Jul 5, 2020

Hot Foiling: Should You Take the Plunge? (My Son Weighs In!)

My first card with hot foiling! 

Should you take the plunge and buy hot foiling supplies? 
Read on, and keep in mind that I have no affiliation with any company. 
I paid full price for everything.  

What is hot foiling and how does it differ from embossing?

Hot foiling is a method of impressing metal plates (a "foil stamp") and special foil into paper. Basically, you create foiled letterpress. In contrast, embossing leaves a raised impression. 

My son: "How much does this stuff cost?"

What do you need to in order to hot foil?

1. foil stamps,
2. foil (thin sheets with a metallic shine on one side) specifically designed for hot foiling,
3. a hot foil machine, and 
4. a compatible die cutting machine.

While I have not tried it yet, I've seen videos showing how you can hot foil using embossing folders and some of the dies we already have. Some foil stamps also die cut or have coordinating dies. 

The 2 companies I am aware of that make a hot foil machine and foil stamps are Spellbinders and Crafters Companion. A few other companies, like Picket Fence Studios, also make foil stamps. You'll see them called by different names. Picket Fence, for example, calls them Foil Impressions Dies. 

Son: "It's like a printer. The machine itself doesn't cost a lot, but they get you with the supplies. How much do those foil stamps cost?"

We raised a person who does not like to spend money!


The machines cost between $75 and $130, depending on which machine you buy and where you buy it. The foil stamps vary as well but the cost seems comparable to dies.

Spellbinders frequently has sales and you should always check out their shop before buying Spellbinders hot foil supplies elsewhere. 

What's the learning curve?

For me -- moderate. I have the Crafter's Companion machine (more on why I got that particular machine later). I found the written directions confusing. Luckily, there are many videos on how to foil and how to use this particular machine, and frankly, I had my husband help me. 

Unlike most die cutting, you cannot see what you are designing. You place the foil stamp (or plate) on the platform, then place the foil on top of it, and then the paper on top of the foil. Doing it this way makes it near impossible to get precise placement because you cannot see the foil stamp when you place cardstock on top of it. 

However, Yana Smakula (the hot foiling queen), who works for Spellbinders, created a clever work around using light weight washi tape to create a hinge to secure the foil stamp, foil, and paper.  

For the card above, I used Yana's washi tape technique to secure the foil stamp sentiment and foil onto the center of my stenciled cardstock. Nevertheless, the sentiment came out a bit crooked, so I had to trim the panel to center the sentiment. 

I need more practice. There is a definite learning curve, but it can be done! 

Son: "Does that thing get hot?" Yes, it does. Be careful.

Do you "need" hot foiling?

Not at all. You can continue to make great cards without hot foiling.

I resisted this purchase for a long time. My friend Pam was my hot foil enabler. She has the Spellbinders Glimmer machine and brought it over. I saw her make some beautiful cards using that machine and my old Big Shot. She also gave me a bunch of foiled sentiments. It helped to see it in action.

I was mighty tempted, but it wasn't until I was staying home and not spending much money on anything that I bought a machine. I am glad I did. I'm a big fan of the result.

Son: "Mom, I like the embossing better." 

A fad or here to stay?

When Spellbinders and Crafter's Companion first came out with hot foil machines, there was a flurry of posts on social media featuring hot foiling. Since then, I don't see a lot of cards using hot foiling. In addition, a few stamp companies released hot foil plates. But, I don't see a lot of companies doing so now. (Luckily, the plates that Spellbinders sells are gorgeous. Laurie Willison, Yana Smakula, and Becca Feeken all have lines.)

This tells me that hot foiling hasn't taken off like die cutting, but I think there are enough fans that it is here to stay.

Son: "I like that card you made with it."

Should you take the plunge?

My bottom line: It's a fun option, but not a must have. It's another expense, it's time consuming to figure out how to incorporate foiling into cardmaking, and the stuff takes up space (I ended up buying a 4' x 2' folding table to keep my hot foil machine and supplies segregated from the rest of my supplies.)
  • If you are new to cardmaking, get a MISTI, invest in high quality basic supplies, learn techniques, and pass on hot foiling for now. 
  • If you are looking for something new, love letterpress foiling on cards, and have the $$, patience, and space -- go for it!! 
  • If you are on the fence, wait. Watch some videos, and look at cards non-professionals make with the machine. Don't know about you, but I'm never going to make Yana-quality cards and I like to see what folks like me can produce.
Am I glad I bought it? Yes.

My son: "This room is getting crowded."

Yes, it is.

I want to hot foil. Which machine should I get?

You need to choose a machine that is compatible with your die cut machine (or buy a new die cut machine). 

The Crafter's Companion hot foil machine only works with the Crafter's Companion Gemini Jr. die cut machine (or the Gemini with a special plate). It will NOT work with your Big Shot or other die cut machine.

