When you are starting out with gilding, you may find that you want to test all kinds of surfaces and let the creativity flow. As such, you may be wondering how to apply imitation gold leaf to all surfaces, such as wood, stone, and canvas. Working with imitation gold leaf is much like working with other materials, but there are some things you need to keep in mind.
What Is Imitation Gold Leaf?
Imitation gold leaf is—believe it or not—a metal leaf that is a mixture of copper and zinc. When blended, zinc and copper look astoundingly like 23-karat real gold. However, imitation gold leaf is not as expensive or as delicate as real gold leaf. You may hear imitation gold leaf referred to as Dutch gold or Dutch metal.
Although imitation gold leaf can be applied to a variety of surfaces, it is not recommended for outdoor use. Copper alloy will tarnish, which is why you need to seal imitation gold leaf to keep it looking as golden as possible.
How to Apply Imitation Gold Leaf to Wood
If you would like to apply imitation gold leaf to anything wooden, including frames or furniture, here are the steps:
- Prepare the surface. Sand the surface of the wood where you plan on applying the gold leaf. If you would like to paint the wood or leave a smoother surface for the imitation gold leaf to bind to, consider applying some gesso—a thin acrylic paint primer.
- Apply the adhesive. If you have applied an acrylic paint, use a water gilding size. If you used an oil-based paint or stain, you will need to wait for the paint to dry completely before applying your gold leaf. Untreated wood can have an oil-based size applied prior to pressing on the gold leaf. When using a gilding size, it is best applied with a soft bristle paintbrush.
- Set the leaf in place. Lift the leaf gently and place it where it is to be gilded. Take a piece of wax paper or soft cloth to rub the imitation gold leaf into the surface. Apply only slight pressure.
- Clean away the excess. Use a clean, soft bristle brush to remove an excess leaf.
- Seal the imitation gold leaf. Wait 3 days before applying a seal.
How to Apply Imitation Gold Leaf to Canvas
The steps to put Dutch gold on canvas are much like putting it on wood. You will need to prep the surface by ensuring it is clean. Next, apply gesso or a white primer to the canvas. Once that has dried, you may wish to apply a background color. This will need to cure for a couple of days before you can apply the imitation gold leaf.
After the paint is dried, apply a thin layer of water-based gilding size to the canvas. The adhesive will go on clear. Avoid going over the areas where the size has already been applied.
Within 2-3 minutes, the canvas will feel tacky. You can then apply the gold leaf. Same as the method listed above, take a piece of wax paper and place it over the leaf so you can gently press the imitation gold leaf into the adhesive.
From there, brush away any excess gold with a soft brush. Cheesecloth can also be used.
Let the gold leaf cure before applying a seal. This typically takes around 3 days, but you can let the canvas cure for longer.
How to Apply Imitation Gold Leaf to Stone
Even though imitation gold leaf is not as durable as genuine gold leaf, you can still use it to decorate river rocks or pieces of granite for your home.
Here are the instructions:
- Wash the rocks or pebbles or stone surface to remove dust and dirt. Let the surface dry completely before beginning.
- Outline the leaf design on the surface.
- Prime the shape with adhesive. Use a small round brush with soft bristles. Fill out the entire shape and let it dry. Since the surface is less porous than wood or canvas, it will need to dry for a bit longer. Wait until the adhesive is tacky.
- Once the size is tacky, lay the imitation gold leaf over the design. The piece should be large enough to completely cover the primed spot. Gently rub the foil, ensuring adhesion.
- If there are any sections that did not take, use smaller pieces of gold leaf to hide the imperfections.
- Wait a little while for the adhesive to continue drying completely.
- Use a clean, soft brush to wipe away any excess imitation gold leaf.
- Apply a sealer to protect the design. It may take a day for the sealer to dry thoroughly.
Now You Know How to Apply Imitation Gold Leaf to Anything
Although imitation gold leaf is not made with real gold, you can still use it as you would use authentic gold leaf in your arts and craft projects. Apply imitation gold leaf to all kinds of surfaces by following the steps listed in this article. Just remember that it is not recommended for anything that would be outside, as copper oxidizes faster than gold. What are you going to gild first?
Yes, you have to seal imitation gold leaf. Otherwise, the copper alloy present will tarnish and become discolored. You will need to reapply the seal to the leaf every 3-5 years. Otherwise, your imitation gold leaf will blacken.
While authentic gold leaf can last for 30 years or longer when preserved, imitation gold leaf has a much shorter lifespan. You can expect only a few years out of imitation gold leaf, even when treated with a sealant.