Everything You Need to Know about How to Gold Leaf

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I don’t know if gold has really TRULY ever gone out of style.  If it has, it’s back. To me, it’s timeless. Gold leafing is a great way to upcycle home décor items to add a little shimmer and shine.  You can learn how to gold leaf vases, coasters, bowls, statues, you name it! I personally like to transform thrift store finds with gold leaf, so today, I want to share with you everything you need to know about how to gold leaf… the brushes, the adhesive, and of course the gold leaf itself. I also included some affiliate links so you know where and what to buy to start your project.

Is gold leaf actually gold?

Yes! It is! When you add the term “leaf” to it, it just means “thin sheets”. So, gold leaf is gold that has been hammered into thin sheets. You can buy gold leaf in different karats and shades, just like gold.

What types of materials can be gold leafed?

You can put gold leaf on glass, wood, ceramic, stone, marble, tile, almost anything! It is used to make things more fancy shmancy (for lack of a better term). But seriously, people use it for art and even in architecture. You can wrap statues in it, frames in it, and it is even used in buildings and temples as part of the architectural design. Some people even use it to decorate their nails or even use edible gold leave to decorate food!

Where can you buy gold leaf and is it expensive? It’s gold, after all!

It’s not expensive! You can buy packs of 25 sheets or even 100 sheets. For this project that I am sharing, I only used one sheet. If you want to save money, you can buy imitation gold and silver leaf sheets as well. You can also buy gold leaf flakes instead of sheets, depending on your project.

What else do I need to gold leaf a project?

Gold leafing calls for a water based adhesive.  You can buy metal leaf adhesive specifically for gilding. I have seen people use Mod Podge as well. You will also need gilding brushes. I use the Martha Stewart gilding brush set.  I have seen people use any soft bristle brush. You can also use a foam brush to help with some projects.

If desired you can wear lightweight cotton gilding gloves. To be honest, I’ve never used them. Gloves keep the metal leaf from coming into contact with oils on your skin, as they can mar, smear or discolor metal leaf. Using them is up to you!

For some projects, you may need to use painter’s tape.  I use Scotch Blue 3M painter’s tape. You can see an example of how I use it in this project. You may also need scissors to cut the gold leaf sheets. If desired, you can spray an optional clear glaze on top.

How do you apply gold leaf?

Applying gold leaf is called gilding or gold leafing. Here is a YouTube video I made of a simple home décor upcycle I did. I got this statue from my in-laws (our last name is Wulf). I decided to paint it white and gild the inside of the ears gold to match our décor. Don’t worry! I asked them and they said it was ok! Ha!

Here is the BEFORE picture.

Watch the YouTube video:

 

Here are further instructions for this project:

Note that these instructions are for small projects like home décor accents.

Make sure that the object you are gilding is clean and dry and free from dust.  Use painter’s tape to tape off any section that you do not want to be painted. Pour a small amount of adhesive into a ramekin. Using a gilding brush, paint on the gilding adhesive onto the area in which you want to gild.

Allow it to dry until it is sticky to the touch.  The dry time for this can vary depending on the material you are gilding.  You will notice that the white glue turns clear when it is ready.  For this project, since the statue is white, it was hard to see.  I waited about 20 minutes. Next, place the gilding sheet faced down onto the surface. Use your finger or clean and dry foam brush to place a little pressure. Carefully lift the sheet and the gold will transfer. Repeat this as necessary.

For this particular project, there were a lot of crevices, which made the transfer of gold a little more difficult.  In this case, I had to reapply some adhesive and transfer again until all my areas were covered.  Once I removed the painter’s tape, I opted to spray my project with a clear glaze.  It turned out nicely.

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10 Comments

  1. Dinah , im having a glass sculpture gilded. What would you recommend to wrap the sculpture in after its completely gilded and sealed as it needs to be shipped interstate. Im concerned if it is wrapped in cotton , (then bubble wrap and filled with foam peanuts) ,the cotton fibres might be pressed and get stuck in gild or worse still pull a bit og gild off?
    Is there a non stick paper one could wrap it to protect the gild
    regards
    Ash

  2. Hi Dinah,

    Great video.

    Im just wondering is there a substitute for size? Can i use any other acrylic mediums or pva glue?

    Thank you
    Urvi

  3. This is a wonderful idea! I would like to try. Have you had any issues getting the gilding glue off your skin? Are there any concerns with it getting on skin to where I would need to wear gloves to apply or take any other precautions?

  4. I’ve had physical disabilities that has kept me from crafting & my passion of baking for years now, but I just started a new treatment that is allowing some pain management and mobility again, and am trying to get back into diy. I’ve started with jewelry for summer, until the cooler weather allows for trying to bake, and I’m hoping to save some e& supplies with consolidation. Can edible gold leaf be used in jewelry making – on beads, on chains, on charms, etc? Thanks.

    1. I’m so happy you are able to craft again! I haven’t tried it, however my suggestion is to not use edible gold leaf on things other than food.

  5. Hi
    I wanted to Gold Leaf a tea set. Is there anything I need to do after if I wanted to use the tea set? Can putting in oven also seal it like with painting designs on ceramics?

    1. Hi Jane! I’m unsure if you can cure it in a regular oven. My guess is that you cannot. To seal it you can spray it with a permanent sealer, however you would have to make sure it is food safe (not sure if that exists), unless you are adding the gold leaf to an area where your lips won’t touch like the handle. I hope this helps!

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