Gold Leafing Techniques

Gilding techniques
Gilding techniques

Gilding, also known as gold leafing, consists of adding thin sheets of gold to objects. This adds a posh and expensive look to just about anything. Many objects can be gilded, including frames, molding, vases and walls. While gold leafing takes patience and time, it is a skill that can be used often throughout the home.

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Applying Adhesive

Without adhesive, the gold leaf won't stick to the object. When it comes to gilding, the adhesive is often called "size." There are several brands that sell gold leafing size, including LeFranc and Rolco. Apply the adhesive to the clean, dry surface of the object. If you're only gilding certain parts of the surface, and not the whole thing, avoid adding adhesive to the entire object. Painters' tape can help you avoid adding adhesive to unwanted areas.

The most important part of the adhesive process is determining the tack. In order for the gold leaf to stick properly, the adhesive must be tacky and sticky to the touch, almost dry. Some adhesive products, like LeFranc 3 Hour Size, list how long it takes to reach the desired tack level. Still, it's best to test the adhesive by touch at regular intervals until it's just right.

Applying Gold Leaf

While most people use 24-karat gold leaf in their projects, you can save money by using imitation gold leaf. This alternative can cost less than half of what you'd pay for real gold leaf.

Gold leaf is very delicate. It breaks easily and will rip with little pressure. Because of this, take extra precautions when removing a sheet of gold leaf from its packaging. Place the gold leaf onto the surface of your object and pat it so that it sticks to the adhesive. There will be wrinkles and bubbles in the gilding at this point, but this gets fixed with burnishing. Make sure to add all of your gold before moving on to the next step, or the adhesive may dry before you can apply the rest.

Burnishing and Sealant

Once the gold leaf is applied, it's time to burnish it. Burnishing smoothes out the wrinkles to make the end product shiny and free of blemishes. Gilding brushes are perfect for this because they are made to be strong, while protecting the delicate gold. Rub the bristles of the gilding brush against the gold leaf. Use soft, circular motions to get rid of wrinkles. It helps to hold the brush close to the bristles for more control.

When the gold leafing is smooth and wrinkle-free, you'll need to seal your work. Sealants such as Rolco's Acrylic Topcoat will add a clear coating that protects the gilding from damage. Make sure to let it dry completely before touching the work, as this could cause permanent smudges.

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