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What are the Best Tips for Working with Gold Leafing?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Gold leafing, a thin layer of pure gold, is often used to create a gilded appearance on furniture, picture frames, vases, mirrors, and other home d├ęcor objects. Gold leaf is sometimes called metal leaf, composition leaf, or schlagmetal. There is also a material available that looks like gold leaf, but is much less expensive because it contains no pure gold.

Gold leafing can be applied to a number of different materials, including wood, plastic, glass, metal, and leather. To apply gold leafing, make sure you've done all the necessary prep work. Cover your work area with protective drop cloths and sand the surface of your project if necessary. Apply a primer, then add a base coat of paint if your primer doesn't come in the color desired.

Adhesive "size" can be either water-based or oil-based, but both types require you to apply a thin, even coat of product to the surface. For best results, gold leafing should be applied when the surface is wet, but not tacky. This is usually just before the adhesive has dried completely.

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When searching for tips for working with gold leafing, remember that patience is key. Applying gold leafing is a delicate process. Work slowly and carefully, burnishing the leafing with a soft squirrel or goat mop gilder's brush when finished to make sure it is completely adhered. Keep in mind that gold leafing tears very easily. If you accidentally rip the leafing, however, you can save the scraps to use to fill in any mistakes in your project.

Experts who offer tips for working with gold leafing often recommend adding a sealant over your work to make the project more durable. This is especially important when adding gold leafing to objects in high traffic areas of your home. Sealants are available in either gloss or satin finishes and can be applied by brush or spray.

If you want to add a touch of old-world charm to your gold leafing project, antiquing the surface is an excellent idea. Antiquing glazes can use oil-based or acrylic paints. Mixing colors to achieve the right effect can be tricky, so practice on scrap materials before applying other tips for working with gold leafing.

For those who lack the patience, time, or skill to work with pure gold leafing, it's worth pointing out that gold paints can be used to achieve a similar look. This faux finishing technique is much easier for beginners to do successfully, since it uses a flat black undercoat and burnishing to replicate the look of real gold leafing. If you have many objects to finish using tips for working with gold leafing, a faux finish is also a very cost-effective option.

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