DIY cards with copper foil

Recently I ordered some laser toner reactive foil. It's metallic foil that will adhere to the toner on laser prints when it's heated and pressed. Or maybe it's not truly foil. I showed this experiment to my packaging-engineer husband who told me it was probably "metalized film" and blah blah blah "metal vapor deposition" blah blah, but "don't quote me on that." No problem; I didn't understand a word he said anyhow.

For best results, you're supposed to print a black and white laser image, then run the print and the foil through a hot laminator. But I don't have a laminator. The Designer Co-op suggested it's possible to use a household iron— an irresistibly tantalizing thought.

So I printed some designs I made, then practiced ironing on the foil. After some dismal early results, I gradually got the hang of it. I managed to produce one absolutely perfect transfer, and several towards the end were acceptable too, with only a couple small specks where the foil didn't adhere. I'm pretending these are vintage seals with an intentionally distressed look. It's a style choice. (Designers are taught in school to rationalize everything.)

Here's part of my trash pile:

The process that worked best:

I laser printed my designs in black onto cardstock using my home printer.

I laid a piece of corrugated cardboard on my dining table, and then a smooth piece of chipboard on top of that. Don't use an ironing board; it's too squishy. You'll need a hard surface like a table or floor, especially one that you would be very sad to ruin. It adds to the excitement.

I placed the laser print on top of the chipboard, printed side up, then covered the printed area with a piece of foil cut slightly larger than the design. The shiny side faces up.

After experimenting, the best setting for my iron was #2 for nylon. A really hot iron will cause the foil to shrivel up like a piece of peeled sunburn. See that chunk on the right in the picture above? Bad. No color will stick to the paper. Make sure the iron's steam is turned off, too.

Starting at one edge, move the iron steadily across the foil at a moderately slow speed, pressing really hard. Make just one pass.

Then peel the foil sheet off. Hopefully the metal has stuck to the print nicely.

I'd added some vertical lines as a background in the design above, but decided I liked the seal better by itself.

Here's a transfer that's not too bad. You can see just a few black specks where the foil didn't stick. Click to view images larger.

I used metallic copper foil available from Decal Pro FX— one of the individual flat packs at the bottom of the page. An 8"x15' piece of foil is $8.95.

If you don't have design software, no worries. Even simple text printed in an interesting typeface would look cool in foil. It's lots of fun!

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