How To: apply Loose Gold Metal Leaf to carved wood furniture

Hello I’m Annie Sloan, welcome to my studio. So, today I’m going to talk about metal leaf and how to apply it to carved wood furniture.

This is how you’ll buy it from my stockist shops. There’s gold, and gold is actually brass, but we’ve always called it gold because real gold is actually quite small, but this is a brass leaf. They’re two and a half inches by two and a half, and these are five by five. Then there’s copper, that’s real copper, and then silver. It’s not silver it’s actually aluminium. So that’s how you’ll buy them and this is how it comes – that’s what’s inside. This is a book of leaf.

You’ll try to pick it up, each leaf is in between two sheets of tissue paper, but sometimes it can be quite sticky and attach itself to your hands so the best thing is to have a little bit of talcum powder on your hands, just a tiny bit, nothing too big.

Look at that, very very light… that’s five inches by five inches and that’s called loose leaf and that is what we call gold or imitation gold or brass. There’s 20 sheets in there.

So, today I’m going to do this piece, it’s a French-style stool. It’s got one of my fabrics on it, it’s a linen with French Linen and Old White. I think it all works really well.

I’ve painted this with some primer red which is a traditional colour. Everything’s very traditional what I’m doing today and I’m going to use brass loose-leaf on it. Before I do anything I need to apply the glue. So, the glue that you use on here is actually called, this is it here, it’s mine, and it’s called gold size. Size is just an old English word for glue – bit confusing. It’s extraordinary stuff. I’m going to dip it in, you only need a small amount and what’s so amazing is that it goes on, I’m just going to wipe it across, there are several ways you could do it, but this is one way you could do it. Wipe it across, and you’ll see it’s white, and after a while it will go completely clear. When it’s completely clear is when it’s ready. If it’s still a purpley-blue colour or white it’s not ready to be used. So that way I’ve just brushed over the top, the highlights, or you could be a little bit more careful and really go deep in… so you get into all the crevices. I’m doing it with my left hand there. So this bit will only go to the top and those bits will go right into all the bits.

A big tip, once you’ve done that, don’t leave your brush because that will kill your brush, so into the water it goes.

So this is a little bit I did already, I’ve just done the top bit. I’m going to take my leaf and I shall take the little brush. I’ve put a little bit of masking tape there so that it doesn’t go onto the fabric or anywhere. It’s quite robust, although it’s very fine it’s quite robust.

Now it’s sticking on one bit… and I’m just going to dab quite hard. Remember I just brushed it over the top on here. So what it’s going to do, it’s going to leave some of the red showing. I say red, I mean the primer red. This primer red would be the traditional colour – it’s the colour of the earth – Italian earth.

Dab dab dab dab… Now where I haven’t got size, it won’t stick and I did that on purpose to show you that wherever you want the
gold to be, you put the size. I know it seems obvious but sometimes people don’t quite guess that. So if you don’t paint it, you don’t size it, it won’t go gold.

Now you can really brush quite hard… and then I can tear it off. Now I’m just rubbing away until that’s all the places where the gold size was. So that looks pretty good I think. It’s actually a little bit too shiny. So real gold doesn’t have that shine, because this is brass. To get that real good looking gold we’re going to do something which will not only protect it – remember that brass will tarnish so it will stop it tarnishing – it would also protect it from getting scratched and what-have-you, but it will also look really real.

So I’m just going to do that bit, then I’m going to take a little bit of cloth, you could use a brush to apply it with… a normal brush or one of those brushes or, a wax brush. But, because it’s quite delicate I’m going to do it with just a cloth. I’m using clear wax…

I’m gently going over it. A little bit less shiny than it was, but that is actually what real gold looks like.

I’ve done another bit already… also this is the front side, so there’s the whole thing. It does look fantastic doesn’t it. So this bit here I’ve done very solidly, I’ve not missed much of it because I put the gold size everywhere – in all the grooves and all the bits of carving. Whereas this bit I rubbed the size over the top.

If you wanted though, what you might want to use is a little bit of brown wax. I’m going to put some brown wax on there. I’ve already put the clear wax on and now I’m just going to try a little bit of the brown wax. The clear wax underneath will help it smooth itself over so you can sort of age it without it getting too heavy. I think that looks rather lovely… and you can do as little or as much as you like. So perhaps down here I could do a little bit more… and what that’s done also is where all the grooves of the leaf shapes, it goes into those and I think it looks really fabulous. So I’ve just concentrated here on the leaf, but of course I would be doing the whole thing. This is chalk paint at the moment and at the moment it’s got nothing on it, so the whole thing would be waxed.

