How to Use Silver Leaf Paper

Written by karen curinga
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How to Use Silver Leaf Paper
Silver leafing can turn an old item into a showpiece. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The Victorian era was known for its obsession with gilded, or metal leafed, items. Today, many popular home decorating stores offer silver leafed mirrors, tables and other decorative pieces for hundreds of dollars. The sheen and beauty of metal has fascinated humans throughout history. Silver metal beaten into paper thin foil is referred to as silver leaf. Leafing is also made from other metals including gold, aluminium and copper. In a few simple steps, your old worn table or mirror can look like the expensive piece in the decorator's showroom.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 22-=grit sandpaper
  • Painter's tape
  • Soft cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • Primer sealer
  • Adhesive sizing
  • Silver leaf paper book
  • Craft knife
  • Gilder's brush

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  1. 1

    Prepare your object by sanding any imperfections or rough edges, since silver leaf tends to accentuate any imperfection on the object's surface. Wipe the surface with a soft, dry cloth. Mask any areas not intended for silver leafing with painter's tape.

  2. 2

    Use a paintbrush to prime the object's surface with primer sealer, typically available in red, grey, ochre or black. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Allow the sealer to dry.

  3. 3

    Apply adhesive sizing to the object, using a paintbrush, and allow it to dry, following the manufacturer's package instructions. The sizing is ready for silver leafing when it's no longer wet, but has a tacky feel. Do not let it dry completely.

  4. 4

    Cut the binding from the silver leaf booklet with a craft knife, making it easier to lift the sheets and keep them flat.

  5. 5

    Remove a sheet of silver leaf gently from the package, leaving the tissue attached and apply it to the object's surface following the manufacturer's package instructions. Rub the back of the tissue with a gilder's brush. Lift the tissue from the silver leaf and brush away any loose flakes.

  6. 6

    Apply silver leaf to the object's surface until you've covered the entire object, overlapping sheets as you proceed to impart a uniform look to the surface.

  7. 7

    Remove any remaining loose flakes with the gilder's brush. Apply additional leaves to cover any holes or gaps.

  8. 8

    Apply two coats of clear polyurethane with a paintbrush to seal the object's surface. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Tips and warnings

  • All items needed for silver leafing are available at craft and hobby supply stores.
  • To avoid tarnishing when handling silver or imitation gold, wear cotton gloves or rub talcum powder on your hands.
  • Save the loose silver flakes, if possible. Small repairs can be made with these. A paintbrush rubbed through your hair will produce enough static electricity to attract and hold a small piece of silver long enough for you to place it on the object.

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