If you’re taking up gilding for the first time, you may wonder what type of gilding supplies you’ll need to get started. Using the proper gilding tools is important to help you achieve a flawless final product using gold leaf, silver leaf, copper leaf, or other metal leaf types.
In this article, we’ll detail the most common and necessary tools needed for beginners. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- What Materials Do You Need for Gold Leaf?
- Glass Gilding Supplies
- Water Gilding Supplies
- Gilding Supplies: Know the Basics
What Materials Do You Need for Gold Leaf?
The types of materials you’ll need for gold leafing or gilding with other precious metal leaf include tools like brushes, knives, size/adhesive, gloves, wax paper, and more.
Read on to learn more about each of these gilding materials, along with the function each plays in the gilding process.
Gilding Tools and Supplies
As mentioned, many gilding tools are basic supplies needed to make your finished gilded product a smooth and desirable outcome.
To begin, we’ll detail your most basic supplies needed to take on gold leaf projects.
Using size is imperative when laying gold leaf, imitation gold, or other types of metal leaf on surfaces.
“Size” refers to the adhesive that makes gold leaf stick. The type of size you use will depend on your surface and the intended placement of the product.
For outdoor use, always use oil-based sized as this is the only type of adhesive that is suitable to protect against various weather elements. It is also for use indoors and over oil paint. Water-based size is for use indoors.
However, be warned that it can be trickier to navigate for those first starting out.
When using size, pay close attention to the open or “tack” times. This refers to the amount of time the adhesive will remain tacky for the laying of the genuine gold, silver, or other precious metal leaf. Once the adhesive becomes tacky, you’ll have the amount of time indicated on your size label to apply your metal leaf. Be sure to work within those time constraints for best results.
Primer is another key, though not always necessary, element for laying metal leaf. You’ll want to apply primer to hard surfaces for better application of the leaf.
Primer, also known as “gesso“, helps a material to become more absorbent and works to provide an optimal surface for the receiving of size and metal leaf.
Primer comes in many different types and colors. Remember that your primer color matters and can change the color of your finished gilded product. So be careful to choose the right color when selecting the type of primer you’ll use in accordance with your metal leaf choice.
Knife or Tweezers
If you’ve never worked with loose leaf before, you’re in for a surprise. These silver, gold, and copper sheets are pounded so thin they can escape the human hand with a mere breath. Because of this, you’ll need items that will help you keep your metal leaf in place without damaging its surface. It is for this reason we recommend you use a gilders knife or tweezers to pick up your leaf.
You’ll pick up your gold, silver, or copper leaf by the edge and carefully lay it over your tacky adhesive. There is a technique to this, one of extreme precaution to avoid ripping your gold leaf. Alternatively, you can use cotton gloves (or use all of these supplies at once) to ensure you are maintaining the integrity of the metal.
Using the right brush is imperative to the gilding process. Use foam brushes for applying size, and clean brushes for leaf application and dusting away excess metal leaf. The best type of brush to use for the application process is a soft squirrel-hair brush, but if you don’t have access to this, a clean soft fluffy makeup brush may do the trick. Ensure the brush is dry, clean, and free from debris.
When it comes to gold leafing supplies, wax paper isn’t a must, but it can help you with the smoothing process after you lay your gold, silver, or copper leaf.
Topcoat or Varnish
Not every metal leaf will require a top coat or varnish. In fact, if it is genuine gold that you are using for your gilding project, we expressly encourage you not to use a top coat. Other metal leaf types will require a clear finish, so feel free to select one suitable for your project’s needs.
Genuine Gold, Silver, or Imitation Leaf
Last but certainly not least, you’ll need high-quality metal leaf to achieve a proper finish. Choose from imitation or genuine gold, silver, or copper leaf types.
Glass Gilding Supplies
When gilding on a glass surface, please refer to the aforementioned list of supplies.
Be certain to use water-based size as this is the most preferred type of adhesive for a glass surface.
Water Gilding Supplies
Gilding with water usually only occurs when you are applying genuine gold leaf to food. In this case, you’ll typically use a steamer or small brush to apply a thin layer of water to the food for the process of laying pure edible gold.
Use the following supplies for water gilding food items:
- Steamer or small bowl of water
- A small brush (for brushing a thick layer of water over the food surface)
- Tweezers or knife/cotton gloves
- Edible metal leaf
Gilding Supplies: Know the Basics
Ultimately, having the right kind of gilding tools on hand is important to achieving an overall flawless final product. From choosing the right size to the right brush*, every detail matters when attempting to achieve a high-end professional looking gilders finish.
We hope this has helped.
No, gilding isn’t the same as gold leaf. Gold leaf is a product, whilst gilding is the act of applying gold leaf to a particular surface.
It is generally recommended that you stick to gilding adhesive when applying gold leaf or other metal leaf types to a surface. This produces the best and most long-lasting results. An exception to this rule is when using edible metal leaf on food; always use plain water to help your metal leaf adhere to such items.
You technically can, but it won’t yield as smooth and long-lasting of a result as gilding adhesive.
Elmer’s glue may be used for household projects, but we wouldn’t recommend it for professional gilding use