So there you have it, that’s how you do a piece with my gold leaf. Something traditional and something really rather elegant.

Find out how to use Annie Sloan Gold Metal Leaf and Gold Size on carved wood furniture.

Using my Metallic Loose Leaf (available in Imitation Gold, Silver, and Copper) is one of the easiest ways to incorporate some extra glitz and glamour into your home and take your painting projects up a notch. This is very much a beginner skill level technique, all you need is the right tools and to watch this video!

I have three different colours of Metallic Leaf, Imitation Gold, Imitation Silver, and Copper. All three colours are available as Loose Leaf (best for small or carved areas) or Transfer Leaf (better for large or flat areas). The leaf is 5-inch x 5-inch and comes in booklets of 20 sheets. You can purchase a pack through my website or Stockist network.

The Imitation Gold is made using brass. Imitation Silver Leaf is actually aluminium. Copper, being the most affordable of the three precious metals, is actual copper. Each book contains 20 leaf of Metallic Leaf between two sheets of tissue. The tissue keeps the Metallic Leaf from sticking. The sheets of metal are so thin they can affix to any damp or moist areas; for this reason I use talcum powder when I’m handling the leaf itself to prevent it from sticking to my fingers.

Step by step guide to applying Loose Leaf to carved furniture

  1. Paint your furniture using Chalk Paint™. Here, Annie used Chalk Paint™ in Primer Red. You can use Metallic Leaf on unpainted furniture, but the textured, matt finish of Chalk Paint™ does make an ideal surface for gilding. Furthermore, if there are any tears once you’ve applied the Loose Leaf, you’ll be able to see the base peeking through and you may prefer this to be painted.
  2. Apply Gold Size to the area you want to Gild. The Gold Size is your binding agent; “size” is simply an Old English word for glue. Pro tip: immediately put brushes used with Gold Size to soak as if the Gold Size is allowed to dry it’ll be VERY hard to clean!
  3. Wait for the Gold Size to dry down to optimal stickiness. This is key; applying Leaf too soon will cause it to slip. When you apply Gold Size it’ll look white with a blue or purple tinge; as it dries it will become see-through. This takes around 15 minutes (the perfect amount of time to wash your brush!). Once the Gold Size is see-through, it’s ready for you to apply your Leaf!
  4. Pick up your Metallic Leaf. If your hands are dry you can do this directly; if you have oily hands you can do so by holding the tissue paper the Leaf is affixed to. Gently lay your Imitation Gold, Silver or Copper Leaf over the Gold Size.
  5. Use a dabbing motion to push the Leaf against the Size. Be firm so that you cover every crevice. Tear off any excess Leaf which isn’t touching the Gold Size; if you’re able to do this neatly and lay the spare bits back onto tissue paper you can still use them.
  6. Protect your Gilding with Chalk Paint™ Wax or Lacquer. Here, Annie has used Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax. As well as protecting gilding from everyday wear, scratches, and tarnishing, Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax has the added benefit of knocking back the shine of the Imitation Gold Leaf and giving a more authentically golden dimmed lustre. Alternatively, you may prefer to emphasise the shine by using Annie Sloans’ Gloss Chalk Paint™ Lacquer.
  7. Annie is demonstrating here with Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax, which she is applying with a lint-free cotton cloth. Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax complements the rustic look she’s going for and will allow for the application of coloured Waxes afterwards. The cloth application method allows Annie to be more gentle with her delicate gilding than a Wax Brush might. Recently applied unprotected gilding will be delicate so if you’re using Gloss or Matt Chalk Paint™ Lacquer please be sure to use a small brush and gentle pressure (or even a small roller for larger areas).
  8. (Optional step!) Using Dark Chalk Paint™ Wax to emphasize detailing. Here, Annie is applying Dark Chalk Paint™ Wax over Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax. The coat of Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax ensures optimal protection and primes the Gold Leaf so that Annie can be more firm rubbing the Dark Wax into the crevices of the furniture. It also makes it very easy to wipe away excess Dark Wax in case of over-application, so that it serves as a decorative rather than functional sealant.
  9. (Optional step!) photograph your work and share with friends, family, and the wider Chalk Paint™ community by using #anniesloanhome hashtags. We love seeing what you paint and your work may even be shared on our social media channels or in our newsletter!

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