How To Use Flash Paper


Seriously sparingly. If you want to add a miniscule moment of surprise and astonishment in one of your magic tricks, then flash paper (or flash string, flash cotton, flash cards, flash bills, flash cigarettes or other flash products) is something you should consider. Also, you should consider the safety procedures you must follow when you store flash paper. You can browse the full range of flash products here. And if you’re just starting to learn magic tricks or sleight of hand, leave it alone for the moment!

Flash paper, or nitrocellulose, is very thin paper that has been specially treated with specific chemicals to make it, literally, vanish in flames. As the paper is lit, the fire consumes the paper leaving nothing but a tiny bit of ash behind.

It often delivers gasps from audiences, but crucially, gives you mental and physical misdirection to accomplish something sneaky.

All the magic books say there is no safe way to use flash paper. And yes, people have died using flash paper. You will be running a risk each and every time you ignite some, but there are ways to minimize that risk and keep as safe as possible.

Start with a tiny amount! Tear off a bit the size of a postage stamp, screw it into a little ball, but not tightly, touch it to a flame and quickly throw it into the air outside (but not in a forest). It should combust in milliseconds. Repeat this process a few times and you’ll start to get a feel for how it burns and when and so on.

Remember, we’re magicians, we know about flash paper and why it exists. But almost every lay person has no idea. They won’t recognise the slightly crinkled texture of a piece of flash paper the way we do. So go into using it with the very clear notion that this will be incredibly surprising for the audience.

Different Ways To Use Flash Paper


When a piece of flash paper is lit, the flash it produces is so very bright that your audience will not be able to see anything really you do behind that flash. Switch a deck of playing cards, an appearance of a coin for some money magic, a vanish, a load. It’s a magic trick “verbiage cliché” but you are really only limited by your imagination.


If you use a secret flash ignition device, no one will expect a sudden flash of fire. This surprise can be used as misdirection as we wrote above, but also to change the tone, or feeling of your performance.


For Bizarre or mystery performers, the sense of drama the ignition of a single piece of flash paper can deliver is incredibly high. Timed right, and with the appropriate introduction, it is incredibly powerful as a theatrical device.

Tricks You Can Do With Flash Paper

There are lots of tricks you can do with flash paper, here are some of our favorites.

In A Flash by Jay Sankey

This is an unusual magic trick where a coin seems to burn a hole down into a deck of cards, stopping above the previously selected card and leaving a singed hole through half the deck of cards! The use of flash paper in this routine makes complete sense and is integral for both the method and the effect.

Kevin James’ Floating Rose

An incredibly beautiful piece of magic where a paper origami rose is brought to life and made to move and float, then change seemingly instantly into a real rose which is handed to your spectator. Often imitated, but here is the real deal:

Chris Westfall’s Cigatration

For us, this is the version of Cigarette Through Coin to perform. It has it all: visual, surprising, and utterly clean. The advent of flash paper and keys (as prongs) elevate this trick into a strange and wonderful performance piece.

Chad Long’s Flash Coins

Three half dollars are visually produced from three small balls of fire.Two of the coins travel to a purse in a comical fashion. The third vanishes in a ball of fire and joins the two in the purse! This was one of the most popular things in Chad’s lectures.

Here’s Eric Jones’ take on Chad’s idea, Flash Coins Re-Lit

When Not To Use Flash Paper

Almost all the time! It would totally lose its impact if you constantly were setting fire to things, so save it for a special moment. And if you’re working in a professional setting, you must also ask permission of the venue because of insurance purposes.

Important Reminder about Fire Tricks

When using any fire magic trick, it’s important to remember that real fire means real danger. Fire tricks should only be used by professionals over the age of 18 that have taken the necessary time to learn how to properly use them.

Most fire products like Flash Paper are made wet with water prior to being shipped. They must be fully dried before using. However, as they dry out, these fire products become highly flammable and increasingly dangerous. So, it’s important to also understand how to properly store your fire magic tricks. And never try to make your own Flash Paper, the results can be fatal.