While it may sound antiquated, gilding in calligraphy is a great way to add a bit of drama to flat pages and to bring attention to your work. Both raised gilding and flat gilding can yield stunning results, especially if you use real gold leaf or silver leaf to achieve the look.

In this post, we’ll break down the process of how to properly gold leaf a pattern or lettering on paper so that it is completely covered and exhibits a sophisticated mirror like finish. Using just a few supplies, you’ll be one step closer to achieving a beautifully gilded piece with adhesive and a few swipes of a brush.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

How To Use Gilding In Calligraphy

Table of Contents

What Is Gilding in Calligraphy?

Gilding in calligraphy is a process by which gold leaf or other metal leaf types are used in place of ink to highlight specific words, phrases, or even whole paragraphs. Gilding in calligraphy is done usually for artistic purposes and can draw attention to certain areas of paper or specific words for drama and impact.

As with most gilded items, words that are layered in gold bring about an aura of regality and sophistication unmatched by paint or plain ink. It is for this reason that many turn to using gold leaf or other metal leaves in calligraphy. It provides glamor and texture to otherwise dull paper or handwritten pieces.

What Is Foil Lettering?

Foil lettering is often the same thing as gilding in calligraphy. It uses much the same process including the use of adhesive (size), a brush, and of course, paper.

How Do You Use Gold Foil for Lettering?

Gold foil for lettering is done by applying adhesive to paper and pressing gold leaf on top. Of course, there’s much more to it than that, so stay tuned for a more detailed explanation coming up!

How to Do Gilding in Calligraphy

There are several methods you can try when gilding for calligraphy. Because gilded calligraphy can occur across a variety of mediums, we will focus on the most common, which is paper. However, if you plan to attempt calligraphy on a textured or non-paper surface stick around until the end, because we will offer a few helpful hints to help you achieve a flawless gilt finish that’ll surely add refinement and style to your projects.

Let’s dive in.


  • Paper
  • Printed lettering design to be used as a guide for gilding
  • Adhesive, preferably water size and a thin brush or a glue pen
  • Gold leaf
  • A clean brush
  • Tape
  • A very stable surface


  • Start by ensuring that your workspace is stable and that there aren’t any drafts in the area. A windy or drafty place, especially outside, will lead to many headaches when applying gold leaf or other metal leaf types. Metal leaf is thin and can easily blow away, even with a single breath.
  • To begin, either hand draw a print or use a stencil to draw your desired lettering. This should be flat and printed on paper. Anchor it down to your work surface using tape.
  • Next, use more tape to anchor the paper to be gilded on top of the stenciled or printed piece. Ensure the paper is anchored properly so that it isn’t moving around as you begin gilding the lettering.
  • Using water-based size, or, preferably, a glue pen designated for crafts, begin to carefully trace the letters and phrases you wish to be covered in gold. Be careful to stay within the lines here, as messy application will lead to a messy finish. Alternatively, feel free to use water gold size for raised gilding in which the lettering will appear 3D. Another feasible adhesive option is to use miniatum ink. This will need to be applied with a thin brush, again, very carefully, to prevent messy results.

Laying the Gold Leaf

  • Once you’ve applied your glue, it is time to lay the gold leaf. Note that some types of adhesive, including water size, will require that you wait until it is tacky before laying gold leaf. Follow the instructions on your adhesive to ensure proper adherence to the paper. Carefully pick up your gold leaf using your chosen technique, and lay it atop your adhesive. Use a brush to carefully push down your gold leaf so that it completely covers the adhesive. Peel back your gold sheet and remove the excess gold with a clean brush.
  • If you are adding calligraphy to another medium, such as wood or another textured surface, priming may be necessary. You may need to use bole or another primer to provide the optimal gilding surface for the gold leaf to adhere. Once you’ve primed the surface, you’ll allow it to dry before adding either water or oil based adhesive in the shape of your lettering. From there, you’ll carefully apply the gold leaf and clear away the excess. Remember that there is no need to seal genuine gold, but you will wish to seal gold less than 23.5 karats or other types of metal leaf.

How Do You Gild a Letter?

Gilding an actual letter will take time and patience, especially if you wish to gild every word. To do so, follow the steps above, but for every word in your letter. You can do this freehand, without a stencil, but of course you’ll need to have a steady and skilled hand to do so.

You’ll also need to be careful to gild within the “open” time window, which is the amount of time by which your adhesive will stay tacky. Otherwise, you’ll risk the headache of your gilded letter drying too quickly before you’ve gotten a chance to apply the gold leaf.

What Is the Best Gold Leaf for Calligraphy?

Virtually any gold will do when it comes to calligraphy. However, if you’re looking for gold that won’t tarnish, you should definitely go with gold sheets marketed as 23.5 karats or higher.

You can find these online at Barnabasgold.com along with other metal leaf types to suit your preferences.

Gilding in Calligraphy Is a Modern Day Venture

Using a few materials, you can easily create a stunning work of calligraphy art. Using the techniques and details listed in the post, you can easily highlight writing to add a dramatic flair to letters and projects.

Use pure gold, copper, silver, or other metal leaf types creating stunning manuscripts that are sure to garner attention.

Just be sure to use a steady hand when applying the size, as this will make all the difference in your finished product.


What is the gilding method?

Gilding methods for calligraphy utilize loose or transfer leaf over the adhesive to create stunning gold highlights upon a page.

How to apply gold leaf to paper?

Apply gold leaf to paper using water or oil based adhesive.

How do you use gold leaf in calligraphy?

After painting gold leaf adhesive over your lettering, lay your loose or transfer gold leaf over the adhesive and peel back. Use a clean brush to clear away any excess gold.

Why use gold-leafing in calligraphy?

Gold leafing adds stunning gold highlights that can draw emphasis or highlight certain words or phrases.

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