If you’re just beginning to learn how to use metal leaf, you may find yourself wondering more about metal leaf adhesive and which is the right type to choose. In today’s article, we’ll answer just that, along with the benefits of finding the right adhesive needed to create a stunning project.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

What Is Metal Leaf Adhesive?

Metal leaf adhesive is a type of “glue” that is used to cause your gold leaf or other metal leaf types to adhere to a particular surface. In general, gold leaf adhesive is always required for every surface, although there are some instances where it might not.

The type of metal leaf adhesive needed to lay imitation gold leaf, genuine gold leaf, or other metal leaf types comes down to two options: water based size and oil based size.

“Size” refers to adhesive that is specially made for use when gilding. The differences between the two, as you might imagine, is that one is oil based and the other is not.

However, there are more significant differences in the use of the two adhesives that you should be aware of before making use of it on surfaces.

What Is Metal Leaf Adhesive?

What Can I Use for Metal Leaf Adhesive?

Which type of adhesive you use for gold leaf or other metal leaf will largely depend on the surface being covered, as well as the final location of the finished piece.

It is important to note that gilded items placed outdoors will require oil based adhesive. Pieces placed indoors will benefit from both oil or water based adhesive.

What Kind of Adhesive Do You Use for Gold Leaf?

Gold leaf utilizes either water or oil based adhesive depending on its final location as well as the surface covered. Surfaces like wood, metal, marble, concrete, canvas all benefit from both adhesive types.

It’s really up to you which you use. Although we will say that oil based adhesive tends to be more beginner friendly and can often provide the smoothest final result.

Do You Need Metal Leaf Adhesive?

You will need metal leaf adhesive in most cases, especially if you’re aiming for smooth application and longevity. Having said that, there are instances when you may not need to apply adhesive to a particular surface.

If you are applying silver leaf or gold leaf to a cake, for example, you won’t need adhesive. Instead, just a thin coating of water will be enough for the thin sheet of metal to adhere.

However, if you are gilding items like antique hardware, furniture, a frame, or other projects, you’ll need to use either oil or water based size for the best final result.

How Long Does Metal Leaf Adhesive Take to Dry?

Metal leaves may take different amounts of time to dry depending on brand and type. Please consult the label on the product for the most accurate drying time frame after adhesive has been applied.

Metal Leaf Adhesive Is Crucial For Producing High Quality Gilding Results

Remember that you will achieve the best final result when using metal leaf adhesive instead of adhesives not marketed for gilding purposes. Follow each step as detailed on the label of the adhesive to know how long the adhesive should be left on for the most smooth and durable application of gold or metal leaf.

As mentioned, we don’t recommend using other adhesive types if it is a quality result and long-lasting finish you wish to achieve.


Can you varnish over metal leaf?

You can apply varnish over metal leaf, but only if the leaf isn’t genuine gold. Know that if you place varnish or topcoat over genuine gold that it will negatively impact the physical characteristics of the gold leaf. Nevertheless, imitation leaf, silver leaf, or copper leaf will all require sealant or varnish.

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