Looking to add a new technique to your garment decoration repertoire? Consider foil!

The process does require a heat press and some extra handling of each garment, but the foil itself costs pennies per design. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with special effects graphics that make your prints stand out.

Applying Foil Transfers

There are a few methods you can use for applying foil transfers to your screen prints. Using the most basic process, you screen print a base layer for the foil to adhere to. Foil will stick to regular plastisol inks — some are tackier than others — or an adhesive base.

The plastisol ink or adhesive should be printed in a thick, even layer using a screen with a mesh count between 86 and 110. Cure the base layer as usual. Place your garment print side up on a heat press set between 330 and 375 degrees. Place the foil shiny side up over your design and close the press with moderate pressure for 6 to 15 seconds. Allow the foil to cool slightly, and pull it away from the garment in a swift, smooth motion. Your foil design should be left behind.

Know that overheating the foil, or heating it more than once, can cause it to tarnish. If you’re using plastisol ink as your underbase, print an ink that matches the foil so if there are any minor flaws in the foil, the ink doesn’t show through. If you want the foil to accent a plain ink color, you either will have to print the plain portions of the design in a water based ink, or you will have to print your plastisol color after the foil is applied, knowing that curing your print with the foil in place will dull the foil slightly.

Creating Different Effects with Foil

One of the benefits of accenting your prints with foil transfers is that you can create many different effects using foil, and those effects are incredibly easy to achieve. First, foil comes in different finishes. That means you can add a solid-color traditional foil or you can add an iridescent shimmer over any color of ink. You also can achieve several different effects with your handling of the foil.

Crumpling the foil before transferring it to the shirt will create a distressed, aged look on the shirt. You can leave the distressed graphic as is, or you can add a complementary color of foil — which will stick into the gaps the first application of foil didn’t fill — to create a two-tone foil application. You also can dull the bright shine of the foil to achieve a luster effect by placing a Teflon sheet over the applied foil and pressing the foil a second time for about 10 seconds. Rather than applying a full sheet of foil to a graphic, you can create a more random foil application by holding the heat press over the plastisol or clear adhesive to heat it and then manually dabbing on different colored foils. You can add foil on top of a puff ink to highlight the peaks of the print, or you can create a raised looking foil application by pressing foil firmly into puff ink on the heat press.

Once you understand how to apply foil transfers, you can have a lot of fun discovering different effects to create with foil. Using foil transfers will allow you to offer different effects to your customers at a relatively low cost to you.

Looking for some other ways to make your garments stand out? Check out this blog:

How to Get Started with Specialty Inks