Review: hot foil pens

on Lettering, tutorials  

I love shiny things. Between metallic inks and paints and gold leaf, I’ve been experimenting with combining my lettering skills with techniques and materials to make everything shiny.

Recently I’ve been playing around with another method – using a hot foil or stamping pen. I didn’t find many useful reviews or tips out there, so I’m writing this to help you decide if this is the shiny method for your project.

I tried two different pens – the We R Memory Keepers HEATWAVE foil pen, and the Magic Hot Stamping Pen. Both are battery operated (3 AA for the WRMK one, 2 for the Magic) and come with a variety of small sheets of foil. When switched on, the nib of these pens heat up, and when pressed onto the foil will transfer the foil to the surface.

We R Memory Keepers hot foil pen
We R Memory Keepers hot foil pen
The magic hot stamping pen
The Magic hot stamping pen

Due to the batteries, both are much heavier than a regular pen, with the WRMK one also being much heavier and an unwieldy shape that’s tricky to write with. The nibs of both are rounded at the end, so on softer materials (including paper) lines are quite thick, but can be thinner on hard surfaces.

Testing on black paper

Contrary to the instructions, I found that I didn’t have to write particularly slowly with either pen as long as it had a bit of time to heat up beforehand. This is trickier to do with the Magic Pen as you have to hold down a button for heat, but it only takes several seconds. On some surfaces the foil didn’t transfer properly with both pens, leaving sad patchy lines. I thought paper would be the easiest to write on, but I had mixed results on anything that wasn’t super smooth.

Not great on (fine tooth) watercolour paper
Not great on wood

I was surprised at how well it worked on my notebook and on plastic though – the latter gets a very fine line, which is unfortunately a bit less forgiving!

On leather the softness of the material means that the lines are very thick and unrefined, although the foil transferred really well.

All my notebooks will be foil labelled now
A box for holding things & stuff

I found the foils pretty interchangeable between the two pens, despite them saying to use their own ones only. Unfortunately you can’t use these pens with the (much cheaper) deco foil intended for transferring to laser printed paper using a laminator – this foil is too thick and not so heat reactive.

With such a big difference in price, I expected to get a much better result from the WRMK pen, but aside from the Magic Pen overheating occasionally due to a too-high battery voltage and having to keep the button pressed, I found they give similar results. In fact the more pen-like shape of the Magic Pen makes it easier to handle as you would a regular pen.

Both need to be held at a more vertical angle than a usual pen, to make sure the heated tip is in contact with the foil, but I have seen a modded WRMK pen around with an angled barrel and interchangeable nibs that’s intended specifically for lettering.

Here’s a few tips if you’re getting a foil pen:

  • Let the pen heat up for several seconds before writing, and test it on a different material first to make sure it’s working.
  • Tape down the foil at the top and left with washi tape – this will hold it in place, and let you lift the foil to check if it’s transferred properly and repair if needed. The washi tape is easy to remove so you don’t waste any foil.
  • Apparently the different colours have different levels of reactiveness to the heat, with gold being the easiest to work with and silver the most difficult.
  • Hold the pen quite upright so the heated nib is in contact with the foil.
  • The whole metal part on the WRMK pen gets hot, so try to avoid touching it.
  • The Magic Pen can overheat and stick to the foil, making it hard to write – I just lift it off and take my finger off the button for a few seconds when this happens.
  • I had the best results on plastic, leather and my faux leather notebook. Not bad on regular paper, but not great on kraft paper, watercolour paper, and grainy wood – if you master these please let me know your secret!
  • You can sort of scratch the foil off when on a very smooth surface if you make a mistake.

I still think that metallic ink is the way to go for most of my uses, but for getting foil onto plastic or leather this is probably the best (or only?) option. It’s very tempting to hot foil ALL the things!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *