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How To Apply Gold Leaf To Furniture

Adding gold leaf to your furniture can turn a drab wardrobe into a vintage accent piece. You’ll need to use genuine gold or genuine silver leaf for artwork, to ensure the quality of your upcycling matches your vision. Genuine gold leaf will also last longer than the cheaper imitation version.

Prepare The Furniture

To get started, you need to prepare the chosen furniture by cleaning away any dust or debris. You can do this by mixing a small drop of dishwater soap with water. Then use a soft cloth to gently wipe down the sides.

You don’t want to damage the surface, so ensure that the cloth is only damp, not soaking. If the furniture is antique, you should use warm water without soap, as the cleaning applicant could remove the delicate details.

Once cleaned, sand down the surface you’re working on, clean off the debris again, and apply chalk paint. Chalk paint is considered the best texture for gold leaf application.

Before you start using the gold leaf, tape off the areas you don’t want to gild. When we’re finished, we will remove this tape to create sharp lines, but for now, use it as a safety feature.

Apply Adhesive

Using a specific gilding adhesive, dab the liquid onto the area that you want the gold to stick to.

Only apply a thin layer, so the gold leaf remains flush against the surface and doesn’t bubble around the adhesive.

If your project is fiddly, we suggest using a water-based adhesive as it won’t dry out quickly, allowing you to continue manipulating the gold leaf until you are happy with the placement.

Once the adhesive is placed it can take 5 to 30 minutes for the liquid to become tacky, depending on if you’re using a water or oil-based product.

Wait for this texture before applying the gold leaf.

Place The Gold Leaf

Golf leaves can break easily and can fold over at the slightest touch, so apply the material gently.

Once in place, pat the leaf gently with tissue paper – this will prevent marks while ensuring the leaf is flat. 

Once the gold leaf is placed and flat, apply another layer of adhesive.

Add A Finish

To make sure the gold leaf adhesive looks natural over the entire furniture, you should apply a dull finish once the adhesive has dried. The dull finish will make the furniture look vintage and aged, while an additional layer of adhesive will create a shine.

Pick the finish based on the design choices you are aiming for.

Remove Excess

When you’re applying the gold leaf, you shouldn’t be cutting the exact size you need. The leaf is too delicate for that. Instead, you should apply the whole sheet. This will leave you with excess, which you can easily brush away using a soft tip brush.

Start the brushing process by delicately skimming the tool against the gold leaf excess. This will remove the extra material but not the gold leaf stuck to your furniture with adhesive.

Make sure to complete this step with care, as a heavy hand could ruin your hard work.

Seal The Furniture

Lastly, to make sure that nothing harms the gold leaf, you should apply a sealant. This will create a sheer finish and protect the gilding by adding a see-through barrier. 

Final Thoughts

Because using gold leaf is a delicate process, it might take some time before you feel confident with the material. You can go over your gilding multiple times should you make a mistake. Although this might feel like a waste due to the expensive price tag, the end result will not look patchy.

This is because the gold leaf is so fine and delicate, that the overlapping material can be easily hidden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Get Gold Leaf To Stick To Wood?

Follow the process explained above, as this guide can be used on all materials including wood. However, you should use water or oil-based adhesive glue. Any other adhesive will seep into the wood and won’t create the tacky texture needed.

What Is the Best Adhesive For Gold Leaf?

The type of adhesive you use depends on the material you are sticking it to. For wood use water or oil, for metal use polyurethane or PVA.

Do You Varnish Over Gold Leaf?

Yes, varnish is a type of sealant that you can put over gold leaf. However, it is best used on metal surfaces than wooden ones.