Hot stamping on leather – how to

Also called estampar en caliente in Spanish, hot stamping has been the hot topic at Minku for the past few days. It started with the acquisition of a Minku die, cast in metal. I just have the die and its handle, no built-in thermostat or other adornment. The goal was to have some cool branding on the bags I made, something more sophisticated than sewing the name ‘Minku’ onto a sticker and attaching them to the bags.

What you need: – die – heat source, eg an electric iron – untreated leather – water in a glass – a sponge – a flat, hard surface

How to hot-stamp a pattern, your brand logo, etc onto leather:

1. Turn on the heat source. Depending on how pronounced you want the stamp mark to be, the temperature can be 80 to 160 degrees Celsius. I just put the iron on max, waited for 5 minutes, and rolled.

2. Place the die on the hot surface, to start pre-heating.

3. Dip the sponge into the glass of water, squeeze it, and wipe it across the surface of the area on the leather where you’ll like the stamp to appear. Continue to swipe the sponge across the leather until its (the leather) colour darkens. If it doesn’t darken, the leather may be treated with a dye or other coating that makes it unabsorbent. I would advise trying another piece of leather, preferably vegetable tanned as this is most suitable for hot stamping.

4. Lift the die and place it on the leather. Apply some pressure, but try not to shift the die on the leather in the process, to avoid the parallax- reminiscent phenomenon of le double-stamp.

5. How did you do?

5a. The stamped area should be darker than the rest of the leather. This is a good sign. If they are the same colour, wet the sponge some more on your next try. Also, I placed the stamp on while the leather was still dark-wet. I read somewhere that you should wait a few minutes, but I did it this way and it’s what worked for me.

5b. The stamped area should also be pressed/ appear in lower relief than the rest of the leather. If it’s not, it is possible that the leather you are using is treated, or too thick, so try another piece if you have one.

6. Wait for the leather to dry.

7. Your stamped leather is ready for use.

The difficulties I was having: I tried stamping about ten different leathers, mostly treated. The  relief was really little, and the imprint faded, becoming virtually invisible after about an hour:

Then I looked online and saw that you should use water. So I applied water with a sponge, and waited till the leather wasn’t quite so dark before stamping. The combination of this (I think) and the fact that most of the leathers were not vegetable-tanned, resulted in similar, faded results. At this point I was getting a bit frustrated because the die is quite expensive, and I was thinking there was something wrong with it.

  

Today I had a Eureka moment and decided to try stamping on untreated leather, and using just a bit more water. I think that because I grew up hearing that you should keep water far away from leather goods, I had been reluctant to wet the leather to the point that it darkened. But once I did these, everything else was smooth sailing. Now I’m happy, it’s 6am, and I think I will go to bed. Thanks for reading, and if you have had some experience with hot stamping, please share in the comments section.

Caveat: In the case of hot stamping, the heat and the water (and the nature of the leather) do most of the work. So don’t stress your arm trying to achieve ‘sufficient’ pressure, like I was doing. If you do the other things right, you can get a bold, visible press using minimal pressure. Also, many different leathers including chrome-tanned ones can be used for hot stamping, but the ones that take the heat the easiest are the vegetable-tanned ones.

xoxo Minku

If you would like to see the end result on some bags I made, you can see them here (opens a new window).

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24 thoughts on “Hot stamping on leather – how to

  1. Hi,

    I have been cracking my head over how to do hot stamping and it seems that you got it all figured out! Thanks!

    I am curious though, how does your die look like? I have always thought you needed some machinery of sorts?

  2. Thanks for dropping a line, Clive. My die looks like a regular office stamp. It has a metal stamping face (the logo is carved in relief onto this) and a plastic handle. I hope that helps. If you would like me to cover any other leather-related topic on the blog, please let me know – I’d be happy to if it’s within my scope of knowledge!

  3. Hi Stephanie, I believe it was made of steel. They can be made from different materials: silicone for non-flat or textured surfaces, magnesium, brass, copper…apparently the steel ones can be used more times before they go ‘blunt’ and need to be replaced. Hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by..

  4. Thanks Ian. If you go to a local blacksmith or leather store, they would usually be able to direct you to someone who can forge you a hot stamp. Otherwise I’ve seen some web sites of companies that would make it and mail it to you. I hope this helps.

