Does your gilded item look a little too new for your liking? Does it stick out like a sore thumb in your home environment? Is the picture in your frame clashing with the frame itself and vice versa? Would you like to learn how to use toning glaze in gilding?

Then step right up as we explore the reasons why you might want to use toning glaze in gilding and how you might go about implementing it.

Table of Contents

How To Use Toning Glaze In Gilding

Why Use a Toning Glaze in Gilding?

Genuine and pure gold leaf made from pure 24-karat gold sure has a lustrous finish, right? In fact, sometimes it can be so lustrous as to overpower all other things around. This really is no good, especially if the gold leaf in question is being used to decorate a frame. In such cases, the frame can even overpower the art it is framing!

In terms of its encyclopedic definition, gold leaf is technically made from pure gold. Of course, most gold leaf is made from ideologically less pure gold, often produced at 22 karats (91.7%) purity. Anything else would be referred to as a metal leaf – that includes ribbon leaf and silver leaf. So, even though gold is a type of metal, it simply is not the done thing to refer to it like so.

Still, to dull the often garish brilliance of pure gold in such instances that it becomes overpowering, many take it upon themselves to use something to finish the gilding. This is one of the central gilding techniques, coming after the main act of gilding to give the piece a sheen of age, sometimes referred to as antiquing glaze.

This serves several purposes. The obvious is to give a gilding project an air of antiquity that instantly establishes it as older and in some senses more desirable. This might, in some instances, sit better with the interior decoration of a particular room.

However, this finishing process also has the advantage of providing the gilded item with a protective coat. This is especially helpful if it is going to be in a room with a lot of traffic, where people will be more likely to come into contact with it over time.

Past Techniques

To dim the brilliance of gold, gilders have developed various techniques and chemical formulations over the years in order to properly tone the surface for contextual circumstances. Sign makers for earlier eras would, for example, use thinned asphaltum to shade a gilded surface. This is for the same reason that many gilders opt to burnish their items.

Otherwise known as Bitumen, asphaltum is a sticky, black, and viscous liquid/semi-solid form of petroleum. Now simply referred to as asphalt, asphaltum was its name prior to the 20th century.

Though it has can have a variety of applications, bitumen is now primarily used in road construction where it is used as the binding agent for aggregate particles to create asphalt concrete. It is, however, also used for bituminous waterproofing products, such as roofing felt, etc.

In a similar application, washes of milk paint and colored waxes can also be applied to gold leaf after the fact to alter its hue and, thus, its brilliance in relation to the things surrounding it. With these kinds of methods of toning, there is the opportunity for more nuance too.

In fact, a soft brush in the right hands can reinvent this kind of toning, introducing a whole lather of new layers. More precision comes in the form of being able to accentuate the contrast between highlighted areas and those in shadow. In this way, you can also replicate the aging of an old frame by copying the detailed tones on an antiquated frame.

Some modern gilders mimic this aging with earth-tone Japan paint, combining it with quick rubbing varnish thinned with turpentine to give a gilded item an aged appearance. After applying the toning mixture to the surface, the excess is wiped off of the high points, leaving a heavier deposit in the recessed area, just as it would happen in the case of actual aging.

How to Apply Toning Glaze Yourself

So, now you have heard this extended series of testimonials on the subject, why not try giving it a go yourself? Once you have your gilding already done, you can proceed to tone it with paint of your choice. Remember that it is okay for there to be overlap between the various sheets of leaf to begin with. These can easily be scraped away with a small brush after it has all dried and you will never even be able to tell it was ever there.

  1. First up, you are going to want to pick a color that suits your purposes. If you are looking to tone the gilding to a specific room that you are in, then try choosing a paint that is the same or similar to something that the gilded item is near. If you are looking to give the room a bit more nuance, then try to pick a color that is the room’s complement.
    • Oil-based toners are best if you want your gilded item to remain translucent, or at least for the toner to remain translucent afterward. These toners have the advantage of an accelerated drying time.
  2. Apply the glaze to a chip brush – any old soft brush will do, though make sure it is clean. Pounce the glaze with cheesecloth or a sponge before it dries to give it a texture that has the appearance of having aged.
  3. You should already be able to see the difference it is making, quieting the otherwise rather loud glare of pure gold leaf. The leaf should still softly reflect light, of course, but to nowhere near the same degree.

Hopefully, you have now been able to more fittingly combine the various shades and hues of your gilded item with the domestic environment in which it resides.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to start adding some nuance to your gilded item. Do not be afraid to get stuck in, though try at least to test out your skills on something of less value before you go at your more valuable items with your experimental techniques.

FAQs Toning Glaze in Gilding

How do you make gold leaf less shiny?

There are various techniques for reducing the luster of gold leaf. Gold leaf has, after all, been used for centuries upon centuries. The idea of reducing this luster is, however, more popular than ever in alignment with increasing trends for nostalgia and worship of antiquity. The idea is that by using toners and glazes to age the frame, it can better fit the aesthetic of a home environment or indeed even the things directly around it. This is especially the case for frames that have been gilded. Many prefer their gilded frames to be at least a little aged in this way.

Can you glaze over gold leaf?

Indeed you can and this has, in fact, been a common practice for centuries. It is, of course, more popular today than ever in alignment with the ever-increasing trend for nostalgia and the fetishization of antiquity. There are 2 central camps in the glazing of gold leaf. One uses the glazing process as a way to more fittingly suit a gilded item with its immediate surroundings. The other uses the process to age the gilded item. There is, of course, some overlap, but these are the 2 central philosophies.

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