There are some key differences between gold leaf vs gold paint that can help you decide which one you’ll want to use for your next project. Gold is a rare and valuable precious metal. For centuries, gold has been used to adorn statues, furniture, vases, and so much more. If you’re in the middle of planning a DIY project and want to incorporate the timeless appeal of gold, you may be trying to decide whether gold leaf or gold paint is best for the task. Keep reading to find out more. 

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What Is Gold Leaf?

Before you’ll be able to determine whether gold leaf or gold paint is right for your project, the first step is to learn more about each medium. Let’s begin by looking at gold leaf. Gold leaf is real gold that has been beaten into very thin sheets. The process of taking solid gold and converting it to gold leaf is time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work and patience, as the gold is stretched and beaten into sheets that are only about 0.18 microns thick.

You may have also heard about metal leaf and assumed that it also refers to gold leaf. However, these two terms do not mean the same thing. Metal leaf can refer to thin sheets of other types of metal, such as silver or copper, but is not used to refer to pure gold leaf sheets.

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Just as you may find different purity levels when shopping for a new gold necklace or gold ring, there are different purity levels of gold leaf sheets. 24-karat gold is pure gold, while lower karat counts include a lower percentage of pure gold. For example, white gold (which has a silver color), is about 50% pure.

There are different methods that are used for gold leafing. Understanding how to get the leaf to be applied correctly to the surface can take some practice but is something that you could learn how to do on your own. Gilding, or applying genuine gold leaf to a surface, is an art that can be traced back centuries. And, for the most part, the process used to apply gold leaf has not changed over the years. Even with other technological advances and reliance on machines, gold leaf is always applied by hand.

Gold leaf vs Gold paint. 24kt Genuine Gold Leaf Sheets Loose by Barnabas Gold in Packaging Interleafed 80mm Square

Gold Leaf Pros

There are several pros to using real gold leaf. Let’s take a look at a few of the top reasons to consider gold leaf over gold paint.

  • Gold leaf offers a unique color and tone that is highly valued and sought after by people around the globe.
  • Gold leaf can be applied to a wide array of surface types.
  • You can find different shades of gold leaf based on the purity level.
  • Gilding with gold is a centuries-old tradition that you can learn and try for yourself.
  • The appearance of a real gold leaf cannot be replicated with paint.
  • A gilded surface is long-lasting and offers greater durability than a spray-painted surface.

Gold Leaf Cons

Despite its many benefits, there are also a few drawbacks to using gold leaf to consider.

  • Gold leaf is more expensive to purchase, especially if you’re trying to cover a large area.
  • There can be a bit of a learning curve as you practice working with pure gold leaf.
  • Gold leaf that is less than 22 karats may tarnish and should not be used for outdoor applications without sealing.

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What Is Gold Paint?

Now, let’s move on and take a look at gold paint. You can find different types of gold paint, including gold spray paint. The majority of these paints are water-based.

The formula for gold paint includes pigments designed to deliver a shiny and metallic appearance. When dry, the paint will look more flexible and brighter than other types of paint.

Gold paint can be used for a variety of surface types, including metal, wood, and vinyl. Once dried, the painted finish is non-toxic and does not release much, if any, odor.

Gold Paint Pros

Gold paint comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros associated with choosing this medium.

  • You can apply gold paint to a wide variety of surfaces.
  • Gold paint is less expensive than gold leaf.
  • Painting with gold paint can be easier and less time-consuming than trying to apply gold leaf to a surface.
  • Once dried, gold paint is fade resistant.

Gold Paint Cons

There are also a few cons associated with gold paint. Keep these in mind as you’re deciding whether gold paint is the ideal material for your needs.

  • The finish doesn’t compare to that of gold leaf. You won’t achieve the same rich, warm glow with gold paint as is possible with gold leaf.
  • Gold paint does not last as long as gold leaf. While gold leaf can continue to look wonderful on exterior surfaces for decades, gold paint will likely only last around 7 years. However, this time could be even less in some climates.

Gold Leaf Sheets vs Gold Paint: Which Is Best

Now that you’ve read through some of the pros and cons of gilding paint vs gold leaf, it is up to you to decide which medium you’ll want to use for any given project. Achieving that brilliant yellow-gold color is possible with either medium, but we think you (and anyone else who sees the finished product) will be even more wowed if you use pure gold leaf.

How to Apply Metalic Leaf Sheets | Gold Leaf  vs Gold Paint Tutorials

Gold Leaf vs Gold Paint: How to Choose the Right One

If you came here looking for more information about gold leaf vs gold paint, we hope you were able to find the answers you were looking for. While there are certainly sometimes when gold paint will be the optimal choice, pure gold leaf is unmatched in its quality, longevity, and beauty. However, it also costs more, so gold spray paint may be the right choice for those on a budget or those looking to cover a large area with gold for their next DIY project.

Have you decided which medium is right for your next project?


Is gold leaf better than gold paint?

The best medium can depend on the job. However, gold leaf has a lot of advantages over gold paint. Gold leaf is much more durable and long-lasting than liquid leaf. If you’re completing any exterior projects, gold leaf will hold up much better and last significantly longer than a few coats of gold paint. 

What is the difference between gold and gold leaf?

Gold leaf is made using pure gold. To make ultra-thin gold leaf, the pure gold is beaten down and stretched, until it is only about 0.18 microns thick.

How can you tell gold leaf from paint?

If you’re trying to determine whether a surface is covered with gold leaf or gold paint, there are a few clues you can look for. First, examine the surface to see if you notice any brush strokes. These would indicate that it was painted with gold paint. You can also examine the finish. Gold paint’s finish isn’t as brilliant as real gold leaf; it is generally a bit duller.

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