  5. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Actually with higher temperature say 200 degree, you can also hot stamp the treated leather properly. We provide custom made stamps and branding irons with adjustable temperature!

  6. Hi…Please can you tell me if I can heat my old brass leather stampers/embossers?…with an iron or will the iron melt or spoil the brass? Some of them are about 6″ x 2″…Thanks

  7. Hi Norman, can you regulate the temperature of the iron? Up to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Farenheit) should be fine. Leave your brass stamper on it for no more than 5 minutes at a time.

    Pls share here how it turns out!

    Best regards

  8. Hi. Thanks for sharing.
    This is exactly what I was looking for.
    Btw, what kind of iron machine are you using?
    I am trying to buy one, but some people says it needs to be at least 150Watt, which makes the cost a lot more expensive.
    Thanks.

  9. You´re welcome. No need to complicate things with the wattage. If your heating device goes up to 100-160 degrees celcius, then for leather hot-stamping, you are good to go.

  10. But it also depends on the size of your stamp. For larger stamps like up to 6x6cm, a 500W branding iron will be required for heating it up.

  11. Hi Bruno, using the same hot stamping I explained in the post (likely with a more professional heating element :-) but the procedure is the same), they either:

    – Made the stamp extra-hot so it leaves a black, not just darkened, stamp/impress,

    OR (and this is more likely from the look of it:)

    – Placed a hot stamping foil (e.g. http://www.hotstampsupply.com/foils.html) between the leather and the stamp, to achieve that pewter-colored impress/finish. There are all colours of hot-stamping foil, and if you find a book binding shop, they should sell smaller rolls.

    Thanks, and I hope this helps!

  12. Hi, can I use synthetic leather for hot stamping? Also, if the soldering iron has no heat regulator, how do you know if the heat is already 100-160 celsius?

  13. Hi Misty,

    I haven’t tried hot stamping on synthetic leather. An option could be to hot-stamp your label/logo onto genuine leather cut-out tags, which you then sew onto the synthetic leather. Good question about knowing when the hear is up to 100-160 degrees celsius. A temperature sensor, e.g. a thermostat, can be used.

    If, however, you wouldn’t like to go through the trouble, what I would do is place the heat source on max, then place the hot stamp on it for four minutes, then try stamping onto a dampened leather surface (vegetable-tanned leather gives the best stamping contrast). If the contrast of background to stamp is not high enough, place the stamp back on the heating surface. Continue like this in four-minute intervals; you will know when the stamp looks good. This necessitates having some scrap leather to work with; then you only stamp on the intended leather surface when the stamp looks right on the testing surface.

    I apologize for the delay in responding to you. I have been traveling without access to the email box where I receive comment notifications.

    Warmest regards, and please share how it turns out,

    Minku

  14. Hi good article! can you give me some tips for hot stamping on suede? I have a soldering iron with brass stamp and it looks beautiful when I first stamp into the suede, but as you start to rub it, it sort of fades?
    I also want to stamp it in permanent ink and then apply to the suede surface so it will imprint and show ink to emphasis the stamp. Do you have some tips to help me? Thank you!

  15. Hi Connie,

    thanks for dropping by, and I’m glad you found the article helpful.

    For hot-stamping on suede, the technique you mention in your comment’s second paragraph will definitely be the way to go. I recently did something similar, at http://www.minku.com/product/eti-tote.

    Here is the main modification to the steps:

    Place a hot stamping foil (e.g. http://www.hotstampsupply.com/foils.html) between the leather and the stamp, to achieve an ‘ink-dipped’ impress/finish. There are all colours of hot-stamping foil, like the gold one I used for the emboss in the link above. If you find a book binding shop, they should sell smaller rolls.

    Ok, I hope this helps!

  16. Thanks Minkudesigns!
    Alternatively, would you suggest some type of ink stamp into suede that would be permanent? I can’t find where to buy the hot foil and I’m worried the foil might melt with my soldering iron as it’s very hot and unable to adjust temperature. What do you thing about ink stamping?

  17. I haven’t tried ink stamping on suede, and don’t have any pointers on this, unfortunately. I think a stationery store or bookbinder’s would be able to give some guidance.

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