When it comes to how to apply gold leaf flakes to different surfaces, there are many methods you can use to make various projects come alive. Depending on the surface you choose to apply your gold leaf flakes to, you may have ample opportunity to use varying types of adhesive and will need to gather certain tools to ensure your project turns out as planned.

We love using gold leaf flakes for a variety of purposes much in the same way we love using gold leaf sheets. In this post, we’ll detail the best methods for applying gold leaf flakes to different surfaces, as well as detail the tools you’ll need to make this process called “gilding” come to life.

Get your art supplies and DIY projects ready. Let’s detail some of the best ways you can achieve glitter and glam on different surface types using gold leafing flakes.

Table of Contents

how to apply gold leaf flakes

What Are Gold Leaf Flakes?

To be clear, gold leaf flakes are essentially small pieces of gold leaf that have been torn or shredded to create tiny bits that can be applied to a variety of surfaces. Several types of metal leaf can be converted to flake form, and you can actually create metal leaf flakes on your own at home.

How to Use Gilding Flakes

Using gold leaf flakes is as simple as applying an adhesive and sticking gold leaf to the surface. In the case of food, you’ll want to use water instead of adhesive to apply your gold leaf to varying food surfaces. 

Don’t have gold flakes? No problem!

If you’ve ever tried traditional gold leafing methods involving full sheets, you know that excess gold or metal leafing gets left over as you brush the excess away. The excess gold leaf that remains can often be used the same way that premade gold leaf flakes can, with the exception of using it in food and drink (there’s a chance that some adhesive and debris may remain).

Thus, repurposing gold leaf shards or other types of metal leaf remnants can help you to achieve other beautifully decorated DIY projects, and therefore, gives you a reason to never have to discard your leftover gold leaf flakes.

What Is the Best Glue For Gold Leaf Flakes?

When applying gold leaf to metal, wood, glass, or other surfaces, you’ll usually want to use a gilding adhesive made specifically for metal leaf. Metal leaf adhesive has qualities about it that make it ideal for gilding purposes and thus makes it the best pick for most DIY projects.

When choosing which metal leaf adhesive to use, you’ll want to take note of the type of surface you are working on and where the final piece will be stored. Gold flakes that are applied with water based adhesive cannot be stored outdoors, but gold flakes applied with oil based adhesive can. Moreover, if you are applying gold leaf to an oil painting, you’ll also want to ensure that you use an oil based adhesive.

Oil based and water based adhesive (also referred to as “size”) are best used when you are attempting a project that you want to last a long time and that you want to turn out looking smooth and professional once complete. Still, there are instances when using these types of adhesives won’t make sense or aren’t necessary.

Take applying gold leaf to edibles for example. You’ll never want to use an oil based or water based adhesive on food because size isn’t designed for human consumption. As a result, you’ll want to pay close attention to the following segments where we detail exactly which methods to use to get your gold leaf to stick depending on what surface you’re trying to affix the gold lead to.

How Do You Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to a Painting?

When you go to apply gold leaf to a painting, first take note of what type of paint was used. If oil paint was used an oil based size is needed. If acrylic or another paint type was used, you’ll do well using either oil based or water based size. Apply the gold leaf directly over your painted portion to add illumination to the areas of your choice. Gold leafing artwork is a very common way to amplify art pieces and is indeed a worthy venture in the world of creating stunning art.

How Do You Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Canvas?

Applying gold leaf flakes to canvas will involve a similar strategy. You can choose to affix your gold leaf over a thin coat of paint using adhesive as we’ve already described, or you can apply adhesive directly to the canvas prior to painting.

Apply gold leaf as you normally would using size, being careful to wait for the size to come to tack so that the gold leaf is able to properly stick.

How to Use Gold Leaf Flakes on Canvas

Using gold flakes on canvas often highlights subtle details or particular areas of a painting. Use tweezers or toothpicks to place the gold flakes just right and get the highlights you intend for your finished canvas piece. 

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Acrylic

Acrylic pieces will require that you use either oil based or water based size, although you may use cheaper, more readily available adhesive types if you desire. Just know that your final results may not be as smooth and long lasting as they might have been had you used metal leaf adhesive specifically designed to adhere metal leaf.

Genuine gold flakes for your creative projects

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Wood

To apply gold leaf to wood, you’ll first want to sand the wood and remove excess debris. From there, apply a primer if you wish, allow it to dry, and then add your gold leaf adhesive. Wait for the adhesive to come to tack (not wet but also not completely dry) before using a toothpick, tweezers, or another tool of your choice to get the area of your wood fully covered.

Seal the gold leaf with a varnish, top coat, or lacquer, or wax, but only do so if your gold is 23 carats or less. Pure gold should not be sealed as pure gold is tarnish-resistant and can be negatively affected by the use of sealant.

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Metal

To apply gold flakes to metal, first ensure that the metal is clean, dry, and free from debris. Apply your primer first (this step is optional) before applying your adhesive. Once tacky, apply your gold leaf using tweezers or a toothpick for the desired look. Remove excess gold leaf using a soft brush and save the remainder for other uses.

Seal only if you are using imitation gold leaf flakes or flakes that are less than 23 karat gold; otherwise, the gilding process for metal is complete.

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Glass

Apply gold leaf flakes to a glass surface using water based adhesive for best results. Ensure that the surface is clean by using a bit of rubbing alcohol and confirming that the surface is completely dry before proceeding. Add your adhesive to the surface of your glass before applying your gold leaf flakes. Seal the gold leaf (if applicable to the type you are using) and allow it to dry. Avoid applying gold leaf to the areas of glass that may come in contact with your mouth and/or liquid.

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes to Cake

When applying gold leaf flakes to cake, use water. Do not apply gold leaf flakes to edibles using gold leaf sizing. Use either a clean fine-tipped paint brush or a steamer to apply a thin layer of water across the surface of the cake. One coat is enough, as two coats may cause your cake to become soggy. Carefully apply your gold leaf in a 2D or 3D format, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Two dimensional looks will involve laying gold leaf pieces flat on the surface, while the 3D approach will involve sticking scrunched up pieces of gold on the cake that will essentially “stand up” off of the surface of the cake to create a glitzy 3D effect. The former is best achieved with clean tweezers for placement.

How Do You Get Gold Flakes to Stick to Your Skin?

You can get gold flakes to stick toy your skin by using body glue.

There are several varieties out there that are available; just be sure to pick an adhesive that is specifically designed for use on the body. 

How To Apply Gold Leaf Flakes

How to Use Gold Leaf Flakes on Paper

Applying gold leaf to paper is a very simple process. Simply decide where you want the gold leaf to stick, apply adhesive, and there you have it. Choose to apply your gold leaf over paint, lettering, ink, and more. The sky’s the limit!

How to Apply Gold Leaf Flakes: Opportunities Abound!

The process for applying gold flakes to a variety of surfaces will change depending on the surface you’re attempting to cover. Applying gold leaf flakes to cakes and other edibles, for example, will require a thin layer of water, while paintings and other surfaces will require either oil or water based paint. 

Remember that most surfaces will require you to use some sort of adhesive, though which adhesive you choose will be largely affected by your use of the final project, where it will be stored, and other determining factors. We hope this helps!


What is the best way to apply gold leaf?

The best way to apply gold leaf is to use an adhesive specifically designed for use with metal leaf. You’ll also need to make sure you have the right tools on hand and that your surface is properly prepped before getting started. 

What surfaces can you apply gold leaf to?

Gold leaf can be applied to practically any surface. This includes food, fabric, metal, and more!

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