Applying gold leaf on carved wood can be just as easy as 1-2-3. This is a wonderfully simple way to upgrade any carved piece, giving it the metallic glimmer of real gold by using the right supplies and tools. In today’s post, we’ll detail exactly how to go about applying gold leaf on carved wood so you’ll walk into your DIY project already equipped. This easy tutorial will give you the low-down on which equipment to use as well as how to go about laying your gold leaf for the best results possible.

How To Apply Gold Leaf To Carved Wood

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Can You Put Gold Leaf Onto Wood?

Yes, you can definitely lay gold leaf on wood. However, you must use gilding size to do so. In case you’re wondering, “size” is simply another word for glue and refers to the type of glue that allows gold leaf (and other metal leaf types like copper leaf) to stick. Gold leaf sheets and synthetic gold leaf can only be applied to wood and most other surfaces using this sort of gilding adhesive, so you shouldn’t think that your gold will be sticky on its own without it.

Much like other gilding projects, the gilding process here will ensue the same way it does for most other surface types. Laying gold leaf on carved wood is no different; this makes updating old carved wood really easy!

How Do You Stick Gold Leaf to Wood?

As mentioned, you’ll use gilder’s adhesive to stick gold leaf to wood. While some may use other methods like Mod Podge or Elmer’s glue, it isn’t always the best option especially if you want the smoothest and most durable finish (or want to place the finalized piece outdoors).

Instead, using gilder’s size (specifically oil based size for outdoor use) is imperative for the ultimate finished results.

What Is the Best Glue for Gold Leaf on Wood?

You can use either water based gilders adhesive or oil based glue, depending on where your final piece will be placed.

Place the adhesive on the wood using a gilding brush or gilder’s tip brush. You’ll also need a clean brush to help you remove excess gold leaf.

Remember that when applying your gilders glue, you’ll only need a small amount for if you want to focus on certain areas, but if you want to gild an entire piece, you’ll need much more. Use the right brush for the amount of surface area you want it to cover and ensure you have enough size on hand to get the job done right.

How to Apply Gold Leaf

When it comes to how to apply gold leaf to wood frame or putting gold leaf on wood furniture, know that the process will be virtually the same.


The following are the tools you’ll need to apply your gold leaf (or any metal leaf) to a carved wood surface:

  • Primer paint (this is optional, but may help yield a smoother surface and better final result, especially if you plan for some of the base of the wood to show through the gold leaf)
  • Gilding adhesive (oil or water based size depending on your needs)
  • Clean brush (you can use foam brushes for the adhesive application but may use a soft bristled brush or specific gilders brush for smoothing the gold leaf over edges and crevices)
  • Gold leaf (you can use imitation gold leaf or pure gold leaf here, however, some of the processes towards the end of this task will look a little different for each one)


  1. To get started, begin by sanding or smoothing any areas of wood that you need using a fine piece of sandpaper. Clear away any excess debris or grain with a clean cloth.
  2. Prime your wood with a paint primer if desired. This is an optional step, but if you decide to do it, make sure it’s completely dry before moving forward.
  3. Once your paint has dried, begin your gilding adhesive application. Take your gilding glue (also called gilding size) and apply it carefully using a clean gilder’s brush or foam brush. Paint on an even layer and allow the size to become tacky. Be sure to look over the label to know how many minutes need to pass by before you’ve effectively reached a tacky surface.
  4. Once tacky, take your gold leaf and apply it using a firm stroke to your carved wood surface with a clean brush. Remember that gold leaf is very delicate, so we do recommend using cotton gloves or tweezers to carry out this step.
  5. Smooth all of the gold leaf over your surface. If there are holidays (or gaps) between pieces, you can fill them in later with additional adhesive and gold leaf.
  6. Once dry, you’ll need to determine whether or not you need to apply varnish. If you are using genuine gold leaf that is 23kt or higher, do not use any wax or varnish. This additional coat of sealant will work only to alter the appearance of your gold leaf over time. You don’t need to worry about any tarnish with genuine gold, so sealant is really only to make matters worse rather than better.
  7. If you are using imitation gold leaf on the other hand, you will want to cover it with a light coat of varnish or wax sealant.

Applying Gold Leaf on Carved Wood Couldn’t Be More Simple!

All in all, adding gold leaf to carved wood is very simple. All you need is gilding size, the right brushes, and gold leaf to carry out the task. Be sure that if you are using imitation leaf that you seal the finished product to prevent tarnishing. Remember, genuine gold leaf will not require this process.

Happy gilding!


How do you apply gold leaf to engraving?

Apply gold leaf to wooden engraved pieces using simple gilders glue and clean brushes. Apply optional primer prior to the gilding size and lay on the gold leaf last. Apply a topcoat sealant if using imitation leaf; if you are using genuine gold you can leave the gold leaf as is.

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