How to Apply Leaf to Walls

How to Apply Metalic Leaf Sheets | Gold Leaf Tutorials

Gold leafing can truly transform nearly any surface. You probably already know that you can apply gold leaf to wood, furniture, glass, and metal, but did you know that it can also be applied to walls and ceilings? Gold leaf for walls—whether in the form of a gold leaf decoration or two, or an entire gilded accent wall—can have a dramatic effect in any living space. The prospect of applying thin and delicate gold leaf sheets to your walls may seem a bit overwhelming. However, with some time and patience, this is a DIY project you can complete on your own. Read on to learn more about applying gold leaf to the walls in your home.

Prepare the Walls for Application

The first thing you’ll want to do before applying gold leafing to your walls is to prepare the surface. It is essential to create a very smooth surface for proper adhesion of the gold leafing. Additionally, if the surface is not smooth, scratches and dents in the wall may show through the gold leaf.

In addition to smoothing out the wall, you will also need to seal it before applying gold. If you do not apply sealant, the gold size will be absorbed by the porous surfaces on the walls. You can either use water based varnish or emulsion—sanded down after application—to seal the walls. Red and yellow are popular colors to use behind gold leafing, as they will help enhance the brilliant finish. However, you can always choose your own color if desired.

Finally, before moving on to applying the adhesive size and gold leafing, you will want to create a pattern on the wall to help you apply each adhesive sheet. If you’re planning to gild the entire wall, layout a grid of squares (with each square being just a tad smaller than a sheet of gold leaf). Use a leveler and chalk line to help you make this grid straight and even. Having a grid to work with will help ensure a neater and more even application.

If you’re planning on only gilding a design on one part of the wall, draw out your design and use painter’s tape to cover the areas that will remain free of gilding.

Apply Adhesive Size to the Wall

Next, apply adhesive size evenly over the surface of the wall to be gilded. You will only need a thin coat of adhesive. 

Rather than apply the adhesive to the entire wall—or walls—in the room, just apply the adhesive to the section that you plan to gild that day to prevent dust or other debris from sticking to the adhesive.

Oil based sizes and water based adhesive sizes will both work. However, if you’re new to gilding, water-based acrylic size might be the best choice. It is the easiest to work with and clean up after the process is complete.

Wait for the Adhesive to Become Tacky

You must wait for the adhesive to reach tack before proceeding. The exact amount of time required to reach tack can vary. The type of adhesive size used and the temperature and humidity of your room will impact how long it takes to reach tack. Typically, water-based sizes should reach tack within 15 to 30 minutes.

Apply the Gold Leaf Over the Adhesive

Now you’re ready to apply the gold leaf sheets for walls (or imitation gold leaf, copper leaf, silver leaf, or metal leaf sheets). Use transfer gold sheets or a piece of tissue paper to pick up the sheet. Apply them to the grid you drew on the wall (or the gold leaf decor design you created). Overlap the leaves slightly to ensure that there are no gaps. After placing each sheet down, use a soft cloth or paper towel to gently rub and press down on the back of the tissue paper. This will help ensure that it adheres properly to the adhesive.

24kt Genuine Gold Leaf Sheets Loose by Barnabas Gold

Remove Excess Leafing and Touch Up the Finish

Allow the adhesive to dry for a few hours, then use a soft brush to remove the excess gold. You can collect the loose leaf in a jar to use for touching up bare areas. Use a gilder’s mop to burnish the surface. Gently rub over the gold leaf on wall to increase its shine.

Seal the Gilded Surface

Finally, you will need to seal your gold leaf wall to protect the finish. Before applying a sealant, wait a day or two to give the adhesive size more time to dry. If you are sealing silver or 6-karat white gold, however, you will want to act more quickly to apply the sealant as these metals will oxidize and tarnish more quickly.

To seal the gold, use a short roller or high quality brush to apply varnish or clear lacquer over the gold leaf. If desired, distress the surface using steel wool to create a more toned effect or help the base color of the wall to show through. 

Gold Leaf for Walls: Give This Project a Try

Adding genuine or imitation gold leaf for walls can really elevate your living space. Whether you decide to add some gold accent decorations on your walls, or want to add a fully gilded wall (or walls) in your space, you’ll be amazed at the impact the finished product will have. After you’ve gilded your walls, you can plan out a new decor scheme to coordinate with the gold. Now that you’ve read more about adding gold leaf to walls, do you feel confident that this is a project you can take on? Give it a try—we think you’ll be glad you did!

FAQs

Can you use gold leaf on walls?

Yes, you can put gold leaf on walls. The process for applying gold leaf to your walls is actually quite similar to that of applying it to wood, metal, glass or other surfaces. You’ll just need a few key materials and some time and patience.

Is gold leaf better than gold paint?

There are pros and cons to both gold leaf and gold paint. However, if you want your finished product to have the brilliant look of gold, along with superior durability, you’ll want to choose gold leafing over gold paint. Over time, gold paint will begin to tarnish or fade. Gold leaf, on the other hand, can last for years (decades) when applied properly.

Can gilding be done on walls?

Yes, you can apply gold leaf to walls. Gilding walls follows a similar process to what is required to gild other surfaces, such as wood, glass, or ceramic. If you can handle these smaller projects, then adding gold leaves wall decor or even a fully gilded wall is something you can try.