Looking to finally get down and apply some gold leaf to a frame of yours? Want to give it that antique look to fit the rest of your furniture but don’t know how? Want to know how to use gilding adhesive and how to add a base layer to give it a more authentic antique finish?

Then you have come to the right place for this is precisely what we will be investigating today.

Table of Contents

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Step 1: Preparing the Work Area

Before you do anything with the gold leaf or metal leaf, you are going to want to prepare your work area properly. This is to ensure that you are doing the best you can with what you have and that you do not introduce any foreign contaminants into the mix – i.e. dust, dirt, and other stray grime.

To do this, first, cover the surfaces that you intend to use with drop cloths and excess bits of newspaper. Applying gold leaf to anything does not necessarily mean you need to read the newspaper. Rather, you can use any larger pieces of fabric or waste paper that you no longer have any use for.

This will not only mean that you can apply gold leaf without fear of small bits of dirt and dust getting in the way of the process but also will ensure that your surfaces are not covered in genuine gold leaf – which can be expensive. There is space for the genuine and metal leaf to come into contact with surfaces, though, if that is what you are after.

At this point of the gold leafing process, it would be wise to make a note of the areas that you do not want to gild. Even if you are using imitation gold leaf or silver leaf, there will no doubt be parts of the intended item that you do not intend to gild.

Cover these areas with low-tack painter’s tape or any other tapes you might have lying around – electrical tape also works great. You can easily cut the tape to the specific shapes of the areas you want to protect.

If necessary, very lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove any blemishes that might blemish the gilding process.

Step 2: Prime the Surface

This is arguably the most important step of the process, certainly the one that is most often neglected. Traditional water-gilding methods actually make this a top priority, using a water-based primer to prepare the surface for gilding itself.

You can easily buy the primer in spray form nowadays, a method that will easily provide you with the quickest option for this part of the process. The item that you intend to gild might have some pretty ornate crevasses and crenellations, so using a spray primer like this might actually be entirely necessary.

Use a natural hair brush to rid the surface of any stray dust before you even think about introducing the edible gold leaf (read more about gold being edible on our blog).

Step 3: Applying the Base Color

Professionals in the field are likely to refer to this base layer as the bole, the part that immediately follows the primer.

Once this primer is fully dry, you can begin to apply the base color to the soon-to-be gilded surface. Large-scale interior projects might require an extra pair of hands or two. For an old-fashioned, might we recommend using red as a base layer before dusting gold leaf atop?

Many gold leaf kits will are likely to recommend this, whether or not you apply imitation gold leaf.

Make sure you give extra attention to those difficult-to-reach crevices that we spoke of earlier. If you are unsure of what you want the gilding to look like after the fact, then feel free to experiment at this part of the process, though never at the expense of the item you are using. You can, instead, use other metal leaf surfaces like planks of wood to experiment upon.

Step 4: Adhesive

Water-based gilding glue works well for interior projects, applied with a brush and worked into the material carefully, evenly spread into a film that just about covers the surface.

Complete coverage of the surface area is essential, so ensure that you are working the glue into those deep recesses.

Step 5: Tack

The adhesive will be ready – coming to tack – in around 20 minutes, remaining open for around 30 hours. This should provide ample time to apply the gold leaf.

Step 6: Gold Leaf

Lay the leaf onto the surface area and roll it out. Hold firmly and carefully and do not bite off more than you can chew.

Rub over the back of the leaf with a gilder’s brush – a real necessity if you intend to do this regularly.

Step 7: Burnishing

This refers to the cleaning of the excess pieces and loose leaf flakes. You can use the aforementioned gilder’s brush. Actual burnishing tools should only be used with traditional water-gilding techniques.

Step 8: Seal and Protect

Genuine gold leaf with a karat rating of 23 or higher will not require sealing in this way, though it might be wise to do so anyway if this item is going to be in an area with high traffic and contact.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this has been of some use to you and you are now feeling ready and able to get applying your own gold leaf.

FAQs How to Use Gilding Adhesive

How long does gilding glue take to dry?

Water-based gilding glue takes around 20 minutes to come to tack – i.e. to be ready for the gold leaf that it inevitably will be gilded with. After this, the glue will be available for tacking and gilding for the next 30 hours or so, providing a long enough window to get the job done. This means that, even if the process gets to you the first time, you can always come back to it with a clear head.

What is the best adhesive for gold leaf?

For interior projects, a water-based gilding adhesive works best. In gilding, the adhesive is often referred to as size. This adhesive will need to be applied carefully and worked into the surface gently so that it can be spread around in an even film. Special care and attention will need to be paid to those objects that have deeper recesses and more complex crenellations, for these special areas are precisely the ones that are so often neglected and left without adhesive. This will mean that when it comes to applying the gold leaf, it simply will not stick properly. Try visiting this website for a more comprehensive guide.

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