How to Decorate Apparel with Foil

baseball shirt with silver foil


Foil on apparel gives a very unique and fashionable look. It adds a little extra pizazz that stands out from other apparel.

The thing is, you don’t need a special foil machine.

This specialty look can be done with heat transfer foil and a heat press.

Many apparel decorators forget about this transfer type and that they can print foil with just a heat press.


What is heat transfer foil

Foil is a shiny finish on top of a design. It is used in all sorts of printing applications throughout the entire printing industry, including brochures, business cards, greeting cards, apparel, and more.

Sometimes it is known as foil stamping.


foil examples


It adds a little pop to a design and can make it stand out with its shimmery and shiny, reflective look.

Specifically, “heat transfer foil” is one of the ways that foil is applied to a design.

It is a thin transfer material that is applied onto the design using heat.


green heat transfer foil sheet


For this post, we are going to concentrate on heat transfer foil for fabric, or using heat transfer foil to decorate apparel.

Decorating apparel with heat transfer foil is not difficult. It is easy to do with a heat press.

But there are some heat transfer foil tips and tricks that we want to share with you.


Heat transfer foil options

Foil comes in so many different options.

We’re talking colors, patterns, sizes, etc.

You can purchase rolls or pre-cut sheets.

At Transfer Express, we have made it easy for you and sell our foil in pre-cut sheets.

The sheet size is 12” x 15”, which is perfect to go with the 11.25” x 14” custom transfers that you will use with it.

The sheets are sold in packs of 10, which makes ordering really easy. You can order quantities close to what you need so you won’t have any extra waste or unused foil leftover.

That way, you don’t have to have a large inventory of foil.

Foil is nice, but most apparel decorators aren’t using it all the time. If you fall into this category, you don’t want to be stuck with a large roll of foil that you only needed to do 10 or 20 shirts for.

If you find that your customers are asking for foil regularly and it is a big part of your business, you might want to have more on hand. Stahls’ carries heat transfer foil by the roll.

Besides rolls vs. sheets, let’s look at color options.

We carry 12 heat transfer foil colors including:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Black Pearl
  • Rosy Red
  • Gun Metal
  • Indy Pink
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Bubblegum Pink
  • Purple
  • Copper
  • and Multi Stripe (a rainbow-like pattern).

These are the most popular foil colors and should cover a wide variety of uses, such as dance, cheer, school colors, and other fashion uses like our trending layout designs.


heat transfer foil color options


How to order heat transfer foil and foil adhesive transfers

When ordering your heat transfer foil, you actually need to order two components. You have your heat transfer foil, which is the material we have been talking about that gives your design a shimmery color, but then you also need the heat transfer foil adhesive. The Foil Adhesive transfer is your actual design. The colored heat transfer foil gives it the shimmery look.

This is important so we’ll repeat that again. To decorate apparel with foil, you need:

  1. Foil Adhesive custom transfers
  2. Heat transfer foil sheets

It is a 2 step heat transfer foil process.


foil adhesive transfer with foil


The Foil Adhesive transfer is what you apply to your apparel first. The foil itself applies on top of the Foil Adhesive and that’s what gives the foil something to “stick” to.

The Foil Adhesive transfer is also what creates your design. The Foil Adhesive transfer is a custom made transfer like our Goof Proof transfers and other custom transfers, but this adhesive ink is used specifically for the foil to adhere to on the shirt.

The foil itself will not apply to the shirt without an adhesive layer applied first.


shirt with gold foil design


Your design is printed in the special Foil Adhesive ink onto the transfer paper. This transfer type is priced just like our other ink types – Goof Proof, Hot Split Retro, etc.

So when you are decorating apparel with foil, make sure you order your Foil Adhesive custom transfers in your design, and then order the foil color packs to go with it.

Tip: Since the foil sheets are 12” x 15”, you can cut up your foil sheet as needed to only cover your design area. Keep this in mind when ordering your foil packs so you know how many packs you need.

For example:

If your design is 11” x 5”, and you need 20 images (for 20 shirts), you actually only need to order 1 pack of foil sheets since there are 10 sheets per pack and you can get 2 shirts out of each foil sheet.

To order your custom Foil Adhesive transfers, you can upload your own artwork or use Easy View, our online transfer designer. Within Easy View, you can use our artwork to create a custom design, or you can upload your own artwork as well.

Foil Adhesive transfers can only be ordered as a 1 color. This is because it is an adhesive ink only. It provides a base layer for the actual foil to adhere to.

