Gilding with Gold Leaf – Tips

Here is a video showing bad and good techniques for gilding with silver leaf.

Gilding supplies

Tips for gilding – Method

1. Gesso

Prime the surface with gesso.

2. Choose a base

Paint a dark-coloured acrylic or metal leaf basecoat. For gold leaf, choose red oxide or burnt sienna. With silver leaf, choose black or dark green. For copper leaf, try a red oxide or burnt umber base. Let the base coat dry before continuing.

3. Apply the gold size

Use a ¾” or 1” brush to apply gold size. The metal leaf will only adhere to the surface where you apply the size so be sure to check that you have not missed any areas. For imitation leaf, use either water-based or oil-based size. For real silver leaf, use only oil size. Let this application reach the proper tack (the necessary degree of stickiness to be ready to receive the leaf.) This should be between one and eight hours. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label.

4. Apply the sheet of metal leaf to the sticky surface.

  • Tip 1: If you have trouble transporting the sheets of leaf from the book to the surface, you can use this alternative method. Cut a piece of wax paper to a slightly larger size than your sheets of leaf. Place the wax paper over the sheet of leaf and rub the back to create static and then lift the wax paper up and the gold will cling and be easily transported over the tacky surface to be gilded.
  • Tip 2: If leaf is too large, it can be easily cut with scissors. Note a single sheet is too delicate to cut separately. It is better to cut 5 or more sheets together (with the tissue interleaving still attached).
  • Tip 3: Chances are, if it is your first attempt at leafing, the leaf will crumble or tear as you lay it down. Don’t be discouraged; you’ll get the hang of it — it just takes time. Be sure to gather all scraps and pieces and save them in a little box for other projects and touch-ups.

5. Applying the leaf

While you protect the leaf with tissue, press it onto the surface with a soft blending brush.

6. Finishing

When the leaf is dry, burnish it with a soft, flat brush to remove the excess, then polish the surface with a soft cloth to buff to a shine.

7. Varnish

Apply a coat of gloss varnish to seal and protect the fragile metal leafing.

Are you looking for a quicker application?

Pebeo Gedeo makes metallic foils that reflect light in a mirror-like, dramatic effect. Beginners will appreciate that the foils are more durable and easier to handle than the traditional leaf. Watch the demonstration below to see how to apply the relief sizing and get both raised and smooth metal effects.

Do you want an easy project for kids? Here is a fun idea.

Gilders’ Wax is a metallic wax paint. It is applied by rubbing the colour on with a cloth – much like old fashioned shoe-polish. It is easy to use and the perfect paint for touching-up frames and decorative pieces. In the video below we share tips for how to transform simple cardboard into gorgeous metal ornaments.

Kim Fjordbotten: The Paint Spot owner Kim Fjordbotten is passionate about helping artists use materials and make art. She is available as a speaker and educator for teachers and art associations. The Paint Spot offers exhibitions, classes, and beautiful art materials to inspire
your creativity.

Did you appreciate this information? Did it help you find art walks in Alberta? You can help us by purchasing your art supplies from The Paint Spot. We appreciate your business, which helps us keep making these free educational posts. Thank you.

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