Painting with gold flakes may seem intimidating at first. After all, gold leaf can be expensive, and the thought of using gold flakes may seem like it requires special technique that you may or may not know how to pull off.

Thankfully, applying gold flakes can often be easier than applying gold leaf sheets, for more reasons than one. In this post, we’ll detail the pros of working with gold flakes over gold leaf sheets, as well as how you can go about applying it to your oil paint, watercolor paint, or acrylic paint for optimal shine and highlight.

Let’s jump in.

Painting With Gold Flakes For Beginners

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Advantages of Using Gold Flakes

When you apply a gold leaf to a project, it can take time, effort, and a lot of patience. Because gold leaf is so delicate, it can make the task more cumbersome than it needs to be. This is true even for transfer leaves which typically come on tissue paper or wax paper.

Thankfully, using gold flakes can prove to be easier to apply than gold leaf, and this is especially true when using it for paintings. Gold flakes can be easily scattered and tamped down with a paint brush over adhesive. This is an excellent option for those who want the extravagance of gold on their painting but don’t necessarily want to go through the hassle of using gold leafing sheets on a gold leaf painting.

Other advantages of using gold leaf include:

  • More cost-effective
  • Easier to handle (in some cases)
  • Better for highlighting small details in paintings
  • Easier to lightly rub on adhesive without worrying about gaps, holidays, and rips
  • Can create texture when applied in a certain way

How Do You Paint With Gold Flakes?

First and foremost, you’ll need to collect the proper equipment to begin using your gold flakes for painting.


The following are the tools you’ll need to get started:

  • Adhesive: the best adhesive to use for gold flakes is usually oil based adhesive or water based adhesive. These adhesives are usually known as “size” and they are specifically made for gilding purposes. These kinds of adhesive provide smooth and quality adhesion for your gold flakes, but it isn’t the only way to tamp down your gold flakes. If you desire, you can use other adhesive types, such as Elmer’s glue, to get the job done. However, it may not yield as smooth of results as using an actual metal leaf size might.
  • Gold Leaf Flakes: You can choose to use imitation gold leaf flakes or gold leaf flakes made of pure gold. Which you choose will determine whether or not you’ll need to use gloss varnish at the end. Pure gold will require no varnish at all, while imitation gold flakes (or copper leaf flakes or silver leaf flakes) will require a top coat of sorts to keep it tarnish free.
  • Brushes: You’ll need a brush to apply your adhesive with, as well as a brush to tamp down your flakes. You’ll also want a brush to apply the varnish if using imitation gold leaf.
  • Top coat or varnish: Remember to only use wax or varnish if necessary for imitation gold leaf or other metal leaf types. Applying top coat or varnish to real gold will cause the gold to turn colors and change appearance over time … however, applying it to imitation gold leaf will preserve its color and appearance.

How Do You Put Gold Flakes on Canvas?

To put gold leaf on a canvas, consider the following steps:

  1. Begin by preparing your work surface. Since we’re applying the gold leaf flakes to a painting, you’ll want to make sure you carry out the painting first before application of the gold leaf. Also, if you are using real gold but want to apply a layer of clear coat over the painting, be sure to do so first and to apply your pure gold leaf last.
  2. Once your paint colors have dried completely, go ahead and apply your adhesive of choice. If using a true size, you’ll want to follow the directions on the package to ensure your adhesive becomes tacky prior to application. Remember that if you are doing oil painting with gold flakes, that you should use oil based adhesive. The same is true of water color and using water based adhesive. If you are using Elmer’s glue or other household glue types, you will not need to wait for the glue to become tacky.
  3. Once the adhesive has been applied according to package directions, begin to add your gold flakes. Depending on your painting and the look you’re trying to create, you may need to employ other types of tools for accuracy. For example, you can use tweezers or a thin stick to place the gold leaf on a particular portion of your painting, or you can use your gold leaf flakes shaker to cover the entire painting. It really depends on the project and your intent for your creation.
  4. Allow your gold flakes to dry. If you use an imitation gold leaf, you’ll want to apply varnish or a clear coat over top of the gold leaf. This will keep it from tarnishing. if you wish to apply the clear coat over the entire surface of the painting, you may do that as well. Still, if you used real gold, you will not want to add any clear coat over your gold leaf.

Ideas on Painting a Background With Gold Flakes

A few ideas for painting a background with gold flakes or adding gold flake highlights to paintings include:

  • Highlighting clouds with gold or silver flakes
  • Putting a “twinkle” in your painted stars with gold leaf
  • Using gold to highlight a specific items or area as important
  • Using gold flakes to add a sparkle to already brilliantly colored fall leaves

Painting With Gold Flakes Is Easier Than You Think!

As you can see, painting with gold flakes can add wondrous highlight to virtually any painting project. With just a little imagination and creativity, you can create beautiful pieces of art for all to enjoy. So, go ahead … get creative!


What do you use to apply gold flakes?

Gold flakes can be applied with adhesive in most cases. The exception is when applying gold flakes to desserts or other edible items. In this case, you’ll want to use water for application.

How do you seal gold flakes?

Imitation gold flakes are sealed with a clear coat or varnish. Real gold flakes should never be sealed as sealing will effect how it looks over time.

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