Gilding With Metallic Leaf

Gilding, with gold leaf especially, can add the perfect little detail or it can give an entire room a bold and dramatic look. This is a very old technique. Many Italian master artists even used it in their artwork.

Whether it's an accent like a picture frame, or an entire room, this technique provides interest and elegance.

With a little patience, this look can easily be accomplished. The first step is applying the sizing or glue. The glue is a specific material that is sold in the same store where you'll find the metallic leaf. "Pearl" art supplies usually sells this. The large arts and crafts store "Michaels" has it as well.

"Pearl" art supplies has even carried the real gold leaf.(For more money of course).

After you brush on the sizing or glue, you'll have to wait until it gets tacky and sticky to the touch.

The gold leaf comes in a book-like stack of very thin 4"x4" squares. Let me tell you, it is very, very delicate.

Each square has a piece of tissue separating the leaves. And so its best to use these tissues to handle the leaves.

The gold leaf comes in a book-like stack of very thin 4"x4" squares. Let me tell you, it is very, very delicate.

gold leaf sheets

Holding the book of leaves in one hand, each square can be started in place on top of the sizing and then brushed into place using a small soft bristled brush. The gold leaf will stick only to the glue.

gold leaf gilding

The squares should not be greatly overlapped. If they are overlapped, the overlap will not stick to itself. So you can then take a small brush to lay it all down. This brushing will also eliminate the extra overlap material. The rest can be eliminated by lightly rubbing down the wall with cheesecloth.

If you really want to get fancy, you can first paint the walls red. This is fancy because the sizing or glue that the old masters used only came in red. That way if there are any voids in your material, it will look natrual for the color showing through to be red. Since it only requires painting a solid color of red first, I highly recommend doing this.

Just make sure the base coat is solid dry before putting on the glue.

gold leaf detail

In this photo you can see where the red can show through giving the effect even more character.

If you want to paint an antique glaze or some other type mural then the metallic leaf should first be coated with a clear shellac. This will keep it from reacting to any chemicals in the glaze.

It's really that simple, if you want to gild anything, like furniture, lines on a wall, picture frame, whatever. Remember the gilding will only stick to the glue. So be creative with the sizing (with the glue) and then apply the gilding.

gold leaf gilded bath

gilded bathroom

These bathroom photos show the dramatic and elegant finish this technique can give your home.

Return from gilding to faux painting techniques.

Or...

Return to stenciling.

Return to decorative faux painting home page.