Our recent challenge of printing packaging globally that included hot foil stamping

Our recent challenge of printing packaging globally that included hot foil stamping

There are several challenges you’ll encounter when printing packaging across the U.S. and overseas. Time zones, language barriers, and the inability to go on press quickly or consistently are some of the most obvious. But recently, we encountered a new issue – our package design involved some unique hot stamp foil colors.

Hot stamping common foil colors can be somewhat routine even when dealing with printers worldwide. Gold and silver foils are fairly similar and having samples sent to you from each printer you’re working with can generally produce a good match across all of them. Gold and silver are also common enough that most printers are confident and competent at using them well. But our recent client project introduced unique foil colors into the mix – and tested our management, negotiating, and coercion abilities.

Some background on our global foil stamping project

A newer client that creates and sells a wide variety of health & beauty products asked us to extend a newer product line they’d recently launched, and our extension was going to serve as the foundation for a complete redesign and rebrand. We compiled a project brief, requirements, etc. and were confident we would do a stellar job. There was only one immutable parameter: The line’s category colors were already predetermined by currently shipping products – so we could not alter our color palette. We were unfazed when we learned one of the product categories involved a gold hot foil stamp while the other “categories” were defined by Pantone color combinations.

So we got to work, presented concepts, refined, and were finalizing assorted packaging when late into the process a decision was made to foil stamp all the packaging. But that one requirement remained –  we had to maintain our color palette – but now we had to do it with foil stamps. Needless to say, we were left scrambling to find foil colors that were close to the existing PMS category colors.

When the change occurred I immediately reached out to the Graphic Arts Association for help

When the design change happened, I immediately reached out to the GAA for foil stamp suppliers. I knew of a few, but the unique challenge was this client manufactures and prints all around the world. So the foils would need to be supplied globally and we’d have to dictate what foils all the printers could use to maintain consistency. And don’t forget, these weren’t simple gold and silver foils – we were trying to match PMS colors that are rather difficult to source in foils.

Fortunately I got help and guidance. We contacted three foil stamp suppliers and coordinated having swatch books sent to our office and the client too. After reviewing our foil swatch options we settled on Crown Roll Leaf, Inc as our supplier. To Crown’s credit, early into the process, they informed us they could manufacturer custom foil colors that matched desired PMS colors. However, since the process required “formulation,” production, and testing, our client opted to select the closest possible existing foils so they could meet their own production deadlines.

Everyone celebrated as sample rolls shipped out to Iowa, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – we all believed our job completed. And we moved on to the next products in the mix. But then, after a few days, each of the printers from around the world began to report various problems with one or more of the foil colors. Things weren’t working and we were left scrambling again – scheduling conference calls between Crown Roll Leaf, the printers, ourselves, and the client as well – and shipping deadlines were fast approaching.

Crown Roll Leaf provided excellent support

Kelly, our support person at Crown, was very understanding and exceedingly helpful. When the foils we had selected weren’t working, she walked to their sample department and selected new matching foil colors based on our PMS colors from their inventory of custom (but stock) foils that weren’t available in their swatch books. Technical support also spoke to the print & finishing vendors and adhesives were selected that would better match the project. New samples shipped out again and we crossed our fingers.

Fortunately, the second batch of foils – with their new colors and new adhesive types – worked nearly flawlessly. The projects entered production and we’ve already received early samples and things look fantastic.

Hindsight is always 20/20

Looking back on the project now – in hindsight, when the last minute decision was made to foil stamp all the categories – we should have stepped back and examined the design a bit. Some of our problems could have been avoided if we discussed design changes with the client and were able to get their buy-in. Perhaps the design could have been tweaked to standardize on gold or silver across all the packaging but still incorporated the PMS category colors too.

Of course, at the time, we didn’t expect the problems we encountered, and now that things are working out they don’t seem quite so insurmountable. But with the client crunched to meet production and shipping deadlines, any small delays due to foil stamping were magnified in severity.

Fortunately, moving forward we should be set with our foils

The good news; we should be settled on our foils now, and we’re looking ahead to the next challenge – adapting the chosen foil colors to the other products in the line. These include plastic bottles of different types from around the world. So I foresee a new round of challenges dealing with the bottle decorators to coordinate our foil stamping with their silk-screening process. But it’s a topic we’ve already discussed with Crown Roll Leaf and broached with the client, so we’re a step ahead this time.

May 07, 2015

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