How to Apply Gold Leaf in Four Steps

The gold leaf has been used since ancient times for decoration and art, as the last result is very engaging and distinguished. 

It has been used to embellish sculptures, religious icons, altarpieces, or even furniture, architectural surfaces, and mirror frames.

Types of gold leaf

Fine gold

It is obtained by hammering the gold plates. Therefore, it is not only very precious but also delicate. It is usually handled with a special gilding knife and sable hair brushes. 

Fake gold

It is described as “decorative gold”, very similar to fine gold, and considered the cheaper alternative to it, thicker, and easier to handle.

Silver or copper leaf

If you want to gild in other colors, you can turn to them. They are the cheaper choice for any artist.

Transferable gold leaf

It is known as  ‘gold leaf transfer’, can be found in its golden version and silver and copper tones. This adhesive material is slightly glued to a conveyor sheet, which greatly facilitates its handling. 


The materials can be found in any store specialized in crafts:

Gold leaf booklet

Steel wool


Turpentine essence, this is pure turpentine

Medium brush, neither very good nor very bad

Pot of water paint

Mixtion water bottle

Talcum powder pot

Round brush, it does not need to be natural but with soft hair


Cotton rags

Soft bristle shoe brush

How to apply?

It is advisable always to start with small objects, such as a frame, a turned lamp base, or a box, it must be cleaned very well, with the essence of turpentine and steel wool. Pass sandpaper to leave the surface smooth.

It is recommended to cover the piece with English red acrylic paint since this tone will highlight the shine of the gold leaf.

1. Apply varnish

Providing a coat of varnish on the surface is a very important step. Once applied, you have to wait until the varnish dry but still sticky to the touch to be ready for applying the gold sheets.

2. Paste the gold leaf

Handle the gold leaf carefully and put it on the surface. Then, stick it adequately with a brush. Sometimes it is complicated to cover the entire surface. Small imperfections bring an attractive old touch to your work.

3. Clean with the brush

Review the surface with a dry brush very gently to remove the remains of the gold leaf.

4. Use shellac

The shellac is used to fix the gold leaf well and prevent it from falling off over time. So, it is a useful step to add a coat of shellac.

Some advice

  1. To manipulate the sheets well, cut them into smaller and easier to handle squares before removing them from the paper that protects them.
  1. If you fill your hands with talcum powder you will facilitate placement of gold leaf, preventing their sticking to your fingers.
  1. Keep away from airflows during work or you will see how they fly simply.
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