Gilding with metal transfer leaf might seem daunting at first, but once you get started, you’ll see how fun and satisfying it can be. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to gild with confidence. Whatever metal you choose, transfer leaf can be easier to handle than loose leaf and is great for larger surfaces – we’ve used it to gild whole doors and even walls at Annie Sloan HQ!
You don’t need much in your toolkit to get started – the metal transfer leaf of your choice, some Gold Size and a paint brush. The secret is in the prep – before you gild, you’ll want to make sure the surface you’re working on is perfectly smooth. If you’re lacking in confidence, practice on a smooth surface that won’t be seen or used first. Finally, once your masterpiece is complete, remember to seal your work in with either Clear Chalk Paint Wax® or Lacquer so it will last for years to come.
Step by step guide to using metal transfer leaf
- Whatever surface you’re gilding; ensure it is completely smooth. Any imperfections and marks beneath the metal leaf will be more prominent once gilded. In this tutorial, Annie has painted her chair with Chalk Paint® in Athenian Black and sanded it back for a smooth effect and maximum modern style.
- Before applying Gold Size, ensure you have enough metal leaf to cover the area you plan to gild. Each pack of Annie Sloan Metal Leaf (Loose or Transfer) contains 25 sheets. For this modern gilded look, Annie is using Imitation Gold Transfer Leaf.
- Use a Small Flat Brush to apply Gold Size to the area you wish to gild. Size is an old English word for glue, so “Gold Size” literally means “a glue for gold”.
- Apply the size consistently: be careful with the amount you use as too much size will take longer to dry and could cause slipping when you apply your leaf. Make sure not to overbrush (over brushing is repeatedly brushing the same area; it can lead to balling and pilling of gold size and Chalk Paint®) and remember to brush away any drips from the edges of your piece. Clean brushes immediately after use.
- Once applied, the size will first appear white, then purplish-blue, then finally clear. Wait for the size to be completely clear (around 10-15 minutes; depending on the climate and size of the area) before applying your Transfer Leaf. This is when the size is stickiest. If there’s any white or blue patches the leaf will not adhere properly. Once dried clear, the size will be sticky to touch, and will remain so for weeks on end. You can apply metal leaf immediately or for as long as the size is sticky.
- Take a sheet of Transfer Leaf and hold it by the wide tissue margin for ease, being careful not to touch the metal itself. Gently lay the metal side face down onto the size. Once this is placed it can’t be moved, so take your time.
- Take a clean, dry brush (here Annie is using a Small Flat Brush) and lightly brush the back of the sheet. Ensure you focus on the edges as this is where the leaf would be most likely to peel, but don’t let your brush touch the size. Keep brushing and applying light pressure until the tissue paper comes away from the metal leaf.
- Continue to brush the metal surface to fully flatten it with light pressure. Brush any loose bits of metal away making sure they don’t stick to rest of the size. Any large bits can be kept for future projects.
- Take your next sheet and overlap it slightly with the other.
- Repeat step 8 and continue until your whole area is gilded. Remove any excess leaf with a clean, dry brush.
- Once finished, you need to seal the Transfer Leaf. Both brass (Imitation Gold) and copper will tarnish, so sealing these with Clear Chalk Paint® Wax or Lacquer is essential or they may dis-colour over time. Aluminium (Imitation Silver) does not tarnish but it’s still advisable to seal with either wax or lacquer to prolong your finish. Both Chalk Paint® Wax and Lacquer will also slightly dull the shine of the metals, mimicking the look of authentic gold and silver.
- Apply Chalk Paint® Wax with either a brush or lint-free cloth, removing any excess with a lint-free cloth also. Alternatively, apply Chalk Paint® Lacquer with a brush and wash immediately after use.
- Finished! A modern gilded look.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know to gild with transfer leaf like a pro. Whether you’re planning on gilding the back of a chair like Annie or going for an even larger piece of furniture, this guide should have you creating a modern gilded look you can be proud of.
Ready to start? Remember to support local by buying your gilding materials through your local Annie Sloan Stockist. When you’re done, take a picture of your finished project and share it with the Annie Sloan community using #AnnieSloan.