Gold Foil: The definitive designers guide to custom foil printing t-shirts

Gold Foil Effect Adobe Illustrator Poster

In this Gold Foil: The definitive designers guide to gold foil, creating and screen printing the effect. We get hands-on with creating a gold foil effect in both Illustrator and photoshop. We go in depth on how the gold foil effect is garment screen printed and explain the pros and cons of this printing technique. To top things off with deliver proper garment care instructions when dealing with Gold Foil prints.

What you’ll need:

  • A Gold Foil Texture
  • Adobe Illustrator (we’re using Illustrator CC)
  • Adobe Photoshop (we’re using Photoshop CC)

Difficulty Level: Piece of cake, you’ve got this!

Section quick links

How to create a gold foil effect in Illustrator

Gold Foil Effect Adobe Illustrator Step 01

Step 1 of 3

Get a texture

Download a gold texture of your choice. We are using this gold foil texture.

Step 2 of 3

Add artwork

Open the texture in Adobe Illustrator. Create your design and place it on top of the gold foil texture, we are using a simple bold font which has a good amount of surface to apply the gold foil texture to. The font is called Eveleth.

Gold Foil Effect Adobe Illustrator Step 02

Step 3 of 3

Edit the artwork to reveal the bling

Select both the artwork and the gold texture with the direct selection tool, right click and select ‘Make Clipping Mask’. You can also use the shortcut Command + 7(Mac) Control + 7 (Win)

Gold Foil Effect Adobe Illustrator Step 03

Note:The clipping mask process may not work if your artwork is too detailed. If you are using a font then you should have no problem. If you are using this gold foil technique on a logo you may need to ungroup your design and repeat steps 1 through 3 on each object in the design.

Tip: When using gold foil in apparel design, keep the minimum line size above 3 points. Stick to large block text and large surface areas so the foil has enough ink/glue to bond to. We will cover why in the next section on ‘Screen Printing: Gold Foil printing guide.’

How to create a gold foil effect in Photoshop

Gold Foil Effect Adobe Photoshop Step 05

The photoshop version of the gold foil effect is almost identical to how it works in Illustrator, so if you nailed the Illustrator tutorial then this will be a breeze. One benefit in using Photoshop over Illustrator (for this technique) is that Photoshop can handle more complex designs when applying the gold foil effect.

Step 1 of 3

Get texture and artwork

Download the gold texture of your choice and place it on it’s own layer above the background layer. We are using this gold foil texture.

Place the artwork you wish to turn into gold foil on it’s own layer above the gold foil texture layer.

Gold Foil Effect Adobe photoshop Step 06

Step 2 of 3

Make a selection to mask

Make a selection of the area you wish to contain the Gold Foil with the magic wand tool, making sure to hold the shift key to make multiple selections. You should now see the ‘marching ants’ around your selected area. We no longer need the artwork layer, so deselect the eye icon on the left hand side of the artwork layer to hide the visibility of this layer.

Gold Foil Effect Adobe photoshop Step 07

Step 3 of 3

Reveal the bling

With the selection made, select the gold foil texture layer and create a clipping mask by clicking on the mask icon in the tools palette (you can also create a mask by going to object > mask > create clipping mask). The mask will hide the unwanted areas of the gold foil texture, revealing your newly created gold foil design.

Gold Foil Effect Adobe photoshop Step 08Gold Foil Effect Adobe photoshop Step 09

There are a few things to consider when creating a design that will eventually be produced as a graphic print on any garment type. We will go over these considerations in the next section titled ‘Gold Foil for Garment Printing: Specialty Embellishments.’

SCREEN PRINTING: Gold Foil printing guide

Gold Foil is applied to a garment in a two part print process.

First, the artwork is printed onto the garment with an adhesive ink. The ink is flash dried. Flash drying is where the print surface is exposed to a bright UV light for a few seconds to lightly dry the ink, as opposed to sending a printed garment down a long drying oven where the ink fully dries.

The second process involved laying the gold foil on top to the print area and using a heat press to re-melt the adhesive ink resulting in the gold foil bonding to the glue. After the heat pressed garment has had some time to cool down the gold foil is lightly rubbed, the gold foil falls away where there was no adhesive ink printed revealing the finished gold foil design.

With any garment printing process there are pros and cons to using gold foil in your design work.


  • Gold Foil is the closest resemblance to gold you can get in a garment print compared to metallic gold inks which are less vibrant and hardwearing.
  • Great point of difference, eye catching, adds perceived value to what could be just an ordinary garment graphic.
  • The Gold Foil substrate also comes in many other color shades, including: silver, green, blue, red, etc.
  • Can be printed side by side with other Water Based inks.


  • Over time gold foil cracks and begins to flake off. It is not a long lasting print effect.
  • Considering the print is not long lasting, most garments sold in retail stores have a sticker or extra swing tag to notify the customer of the cracking/flaking they will see. The sticker or swing tag is an added cost to keep in mind.
  • More expensive than a regular print as it is a two part printing process. You will be charged for the amount of foil used, time it takes to first print the design and then heat press the foil onto that garment. Consider that the heat press machine may need a few minutes, and time is money.
  • Not good with fine detail, try to keep all line work above 3pts.
  • Can not be side-by-side with other Plastisol Inks. Plastisol inks will stick to the foil during the heat pressing processes.

Insider Knowledge: Some screen printers will tint the adhesive ink yellow so when the foil cracks or flakes off it’s not as noticeable. Ask your screen printer when ordering if they do this and if it’s an added cost.

Gold Foil garment care instructions

Gold foil prints require a little extra care to last the life of the garment. We recommend the below wash instructions:

gold foil garment care instructions

  1. Turn the shirt inside-out.
  2. Use a delicate wash cycle, or better yet wash by hand, with cold water and a mild detergent.
  3. Hang dry in shade, do not use a clothes dryer.
  4. Do not iron over foil.