Learning how to apply gold leaf on canvas can be tedious. Whether you’re an experienced artist or just trying your hand at something new, you may be wondering how to do this. If you’ve seen paintings and other pieces of art with gold leaf, you know what a dramatic effect it can have on the appearance of the piece. Gold leaf adds shine and texture while also capturing a viewer’s eye and helping them understand the importance of the piece. If you want to learn how to apply gold leaf to canvas, keep reading. We’ll share tips to help you get started with your first project.

Table of Contents

Prepare the Canvas

When you’re looking for how to use gold leaf on canvas, the first step is to prepare the surface. Preparing a canvas includes adding a coat of underpaint and/or painting in the rest of your design that will not be displayed with gold leaf. Before moving on to the next step, ensure that the canvas is fully dry.

Apply Adhesive Size

The next step is to apply adhesive size to the portions of the canvas. You will need to choose from an oil-based adhesive (also called solvent-based adhesive) and a water-based adhesive. The best glue for gold leaf on canvas will depend on the type of paint. Watercolor paint, for example, should be paired with a water-based adhesive, while an oil-based adhesive is best for acrylic paint.

After determining the type of adhesive that you need, apply a thin layer of the entire surface where you plan to put the gold leaf. Keep in mind that a small amount of adhesive will go a long way, so you won’t need to add too much.

After applying the adhesive, you will need to wait for it to become tacky. This can take 20 minutes or more, depending on the type of adhesive you choose.

Apply gold leaf on canvas, eglnomise-adhesive-02

Apply Gold Leaf

Now that the adhesive has become tacky, you’re ready to start applying gold leaf to the canvas. You might want to don a pair of cotton gloves to protect the real gold leaf sheets. Use tissue paper or wax paper to carefully transfer each sheet of gold leaf to the adhesive. If the adhesive is tacky, it should adhere quickly, then you can just lightly rub it against the back of the tissue paper or wax paper to make sure it sticks fully. This can be a bit tedious, and you’ll want to work carefully, but it is certainly something that anyone can do.

These steps will be the same for other types of metal leaf, such as genuine silver leaf, copper leaf, or imitation gold leaf.

Use Gilding Gold Leaf Adhesive on all surfaces

Burnish the Gold Leaf

After covering all the adhesive with gold leaf, burnish the gold to increase its shine. To do this, cover one section of the leafing at a time with a piece of wax paper. Then, use gentle pressure to rub the side of the wax paper against the gold leaf sheet. Once burnishing is complete, let the canvas sit undisturbed for at least three days.

Remove Excess Gold Leaf

After at least three weeks, use a stiff brush to remove the excess gold leaf sheets from the canvas. The brush’s static charge will help it remove loose gold from the canvas.

Applying gold leaf on canvas. Genuine Gold Leaf Sheets 23k 3.4-inches 25 Sheets Booklet Transfer Patent Leaf 5

Seal the Gold Leaf

Now we’re ready to learn how to seal gold leaf on canvas. This step isn’t always necessary, depending on the project, but it can help you protect the gold leafing and the overall appearance of a finished canvas. To seal gold leaf, use a spray adhesive. You can also add gloss varnish over the gold leaf.

Complete the Artwork

Now you’re ready to finish up your gold leaf painting on canvas. Add any finishing touches or paint over the gold leaf, if desired. Once the project is complete, apply a post-paint sealer to offer UV protection.

Suggestions for Working With Gold Leaf

  • If you’re not working with 24-karat gold leaf, be prepared for it to oxidize and tarnish. Applying a sealer will be very important when you’re not working with pure gold.
  • Take care when working with gold leaf. Gold leaf sheets are very thin and can become damaged easily. Try to avoid touching the sheets with your hands, and move them using tissue paper or wax paper instead.
  • Don’t work in an area with fans or open windows. Because of how lightweight it is, gold leaf can blow around easily. Turn off all the fans and shut the windows before working with gold.
  • Be sure the adhesive is fully dried. Don’t rush the drying process, and try to remove the excess leaf until enough time has passed to let the adhesive dry fully. It just isn’t worth risking damage to your painting to start working to remove the excess gold too soon.

Gold leaf on canvas, 23.75k Gold Leaf

What Can You Make With Gold Leaf?

The possibilities are truly endless when you’re working with gold leaf and canvas. Your imagination is the only thing limiting what you can create. So, think about the type of artwork you want to create and work to incorporate gold into the design. A few ways you can integrate gold leaf into your artwork include:

  • Adding twinkles or stars in the night sky
  • Creating a shimmering cityscape
  • Creating a gold backdrop for a painting
  • Highlighting specific elements of your artwork

So, How Do You Put Gold Leaf on Canvas?

Putting gold leaf on canvas can result in an impressive work of art. While these art pieces may look complicated and out of your skill level, hopefully, this article has helped you learn how to create your own gold leaf canvas masterpiece. What are you most excited to create with your new knowledge of applying gold leaf? Grab that blank canvas and some gold leaf and start creating your unique work of art.


Can you use gold leaf on canvas?

Yes, you can apply gold leaf on a canvas. Before applying gold leaf to the canvas, prepare the surface with a background color and any other details that will be painted on.

How do you get gold leaf to stick to canvas?

To get gold leaf to stick to canvas, you will need to use adhesive size. Both water-based and oil-based sizes are available, depending on the type of paint you used on the canvas. For example, an oil-based adhesive is necessary when working with oil paint, and a water-based adhesive will be needed over watercolor paint.

Can you apply gold leaf over acrylic paint?

Yes, you can apply gold leaf over acrylic paint. When applying gold leaf over acrylic paint, using an oil-based solvent is best.

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