Skytopia > Projects > Technology/science articles > Hot foil printer tutorial

Hot foil printer tutorial - Magmark GP74

Hot foil machines are an ingenious invention producing highly polished and attractive results, however, they are sensitive monsters that require, patience, combined with a steady hand and discerning eye (an acquired skill where even an expert can experience some degree of trial and error along the way, so don't get disheartened). After a few attempts you'll soon get the hang of it and the end results will make the challenge all the more worth while!

We shall be looking at the hot foil printer in four stages:-
Stage 1) the printer's features and functions,
Stage 2) materials required for the job,
Stage 3) instructions on how to prepare the machine,
Stage 4) operation and print process.
(Along the way I shall attempt to explain the above in greater detail).


THE PRINT HEAD: is a major part of the machine which functions like a mini oven for heating up the Chase. It is shaped rather like a flat square seat and is heated in turn by the temperature controller (see below).

THE CHASE: - a detachable part which is the actual mounting block (same shape but slightly smaller than the Print Head) that sits on the "Print Head".

THE TEMPERATURE CONTROLLER: is a small box shaped device attached to the side of the Printer that has a display panel showing the temperature, and which is fitted with thermostatic heater elements that serve to heat up the Print Head before and during the printing process. It has one red button and two black buttons, each of which are manually operated.

The red button when depressed indicates the current temperature (temperature from actual set point).

The black buttons, increase and decrease the temperature from actual set point. Once the temperature thermometer reaches the set point, it automatically switches off.

Note: There is a "temperature overrun" past the actual set point which is quite normal, so that once the heating drops below the set point, the heater kickstarts into maintaining the required temperature for printing.

PLATEN (also called BRADBOARD):- is located on top of the machine. It is a flat square shaped object with print handle and serves as a seat for the item to be printed.

PRINT HANDLE: is attached to the back of the Platen, and is connected to a toggle type pressure, so when the print handle is depressed, it moves through a series of various pressure links to make up a toggle type mechanism (rather like pulling and decreasing an elastic band) resulting in the actual degree of print pressure between the "Platen" and the "Print Head".

BACK OF THE PRINT HEAD: attached to the back of the print head are four handles. These are adjustment screws - each with a wing nut that are used for bringing the print head in alignment with the Platen thus accommodating expansion and contraction for perfect printing results.

DRUM: is used for holding and turning the printing foil.


  • Bake Proof Paper or Kitchen Foil.
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Gloves (protects hands from heat when handling the Chase. Snug fit is best for flexibility)
  • Roll of Foil (any colour - there is an infinite range - some foils are multi coloured - plain gold and silver are inexpensive and look good).
  • Printing Block, also known as Die. (bears inscription of your of your chosen text or illustration).

    By the way, there's a wide variety of printing blocks depending on a chosen criteria, so selecting the correct block for your job is important, and there are two methods used to produce printing blocks - "Etching" and "Hardened Steel".
    Etching - is based on photographic film.
    Hardened Steel - is produced and engraved by machine.
    It is much more durable and can be used for printing on wood, leather, tools and a host of other items.
    As this workshop is for beginners, I prefer not to blind you with science on these two methods right now, so I will stick with the printing block I use which is made of zinc and is a good all rounder.

    Sticky Tape: called "Mounting Tape"
    Sticks printing block firmly to heated Chase.

    Used in conjunction with card/paper materials

    Plain Cards
    (Business cards, greeting cards etc.)
    Gloss coated cards produce the best results because the smooth surface provides finer detail.

    Clean Smooth Cardboard

    Flat Clean Dry Surface/Work Top



    (Feeding The Machine)

  • Place the foil on the top roller with back facing the Platen. Wrap under the next bar, over the bar opposite (shaped like an elbow) -
  • Then pull foil down past the "Mounting Block" and wrap over the very bottom bar.
    Proceed to pull foil across over the drum. Lift up very slightly the blue rubber bar drawing foil underneath.
  • Finally wrap it over the re-wind roller bar at the back, wrap several times to secure it, but not too tightly (allow slight flexibility).

