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How to apply gold leaf


We all know about Klimt’s incredible technique and his golds, right? Today we leave you a post about gold leaf, what it is and how to apply it.

What is gold leaf?

Gold leaf is a very thin sheet of beaten gold. This sheet has been used since ancient times for decoration and art. Its final result is very attractive and distinguished. It has also been used to embellish religious icons, sculptures, altarpieces … Even furniture, mirror frames, and architectural surfaces. In addition, we can choose gold, silver, copper, or aluminum.
This material was used already in Classical Antiquity. Despite this, it was not until the late Middle Ages that its first artisans appeared: the gilders. Workers specialized in applying gold leaf.

With chisels of different shapes, these luxury craftsmen gilded sculptures, paintings, or architectural elements. Due to the beauty of these works, this technique reached its peak during the 13th-15th centuries. Subsequently, it has also continued to be used and has enjoyed great fame.

Types of gold leaf

As we have discussed, there are different types of gold. On the one hand, you can find it in different degrees of quality. On the other, different colors are depending on the finish you are looking for.

Fine gold

This material is obtained by hammering the gold plates or rolling them. It is very valuable and also quite delicate. It is usually handled with a gilding knife and sable brushes. You have to be very careful about breaking it, as it is extremely fine! The ideal is to start using it when we already have some skill with these techniques

Fake gold

Also called ‘decorative gold’. The material fake gold is similar to fine gold, and its greater thickness makes it easier to handle. It can be applied with the hands, making it ideal for those beginning with the technique. It is also a much cheaper alternative to fine!

Silver or copper leaf

If we want to gild in other colors, we can use them. They are sheets of real or imitation silver. In addition to copper-colored leaves that are used the same as gold leaf. There are cheaper and more expensive to suit the needs of each artist.

Transferable gold leaf

Also known as ‘gold leaf transfer’, it can be found in its golden version or silver and copper tones. This adhesive material is lightly glued to a carrier sheet. For this reason, its manipulation is much easier. You just have to place it on the surface. When it is in the desired place, we only have to remove the transfer paper. Easy peasy!

  • Buy cheap gold leaf here
  • Materials for gilding with gold leaf
  • Mixing Varnish
  • Mixtión varnish is a transparent product. It is widely used for craft projects but especially for gilding. We can find it in its original formula or based on water. Water-based varnish is more difficult to use, so it is recommended to start with the original…

Differences between the Mixtiones

As we say, there is original Mixtión varnish and Mixtión al water. The latter, a mixture of water, is diluted with water and includes two different types. First, the waterborne quick-drying mix starts mordant at 10 ′ and ends at two hours. On the other hand, the normal drying water mixture begins mordant at 2 hours and ends at 12 hours.

The original mixture is made with solvent. Three types are depending on their drying. First the rapid begins the mordant at 10 ‘and ends at 4 o’clock. The normal begins the mordant at 30 ′ and ends at noon. and Slow Drying, which starts at 45 ‘and ends at 48h

Round soft brush

To comb the gold leaf when placing it on the surface and avoid imperfections.


An organic substance to fix the browning and prevent it from coming off. You can make either prepared shellac or flake shellac. We recommend that you start little by little with the prepared shellac. If you want to know more, here is a tutorial on what shellac is . . AND


A polonaise is a special brush for gilding very fine hair. The polonaises are used to catch the gold leaf without damaging it. These blades are so delicate that the slightest blow of air

Gold bread

We will always try to choose the most suitable for our level and skill. Find here all kinds of gold leaf.

In addition to these basic materials, there are many more products that can be useful:

Gilding knife: Used to cut fine gold leaf without damaging it.
Golden bowl or golden bowl: A finely crushed clay paste used by medieval gilders to prepare the surface. There are the red bowl, yellow bowl, and green bowl, depending on what result we want to obtain.
Burnisher or agate stone: This tool is used to add shine to the gold leaf once applied. If you want to know more, we leave you with a tutorial on how to use agate stones.

How to apply gold leaf in 4 steps

Learning to brown with this material is easier than it seems at first glance. The work consists of applying the gold sheets on the surface of the pieces. Although the original process, known as stewing, was very complicated, this method has evolved. Nowadays you just have to be careful and plan the work.

First of all, if we are going to work with wood, we have to make sure that it is well sanded. After that, it is advisable to cover the piece with the bowl to brown. This is optional and is used to bring out the shine of the gold leaf. There are artists who instead of a gilding bowl use acrylic paint as a base:

  • English red or carriage to work gold leaf.
  • Prussian blue for silver leaf.
  • Red or green for the copper bread.
  1. We apply the Mixtión varnish
    With a brush, we apply a generous layer of the varnish on the surface that we want to gild. This product is used to glue the gold leaf to the piece, so it is a very important step. Once applied, we have to wait until the varnish is biting : Practically dry but still sticky to the touch. This will be the time to start applying the gold leaf sheets.
  2. Glue the gold leaf carefully
    We use the polonaise to handle the gold leaf and adhere it to the surface very carefully. You don’t have to cover 100% of the surface if you don’t want to! In addition to being difficult, small imperfections will add an antique look to your works.
  3. We clean with the brush
    Once you have covered the entire surface you must clean it. For that we go over with the dry brush very gently. Thus, we will remove the remains of gold leaf that we may have left.
  4. We give a coat of shellac
    The shellac is used to fix the bread well and prevent it from coming off over time. To finish, we give a generous coat of shellac and let it dry completely. And we are done!


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