When applying gold leaf, the type of gilding brush you use is important. The proper brush can not only expedite the process but can also make application smoother for a beautiful and seamless final result.

In this post, we’re detailing how you should go about using a gilder’s brush and the types of brushes available to you for your next gilding project.

Let’s check it out.

Beginners Guide To Starting Out With Gold Leaf

Table of Contents

What Is a Gilding Brush Used for?

A “gilding brush” is a brush specifically designed for use with laying metal leaves. While the use of gold leaf is most popular, other metal leaves, such as silver or copper metal leaf sheets, also exist.

Gilding brushes come in various types, shapes, and sizes. They are good for specific uses and procedures throughout the gilding processes. Because of the wide variety of brushes available, we understand that it can sometimes be difficult to determine which brush is best for what.

In the following segment, we’re breaking down which brush is most useful for which tasks in the gilding process. Be sure to stick around!

What Kind of Brush Is Used for Gold Leaf?

There are multiple types of brushes used for gold leaf. While some may suggest that any brush that is clean and fluffy is suitable for the task, true professionals know the nuances between these brushes and the importance of their use.

The following are the kinds of brushes often used for gold leaf. Please note that these brushes are often referred to as “mops” but are essentially referring to the same thing:

  • Squirrel hair brushes
  • Oval-shaped mops
  • Square-shaped mops
  • Black goat hair mops
  • Pointed mops

How to Use Gilding Brush

  • Squirrel hair brushes: Squirrel hair brushes are popular in the world of gilding. Because pure gold leaf is so incredibly delicate, it must be handled with the utmost care. Squirrel hair brushes are best for application of this delicate leaf because of its soft texture making it ideal for keeping the gold leaf from nicking or scratching. Not only are squirrel haired brushes important for laying gold leaf, but they are also useful for applying size. You can find squirrel hair brushes sometimes labelled as “gilder’s brushes” whose specific use is for the application of either oil or water based sizes.
  • Oval-shaped mops: Oval shaped mops are popular brush types, often used over textured or ornamental surfaces. They are often made from squirrel hair, although this isn’t always the case. At-home gilding artists that take on gold leaf casually may use makeup brushes of similar shape to gently press gold leaf atop of a glued surface and also, to clear away leaf excess.
  • Square-shaped mops: Square shaped mops are another popular brush type that can also be found composed of squirrel hair. The purpose of these mops are to help the gilder achieve optimal results when gilding upon a flat surface. It is also used for applying oil or water based size. Lastly, these square mops are key for helping gilders pick up delicate and finicky gold sheet pieces.
  • Black goat hair mops: Black goat hair mops aren’t as popular as squirrel haired mops because they aren’t as soft. Still, they serve their purpose for clearing away excess metal leaf and helping to tamp down metal leaves that aren’t genuine gold. Using black goat hair mops on genuine gold leaf will undoubtedly ruin its surface. Instead, it is best to use a brush of this sort strictly for metal leaf that isn’t pure gold.
  • Pointed mops: Last but not least, pointed mops or “detail” brushes” are best used for applying water or oil based size, for touch ups, or for tamping gold or metal leaf into hard-to-reach or intricate surfaces. They come in a variety of shapes and the uses for each are usually detailed by the manufacturer.

Best Gilding Brush

Now that you have information about the types of gilding brush available, you’re likely wondering which is best for which type of surface. The truth of the matter is that it isn’t always so much the surface that matters when choosing a brush, but rather, the type of metal leaf you are using and the surface texture.

For example, if you are looking for a gilding brush for metal, you will want to consider whether or not you plan to lay genuine gold leaf and what that metal surface is composed of. If you are using genuine gold leaf, it is advised that you use a soft squirrel hair brush for application, as this is the softest brush type that will not lead to the damage of your genuine gold leaf.

Moreover, it is important that if your metal surface is intricate in design or has raised edges that you attempt to use an oval head brush to help you properly tamp the gold leaf into the complex surface.

This procedure of assessing your surface rings true of all projects, and will help you determine which gilding brush for gold leaf is the best brush for you.

Choosing The Right Gilding Brush Is Important…

Ultimately, choosing the right gilding brush is important, especially if you are using pure gold leaf. Remember that certain gilding brushes are specifically used for applying sizes while others are used for various tamping and dusting applications.

To know for sure, read the description of each brush before purchasing to ensure you are buying the correct brush to fit your needs.


Is gilding the same as gold leaf?

No. Gold leaf are metal sheets that are pounded thinner than a human hair for application upon a variety of surfaces. Gilding, however, is the act of applying gold leaf to a surface.

What do you use for gilding?

The most basic tools you’ll need for gilding include water or oil based size, a variety of brushes (as detailed in this post), metal leaf, and an environment free of drafts. Other supplies such as primer may be necessary, but will depend largely on the project.

What is the best brush for gold leaf?

The best brush for gold leaf is undoubtedly the squirrel haired brush. This is especially true if you are handling pure gold leaf sheets. Because pure gold is so delicate, it requires a very soft brush. Squirrel hair brushes work to provide a gentle touch while also working for other processes such as the application of size and more.

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