I admit it — I LOVE all things shiny! That’s why I really like to use foil in my crafting. It’s also why I have lots of leftover pieces of foil. I just hate to throw those pretty things away. If you’re like me, then read on and I’ll show you all kinds of ways to use up those scraps of sparkly goodness (and scraps of some other materials, too).
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
Types of foil
There are basically 3 types of foils.
- Heat Reactive — Also call hot stamp foil. These stick to a surface when heated to the proper temperature. No adhesive is needed. Examples of this are Foil Quill, Spellbinders Glimmer (paid link) and Crafter’s Companion Gemini (paid link). Using something like a heated die or stylus, you can create a design.
- Reactive Transfer — These types of foil stick to something sticky. Minc foils are this type. They are used with paper printed on a laser printer because the toner is actually a plastic polymer. When heated, as with a Minc machine or laminator, the toner melts briefly and pulls in the foil. Other reactive transfer foils use an adhesive such as Easyweed Adhesive (paid link) or Deco Foil Hot Melt Adhesive (paid link). Foils like Decofoil (paid link), Magic Foil and Gina K (a product of the same company as Deco Foil/Thermo Web — paid link) are this type, as are other textile foils. (For some projects using textile foils, see this post and this one).
- Pressure Sensitive – Silhouette America sells Foil Transfer Sheets in gold, silver and copper. These are for the Curio, as they use the embossing tool and mat. The foil has an adhesive on the back, similar to vinyl. You put your material on the mat, remove the sticky backing and lay the foil over the material sticky side down (that holds it to the page). The embossing tool presses over the design, transferring the foil to the material. You then remove the piece of foil that’s the background.
Foils stick to more than just paper or fabric. Think out of the box and try it on things like leather, wood, vinyl, acrylic (certain kinds of foil) and just about anything you can think of. It works best on porous materials, but feel free to experiment.
With something sticky
Here’s the great news. ALL foils will stick to something sticky. You’ll know that if you’ve ever accidentally gotten it around your cutting mat. You wouldn’t need to do this with the pressure sensitive foil because already has an adhesive on it. Here are some ways to try it:
Cut a design from a material like cardstock. Cover the entire piece with glue. Wait just a bit until it’s tacky — that’s the key to this technique (it’s a good idea to practice on scrap paper first). Or, you can use something like a a Xyron.
Press the foil over the glue and rub until the plastic carrier begins to lift off by itself. Or, you can lay the foil with the pretty side down and then put the sticky shape over it and rub from the back side. You can use a popsicle stick or your finger. You may need to move the foil around and do it several times. But hey, we’re using scraps so it’s not a big deal.
You can also use glue in spots only for a distressed look. A glue pen (paid link) works great here. Also, instead of rubbing the whole thing, you can just dab the foil on and lift it quickly. This is a fun way to work with the foil on textured papers. Do this with several colors if you like.
THIS! I’ve done this recently for some decorations for my daughter’s baby shower. You cut the double-sided adhesive on your machine, white side up, as with any other material. Then you remove the yellow backing to reveal the adhesive and put it on your project. The white liner is on top, so you then remove that. Cover the design with the foil and rub. Keep moving the foil around and rubbing to get full coverage.
This heart is rose gold on one side and turquoise on the other. I used those because the rose gold is the heat reactive, the turquoise is reactive transfer so that you can see both.
HINT: If you’re using an odd-sized scrap of your sticky material, a PixScan mat is a HUGE help in making sure you get your design placed in the correct spot to make the most of the scrap. If you don’t know how that works, see this post and this one.
Pretty much any sticker paper will work, as it’s, well, sticky. I like the metallics because those are a bit heftier and so it’s easier to use once foiled. Here’s some gold sticker paper that is now silver on the reverse side.
Easyweed Adhesive (paid link) leftovers
I have lots of little scraps of this left over that are not large enough to use on a garment. But you can easily use it on other porous materials. You’d do the same as with a t-shirt: cut, weed, heat to tack onto the project, cover with foil, heat again, peel cold. You can cut it with your Silhouette or even a punch (still have any of those lying around?).
Here’s a simple heart design on a pair of leather earrings. My Easyweed (paid link) scrap was only 1″ x 5″ and I didn’t even use half of it.
Silhouette America doesn’t sell this any longer (other than the kraft paper variety), but other companies do. Find it at Joanns here or on Amazon here (paid link). I still have a ton of it around so like to use it. You do the same as you would with an all-over glue. You wind up with a piece that is the color of the cardstock on one side and foil on the other.
The wood sheets would work great, too.
Vinyl has a sticky backing, so you could use it with foil. You wind up with a very flexible piece. I’m not sure how exactly you’d use it, but there are always ways. This is a two-fer, because you can use up scraps of both vinyl and foil. You’ll notice on this one the edges didn’t get foiled the first time. I could add a little dab of glue there to cover that.
