When it comes to answering the question, “How do you seal silver leaf?” there isn’t a one-size fits all answer. Still, there are certain types of sealant that will work best for silver leaf, and today, we’re going to fill you in you on each.

So, which sealant best fits the bill for preserving your silver leaf metal surface? Whether the silver leaf is imitation silver or genuine silver leaf, we’ve got answers for you.

How Do You Seal Silver Leaf?

Table of Contents

Does Silver Leaf Need to Be Sealed?

Yes, you’ll need to seal the silver leaf. Unlike pure gold leaf, both imitation silver leaf and pure silver will require sealant to prevent tarnishing.

Because of this, it is important to consider the project you are working on to determine which type of sealant for silver leaf might work best for you.

What Can You Use to Seal Metal Leaf?

There are a variety of sealant types that you can use to seal silver leaf to protect its finish including shellac and any solvent-based sealer. Water-based sealers may also be used; however, they won’t provide as long-lasting of a finish as will solvent-based sealer.

When applying a solvent-based coating, you’ll need to keep in mind that it often emits horrible fumes that some may not be able to handle. If this describes you, using a water-based sealer might be the best choice.

If you are able to tolerate a solvent-based sealer, please make sure to apply the sealant in a well-ventilated room. The chemicals in the solution may prove toxic, and as such, may have unintended ramifications on your health depending on the level of exposure.

Do You Need to Varnish Silver Leaf?

Using varnish to provide a protective coat over loose leaf is a good idea whether you are water gilding or oil based adhesive. Archival varnish, in particular, will help seal your project after applying metal leaf and will also work to seal anything you’ve painted over your silver leaf for the perfect final finish.

If you do plan to paint over your silver leaf, know that brush strokes, small cracks, and other imperfections may show up after doing so. Applying a spray shellac, water based varnish, or oil vanish (which is more durable than water based) will provide the extra protection needed to keep the entire surface of your finished piece intact.

Know that only one coat of sealant isn’t usually enough; instead you’ll need to apply a thin film of a second coat and sometimes, maybe even more coats, particularly if you are using a water based sealant. There are also permanent and removable sealant varieties available so be sure to select the one that is most fitting for your project.

How to Seal Silver Metal Leaf

The process for sealing silver metal lead isn’t as hard as you might think. Whether you’re sealing wood surfaces, metal surfaces, cement surfaces, and the like, know that you’ll first need to follow a few simple gilding processes before applying sealant. This includes:

  • Prep your surface: Depending on what surface you plan to apply your silver leaf, you may need to prep it first. This usually involves sanding the surface down, clearing away excess dust and debris, and waiting for the surface to dry. You also may need to apply a primer ahead of time, but this will depend on the type of project you’re embarking upon.
  • Apply the adhesive: Once your surface is prepped and (potentially) primed, you can add your adhesive. The adhesive is what causes the silver leaf to stick, but the type of adhesive you choose will dictate where you can store your final piece (i.e. outdoors or indoors) so be careful which you choose.
  • Apply your metal leaf: Once the adhesive has reached full tack (meaning it is sticky but not yet dry) you can apply your silver leaf. Do this carefully, using soft brushes or wax paper to help you tamp down the silver leaf to the surface.
  • Apply sealant: Remember that both imitation and genuine silver leaf will tarnish with time. To prevent this from happening, you’ll want to use a sealant. Choose between archival varnish, shellac, solvent-based or water-based sealant. Bear in mind that your water-based sealant may not prove as durable as your solvent-based sealant. Two coats of sealant is usually the standard, but if you are using a water-based sealant, you may need to add more coats for added protection.

What Do You Put Over Gold Leaf to Seal It?

You don’t actually need to seal genuine gold leaf. However, if you are using imitation leaf, you should use a sealant of some sort, whether varnish, shellac, or another option, to help preserve it and keep it from tarnishing.

It is important to note that while many stress that gold leaf doesn’t tarnish but can still benefit from sealing, that isn’t always true. While gold leaf doesn’t tarnish, it can change colors over time and may even develop a cloudy haze if you opt to put sealant over it. It is for this reason we recommend that you don’t seal gold leaf at all; it simply doesn’t need it and may actually suffer if you choose to apply the sealant over it anyway.

How Do You Seal Silver Leaf? It’s Simpler Than You Might Think!

Sealing silver leaves can occur in a variety of ways. Use shellac, varnish, or other solvent or water-based sealants to get the job done. Some products work better than others over silver, so be sure to do a little digging and research before you select a particular brand to seal your silver leaf with.


How to stop silver leaf from tarnishing?

To prevent silver leaf from tarnishing, be sure to apply a sealant. Solvent-based permanent sealers work best, but other types of water based sealer will work for short term time intervals as well.

Does One Shot sealant work over silver leaf?

Be careful when attempting to use One Shot sealant over silver. It has been said to tarnish silver leaf, and thus, may not be recommended.

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