How To Apply Gold Leaf to a Painting

Although it is not always common among painters, applying gold leaf to paintings can give a unique impact and fine accent to these magnum opuses. Paintings applied with gold leaf can easily be classified from the traditional painting articles. A painter needs to have skill in gilding because of the delicate nature of these works of art.

If you are planning on applying gold leaf to your painting, here are simple steps you could follow.

Decide which kind of gold leaf to use. There are two kinds of gold leaf and gold leafing techniques available for visual and handicraft artists, liquid gold leaf and paper gold leaf. Liquid gold leafing requires a few steps but very careful application, while paper golf leafing takes lesser risk but requires time to finish. If you are a new learner to this technique, you may want to use synthetic gold leaf material for practice.

Buy all needed materials: paint brush with natural spike or hair; gold leaf – either paper or liquid; soft cloth; acrylic or clear finish or glaze (optional); and gold leaf adhesive for paper gold leafing.

For liquid gold leafing, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the surface of the canvas with dry cloth or brush to take out dust.
  2. Make sure the painting is standing against the wall and as much as possible, it should be mounted eye-level for easy and comfortable brushing.
  3. Apply a small amount of liquid gold leaf to the part of the painting you want to have an accent or effect.
  4. Check the thickness/lightness of the gold leaf applied by stepping away at least 15-feet away from the painting. The purpose of this is to check the effect of gold leaf from a distance. If the application is too light, add more coating but constantly check it from a distant perspective.
  5. Dry your artwork and apply acrylic or glaze or anything glossy that will lock in and preserve the look of your painting.

For paper gold leafing, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the surface of the canvass.
  2. Lay the painting on the floor or on any flat surface so the gold leaf adhesive will not drip down to the whole painting and for equal application of adhesive.
  3. For large paintings, section the areas you want to apply gold leaf on.
  4. Apply enough but equal layer of gold leaf adhesive on the surface and wait for the adhesive to become tacky – normally, this takes about 15 minutes. Do not let the adhesive dry completely as the gold leaf will not stick.
  5. Carefully take the gold leaf sheet. Be very cautious in doing this as the gold leaf sheet rips off easily. Remove the paper attached to the gold leaf sheet.
  6. Put it on the area or surface you want to apply gold leaf on.
  7. Continue working for other sections until you finish. As much as possible, be precise and do not overlap the sheets when applying it by section. However, minor overlapping is tolerable.
  8. After covering the painting with gold leaf sheets, brush off excess gold leafing that has not adhered to the surface. Using natural brush strands, gently brush the surface of the painting and do NOT use any weight or pressure to keep the gold leaf on its position. If you want to apply thicker gold leaf, repeat steps 3 to 7.
  9. Finally, dry your work completely and apply glaze to seal and finish your artwork.

Applying gold leaf to your painting provides such an effect. However, it comes with price, skills, time and patience to finish one gold-leafing project. May the steps suggested above will help you. Good luck.


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