Flash Paper: Best Tricks & Ways to Perform it Safely
Flash paper is a valuable tool for magicians to use, but it's often mis-used or used in crass, overly-simple ways. What follows is a list--far from exhaustive, but we hope helpful--on innovative ways to use flash paper.
The Ever-Present Safety Warning
This is no joke: flash paper is, genuinely, a dangerous object. You should only use flash paper if you understand it and its properties. You MUST be an adult to work with flash paper. NEVER perform with it unless you have access to something to extinguish the flame.
In the last ten years it’s become increasingly difficult to even perform effects with fire indoors. Most theaters prohibit any kind of open flame at all. So, even if you incorporate flash paper into your magic act, the first (and potentially most important tip) is to have a backup version that doesn’t require fire.
Two Awful Stories
Here are two completely true tales of flash paper mishaps. The first one concerns a maker of flashpaper in the 1940s. He was covered in a sulfuric acid compound while mixing the material to make flash paper and ended up dying from his wounds, leaving behind a young child and wife.
The other story concerns a magic shop owner, Murray, from Cleveland Ohio. Murray was transporting several boxes of flash paper to the post office. While driving in his car, he was smoking. He flicked his cigarette out of his car window but it flew back into the backseat, ignited the flashpaper, and almost blew the car to bits. The explosion was so hot that it fused Murray’s seatbelt into place, and he suffered serious burns that would eventually claim his life.
We tell you these stories at the top of this article to raise your awareness of just how dangerous this product can be if used improperly.
The Safest Way to Use Flash Paper
Flash paper should never touch your fingers when it’s lit. Instead, you should look to find clever ways to keep it away from your fingers and, ideally, built into your props. This can be done in two main ways:
Disguising Flash Products as Other Things: An example of this technique is wadding together flash paper so it looks like the wick of a candle. This way you can make a candle (or gaffed candle) appear or vanish in a flash. Other examples of flash products disguised as other things include flash string as a strand in a mop, or flash string colored to look like a piece of the performer’s hair.
Drawing on Flash Paper: People forget that the chief function of flash paper is that it LOOKS like paper. You can draw on it, fold it into things, and handle it like tissue paper. When you draw (or stamp) flash paper, you can make IOU notes, draw pictures of things you intend to produce, or write messages to viewers on flash paper and then make those objects or messages come true.
How Flash Paper Helps
When used judiciously, flash paper does add an element of pizzazz--of flash--to your act. In particular, it draws the eye toward the flash but at the same time blinds the eye for a split moment, which allows you to do switches, vanishes, and productions.
Flash paper is typically used in stage acts with candles and canes and doves, but actually, it’s most effective when it becomes part of an odd effect. In other words, it’s possible to add a flash of fire to ANY magic effect, but most effects don’t NEED it. The more you can justify the existence of fire (or why you’re heating something up), the better. Most of the ideas that follow are offbeat ways to weave flash paper INTO an effect.
Coloring and Printing
We do NOT recommend running flash paper through laser printers or machinery. When overheated, the flash paper can ignite and become unstable. Instead, when possible it’s best to DRAW on flash paper or write messages by hand.
Templates are also an option, as are rubber ink stamps. Some had had success by taping flash paper to another piece of paper and running it through an printer, but the fragile nature of flash paper makes this difficult. We therefore do not recommend printing on flash paper.
Flash Paper Ideas
Drawing to Gum: What most people don't realize is that flash paper is still PAPER. You can write or draw on it. And this often adds a new dimension to a plot. For example, you can ask a spectator to draw a piece of gum on a small square of flash paper. Then you light it and cause it to transform into a real piece of gum.
IOU: You can have someone draw or write a dollar amount, like 20 dollars, and then change the flash paper to a real twenty-dollar bill in a flash.
Paper to Ball: If you use a white push pin to tack a piece of flash paper to a bouncing ball, you can display the paper, light it and toss it into the air, and it will bounce on the ground and rise up again, this time transformed into a ball.
Coin Production: If you conceal a coin behind a piece of flash paper you can light the paper and produce the coin from the flash.
Paper Rose to Real Rose: A classic effect. You fold a piece of flash paper into a rose, light it, and produce a real rose to give away to a spectator.
Silk Production: You can light a piece of flash paper with a balled up silk in your hand and produce a silk from the flash.
Card Production: If you conceal a deck of cards (in the box) in your hand, you can touch a piece of flash paper to it and produce a deck of cards.
As you can see, the uses of flash paper are limited only by your imagination.