Using silver leaf for painting is an upscale and regal way to provide an instant upgrade to your artwork piece. Adding silver leaf to your painting is relatively easy, though there are a variety of ways you could go about it depending on your project and its needs.

In this post, we’ll detail the many ways you can use silver leaf in your paintings, with the hope of inspiring you towards your next creative project.

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Can You Paint on a Silver Leaf?

Yes, you can absolutely paint on silver leaf. Just know that there’s a process for doing so.

In general there are two ways you could go about painting on silver leaf. The first is to paint directly on the silver leaf without any sealant added. If you choose to go this route, go ahead, but beware that you’ll need to apply a sealant over the finished piece later to seal the paint and to keep the silver from tarnishing.

The other method for achieving a silver leaf painting is to seal the silver leaf first and then paint on top of the sealant. Either method is fine, although we generally recommend the former to better protect both the leaf and the paint over time.

silver leaf for painting

How Do You Add Silver Leaf to a Painting?

Applying silver leaf to a painting is done by applying adhesive to the painting, allowing it to reach tack, and then laying the leaf on top of it. The leaf adheres to the adhesive, otherwise referred to as “size”. This is best done with transfer leaves for larger areas, but you can also use silver leaf flakes, loose leaf, or silver foil for smaller, more intimate zones.

How Do You Apply Silver Leaf to Acrylic Paint?

Applying silver leaf is possible for both oil and acrylic paint. When applying silver leaf to acrylic paint, either water-based adhesive or oil-based adhesive can be used. Having said this, when using oil paint, we recommend you use oil-based adhesive for best results.

When applying gold and silver leaf to a painting on canvas, you may choose to use the following process …

Silver Leaf for Painting on Canvas

  • First gather your equipment. You’ll need your paint (or artwork if you’ve already painted your piece) along with clean brushes, adhesive, and sealant.
  • Secondly, you’ll need a plan. It is important to map out where and how you might want to use the silver leaf to devise your silver leaf painting ahead of time. Once silver leaf is laid, removing it may damage your painting, and, thus, proper preparation is key.
  • If you haven’t yet, go ahead and paint your piece (here are some beginner ideas for painting). If you plan on painting on top of your silver, go ahead and skip this step. However, if a foreground needs to be created, you’ll want to do that first.
  • To add your silver leaf, use a clean brush to apply the adhesive. Remember that your silver leaf will naturally stick to wherever there is adhesive present, and thus, you’ll want to be very careful with the application process.
  • Once the adhesive is applied, wait for it to reach tack. This means that the adhesive will be a bit sticky but won’t yet be dry. Depending on the brand and type, this may take up to 20 minutes or more.
  • After the adhesive has become tacky, it’s time to apply the silver leaf. Do this using wax paper or a clean soft brush that you already have as part of your art supplies. Tamp down the silver leafing and continue gilding until the entire area you want covered is coated in shiny silver metal. If you are using silver flakes, you could just as easily use a toothpick for application. Use whatever you have on hand, just be careful with silver leaf as you’ll want the application to be smooth and won’t want to create rips or imperfections in the leaf.
  • Clear away any excess leaf with a soft clean brush.
  • At this point, you can either paint on top of your silver leaf or go ahead and apply sealant over the entire silver leaf painting. Some like to seal prior to painting while others would prefer to seal over the entire finished piece. Which you do is up to you; use a varnish, shellac, lacquer, clear coat wax, or other sealant type over the surface to preserve your silver leaf.

How to Use Silver Leaf for Painting

When it comes to how to use silver leaf for painting, know that the opportunities are endless. There isn’t one “right” way to use it, but many tend to use it to highlight certain aspects of artwork. These include angel wings, important figures (such as gilded icons), a light accent contrasted with shadows in a piece, the moon, and so much more. Get creative and see what ideas you can come up with as silver leaf provides ample opportunity to make your artwork glow and shine.

Best Silver Leaf for Painting

The best silver leaf for painting depends on your intentions.

If you want the shiniest finish with the most regal touch, go for real silver. If, whoever, you intended to highly manipulate the silver or don’t care much about the purity of the silver for your art, you could easily go with inexpensive imitation silver leaf and be totally fine.

Thus, which you choose doesn’t matter much, but both methods of gilding will require sealant, so keep that in mind when applying silver metal leaf to your works of art.

Where to Buy Silver Leaf for Painting

It is important to buy silver leaf from a reputable source. Consider picking up either pure silver leaf or imitation silver leaf from Barnabas to ensure your gold, silver, and copper leafing needs are of the utmost quality.

Silver Leaf For Painting: The Perfect Accent For Almost Any Medium

All in all, silver leaf for painting is a novel idea and can provide a rich and bright reflection on the surface of paintings to draw attention to certain details. This is often a more brilliant and sophisticated alternative to duller options like metallic paint or silver paint. Just be sure to be mindful of where you purchase your silver leaf; not all types of silver leaf are created equal.


What is a substitute for silver leaf?

You could use palladium or platinum leaf for their brilliant sheen and non-tarnishing characteristics.

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