Gilding glass with gold leaf can have a transformational effect. From vases, candle holders, glass signs, glass ornaments, and more, the possibilities are nearly endless. However, without the proper gold leaf on glass technique, your pieces likely won’t turn out as desired. Read on to learn how to apply gold leaf on glass to ensure each project lives up to your hopes and dreams.
What is gold leaf?
So, what exactly is gold leaf? Gold leaf is very thin sheets of gold. The sheets can be applied over various surfaces to give them a gold finish. This process, which is also referred to as gold gilding, traces back centuries. Gold gilding is commonly seen on antique furniture, frames, mirrors, and other period pieces.
Gold leaf can also be applied to glass items, such as windows, vases, signs, candle holders, ornaments and more. In addition to genuine gold leaf, you can also find other types of metal leaf sheets, such as silver leaf or copper leaf. Imitation gold leaf sheets are also available if you don’t want to outlay as much money as will be needed to purchase genuine gold.
However, as you’re shopping for gold leaf, keep in mind that imitation gold leaf isn’t going to offer the brilliance of real gold. Additionally, real gold leaf sheets are easier to use and will adhere better to a glass surface.
Does gold leaf need to be sealed?
If you’re planning a DIY gold project, you may be wondering whether gold leaf needs to be sealed. When applying real gold leaf that is at least 22-karat, it is not necessary to seal it. If there is any glue residue that is left after applying the gold leafing, or if the item will be kept in an area with a lot of traffic or where it is likely to be handled frequently, it may be a good idea to apply a sealant. Sealants will help keep the gold leafing protected and allow the finish to remain brilliant over the coming years.
Supplies Needed to Applying Gold Leaf on Glass
- Glass item(s)
- Gold, silver, imitation gold, metal, or copper leaf sheets
- Water based size adhesive
- Rubbing alcohol
- Gilder’s tip brush
- Chip brush
- Paint brush
Before You Begin
Any time you’re working on gold leaf projects, it is important to stay indoors. You’ll also want to keep the doors and windows in the space closed, and make sure any fans are off. Sheets of gold or silver leaf are extremely thin and light. They can easily get blown if there is too much airflow in the space where you’re working.
Plan out your workspace. Rather than working directly on a tabletop, you may want to work inside the lid of a large box. As you’re working with gold leaf, pieces of the gold will be flaked off and can make a mess. Working inside a box lid, such as one from a copy paper box, will help keep the mess contained, allowing for quicker and easier cleanup.
It is also important to make sure that the glass item you want to apply gold leafing to is thoroughly clean. Begin by washing the glass with warm and soapy water. Then, use rubbing alcohol to wipe it down. Finish up with a microfiber towel to ensure that there is no lint left on the glass.
How to Apply Gold Leaf to Glass
Ready to learn how to apply gold leaf to glass? Follow the steps as outlined below, and you’ll be well on your way to creating your first gold leafing project.
Apply Adhesive Size to the Glass Surface
Before you can begin working with the gold or silver leaf, you must first apply the adhesive size to the glass. Adhesive size is a special glue that is used when working with gold leaf, other metal leaves, or foil.
You’ll want to apply the adhesive size in a thin layer over the glass surface. Use a paintbrush to cover any areas of the glass where you plan to apply the gold leafing. Work carefully to avoid getting any adhesive on areas of the glass that you don’t want to gild. If some drips, just use a damp cloth to wipe it off.
Allow the Adhesive to Fully Dry
After you have finished applying the adhesive size, allow it to dry fully. You should be able to tell that it is dry once it has turned clear and still feels a bit tacky.
Place a Gold Leaf Sheet Over the Adhesive
When working with gold leaf, it is important not to tough the sheets with your fingers. Doing so can cause damage to them. Rather, you’ll want to use a gilder’s tip brush to pull each gold leaf sheet out of the package and apply it to the adhesive size.
If the sheets don’t stick to the brush, you can create a static charge to help ensure that it is able to pick them up. To do so, rub the brush over your cheek or hair, then use it to transfer the gold or silver leaf sheet to the glass.
As you’re working, overlap the sheets of gold slightly, by around a quarter-inch or so. Continue working until the entire area you want to gild is covered with gold, silver, or copper. It is OK if the sheets don’t look to be sitting flat and evenly. The next steps will help with removing any excess gold and smoothing out the surface.
Use a Chip Brush to Remove Excess Gold Leaf
After you have gilded glass with the gold or silver leaf sheets, you’ll need to use a chip brush. The chip brush will help remove excess pieces of gold and ensure that the gold that remains forms a strong bond with the adhesive.
Another benefit of using a chip brush is that it helps to burnish the gold, making it more brilliant and attractive. Work with the chip brush until any excess gold has been removed and the surface looks as you desire.
Applications for Glass Gilding
Now that you know the basic steps for glass gilding, you may already be thinking of numerous projects you’d like to tackle. Below are a few ideas you may want to try:
- Creating beautiful vases or candle holders to use as centerpieces or home decor
- Making personalized ornaments or other gifts for family or friends
- Creating reverse gilded signs
- Creating antique glassware or barware replicas
- Designing a unique glass lampshade
Give Glass Gilding a Try
Glass gilding can be an excellent DIY project for beginners to try. Starting with a smaller glass item, such as a vase or candle holder, can help you perfect your technique before attempting any larger items or more complex designs. As with anything new, give yourself time and patience to learn the necessary skills and techniques to achieve the finished product that you’re envisioning. Practice makes perfect, so don’t expect flawless results when you’re first learning.
Gold leaf on glass is called glass gilding.
To apply gold leaf to a glass window, begin by making sure the window is thoroughly clean. Wash it with soap and water and take care to rinse away all the soapy residue. Then, wipe the window with rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel to ensure that no residue or lint remains.
After cleaning the window, apply the adhesive size to the sections of the window that you want to apply the gold leaf to. Let the adhesive dry until it is clear and tacky. Then, use a gilder’s tip brush to transfer the gold leaf sheets to the adhesive. Use multiple sheets and overlap each sheet by about a quarter inch, until the entire surface is covered.
With a chip brush, remove any excess gold and smooth out the finish. The chip brush will help to burnish the gold, leaving it brilliant and shiny.
If you want to add a design to the window with gold leafing, you can transfer your design to the gilded window using a pounce pattern and chalk.