Some people have good luck with foiling vinyl on a Minc or laminator for all-over coverage. The heat of the machine softens the vinyl, making it somewhat sticky. Mine often comes out spotty when I try, but here’s one that came out well. I’ve lifted up the edge so you can see that it’s black vinyl.
Or, that spottiness it can be a cool look if you’re going for a distressed vibe, like the “U” on this coffee mug. This has stayed really well even after several trips in the dishwasher.
I’ve also heard that some folks use Easyweed adhesive and foil on coffee mugs, but I have not tried it personally.
Foil Quill freestyle pens
This is for heat reactive foils only. When you’re using the foil quill in your Silhouette machine, you need to have a large, solid piece of foil over your material, and need to place it very precisely. With scraps, that’s not so easy. But with the Freestyle Pens, you don’t use them in your machine so it’s easier to use the smaller pieces of foil.
My hubby runs a printing plant where they use hot stamp foil. He gives me the cast-off rolls so I have a lifetime supply of gold and silver! In fact, all the gold and silver you see here are from rolls he’s given me. There are large gaps between the used and unused portions so plenty of good stuff left.
It would be hard to position it just right by taping it over the material on my Silhouette mat to get the design in those usable areas. With the freestyle pens, it’s much easier. (You’ll see these label cast-offs again later, too).
Here’s a neat trick I saw from We R Memory Keepers (they make the foil quill). Use black ink to stamp an image on your foil. Then use a freestyle pen to draw it out. That definitely makes it easier to use the scraps.
To keep the foil in place, they used the magnetic mat. You don’t have to purchase that for this — just use any piece of flat metal with magnets, or tape it on the paper as usual.
Using the foil negative
Sometimes you have a design where the negative (the part left behind) is just as beautiful as the design. Those are definitely things you can use. Here’s one I have left over from a Valentine’s card I made. It’s way too pretty to throw away.
(I’ll show you in the next section what I did with that particular one.)
To use the negative, cover an entire surface with something sticky like glue, lay the negative foil design over it and rub it on. You have to play with this one, because you don’t want the glue grabbing the plastic carrier sheet of the foil. Or, for the reactive transfer foils, print a solid black sheet on a laser printer and then apply it as you normally would with a design.
Then trim it into a nice shape. Again, a Pixscan mat would be a huge help so you can see the exact size and shape.
On something other than paper or fabric
Here are some more leather earrings I’m working on. The piece of leather had gotten sun bleached on only part of it. The foil covers that beautifully!
On this I used heat reactive foil, so didn’t need any adhesive — just my heat press. If you want to go all the way to the edges like this, be sure to put a scrap piece of paper under the leather. Otherwise the foil will get all over the bottom platen of your heat press (ask me how I know).
If you’ve seen my photos, you can tell I’m into nail art. I’ve been using foil on my fingernails much longer than on crafts. Use something sticky and you can add a beautiful shiny element to fingernail designs with the foils. You use a special nail foil glue (paid link) created for foils or this scrapbook glue (paid link), or just apply foil when the polish is tacky. The advantage of the nail foil glue is that it stays sticky after it dries, so there’s not the guess work of “is it ready yet?” Here are some different looks:
Lay the foil over the tacky surface and don’t move it. It works best if the base polish color is similar to the foil color in case any areas don’t get fully covered. Rub like crazy until the plastic liner lifts off. To keep it looking great, make sure your top coat wraps around the tip of the nail.
HINT: Grab a pack of acrylic nails to practice on.
Dab the foil randomly on the nail. Use different colors if you like.
With the negative
Remember that piece I showed you above of the negative of a design. Here’s how I could use in on my fingernails using the same method as the full coverage of foil.
With nail stamping
Again, if you’ve seen my nails in any of the photos here on the site, you may have thought I did those freehand or with a decal product. But no, I use what’s called nail stamping. If you’re interested, look it up on YouTube – there are thousands of videos. Basically, you have a metal plate that has designs etched into it so that the design is recessed. You cover the design with polish, then scrape over it with an old gift card. That removes the polish on the surface, leaving it in the recessed design. Using a silicone stamper, you pick up the design and lay it on the nail.
To add foil, you press it over the design very quickly after you stamp. It’s easiest if you use a polish that’s close in color to the foil. I use stamping polish or quick dry polish. If you’re using regular polish, then you may need to wait for the tacky stage. Experiment with waiting a shorter or longer amount of time after you stamp before you apply the foil.
Sometimes it looks like the foil has stuck to the background, but it’s not really stuck as long as your polish is dry before you start. Use a stiff paint brush to sweep away that excess.
If you have trouble getting the foil to stick, use a cotton ball with some acetone on it and rub the back of the foil. That removes a layer that exposes the foil more. To keep the foil shiny, use a water-based or gel top coat.
I’m sure there are many other ways you can think of to use the foil scraps, but hopefully I’ve inspired you a bit. And I apologize if I’ve been an enabler for making you a craft materials hoarder (if you weren’t already). But at least we’re saving the planet a little.
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