Looking to get your head around gilding for ceramics? How is it different from gilding for other objects like picture frames? Can you still use the same materials?

All this and more today as we run through the process of gilding for ceramics step by step, honing in on each part of the process so you do not have to go in blind.

gilding for ceramics

Step 1: Adhesive

First up in gilding for ceramics is the application of the adhesive to the ceramic in question. In gilding terms, the adhesive is referred to as the ‘size’.

This size will have the look and relative viscosity of a light oil – think olive oil. You can use whichever type will be most pertinent to your uses – whether quick-drying or not, the adhesive will have a pure gold luster of its own, like liquid gold.

Using a quick-drying adhesive will usually mean that the gold leafing can be applied after around an hour. There should not, however, be any rush, for the adhesive area will accept the gold for several hours.

The best gold leaf should not operate on a time limit, lest it loses that bright gold sheen that the metal object ought eventually to have.

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Step 2: Test

Before proceeding with the application of the gold leaf, it is necessary to test the surface to ensure that it is fully ready to accept it.

In such an instance, it is advisable to simply touch the surface lightly with a knuckle. This is because knuckles generally have less oil and dirt on them compared to fingertips. These oils and varieties of dirt could spell trouble for the sanctity of the adhesive. This will be the case even if you are using a powdered gold leaf of some kind.

You should ideally feel a mild tug from the adhesive that is indicative of its adhesive qualities, followed by a ticking sound when it is pulled away. If the adhesive is still too wet when the gold leaf is applied, the overall appearance will be mushy. Likewise, if the surface is too dry, the gold leaf will simply not adhere properly at all.

Step 3: Applying

Lift a piece of gold leaf (usually in sheet form) onto the prepared surface using the static charge in the brush. Tweezers are also useful in these instances, one pair being enough for postage stamp-sized areas. Anything larger will require at least two pairs of tweezers.

Step 4: Pressing

Using a soft watercolor brush that resembles a mop press the gold leaf gently onto the surface. Use a larger than necessary piece of gold leaf and mold it into shape by pressing down gently. The leaf itself is so thin that overlaps will scarcely be visible to the naked eye, adhering to the adhesive surfaces and falling away from those parts that are unpainted.

Step 5: Brushing

Brush gently the pieces of gold leaf that have been picked up by the brush or tweezers, ensuring that the pattern covered with the adhesive is entirely adhered to.

Step 6: Burnishing

After about a day has passed since the gold leaf has been applied, the adhesive should have more or less fully hardened. At this stage, you can begin burnishing the gold leaf to give it the characteristic shine, and to dust for decoration of the layers into a smooth aspect.

Using a piece of cotton or velvet, smooth the stray flakes of gold and burnish them into the applied gold, bringing forth the luster of the gold leaf.

Step 7: Perfecting

Gold leaf is incredibly thin and, as a result, any that has been applied to a surface will be greatly affected by the color of the surface that it is bonded to.

Thus, it may be necessary to apply at least two or three separate layers of gold leaf to get a purer gold color, leaving at least a day between each application so that the adhesive and leaf can duly harden.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you have found this brief study into the process of gilding for ceramics helpful and now feel able to give it a go yourself. The process might differ if you are gilding for ceramics in a way that attempts to mimic antiquated ceramics, but you should find these general steps reflected even in the most antiquated processes.

FAQs Gilding for Ceramics

Can you gild ceramic?

Indeed you can and this is, in fact, strongly encouraged by many advocates of this sort of thing. The process is scarcely different from the gilding of other objects, albeit with a more concerted effort towards precision on the part of gilding certain parts of the ceramic. In most instances, you will not be gilding the entire object but rather gilding in gold certain parts of the ceramic in question.

How do you attach gold leaf to ceramic?

The process of gilding a ceramic is not all that different from the gilding of other objects, the key difference being that the gilding of ceramics usually involves a more concerted effort on precision and nuance. In most instances, the gilding of ceramics will not involve the entire scope of the object but rather target certain parts, covering them in adhesive and then applying the gold leaf. This is, of course, all decided by the whim of the person who is actually applying the gold leaf, whether or not they are doing so of their own volition or instead under someone else’s behest.

Can I use gold leaf for Kintsugi?

Indeed you can and, in fact, gold leaf is an inherent part of the process. Otherwise known as Kintsukuroi, this technique makes use of gold leaf and silver leaf to recompose the fragments of broken ceramic objects. This is usually to bring the pieces of one broken object back together, though it has been known to find uses in the arms of those who wish to bring together the broken pieces of disparate pieces of ceramics. In any case, the pieces are recomposed with gold leaf or silver leaf to instill within the object a new lease of life and an admirable and shiny luster.