    Note: During operation you will notice that, when the print handle is depressed the foil advances automatically to presenting a fresh piece after each print is made.


    Preparing Platen, Chase, and Print Block for line up:-

    Measure and cut plain white piece of paper to exact size of the Platen, place on a dry clean surface and draw an equal 50/50 line from top to bottom, left to right in the shape of a cross. Pencil in the centre point where both lines meet (place flat on table).

    Next, measure and cut this time, a piece of bake proof or kitchen foil to the exact size of the Chase. Again, draw a 50/50 line from top to bottom/left to right for the central point, then place down on table next to cut out paper.

    Next place the Print Block (face upwards) on centre point of foil, then carefully pencil round, making the stencil slightly larger than the block. Next cut it out so you will now have a hole in the foil to the shape of the print block. (see 'D')

    Incidentally, when you the place foil over the Chase, you can now easily see through the hole the exact location for sticking the printing block on to the Chase.

    Next return to cut out paper and place it flat down, corner to corner on the Platen securing both sides with approx. quarter of inch cellotape. Your chosen item (e.g. card, envelope etc.) can now be successfully placed in the desired position on paper, using the centre point of the two drawn lines as your guide.

    Note: across the bottom of the Platen is a rest bar upon which your item can be seated.

    The rest bar can be manually manoeuvred by turning the attached turn screw at the side to raise or lower the item accordingly. This operation will help to achieve the best position for line up with the Chase. However, don't let this feature worry you too much as it will make more sense when you actually see it and operate the machine.

    Now adjust the alignment between the Chase and the Print Head via the instructions in the boxout below


    The following needs to be done when the machine's heater is off. Always check Printer Is In Correct Alignment then Adjust accordingly. With the Chase and print block in place on the Print Head, unlock all four wing nuts - freeing them allows for any necessary adjustments. Next bring Platen up to impact with the Chase and the print handle down in locked position.

    Now switch on. The card/item should now be sandwiched between the the Print Head and Platen. Gradually tighten up the screws, applying even pressure on all sides until they touch the back of the Print Head, and become flush with the Printing Block.

    When you want to change the print block with another description, simply and carefully scrape off the existing block with a nail file or sharp instrument, taking care not to unduly scratch the chase.


    Heating Print Head/Chase:-

    Firmly grip handle and slide the Chase on to the Print Head (there is a slim ledge on the Print Head for this purpose)
    Heat up to approx. 120/130 degrees (about right for card printing) by pressing black button on temperature controller.
    Once heated, grip the chase handle and slide firmly out of Print Head (make sure your wearing gloves). Place the heated chase downwards on to a flat heat proof surface.


    Mounting The Print Block:-

    Stick a tiny piece of mounting tape near to each corner at the back of the print block. Next, as a guide, spread the cut out foil evenly over the heated Chase, whereupon, through the hole, you can see the precise spot on the Chase for the Print Block to be mounted. Proceed to place Print Block (face upwards) through the hole straight on to the heated Chase. Press gently but firmly, so the block sticks (afterwards, put foil to one side as a spare stencil). The block is now in the correct position.

    Now slide the heated Chase with attached print block firmly back on to the hot Print Head. The Print Head which is thermostatically controlled will re-heat the Chase, and at the same time remain at the set required temperature throughout the printing process.

    Everything is now in place to print your very first item!


    Finally Making It All Happen:-

    As you push the Platen (holding item) handle downwards to locking position, the Platen will move forward making contact with the print block on the Chase, rather like two slices of bread coming together.

    After contact is made, bring the handle up to its original position so that the Chase and Platen are now separated again.

    For best results, it is advisable to allow this sandwich point of contact to remain impacted for approx. two seconds, so that the imprint on the item is clean and concise - not overly or under done. This operation is an acquired skill with some trial and error to begin with, but you will soon get the feel of it.

    Note: the Platen handle is connected to a toggle type pressure, to give the right pressure when the Chase and Platen make impact.

    You are now on your way to discovering the joys of hot foil printing.
    Have fun!

    All pictures and text on this page are copyright 2005 onwards Anne White.
    If you wish to duplicate any of the information from this page, please contact me for permission.