How to Do
A Newcastle Arts Centre Guide
Gilding is the
application of very thin sheets of gold leaf to any firm
It is an old craft skill which
traditionally has many trade secrets.
These notes are an introductory guide to modern practice
and are no substitute for professional training.
1) PREPARATION (n.b. the
gold will repeat the texture of the prepared
RAW WOOD - Sand smooth, apply a
coat of sealer, sand once more lightly. For a smooth
gesso can be applied to the sanded wood, sand
between coats with a very fine grade
GLASS & VINYL - Make sure
surfaces are free of dust, grit and oil based
Wipe over with methylated spirits.
PLASTER & TERRA-COTTA - Seal
with two coats of sealer after thoroughly cleaning
with either detergent and water or meths.
PREVIOUSLY PAINTED OR VARNISHED
OBJECTS - A general clean and light sanding will
unless the paint is thick, uneven, or chipped. In this
case the piece should be thoroughly stripped, then
After preparing the surface apply
one or two coats of bole, ( traditionally used to
create the eggshell paint
applied beneath the gilded surface), try C. Roberson +
Co. Red Ochre Dark Hue Classic Bole, or for
modern gilding acrylic paint acts as a satisfactory
basecoat. Dilute the acrylic paint slightly with
a matt medium so that the finish is less shiny,
and ready to receive the size and leaf that will be
3) APPLYING SIZE
Size is either a water or oil based
adhesive used as a mordant to attach metal leaf to a
A water based size dries quickly and has a usable tack
life. An example of a water based size is
Gedeo Gilding Paste, or alternatively an
acrylic medium or a good PVA glue thinned to a
milky consistency can be used. A traditional oil based
size such as Japan Gold Size works
best on hard smooth surfaces but will take longer to dry
sufficiently to accept the leaf.
Apply size over the bole/ acrylic
painted base coat in smooth even strokes, avoiding
puddles and runs,
(as the leaf is wafer thin any marks underneath will be
visible when finished).
As the size dries it will become clear with a tacky
consistency. To test if the size is ready to accept
leaf lightly press your knuckle to the surface, if it
clicks when you pull it away it is ready. Do not test
your finger tip as it will leave a print that will show
through the leaf, or will remove the size from that
Size will remain tacky for some
though if leaving overnight make sure the surface is
covered and dust free.
4) APPLYING LEAF - the
Gold coloured leaf is available in
genuine gold and imitation leaf, the genuine leaf will be
richer in colour
and finish, different coloured metal leaves are also
available. Leaf also comes loose or as transfer,
(attached to tissue paper), making it easier to apply.
Loose leaf requires special tools and skills
therefore we advise that you start with transfer. Wear
cotton gloves when handling to avoid tarnishing
when working with silver or imitation gold, or rub talcum
powder on your hands.
Once the size is tacky place the
gold leaf on the object and brush it gently with a very
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Lay the next sheet of leaf down so that it overlaps
slightly, and repeat until the surface is covered.
When applying to raised surfaces you may need to use
small pieces of leaf to fill crevices first,
and use a soft bristle brush to tamp the leaf into the
grooves. To get a shiny metal finish
use a burnisher - a pen like tool with a smooth
agate stone as a point.
Winsor and Newton, Daler Rowney, Royal Talens, Liquitex
Acrylics, Rembrandt, Unison,
Letraset Tria, Pro-Arte, Pebeo and more.
'details' is the
art store at Newcastle Arts Centre
Offers online now at www.details.co.uk
details @ Newcastle Arts Centre, 67
Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SG.
phone 0191 2615999
to "How To..." Index
Hints and Tips
to Prime and Stretch Canvas
to Enlarge a Picture
to Paint on Glass
to Cut a Picture Mount
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