Techniques by Freyja - based on a Class given at Blade Rubber

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General Information

At one time Metal, foil and gold leaf were easily defined. Metal was the thick stuff in sheets, foil was wrapped around sweets and gold leaf was the mysterious shiny finish on some antique frames and mirrors! Simplistic but not far from the truth.
Things are different now with an increasing range of easy-to-use materials available for crafters as well as the traditional (sometimes better) products.

Pure metal sheeting or rolls can be bought in various thicknesses roughly from 36 – 48, (0.1mm – 0.2mm) gauge thickness and will be brass or copper. Silver will be an alloy, though tin is still available but pricey. Brass and copper can be heated in a gas or candle flame to add blue/red/white shades to the metal.

Thinner metal sheets or rolls, double sided thin metal, paper/sticky backed very thin metal we will class as foil. Paper backing is sometimes powder coated with metal powder, often wrapping foil is made this way. 'Tonertex' craft foil sheeting is a powder coated film that gives a gold leaf effect when applied over a glue pen, sticky embossing powder or foil glue backing which captures the metal leaving the film behind.
All of these materials can be worked with similar techniques giving different effects. Choose according to the project, time, convenience and availability of materials.
Foil is fragile. If you bend, crease, scratch or rub a dull spot when trying to clean you cannot fix it.

Foil is available in Gold, Silver or Copper, and sometimes in other colours.

You must use a suitable permanent dye ink, Brilliance ink or Stazon to stamp and be sure to dry thoroughly before working on it. Other inks might be suitable if set with Krylon Matt spray; Krylon dries almost immediately and will not make ink run, ensure a well ventilated room or use outside.
Always work from the top down so that the pattern does not rub off. The pattern can be stamped to show on the right side of the piece or be hidden on the back according to choice and design.

Metal cuts easily; use paper cutter, scissors, Exacto knife on a hard surface, or self-healing cutting mat. Be careful of thumb creases when cutting out. Cut at least 1/8th inch away from pattern until well practiced and accurate. Use curved scissors on thin foil to prevent the edge from ruffling when turning the scissors.

Adhesive pads, Aleene's tacky glue, double sided tape, UHU gel adhesive, slivers of glue gun glue all hold metal.

Mats: For pricking a 3/8th inch thick foam is best. A hard rubber mat is used for embossing. Before buying special mats try out with a thick magazine. A mouse mat may/may not be suitable but might be too soft and may have slight ridges – try.

Brilliance ink applied with a 'Fantastix' applicator from the pad will stick to metal, spray to set colour when dry. Metallic 'Lumiere' dries in minutes and needs no sealing. New alcohol ink pens (Letraset) are perfect for colouring foil and metal.

Gold Leaf:
In this category we will include traditional gold, silver, copper leaf both real and Schlag - faux gold leaf (which will tarnish) available from art suppliers. Craft companies make a wide range of leaf, and varied colour leaf flakes, slightly thicker and easier to use. However the leaf from art stores is much less expensive than craft leaf and the transfer leaf (on a backing sheet) is very easy to use although the range of colours is limited.

Simple Metal Tooling Method

This technique produces interesting results. Use soft copper foil, thinner foil or thick foiled paper (without the heating).

Materials needed

  • Soft copper or brass (gold) foil in any weight.
  • A stamp of your choice. Preferably with solid areas, not outlines only.
  • Versamark inkpad, black embossing powder.
  • Embossing tool, knitting needle, empty ballpoint pen.


  • Cut the copper to size. Hold over a gas flame or candle (use tongs or a peg) and carefully move around until the metal colours. Take care; this is very fast with a gas flame. Red, blue, silver tones will appear. Let metal cool then stamp and emboss.
  • With chosen tool, on right side of work indent first around image, turn over and re-indent on the back to raise the pattern on the stamped- right- side. Turn back over again and press indentations 'dots' on the remaining background – or to choice. That's it.
  • If you do not want the stamping to show just stamp without embossing and indent around design, turn over and make 'dot' indentations on the back. This will now be the right side
  • It is also possible to trace a pattern onto the foil and work from this or draw free-hand initials or any design –remember to reverse the pattern for initials.
  • Mount onto a layered background to 'set off' the foiled piece. Hearts, butterflies, etc can be stamped, embossed and cut to shape after. Insect bodies can be shaped over a piece of dowel or wooden spoon handle. Add wire, threads, beads etc. Attach with double sided tape.

Gold Leaf Work
This is a complicated matter involving many techniques; however for crafters and card makers there are a few easy methods for achieving spectacular results.
Handle the leaf with care as it is very thin and fragile, breathe with care! If coverage is patchy, add more glue/leaf but not until completely dry or a mess will ensue. Cheat a little if piece is very patchy just mount onto a suitable foil backing and it will look great. Don't waste small pieces - skewings - as these can be used again for small projects or adding to other materials.

  • Using double-sided adhesive film, or a Xyron machine. Apply leaf/leaf flakes directly to sticky acetate or card surface. Acetate can be stamped /embossed first.
  • For thin lines apply foil to tape strips.
  • Use special foiling glue, follow instructions for use.
  • Use with 'Heat and Stick' embossing powder over Versamark ink. Do not over heat, apply foil straight away but let glue dry more before applying gold leaf.
  • Use the Stewart Superior 'Palette' stamp and stick pad. Heat dry well before applying the foil or leaf.


  • Add a little gold leaf when using PearlEx, glass paints, etc on acetate.
  • Add tiny flakes of leaf when making backgrounds and with embossing powders. Experiment.
  • Take a tip from furniture painters and apply over acrylic under-painted surfaces for boxes etc. and lightly sand when dry for an aged look. Black, yellow and red are traditional colours.
  • Over paint with tea varnish to 'antique' and protect the surface.
  • Lightly leaf beads and embellishments. Use cocktail sticks to hold beads.
  • There is much more, explore the possibilities.

Other Metallics
Yogurt pot tops and tomato paste tubes are perfect surfaces for metal work
Metallic paint, ink and bronzing powders can be used with foils and paints or alone.
A wide choice of embossing powders beads, glitter, decorative flakes and sequins can be incorporated with stamping for glamour and glitz.

Metal/foil cards are not made in two minutes, but a finished card/box is worth the time taken. Try it, you will like it.

Have fun

©Freyja Lee for Blade Rubber Stamps 2009
Freyja is a regular teacher of popular Classes at Blade Rubber