How To Apply Gold Leaf To Almost… Anything!

How To Apply Gold Leaf To Almost... Anything!

GOLD LEAF… those two words can stop a gold lover dead in their tracks. I’m that gal! This shiny metal leaf (I’m using imitation gold leaf)) that can literally float in the air and is nothing less than magnificent on almost any surface. It adds a bit of glamour to whatever it touches.  In today’s post, I will show you how to apply gold leaf to almost anything. If you LOVE gold, this is for you.

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Everything is DO-able! Even adding gold leaf to almost any surface. Click To Tweet

How To Apply Gold Leaf To Almost Anything – Before

How To Apply Gold Leaf To Almost... Anything!

Below are links to the products I have used before, on this project, and other metal leafing projects. The difference is in the size of your project. Small kits are available for smaller jobs, but if you’re tackling a massive project like this one, you will want to buy individual adhesive and sealant.

Product List:

Large projects

For Smaller Projects

*Gold leafing can be applied to almost any surface that is clean and free of debris. Wood, glass, ceramic, metal, fabric, painted canvas, etc.

Preparation For Paint and Gold Leafing

To start with, my client brought me three HUGE oriental mirrors. WOW! That was my first thought. WOW! Was my second, third, and last thought. Applying gold leaf is pretty straightforward, but it takes a certain amount of WOWs to complete this size project.

  1. Clean the surface
  2. Paint the surface (background) first if you have a design that you want to apply the gold leaf to.
  3. Apply the adhesive.
  4. Apply the gold leaf
  5. Seal the gold leaf.
Before applying the gold leaf, I painted the background of my design. It's a little tricky but the results will be amazing!

Things You Should Know Before Applying Gold Leaf

  1. Have a designated area to work in. One that isn’t going to get disturbed by your precious Pup or kiddos.
  2. Turn off your ceiling fan… if you have one. You might want to adjust the air-conditioned as well. No direct airflow should be on your project.
  3. You will need a shop vacuum. Wearing a mask is a good idea as the metal leaf is extremely fragile and will break off and float in the air. Protect your lungs.
  4. Don’t sneeze! LOL, I did.
  5. Don’t get in a hurry. This is a timely process and will be worth the effort and finesse you give it in the end.
  6. The adhesive is water-based, so wash out your brush after each application… or it will be a mess.
  7. Apply the gold leaf in small sections.

Adhesives Matter When Applying Gold Leaf

Adhesives matter. With an artist brush, apply the adhesive (it looks milky in appearance when you first apply it, and then it turns clear as it becomes tacky) to your project.  Wait the appropriate time for it to become tacky enough before applying the gold leaf.  The instructions say anywhere from 15-30 minutes. That will depend on the temperature and humidity of your environment that you’re working in. My wait time was about 5-10 minutes in a 74-degree room. If the gold leaf is applied before the glue is tacky, it will not adhere. Carefully tap your finger on the surface after the adhesive has become clear to check if it has become tacky. This is the best way to know. Do not allow the glue to pool in areas. This will affect dry time as well.

Adhesives matter when applying gold leaf and should not be skimped on. Gold on black... can you imagine?

How To Apply

Once the adhesive is ready, “tacky,” gently lay the gold leaf sheet across the surface. I like to do this in small areas so that I have more control. Use a soft-bristle paintbrush to gently smooth over the surface so that the metal leaf comes in full contact with the glue. When you’re working with an uneven surface, you will need to use additional sheets. Full coverage can be tricky, and subtle cracks are almost always viable. If you don’t get the coverage, you want the first try…no worries. Just apply more glue and gold leaf over those areas. You can see how this could become time-consuming. That was my second WOW!

*Full disclosure… I wore gold leaf on my legs for days and didn’t even know it until my neighbor noticed. The adhesive works!

Use a soft bristle paint brush to gently smooth the gold leaf onto the tacky adhesive. This can be tricky but so worth the results!

Sealing The Imitation Gold Leaf

Imitation Gold Leaf and Copper will tarnish, so it’s important to use a varnish or sealer over the top of these to prevent the tarnishing process. My go-to topcoat for metal leafing is Master Clear. I also use this topcoat on my metallic paint finishes as well. It’s good stuff! Apply a thin coat and allow it to dry. I only applied the gold leaf to the details on this mirror after painting the background areas with Dixie Belle’s Caviar (black), a flat chalk mineral paint. I did not apply a top coat to the painted surface… that’s why I used my artist brush. That was my 3rd WOW! 

I used my usual Paintbrush when top-coating the gold leaf on the frame.  Apply two coats of the Master Clear with light sanding after the first. I find this works well on larger pieces that are likely to have high traffic. Since these are mirrors, they will need extra protection from frequent cleaning if you’re doing a small project like a picture frame. One coat is fine.

Imitation metal leaf will tarnish if not properly sealed.I like to use a topcoat called Master Clear.

The End Results

The look of gold leaf is like no other faux finish. Luxurious, BOLD and out spoken for the designers that dare to break all the rules.
Gilding with Gold Leaf... The introduction of gold refining is generally put at around 2000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, but it is quite possible that a better estimate could be made from a study of the dates of surviving objects which are covered in (traces of) gold leaf.

If you’re asking yourself, “did she gold leaf all three mirror frames?” The answer is yes! That was my last WOW. There’s no denying that applying gold leaf adds glamour and sophistication to just about anything it touches, and these certainly swoon-worthy, in my opinion.

It really is easy. Try a small project first and before you know it, you’ll be gold leafing like a pro in no time at all. Try it on glass vase!

Hey, thanks for hanging out with me today; and I hope this inspires a gold leaf project for you, and I would love to hear any feedback, good, bad, or ugly, in the comment section. Tell me what you think?

Until the next project… xo, Do

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  • Wow, you make this look so easy. Time to get the gold leaf out again. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  • It was a real booger to complete but the results are so worth it. šŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by. xo, Do

  • Thanks Do. I could try it on a smaller piece. Nah, too much just yet but I’ll get there.
    It is beautiful.

  • I usually paint the entire dresser, but with the drawers out. Then I lay the drawers on their back and paint their fronts. You painted the drawers while they were still in the frame, but It doesn’t look like you painted the edges of the drawers or the frame. did you?

  • great job and blog this has given me the inspiration to give it a try .

  • Thank you so much, Steve! It’s fun to work with. xo, Do

  • Hi Marilyn,

    I’m confused as you’re referring to a dresser. This blog post is about gold leaf on mirror frames. Are you referring to a different blog post? Do

  • very beautiful your work I love this technique.Congratulations from Argentina

  • Thank you so much, Marcela! It takes a bit of patience but worth it in the end. Blessings from Texas. xo, Do

  • Wow, that mirror Iā€™m in love. How can I get 20 of them? You do amazing work. And I love how thorough you are when explaining every little thing.

    Your a great teacher Do!

  • Thanks, Denise! So glad you enjoyed my tutorial. šŸ™‚ xo

  • This is so helpful.
    How do we smooth the gold leaf on canvas? Could you please help!

  • Hi Faria! If you’re applying it to a canvas, you can use a soft bristle brush. Just make sure the glue is completely dry before brushing over the gold leaf. šŸ™‚

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