Metal leaf is an age old technique to enhance your artwork, and to be used for decoration on a number of different surfaces. Metal leaf can come in many different shades, ranging from gold and silver, to copper. Metal leaf is also often referred to as imitation leaf, as it is a much more cost effective version of using genuine gold or silver leaf, you'd have to look really closely to notice the difference! There are a few different ways to apply metal leaf, the actual name for applying metal leaf is gilding, and once you know how to apply it you'll be wanting to transform every surface in your house! You can watch your surface transform with every brush you make, and this effect is gorgeous for creating a shabby chic or period styled look which can be altered to suit your taste. If metal leaf is something you've always wanted to have a go at keep reading to find out just how easy it is to use metal leaf in your next decorating project.
The basic method of gilding uses either an oil or water based adhesive to apply gold, silver or copper metal leaf, this can be used on both internal and external surfaces.
#1. Prepare And Prime The Surface
You wouldn't start painting on a rough and dirty surface without priming beforehand, and applying metal leaf is just the same. Before you start the process, lightly sand the surface that you are working on and apply a suitable primer to the surface, this will help the staying power of the metal leaf and help to achieve that almost professional look afterwards. The colour of the paint or primer will determine the end colour of the surface, we love using a red patina underneath as this gives a warm and rich finish afterwards.
#2. Apply An Adhesive
Next you need to apply an adhesive to the surface to ensure that the metal leaf takes to the surface, we would recommend the Autentico permacoil glue for metal leaf which dries transparent. Drying times can vary with glue, but water based adhesive reaches a tack level within 20 minutes, which is the perfect time to then start applying the metal leaf. However, it is best to refer to the drying times of your glue which will be found on the bottle or packaging of the adhesive. The adhesive should be applied evenly to the surface with a good sized brush, making thin, even coats. We have a specific brush for painting on permacoil which will help you to make a really professional job of it.
#3. Apply The Metal Leaf
Whether you choose to use silver, gold or copper leaf, it all works the same way - and this is the fun, yet tricky part! Once the adhesive becomes tacky, this is when it is ready to start receiving the metal leaf. Presuming that you are using a transfer leaf, take one sheet from the booklet and place this face down on the area that you have applied the adhesive. Once this is in place start to gently rub over the backing paper to release it onto the surface. Then go on to lay another sheet down carefully overlapping it. Repeat this until the surface is completely covered. Rubbing this on can be done with a specific brush which will help to apply it more evenly. If you are using a loose leaf form booklet, it's recommended to use a brush to get to the more hard to reach, and intricate areas.
#4. Finish It Off
Once you have finished applying the leaf it's time to wait for a few hours so that it can fully dry out. Once you're satisfied that it has, use a soft brush to mop away any excess bits of leaf that have overlapped. Then brush over the whole surface to create a soft burnish on the leaf, and there you have it - a high quality gilded finish which really doesn't take much time! If you want a long lasting finish you might want to add some further protection to the finished result, there are a variety of varnishes and lacquers available for this purpose.
Metal leaf provides such a stunning finish that adds dimensions and textures that other decorative finishes just can't achieve. If you're thinking about giving metal leaf a try, check out our full range of metal leaf and complementary accessories here. Look out for our future blogs on our Facebook page, on Twitter or over at Google+!
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