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How to apply gold leaf to metal

Updated February 21, 2017

Gold leaf is also called gilding and can be applied in a thin layer to the surface of an object. Many types of materials can be enhanced with gold leaf including wood, metal, glass and even plastic. After the gold leaf is applied it moulds to the underlying object, making the object appear as though it is made of solid gold. Applying gold leaf is a fairly simple task and most of the needed materials are available at craft stores.

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  1. Spread a layer of newspapers on top of your work surface to protect it from stains. Lay the metal object on top of the newspapers.

  2. Place pieces of masking tape onto any/all surfaces of the metal object that you do not intend to guild.

  3. Open the jar of sizing solution and insert a small paintbrush into the jar. Apply a thin layer of sizing solution with the brush to all areas of the metal object that you want to guild. Work the bristles of the brush into any small crevices or designs on the metal to ensure that they are coated.

  4. Set the metal object aside for approximately two to five minutes, or until the sizing feels sticky to the touch.

  5. Pick up a single sheet of gold leaf using only the tips of your fingers and lay it on top of the metal object. Don't worry if the gold leaf overlaps other areas of the metal, since it will not stick where the sizing solution is not applied.

  6. Pick up another sheet of gold leaf and lay it onto the metal object next to the first sheet, making sure to overlap the first piece of gold leaf by 6 mm (1/4 inch). Continue applying gold leaf until all areas of the metal object are covered.

  7. Use a clean, dry paintbrush to work the gold leaf into the crevices and design of the metal object.

  8. Dry the object overnight. Brush the entire metal object with a clean, dry paintbrush to remove any excess gold leaf--the back-and-forth motion of brushing will cause the excess to come off. Remove the masking tape from the object.

  9. Apply a thin coat of shellac or varnish to the metal object using a paintbrush to protect the gold leaf.

  10. Tip

    True gold leaf is made of real gold and is more expensive than composite gold leafing, which simply resembles gold. You may want to start by using the inexpensive composite leafing until you get accustomed to the process of gilding.

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Things You'll Need

  • Newspapers
  • Masking tape
  • Sizing solution, slow drying
  • Paintbrushes
  • Gold leaf sheets
  • Shellac or varnish

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

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