Gold Leaf - A How-to Guide
I've been meaning to write this for some time now and I think now is the ideal time to do it, because I have just finished decorating my Mum's bedroom and I've been using gold leaf in the design.
Gilding is a skill that has been used for thousands of years; its reflective brightness and colour has been associated with wealth and virtue in cultures across the globe. Gold brings us joy; it brings with it, an elegant splendour that we love to be immersed in. It brightens a dark design, makes the sunlight feel warmer and makes the most humble home feel richer and more opulent. We all love a bit of gold!
But, of course, it isn't just gold leaf you can buy these days; you can use silver if you prefer it - or rose gold, copper, copper patina, pink, blue, purple, green... pretty much any metallic colour you can think of! There is such a variation of this wonderfully fragile material these days and it seems we all want a bit of it somewhere in our homes.
But how do we use it? It can be a tricky thing to get the hang of; it's so thin, so 'floaty' and so easily torn. It can also be so very expensive! But, if you're not too bothered about having imitation gold, rather than the real thing, then it can be really cheap!
So, let's get to it! How do you gold leaf and what do you need?
- Gold leaf (or any metallic leaf!) *I get my sheets from Amazon; 100 sheets for £4.99, or 200 for £8.99
- Gilding Size / Paste *You can get a gilding set with varnish and a brush on Amazon for just over £11.00 but Hobbycraft also sell gilding paste for £6.00
- A Paint brush for the size
- A soft bristle brush, or cotton gloves
- Decorators Varnish or Liquitex Acrylic Medium (gloss), to seal
Before you start, don't forget to sand and clean the surface if needed. Just a light sand will do; enough to take the sheen away from whatever you intend to gild. Also, if you're using water-based size, it should only be used indoors; oil based can be used outside.
1. Apply the size evenly with a paint brush and allow to 'set' for 30 minutes to an hour. When it's ready, it will feel tacky, like the sticky side of sellotape.
2. Apply the gold leaf; you can do this using the end of a soft bristle brush (horse hair brushes are good, as they contain an oil which helps the gold leaf to stick to the tips), but I usually just place mine onto the size face down, holding the paper backing; this can take a little practice. Whatever approach you take, be very gentle; the leaf is easily disturbed in the slightest breeze and can easily be torn, or ruffled up!
3. Once your surface is covered, gently press any lifted leaf into place and then leave it to settle for a while. I usually leave mine for around half an hour.
4. After half an hour or so, use a soft bristle brush, or cotton gloves to brush away any excess gold leaf. I keep my flakes in a jar and use them to patch up any places that didn't get covered in the process.
5. To seal your beautifully gilded surface, use decorators varnish, or whichever varnish you bought with the gilding set.
And that's all there is to it!
Stand back and admire your metallic wonder!
Praise yourself! You did a good job!