How to Gold Leaf a Ceiling: A Guide

Are you tired of standard white ceilings? Why not give your space an upgraded feel by learning how to gold leaf a ceiling? Gold leaf ceilings—both genuine and metal leaf—can have a transformative effect on the overall appearance and feel of your room. With some time and patience, applying gold leaf to your ceiling is a task you can complete on your own. Read on to discover the materials and steps to follow to make a statement by turning a plain and boring ceiling into a brilliant gold leaf ceiling.

Gather the Necessary Supplies

Gold leaf ceilings are simply magnificent. However, before you’ll be able to jump right into a gold-leafing project, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies and tools ready. Some of the supplies you’ll need include:

  • Primer
  • Latex eggshell paint
  • Adhesive size 
  • Gold leaf sheets or ribbon leaf
  • Natural hair brush for burnishing and removing excess leaf
  • Clear varnish or sealant

Prepare the Ceiling

Some basic preparation is important before gold-leafing ceiling surfaces. You’ll need to create a smooth surface. To create this smooth surface, start by applying two coats of high-quality primer. After these two coats, apply an additional two coats of paint. The best color for this finished paint layer will depend on your vision and the design you’re trying to create. Regardless of the color you choose, we’d recommend using a latex eggshell paint finish for this step.

Apply Adhesive Size

Over your smooth surface, evenly apply the adhesive size. Depending on how large of an area you’ll be gilding, you may want to work in sections. Start with applying the size to just one portion of the ceiling at a time. An oil-based gilding size could be used for this step. However, you may want to choose a water-based size if you don’t have a lot of experience applying gold leafing.

When working, take care to apply the size evenly over the surface. Just a thin layer will suffice. Once the size has been applied, you will need to wait approximately 30 minutes (or whatever the packaging says) for it to come to tack. Applying gold or silver leaf before the adhesive is tacky will not help you achieve the results you desire.

How to Gold Leaf Your Ceiling

Apply Gold Leaf

Once tacky, it is time to begin applying the gold leaf sheets. Putting on a pair of soft, white cotton gloves before working with the gold leaf book is advised. This will help prevent the oil from your hands from getting on the leaf.

When applying gold leaf to a ceiling, work in a grid-like pattern. This will help ensure that you cover each section of the ceiling. Use tissue paper or transfer paper to move the leaf to the ceiling. Then, gently rub on the tissue paper to get it to adhere to the ceiling. Repeat these steps with the rest of the gold leaf, taking care to slightly overlap each piece with the last. Doing so helps prevent gaps in the ceiling.

As an alternative to loose-leaf gold leaf sheets, you could also consider using ribbon leaf. The ribbon leaf is a continuous roll of gold leaf. It can be easier to apply to larger surfaces, such as a ceiling, than individual sheets. You can also find different leaf types available as ribbon leaf. These include imitation gold leaf, silver leaf, imitation silver leaf, copper leaf, and metal leaf. 

Touch Up the Ceiling

As you’re trying to create a gold ceiling with gold leaf sheets or ribbon leaf, it is likely that you’ll find a few missed or void areas. Inspect your work and look for any gaps, also called holidays. If you spot any, apply more adhesive size. Then, wait for it to come to tack and apply additional gold leaf to provide full leaf coverage.

Gold leaf ceilings can make your space beautiful.

Remove Excess Gold Leaf

After patching holidays, use a quality brush, such as a squirrel mop brush, to remove the excess leaf from the ceiling. Brushing gently over the ceiling with a soft hair brush will also help create a burnished leaf appearance as it releases the excess leaf pieces. You may want to lay a tarp down under the ceiling as you work to catch most of the leaf dust and make the cleanup process easier. Dusting gold leaf can certainly get messy.

Seal the Gilded Ceiling

Now you’re almost done with your project—whether you’re creating gold leaf paneled ceilings or adding a special gold leaf design over the ceiling paint. The final step is to seal the leafed surface. Use a crisscross pattern to evenly apply a water-based varnish. Be sure to choose a sealant that is clear and non-yellowing to preserve the look and feel of the gold leaf. 

Knowing how to gold leaf ceilings can be a exciting experience.

Make Your Ceiling Beautiful by Using Gold Leaf

If you’ve ever stared in awe at beautiful gold leaf detailing on ceilings and wished it was something you could add to your house, now you can. The process of adding silver leafing or learning how to gold leaf a ceiling is much easier than many people realize, and there are very few design limitations with such a large canvas to work with. If you’ve never worked with gold leafing before, you may want to try a few smaller projects first, such as gold leafing canvas or gold leafing a glass vase. You may even be able to find some gold leaf kits to get you started. 

FAQs

Can you gold leaf a ceiling?

Yes, you can apply genuine gold to a ceiling. While gold ceiling paint can also turn your ceiling gold, it pales in comparison to the effect real gold leaf will deliver. Genuine gold is much more brilliant and reflective than paint and can offer a more upgraded look and feel to your space.

What is a gilded ceiling?

A gilded ceiling is one that has been covered with gold leaf. These decorative gold ceilings can make a space feel more elegant and regal. In addition to covering a ceiling with gold leaf, you could also consider using silver leaf.

Why is gold leaf so cheap?

Gold leaf sheets are very thin, which is why they can seem less expensive than larger solid gold items, such as jewelry. However, if you’re finding gold leaf sheets that are only a few dollars, it is likely that they are imitation gold, rather than genuine gold with a higher karat count.

How do you stick gold leaf to walls?

Applying metal leaf or gold leaf to walls follows the same principles shared above for applying gold leaf to a ceiling. You’ll want to start by preparing the wall for the leafing and create a pattern or grid to help you apply the leafing evenly. Once the surface is prepared, you can apply the adhesive size to one section of the wall, wait for it to become tacky, and then apply the gold leaf sheets. After checking for full leaf coverage and touching up any gaps, remove excess leaf and burnish the finish, then seal the wall.