How to set up a Color Foil mask file

When ordering Color Foil business cards, a Color Foil mask is required. When designing your business card, think ahead of time of what you’re going to have in foil. After the design is complete, you’re going to need to separate the foil mask from the print file. In this short tutorial, we will show you how a Color Foil mask is supposed to look like. Please note that the Color Foil masks CANNOT contain any gradients, drop shadows, or low resolution graphics.  All mask files must have a white background with the desired shape filled with 100% K (black ink) ONLY. In other words, 0-0-0-100 in CMYK color format.

See below for our short tutorial on how to set up a Color Foil mask file.

Step One: Understanding Foil Masks

Starting your foil business card design, you’ll want to keep in mind that foil plates can shift up to 1/16″. These shifts are unavoidable as they’re a natural process during production. Having a design that requires a perfect foil registration is not recommended. As you set up your foil mask, you also want to make sure nothing is under, (besides a background color) where the foil stamp will be. If a possible shift happens, and you have unwanted graphics under the foil, this will be very noticeable and the overall look of the card may seem a bit off.

In a nutshell, foil masks must ONLY contain a white background with the desired foil selection filled with 100% K (black ink). Below, we will show you an example of what a foil mask should look like and what it looks like when applied to the print files. For this example, we have applied color to both sides of the business card. We will need a total of four files (front print, back print, front mask, back mask). If you have only one foil color on either side, you will have a total of three files (front print, back print, front/back mask). Jobs that contain multiple foils on either side, you will need to have a separate foil mask for each individual color.


We DO NOT recommend foiling small text or thin lines. We recommend going no lower than 8pt for foiling text.

Front & Back Print Files

Step Two: Print Files vs Mask Files

Below are the front and back print files. These designs do not include the foil mask or color as the foil will not be printing. The difference between a print file and a mask file, is that the print file will be used for printing. The mask file will be used to create a die, that will then stamp a roll of foil to a sheet of uncut business cards. It’s very important that you DO NOT include the foil mask color in the print files if it’s not intended to be printed as the foil plates can shift and will expose the print from under.

Front & Back Color Foil Masks

Step Three: Separate Foil Selection from Print Files

Setting up a mask file can be very simple. As you can see below, we have the front foil mask and the back foil mask. Each have a white background and the foil selection is filled with 100% K (black ink). This is the ONLY set up that is allowed when using Color Foil, or any print options that contain mask files. You want to make sure that your foil masks do not include intricate/delicate lines or textures as the die may not pick up these up!

Front & Back Files (TOGETHER)

Step Four: Confirm Mask Placement

For the finished result before print, you will be sent a digital proof to show you where the foil stamping takes place (shown below). In this example, we have used the teal color to represent where the foil placement will be. This color will not be printed as it’s only to reference the placement. By confirming your mask placement, you can identify any alignment errors before submitting into production.


The Finished Product