How to gold foil your hand lettering: a step-by-step guide ✨

What you'll need

Equipment

  • A thermal laminator (Swingline Thermal Laminator – $22.99) OR an iron

  • Access to a laser printer (not Inkjet!) – I have my own laser printer, but I imagine it only costs a buck or two to get your design printed in black on your own paper.

Supplies

  • A black marker or brush pen – A pack of Crayola markers or a couple of fancy brush pens will run you anywhere between $5-10 bucks. 

  • Lots of white paper – Literally the cheapest you can find. I got 750 sheets at Target for about $5.00)

  • Tracing paper  – I found a pad of 50 on sale at a local Blick for $4 each.

  • Card stock – I usually get 110lb uncoated, acid-free bright white card stock. But also do this with cheaper 65lb card stock and it looks nice too! (Neenah 110lb Card Stock – $10.57)

  • Transfer foil – Prepare to go through more than expected in the beginning as your working things out. (Therm O Web Deco Foil – $7.71) 

Once you get your initial supplies, the materials for creating a gold foil print add up to like a dollar or two each. That is not a bad margin, my friends! 🙌


Step one: Decide what you want to say!

First things first, decide what you want to hand letter. This is actually the hardest part in my opinion. What do you want to tell the world? What words are important enough to foil? ✨  

If you're not in the zone to self reflect, there are endless quotes on Pinterest you can use as inspiration for this DIY project. I'd shoot for something short and sweet, a handful of words or less. 

Step two: Sketch. A lot.

Now the fun begins. Pick up a Crayola marker and a ton of scrap printer paper. Feel free to use a fancy brush pen and sketchbook if you're comfortable with it. I've used the Tombow Dual Brush Pens for awhile but have lately been using the LePen brush pens. They have a ton of contrast and are 1/2 the price of Tombow. 👌 But Crayola's are super cheap and easy to control if you're just getting started.

Whatever you choose, make sure to go for black because it has the most contrast with the paper, and that makes things easier when it's time to digitalize your hand lettering later.

Now go at it. Turn on some tunes 🎶 and write your letters over and over again until you've loosened up and found your rhythm. I like to do this part fairly quick. I keep my wrist and elbow relaxed, applying heavy pressure on the down strokes and light pressure on the upstrokes.

 
Hang up the ones that look the best, step back and look at your lettering in all of its glory.

Hang up the ones that look the best, step back and look at your lettering in all of its glory.

 

Step three: Choose the winner and trace it

One sketch will stand out to you. You'll like the layout and movement and thicks and thins of it. (If one doesn't, then keep going!) Place the tracing paper over the sketch and redraw it slower and more carefully.

You can also use this as an opportunity to adjust the scale or layout of the words and touch up any imperfections you don't like. (But not all of them! That's the beauty of hand drawn type!)

 
Trace your sketch with a brush pen or crayola marker. Refine any jagged edges with a finer point pen.

Trace your sketch with a brush pen or crayola marker. Refine any jagged edges with a finer point pen.

 

Step four: Take a picture or scan it

I don't have a scanner, so I took a picture of my tracing paper with a piece of white paper behind it for contrast. I brought it into Photoshop where I desaturated it and bumped up the levels. You can use this time to touch up the photo, filling in gaps where the ink didn't completely saturate the tracing paper or getting rid of noise around the sketch.

Step five: Live trace the sketch (Optional!)

So this step is sort of optional. You *can* keep your sketch in Photoshop, position it and print it right from here, especially if you're more comfortable in Photoshop. I chose to move my sketch to Illustrator, because I wanted it to be a vector illustration and I prefer it for print work. But again it doesn't have to be vector, which is the beauty of this process. If you do keep it in Photoshop, be sure to do a better job cleaning up the scan and improving the contrast. Any black specs left behind will end up with foil on it.

Step Six: Print and cut to size

In this example, we'll be creating an 8x10 print. Create an 8x10 document in Illustrator, scale your artwork, and position it in the center. I usually keep my artwork no wider than 6 inches, and slightly higher on the page than smack dab center.

Either print directly from Illustrator or save as PDF. If you're manually cutting the 8x10 be sure to include trim marks.

Do a test run on regular printer paper and when you're ready, print your design on your fancy card stock. Print a couple of extra, just in case! 

Note: This will NOT work on an inkjet printer. It must be printed from a laser printer. 

I usually cut my prints down to size with my Silhouette cameo, but if you're doing it the old fashioned way (I still do that sometimes, too!) now's the time to get out your ruler and X-ACTO knife.

 
Cut your transfer foil to size and place it, gold side up, directly over your print.

Cut your transfer foil to size and place it, gold side up, directly over your print.

 

Step Seven: The fun part! Time to foil

Go ahead and heat up your thermal laminator. You can also use an iron, so I've heard, but I have not tried this myself. If you are, remember to turn off the steam setting and put a piece of paper between the foil and the iron. 🙈

Grab your transfer foil, and put it on top of your black and white print. Once your laminator is ready to go, feed it through. 

Feed your print through the laminator until it grabs the paper.

Feed your print through the laminator until it grabs the paper.

Patience is a virtue.

Patience is a virtue.

You can peel the foil off right away. The foil adheres to the toner in the print, leaving you with a beautiful, sparkly masterpiece to frame or hang on your wall!

Tada! ✨ Now go foil all the things.

Tada! ✨ Now go foil all the things.

Was this step-by-step guide on how to foil your hand lettering helpful? Do you want me to go into more detail on any step above? I'd love to see what you created!

Please share this post, and I'll create more like it! 😘

Yours truly,
Your Grayce