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Gold Foil

Does anyone have experience using gold foil on paper or cloth
(canvas)? I’ve done gold leaf on parchment with glair and gesso, and
gold foil underlying transparent enamels tacked with gum tragacanth,
but haven’t worked with gold on paper or other materials. I was
wondering if it clould be burnished directly onto paper without an
adhesive. I want it kind of krinkly so it will catch the light and
sparkle from all directions, so applying it section by section is
fine. The paper/matboard/etc. will be squares about 3.5 inches .
Metallic gold oil paint (in a tube) looks great when the light
shines on it but dull if you’re not viewing it from the 'correct’

If you recommend materials with brand names, I would need to know
the composition or generic term, as such items are often not
available in my country.

Many thanks for any tips.
Janet in Jerusalem


I would suggest that you send your question to the technical
department at Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials []
as they carry a full line of metal foils, glues, burnishers,
brushes, and all the other tools you need for gilding. I suspect
that all you will need to adhere the foil is hide glue [a.k.a.
rabbit skin glue], which is widely available from fine book binders
as well as traditional gilders. Here in the US gilding – the
application by adhesives of layers of gold leaf to all kinds of
surfaces from paper mache to wood to base metal – was nearly a lost
art. But recently it seems to have experienced a bit of a revival,
particularly in the architectural restoration field. Painters have
also gotten interested in the use of metal foils of all kinds, which
is why Daniel Smith carries the supplies.

Bear in mind that gold leaf is much thinner than gold foils used in
enameling and will give you quite a different textural effect. You
could actually emboss, draw, or otherwise pattern foil before
sticking it down, just the way you would for bastaille enameling.
Gold leaf is too thin and fragile for that.

hope that helps,
Anne Hollerbach

Hi, Janet, As a former calligrapher, I can tell you that golf leaf,
let alone gold foil, will not stick directly to paper. I don’t know
what “glair” is, but gesso is the usual. As an aside, for doing
illuminated letters-- those gold ones with elaborate decoration
around them in old manuscripts-- one depends on the fact that gold
doesn’t stick to paper. The part to be gilded is covered very
carefully with gesso, even in tiny details. Then, after it is dry,
the gold is applied and burnished down. A brush will wipe away
everything that doesn’t have gesso under it, so the gold is as
detailed as one wishes. Multiple layers of gesso are used to create
built-up letters. Believe it or not, coloring the gesso will change
the way the gold looks, it is so thin, so the gesso is often red.
The point about the layers of gesso is, you can probably control the
texture by texturing the gesso with a brush when it is tacky (on
maybe the third coat??) though I’ve never tried this. Good luck!


gold foil on paper or cloth (canvas) 

How about electroforming?

“As anyone blessed with bronze babyshoes knows, it is possible to
electroform over non-metallic objects. The only requirement is a
coating of a conductive paint. This can be painted onto a matrix of
wood, plastic, paper, stone or about anything else. In some cases
(like the babyshoes) the object will remain encased in its metal
shell. In others the original form is burned away once the metal is
sufficiently strong to stand without it.” --Tim McCreight, “The
Complete Metalsmith”

The process sounds similar to electroplating, except it deposits a
much thicker layer.


Hi Janet The traditional gold size will stain paper around the edges
of the area to be gilded. I often use a water-based gold size
(although I haven’t used it on paper, I suspect it would work well).
It is an acrylic size called “Aquasize” by Rolco Labs Inc. It
achieves the correct tackiness in 25 minutes and will remain ready to
use for up to 24 hours. Very convenient too. We buy it from a large
art supplies company called Curry’s in Canada and also from a
supplier for sign makers. Try similar place in Isreal.


Sandra Noble Goss
Owen Sound, Canada.