of the same size.

  • Most Stock Options – Draw

    The battle of metallic foil vs. metallic ink is basically a stalemate when it comes to the ability to choose a variety of stocks. Both techniques are particular and they won’t necessarily get along with every stock option. Foil stamping works on most paper options, but it doesn’t stick well to textured stocks like linens. Metallic PMS ink looks its best on glossy paper; however, it can also look subtly stunning on matte as well. It can also look too bright on white colored stock and like foil stamping, it doesn’t print well on textured stocks either.

  • Shiny Metallic Foil Stamping

    Foil stamping provides a textural relief that can be felt with your fingertips.

    Best for Fine Detail – Metallic PMS Ink

    Since metallic PMS ink is printed like any other ink, it can retain a greater level of detail over foil stamping. Anything you have foil stamped must be cut out from a foil stock, which means that small details can be hard to reproduce without compromising the integrity of the foil.

  • Best Textural Effect – Foil Stamping

    Since metallic foil is a separate element that is applied last, it has a textural quality that can be felt by the hand. Foil is smooth to the touch, like actual metal and is noticeably different from the stock used in your marketing products. This effect is heightened even greater when foil designs are also embossed.

The Conclusion

There isn’t an easy winner in the debate between foil stamping versus metallic PMS ink because it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Foil stamping is the best choice for drawing attention to your smaller elements like embossed logos and text, but metallic ink is best when you want to incorporate a metallic sheen into your large scale design elements. Both offer a different quality, and both can be just as effective at making your marketing materials appear strong and authoritative.

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Metallic Foil Stamping vs. Metallic PMS Ink

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Posted in Print Design, Printing Technology

One Response to “Metallic Foil Stamping vs. Metallic PMS Ink”

  • Amy says:

    Brilliant post! Although, I will always choose foil blocking over print. Especially when using an uncoated stock – simple yet so effective!


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