Using gold leaf on acrylic painting can lead to beautiful and majestic artwork that requires minimal effort. So how should you go about it? With a few simple supplies, you can lay gold leaf over your acrylic paintings on canvas for unique art that’s all your own.

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Can You Put Gold Leaf Over Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can technically put gold leaf over acrylic paint. But just know that you’ll need to use the right equipment when doing so. Because acrylic paint isn’t the best medium for attaching gold leaf, it is important that you use water-based size for applying gold leaf instead of oil-based. This is because acrylics are water-based and, thus, will take to water size better. Conversely, if you are using oil paints on a canvas, it is important that you use an oil-based adhesive to attach your gold leaf securely.

How To Apply Gold Leaf To Canvas Acrylic Painting

Gold Leaf on Acrylic Painting Technique

When applying gold leaf to an acrylic medium, it is crucial that you not only choose the right adhesive, but also that you choose the right application techniques. Some of the equipment needed to properly apply gold leaf to your gold leaf paint pictures will depend on whether or not the gold leaf you’re using is real gold.

For example, using imitation gold leaf on top of acrylic paintings will require varnish to seal the painting and prevent the imitation gold leaf from tarnishing. Oxidized imitation leaves will be unattractive to the eye over time, however, applying gold made of genuine gold metal leaf won’t tarnish. Thus, applying gloss varnish over genuine gold leaf isn’t necessary in most cases. Still, you may seal gold leaf that is both real and imitation leaf if you so choose.

How Do You Attach Gold Leaf to a Painting?

For proper gold leaf application, you’ll first want to assess the type of gold leaf you have. As previously mentioned, real gold leaf won’t require varnishing but it will require adhesive. Transfer leaf using water based adhesive when using over acrylic paintings to create an attractive gilded surface for your canvas painting.

If using imitation gold loose leaf, be sure to use a solvent based varnish over it to help it seal. This will also prevent oxidation and tarnishing over time. Feel free to also use other metal leaf types, including copper leaf, silver leaf, and various types of gold leafing to either cover portions of your artwork or an entire canvas.

When applying your gold leaf, know that real gold leaf will be sensitive to indentations and may be susceptible to developing holes and streaks. To help with this, it can often be useful to apply gold leaf with wax paper. To do so, carefully lift your gold leaf and stick the gold leaf over your adhesive in the area you want it on your canvas painting. From there, gently apply wax paper over it, press down, and smooth all the way across. This will enable you to neatly apply your gold leaf without touching it and causing holes to form.

How to Use Gold Leaf on Acrylic Painting

  1. Ensure your painting is dry. Use a sealant to seal your acrylic painting before applying your gold leaf. Note: If you are applying gold leaf directly to a naked canvas, you can skip the sealant step. Just know that whatever the base color of your canvas is will shine through your gold leaf as the gold leaf is very thin.
  2. Using water based adhesive, apply your gold leaf. Read the instructions of the adhesive packaging in order to use it correctly. Some adhesives have specific drying times, so it is important that you follow these directions to achieve the best outcome. Remember also that oil paint will require oil adhesive (such as linseed oil).
  3. Apply your gold leaf using wax paper, regular paper, or a squirrel hair brush. Smooth it carefully and allow it to dry. Clear away any excess gold leaf using a soft brush.
  4. Once dry, use spray varnish over imitation gold leaf to seal the leaf. This will allow you to apply addtional acrylic over the gold foil.

Acrylic Painting on Gold Leaf

Remember that acrylic paint applied to unsealed imitation leaves may tarnish the leaf. To prevent this, always add varnish to the leaf and allow it to dry prior to applying another paint layer.

Acrylic Painting Techniques on Gold Leaf

Adding gold leaf prior to or after painting acrylic paint on canvas is an interesting way to add a bit of glitz to artwork. Keep the following tips in mind when doing so:

  1. Use water-based adhesive when applying gold leaf.
  2. Use wax paper to help you apply pure gold or imitation leaf to the canvas.
  3. Wear cotton gloves when handling loose leaf gold or silver to prevent ruining the leaf.
  4. Use transfer paper instead of loose leaf pages if you want the application process to be a bit easier.
  5. Create a sealed leaf by applying MSA Varnish or Archival Varnish.
  6. Brush away excess leaf after application with a soft brush.
  7. If using watercolor paint, you’ll want to use water based gilding adhesive, just as you would with acrylic paint.
  8. Add a final sealant to protect your painting for UV protection.

Ways to Add Gold Leaf to Acrylic Paintings

Now that you know that you can apply gold leafing to acrylic paintings, you may wonder what creative ways you can add gold leaf to your artwork. Consider the following fun ideas:

  • Create brightly lit urbanscapes
  • Add pop or pizazz to certain areas of your painting
  • Create a border or frame around the focal point in your painting:
  • Illuminate wings in your artwork
  • Create a glitzy background
  • Dazzle with sunlight or moonbeams

Gold Leaf on Acrylic Paintings: A Simple Way to Upgrade Your Artwork

Sure, applying paint to a piece of artwork can be lovely in its own rite, but adding a bit of gold leaf or other metal leaf can add a unique quality to your canvas artwork that is sure to garner attention. Remember that gold leaf adheres best to acrylic paint when you use adhesive that is water based. Use a coat sealer over imitation leaf to prevent oxidation, and be sure to apply post-sealant to finalize your finished piece.

As always, take care to handle your gold leaf sheets cautiously when applying them to your canvas. Wearing cotton gloves can help with this.

We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Here’s to infinite creativity!


Can you use water based adhesive on an oil painting?

You shouldn’t. If you are applying gold leaf to oil paint, be sure to use oil size designed for oil paintings.

Can you use gloss medium over imitation gold leaf?

Yes, you can. In fact, it may be recommended in some cases. Just know that doing so may change the color of your imitation leaf.

Do I have to use an oil adhesive for gold leaf prior to applying oil paint?

No. If you apply the gold leaf prior to applying oil paint, you can use either water or oil size.

Should I use gold paint or gold leaf?

While adding gold paint to canvas will certainly elevate your painting, adding actual gold leaf offers a glinty flair that can cause your artwork to stand out from the crowd.

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