If you are using the Upload Portal to send us your own artwork, during Step 2, make sure to choose “Foil Adhesive” as the transfer type and then choose “Foil Adhesive” as the ink color.


choosing foil adhesive for transfer type


If you are using Easy View, choose “Foil Adhesive” as the transfer type on the right side panel. In the color palette on the left side, make sure to use the Foil Adhesive ink color for your design.


Foil Adhesive in Easy View designer



Then, whether you uploaded your own art or used Easy View, you still need to order your actual heat transfer foil separately from the Heat Transfer Foils page.

To order your heat transfer foil sheets, you can pick the color from the ordering dropdown menu on the foil page, and add as many packs as you need to your cart.


order heat transfer foil packs



How to apply foil adhesive and heat transfer foil to decorate apparel

When you receive your foil sheets and Foil Adhesive custom transfers, the next step is to properly apply them to your blank apparel.

As with all of our transfers, make sure to follow the exact instructions that come with each transfer type.

For starters, the Foil Adhesive custom transfers apply to cotton, polyester, and cotton/poly blend fabrics.

First, you’ll be applying your custom design that you created using the Foil Adhesive transfer. These transfers will appear as a grey ink on the transfer paper.

As mentioned above, this transfer provides a base layer for your foil to stick to when applied.

The Foil Adhesive custom screen printed transfers apply at 340°F for 8 seconds, medium to firm pressure (6-8/60-80 psi), and peel hot.


foil adhesive application instructions


To apply your Foil Adhesive transfer, place the transfer face down onto the apparel so that the ink side is touching the shirt you are applying it to. Press it for 8 seconds, then open your heat press and peel away the paper backing immediately.

After that base layer of adhesive ink is applied, you are now ready to apply the heat transfer foil on top of the adhesive areas.

The foil will only apply to where the adhesive ink is on your apparel. Make sure that your foil is completely covering all of the ink areas.

Cut your foil down to the size of your design so you don’t waste any of your foil sheet. It doesn’t have to be cut to exact size, but just so that it covers all of the adhesive ink.

Place the foil so that the color is facing up how it will appear when it is finished. For example, if it is gold foil, place the foil so that the gold is facing up and visible.


face foil up when applying


The heat transfer foil does not need a cover sheet on top as long as your foil is covering all of your Foil Adhesive ink areas.

The heat transfer foil temperature is the same as the Foil Adhesive – 340°F. However, the foil applies at a longer dwell time, for 30 seconds at a medium to firm pressure (6-8/60-80 psi).


heat transfer foil application instructions


The heat transfer foil is also a cold peel, meaning you must wait until the foil has completely cooled to the touch before you can peel off the foil.

When you are finished, you’ll have a fashionable, shimmery custom print on your apparel!

Watch the entire process in this quick video:





Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Martha Chastain

I have a question about the transfer sheets that is used with the metallic foils. Do you print the design onto the heat transfer sheet or do you need to cut your design out of the heat transfer sheet then put the metallic on top?

Do you have a video showing how to accomplish this?

Tracy Graham

Will the foil transfers work on silk screen ink and will it work with laser to er or inkjet ink?

Dealer Services

Hi Martha,
The foil is a 2 step application. First you apply the custom transfer that we print for you using the Foil Adhesive custom transfer type. Then you apply the stock foil sheet on top of the Foil Adhesive. The foil will adhere to anywhere your design was pressed previously. Here is a video that shows:

Dealer Services

Hi Tracy,
The foil works with our Foil Adhesive custom transfer type. If you would like to try with other types of inks, we just recommend testing beforehand.

Eve Theriault

What kind of hand does the foil have once transferred? Does the foil have some give (stretch) or is it stiff? Will it crack when stretch? How long will the foil last once applied and washed?

Thank you!

Dealer Services

Hi Amy,
You can apply the foil adhesive first on all the shirts, and then go back and do the foil on top. It doesn’t need to be warm.

Dealer Services

Hi Amanda,
Each sheet of foil adhesive is good for one shirt. The print will come off of the transfer sheet and be applied to the shirt. The minimum is 5 sheets.

Dealer Services

Hi Eve,
The foil is pretty soft and not too thick feeling at all. It doesn’t stretch, so you will want to avoid putting it on really stretchy fabrics. These foil transfers were independently tested through 25 wash/dry cycles. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

Janet Wheeler

How many washes can I get out of a foil transfer? I have customers who are leery to purchase because of it’s lack of longevity. TIA

Dealer Services

Hi Janet,
If you are using our foil with the foil adhesive transfers, they are tested through 50 wash/dry cycles.


How do you press foil over a partial part of dtf transfer

Dealer Services

We have not had success applying foil to DTF, it needs to be applied to our foil adhesive transfers.


Leave a Reply: