Robert Miller of J&B Sewing Machines explains how to add some shimmer to DTG prints with a foil finish

One of the most talked about direct-to-garment printing techniques at all the trade shows we attend is the foil print finish. It is eye-catching and quite dramatic, and everyone who sees it wants to know the technique for producing this great effect.

The technique is essentially the same as printing on a dark shirt, but to understand it fully it’s necessary to examine the process in more detail.

The foil we use is a specific product available from our company in five colours – gold, silver, electric blue, fire red and emerald green – and is known simply as DTG Foil. It is translucent, as opposed to opaque, so the ink will come through and influence the final look. You can just use white, or opt for a highlight colour – in the example here we’ve used yellow to enhance the gold finish.

Each roll is 60m long by 30cm wide and you cut to length depending on the print size. You can cover the whole print with foil, but you don’t have to – in fact, using the foil to highlight certain key areas of an image works really well.

So, how do you create a foil finish print? First you need to pre-treat the shirt in the normal way and dry it thoroughly, either with a heat press or a drawer drier. Then load the T-shirt onto the printing platen. The stepby- step sequence shows the print being produced on the Brother GTX machine, but it works equally as well on most direct-to-garment printers.

Select the image you wish to print, noting that more ‘open’ images work better than solid images, and print the image using a full layer of white. If you want colour highlight then this needs to be printed at this stage. Do not use a ‘content based’ white layer.

While the image is printing, prepare the piece of foil by cutting it carefully, making sure it does not crease.

When creating a foil finish print you will be using the wet DTG ink to adhere the foil to the garment. As soon as the image has finished printing, place the T-shirt on the heat press and place the foil sheet, coloured side up, directly onto the wet ink. Using a Teflon sheet and high pressure, clamp the heat press shut. The temperature must be 165°C and the pressing time is the same as that normally recommended by the ink supplier. In the case of the Brother GTX, it is 45 seconds.

Open the heat press, remove the shirt, complete with the foil, and place it on a flat surface to cool. Once the shirt is cold, carefully peel back the sheet of foil and the foil colour will remain where it was stuck to the previously wet ink areas.

Foil finish prints wash well. The approximate cost of the foil is 20-30p on top of the cost of the ink and shirt, and will add considerably more to the perceived value of your DTG prints.


Step 1 – Place the T-shirt on the platen

Step 2 – The image to be printed; designs with open areas work best

Step 3 – The image is sent to the printer

Step 4 – The roll of DTG Foil

Step 5 – The image is printed on the DTG machine

Step 6 – The foil is then laid down on the wet print

Step 7 – The T-shirt is then covered with a Teflon sheet and heat pressed

Step 8 – Peel off the foil

Step 9 – The finished print