The Spellbinders hot foil machine works with the Spellbinders die cut machine and I understand from friends and videos that it also works with the Big Shot and other die cut machines. However, it will NOT work with the Gemini Jr. or Gemini die cut machine. They are competitors!

I have a Gemini Jr die cut machine so I got the Crafter's Companion hot foil machine. I love the Spellbinders foil stamps and use those in my Crafter's Companion machine.

I've linked a video below that does a great job comparing the features of these machines. 

Son: "Are we done discussing this?"

Yes, we are! 

Below are some links to useful information.

Crafter's Companion (Note, I got my machine on Amazon for less)

Spellbinders (Their supplies are often on sale and they have a monthly hot foil kit)

Yana Smakula's You Tube Site (Search for hot foil videos. Yana has a ton of beautiful ideas and many tips and tricks. A must read.)

Nancy Stamps This you tube channel has a LOT of fantastic information on how to hot foil.

About the card -- I die cut different sized circles into stencil material and stenciled the background using 3 shades of Distress Oxide ink -- Picked Raspberry, Worn Lipstick, and Tattered Rose -- onto Neenah Solar White 80 lb cardstock. 

Using a foil stamp from the Spellbinders June 2020 Hot Foil Kit of the Month, I impressed the sentiment using gold foil. Here's a great video explaining what's in this kit. Trimmed and popped up with foam adhesive.

Kits are funny -- you are buying blind, but I decided to take a chance and subscribed. Loved the June kit; don't like the July kit. I'll see how it goes and then decide whether to keep the subscription. Edited to add: I've been advised that you can skip a month, which I did so I won't get July's kit. Thanks to my friend Pam and to a commenter below for letting me know. 

MOOD WHEN DONE: I'm happy with this simple card. 

So, what do you think? Do you have a machine already? Are you using it? Is this just not for you?  I would love to hear your thoughts. As always, if you cannot leave a comment, you can always email me


SmilynStef said...

love the card ... love the commentary

Betty said...

fantastic card, Joan - colors, design, everything!! love your discussion about deciding to buy - I have been doing the same - dithering about trying to decide if I "need" Karin watercolor markers - finally bought them this morning - found a good sale after having a discussion with myself:-)

I Card Everyone said...

I adore your card, Joan, I really do. Love your self-made stencil, and the colors you've chosen with this gorgeous foiling!
BUT [did you feel one coming on?] I'm so afraid this machine would sit on the shelf next to that Minc I HAD TO HAVE! I had such mediocre results with foiling that I'm going to leave this one to you, and the pros! [I love those that Julie made!]

Sandy said...

Beautiful, and you are a Yana Jr. looks exactly like something she would have made. I am pretty sure Spellbinders lets you skip a month if you don’t like that months offering. I have been playing with my crafters companion foil system and I think I have mastered it. Took some time, was frustrating for a while and sat in a drawer for months but I brought it out last week and OMG that letterpress foil looks amazing. I bought a bunch of sentiments so I can foil everything! Re arranged my studio so it can sit next to my Gemini Jr. I think watching Yana, Nicole and Vicky helped.

PS watch Jennifer’s video on how to keep your cutting plates flat. I taped mine together months ago and it works.

Meg M. said...

Love this post and that you and your son conversed about this. Your card is gorgeous. I will admire others hot fouling and resist the urge to take on these supplies for myself.

Julie Ebersole said...

Love the card and your breakdown! I know the foiling isn't for everyone, but I love the look so much--if you're a minimalist card maker like me, but adore that luxe, foiled letterpress finish, well, it hits the sweet spot I have been searching for, for years (to DIY myself).

Diana K said...

Love your card! A little bit of subtle glimmer or glam is something I always fall for. I have not given in to a hot foil letterpress machine because of the need to buy new things to use it with. I'm like your son - I don't enjoy spending money, hahaha. I do have a Minc (essentially a laminator) and a laser printer and that is a good enough thrill for me.

Susanne Vargas said...

Your thoughts and your sons comments were very helpful. I love the look of foiling but don't want to invest a lot of time of experimenting and maybe being frustrated. Also don't have the space for it and don't want to spend all that money on special stamps. So I am not going to rush into it and stick with heat embossing for now. Thank you for your honesty. Love your card though!

Janell Tempel said...


Melissa said...

Thank you for this article. Even though I do have a big shot I would prefer to use my Gemini as I have it set up and don't have to "pull it out" like I would my BigShot. I was hesitant about buying the Gemini Foil machine because I really want to use it with the Spellbinders dies. I'm not a huge fan of Sara's designs but love Spellbinders. I think you've just convinced me to go with the Gemini Press. June 8th is HSN craft day though so I think I'll wait until then to order.

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