What is the Difference Between Flash Paper and Flash Cotton?

Flash Products are one of the easiest ways to add a stunning visual element to any magic trick. While many magicians have probably heard of Flash Paper, some of you might know the difference between Flash Paper and Flash Cotton or some of the other popular fire magic props. We’re here to help!


What is Flash Paper?

Flash Paper (also known as Magician's Flash Paper) is a form of “nitrocellulose” or special tissue treated with nitric acid that can produce a brilliant flame or flash when it comes in contact with a heat source like a lighter, match or candle. As it burns extremely fast without leaving behind any smoke or ash, it is a popular choice among magicians looking to integrate a bit of theatrical flare into their magic show.

Flash Paper typically comes in 8x9 sheets that can be cut or torn into smaller pieces based on the magic effect it’s being used for. The more flash paper you use, the bigger and brighter the flame will be.

Flash pads are also a popular alternative. These convenient pads feature approximately 20 sheets of 2” x 3” flash paper that can be quickly grabbed at any time for use in coin magic or other close-up magic tricks.

Flash Paper is also used to make special Flash Bills authentic looking bills or money notes that go up in an instant burst of flames when ignited.


What is Flash Cotton?

Made from an incredibly fibrous material, Flash Cotton has an essentially instant reaction. So, it not only burns quicker than Flash Paper, but also has the added advantage of requiring only a tiny spark to be ignited. As a result, Flash Cotton is the preferred choice for any magic props using a spark wheel assembly or Glo-Plug as the igniter like those found in a Flint Flasher or Penic.

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Other Fire Products

While Flash Paper and Flash Cotton are the Flash Products most commonly used by magicians, there are a variety of other fire products and fire tricks available for vanishing, producing or transforming objects with a flash!

Flash String (or Flash Cord) is a piece of cord approximately the same thickness of a kite string that burns quickly like Flash Paper without leaving any smoke or ash. It can be used to enhance a variety of amazing magic effects like producing a Magician’s Silk or Appearing Cane. It’s especially exciting when paired with a special additive like Sparkle Powder that creates a crackling electric spark effect when used on Flash Paper, Flash Cotton or Flash String.

Lycopodium Powder, more commonly known as Dragon’s Breath Powder, is often used by both Professional Magicians and Hollywood Prop Makers to produce giant balls of fire. Using a special dispenser, you can squirt Dragon’s Breath Powder through an open flame such as a match, lighter or candle and safely produce a massive flame from your fingertips like a flamethrower.

Some companies also sell an explosive pyrotechnic powder known as Flash Powder. Most commonly made with a mix of potassium perchlorate and aluminium powder, Flash Powder is generally used for large theatrical pyrotechnics like fountains or waterfalls of sparks known as “Gerbs”. Unlike Flash Paper or Flash Cotton, which can be easily purchased by any magician, Flash Powder requires a special license to use.

Safety First

As with all fire products, there is always some risk involved if you don’t use Flash Paper or Flash Cotton properly. Flash Paper is dangerous. Never try and make your own Flash Paper. You should only use Flash Paper if you’re over the age of 18 and have a complete understanding of how to safely use it and properly store it. Remember, some people have died because of Flash Paper, so just be careful.