Foiling at home with your Silhouette – Tutorial

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I recently created a logo for a client which lead me to learn a lot about foiling. Now if you’re not familiar with the term I’m referring to spot covering certain aspects of a design with a thin metal coating not foiling your opponent in cheese or a duel or anything quite as dramatic as that.

This has been a technique around in the printing industry for a very long time. Foiling always lends a richness to any design and is associated with quality. Just take a look at your perfume and makeup packages. A lot will use gold foil.

Though it’s a technique that has been around for yonks it’s certainly having a bit of a revival. We are decorating my 10 year olds bedroom at the moment and home deco shops are full with wall art with foiled typography and other accents of the metallic type. It looks cool and the good news is you can do it at home.

Up until recently if you wanted to use this effect you had to go through a professional printer and use an expensive process which involved getting a foil block (like a metal stamp of your design) made then getting the design heat stamped onto your paper. However with the advent of digital foiling there are now cheaper and even DIY options.

There are a couple of ways to achieve the look. I’ll give a brief description of each before going on to demonstrate step by step the method I used.

Foiling using reactive foil and a heat transfer machine.

For this process you’ll need…

  • a specialised machine such as the Heidi Swapp Minc machine or it can be done with a laminator.
  • some sheets of reactive foil
  • your design printed on a laser jet printer NOT ink jet. The toner in the laser jet is what the foil sticks to.

Jennifer McGuire has created an excellent tutorial on the process on YouTube:

Introduction to Heidi Swapp Minc Machines

Foiling using sticky embossing powder

If you’re a stamper you might find this process fun. Using sticky embossing power you can turn any of your stamps into a foiling block!

Tim Holtz Ranger Demo – Sticky Embossing Powder with Foils – CHA 2015

Foiling with a die cutting machine, double sided adhesive and reactive foils

Somewhere along my internet travels I came across this technique. Firstly, I didn’t know double sided adhesive paper existed until a few weeks ago but now I do what a brilliant product. I chose this technique because I have a die cutter and I don’t have a laminator or a Minc machine or for that matter a laser printer.

This technique works well for reasonably chunky designs i.e. largish type. I wouldn’t try it for anything too intricate – that really is where the Minc comes into it’s own.


  • Silhouette Cameo or personal die cutter
  • Double sided adhesive paper (I found the Silhouette brand worked best)
  • Watercolour paper
  • Inks or watercolours for colouring your background
  • Reactive foil sheets
  1. Create your canvas. I have had this set of Dr Martins watercolour inks since design school. I’ve always loved the vivid colours and the way they blend and merge. I had so much fun creating my background. Of course you can use digital backgrounds for this. There are loads of Photoshop brushes and watercolour background files available if you don’t want to get messy or don’t have these materials on hand but doing it your self is a lot of fun and you can customise the colour to exactly the one you want. I started by wetting my paper with a sponge so that when I applied the inks the paper was ready to soak them in. I also had a water spritzer bottle on hand to spray the ink to get spotty and blend water reactive effects. I choose the ink colours I liked and used sweeping strokes and splats and splotches to apply. Really anything goes here; you just want it to look free and not too over-worked or contrived.IMG_5379-as-Smart-Object-1IMG_5382-as-Smart-Object-1
  2. Using your die cutting machine and your double sided adhesive cut out your design. I used the default setting with the Silhouette brand adhesive paper which worked well. Using some kind of precision tool (mine is always my scalpel). Pick out the backing and adhesive insides of the letters e.g. the inner bit of the p; basically anything you don’t want the foil to stick to. This is a bit of a time consuming task and again here’s where a Minc would be a lot easier. With a bit of patience though, you’ll get there. A good idea to practice on something small first.Double sided adhesive
  3. Once your watercolour background is dry you can start transferring your adhesive letters or design to the background. Do it word at a time if you can and if possible leave the top most paper covering on the adhesive and peel that and the double sided adhesive together off the back most cover paper (the one stuck to the cutting mat). Leaving the top paper on will keep your double sided adhesive clean and maximise it’s stickiness. Use the negative space of the design to check you’re positioning your text correctly by laying it over top of the design as you go.IMG_5388-as-Smart-Object-1
  4. Now the fun part of adding the foil. If you had any parts of the design where the top cover paper came off in the process, do them first. With your reactive foil shiny pretty side up lay it over your adhesive letters or design. Press firmly and rub with the ball of your fist a few times to make sure the foil has stuck and then gently peel away. Foiling IMG_5402-as-Smart-Object-1 IMG_5408-as-Smart-Object-1
  5. Work away uncovering word by word and applying foil as you go. IMG_5410-as-Smart-Object-1

This quote was chosen by my daughter. It’s part of a larger statement but one that I’ve always loved. We’ve included the .svg file free here for you to download and try yourself.

Free download svg file Have fun and happy foiling!

A couple of cautionary notes. Minc foils come with a health warning. I contacted American Crafts and they assured me they are safe to use around children but as you can see in my photos just to be on the safe side I wore gloves while handling the foil and I would always wash my hands thoroughly after using them. Also I wouldn’t recommend using them on anything that is likely to get into the hands of small children who are liable to put thing in their mouths.

Also though I’m no intellectual property expert as far as I have found out quotes published before 1926 are in the public domain so are useable in this kind of situation.