Gold leaf is never referred to as a metal leaf although it is a metal leaf. Thin sheets of metal are known by the term metal sheets. They do not contain gold. A good quality yellow colored gold leaf will have 91.7% gold content. There is another variety of gold which is silver in color. It has a gold content of 50%.
Gold leaf is manufactured through a process called gold beating by hammering gold into very thin foils. The centuries-old process is still used to employ gold sheet for gilding.
What Is Gold Leaf Lettering?
Carved letters look fantastic when created using gold leaf. It is a costly tool of the sign-making industry. In glass gilding, gold leaf is employed on the glass to produce amazing artifacts or signage.
Proven Methods To Make Gold Leaf Letters
Any lettering endeavor will stand out from the competition if created with gold foil. Gold leaf lettering can be accomplished on many surfaces like:
The quality of the job depends on the adhesive employed to stick the gold leaf onto surfaces. The size of letters is another factor that adds charm to the finished job. Gold leaf artists place a lot of importance on good quality stamps and stencils.
Putting Glue On Gold Foil
Common glues don’t do the job for gold leaf, so a special adhesive known as ‘sizing’ is employed in jobs that require gold foil. The gold foil is very thin and light, so you shouldn’t apply the gluing brush without checking for static electricity. Experienced artists use this property of gold leaf to their advantage. They will first pat the brush on another surface to create some static and then hold it over the foil. The foil will move towards the bristles enabling them to apply ‘sizing’ evenly.
After applying, do not wait for the sizing to get dry. Paste the surfaces together when the glue is still viscous.
Tip: Don’t use sizing glue on materials other than gold leaf. It will make a mess of your job.
Gilded Rubber Stamps
Gold leaf can be applied to rubber stamp impressions to make them gorgeous. This is a common strategy employed as part of branding. The process is so simple that you don’t require artistic skills to create a gilded stamp. The simple methods are as follows:
i. Use a small paintbrush and apply sizing glue to the rubber craft stamp. Create an even thin coating with utmost care.
ii. Apply the stamp exactly on the spot of the surface where the gold leafing should appear.
iii. Wait for some more time to allow the sizing to become moderately tacky. Wait for the glue to lose its wetness, but don’t wait too long to let it dry. Usually, it takes less than an hour.
iv. Use tweezers to stick the thin pieces of gold leaf over the sizing. Smoothen the surface of the foil using a good quality gilding brush.
Tip: Instead of using a big piece of gold leaf, scraps leftover from previous jobs can be used to create the same effect.
Freestyle Painted Letters
Artists who make hand-painted signs employ gold leafing on their projects that require elegance. The process is rather simple for an artist well versed in painting freehand fonts.
i. Make the surface of your work even by flattening any bumps or wrinkles.
ii. Write the content in sizing glue.
iii. Examine each letter carefully to ensure that the sizing is spread evenly.
iv. Stick pieces of gold leaf very carefully using a pair of good quality tweezers.
Tip: Cut out the letters and trace their outline on the destination surface before applying glue.
Gold Leaf Stencilling
There are two popular methods to create gold leaf lettering using a stencil.
1. Using A Readymade Stencil.
Stencils created from many materials are available. The common stencil creators are made of plastic. Despite the material, any stencil can be used to create awesome gold leaf lettering.
i. Hold the stencil in place using paper clips.
ii. Create your content by tracing with a soft pencil.
iii. After removing the stencil, apply an even coat of sizing using an appropriate brush.
iv. Stick gold foil on to the glued portion to form charming signs.
This method is usually used for quick jobs requiring gold leaf lettering.
2. Creating Your Stencil.
i. Draw the content on thick paper using a stencil.
ii. Cut out the letters using suitable sharp objects like a knife or a paper cutter.
iii. This will act as a tailor-made stencil to begin your gold leaf lettering project.
iv. Place the stencilled content on the surface where the actual project should appear.
v. Use a repositionable spray adhesive to stick the stencil onto the destination surface.
vi. Apply sizing using an artist’s brush.
vii. Wait for the sizing glue to get tacky. This can take up to an hour.
viii. Stick gold leaf on the glued portion using tweezers.
Your gold leaf lettering project is now ready for display.
The Professional Approach To Gold Leaf Lettering
It is not all that difficult to become a professional gold leafing artist. The right amount of patience and equipment can do wonders. Below are the simple steps to finish your first gold leaf lettering project.
i. Arranging the Materials.
Have you seen a car getting spray painted? The painter first covers the chrome and other areas where paint shouldn’t reach. Similarly, you should cover the areas that are to be left alone with painter’s tape. Painter’s tape uses a weak adhesive which makes it easy to remove it without leaving any marks or glue on the surface.
ii. Smoothening Using Sandpaper.
Sand the surface that is not covered with tape. Do this carefully with focus till the surface is smooth. Use a clean tack rag to collect the dust produced from sanding. Repeat the cleaning process once more to ensure a dust-free surface.
iii. Applying Primer.
Get hold of a good gilder’s primer to apply on the smooth surface. Apply the primer evenly on the surface using a paintbrush. Some people use a regular primer that requires the application of a pigmented paint known as bole. Gilder’s primer is pigmented and can hide any blemishes.
iv. Application Of Sizing Glue
Use a paintbrush to apply the special gilding glue sizing onto the primer. You will need to wait at least thirty minutes for the sizing to become semi-dry. It will get to a clear finish to let know now is the time to stick the gold leaf.
Tip: Roll your knuckles over the surface to test the readiness of the glue. A slight whimper is a sign that the surface is ready.
v. The Gilding Cushion.
The use of a gilding cushion is to cut the gold leaf to fit the shapes created on the surface. The gilding cushion is made by stretching the smoothened lather on a wooden chunk. The leather is hard enough to place the gold leaf on it to cut. Smooth surface of the leather won’t mar the gild.
vi. Shaping The Gold Leaf
Take a sheet of gold leaf and cut it into small pieces. Put the leaf on the gilding cushion with the matte side facing up. Gently cut it into small pieces using a sharp cutting knife. This can be done while the sizing is drying. It is suggested that beginners do this part before preparing the surface. As you get used to the proceedings, you can put the drying time to best use.
vii. Separating The Leaf And The Backing.
Take the smaller pieces of gold leaf from the cushion and place it on the surface of the object with the backing side facing up towards the artist. Smoothen the gild using a dry brush to flatten any bumps. Insert a thin knife between the backing and the gold leaf and gently pull off the backing paper.
Tip: Blowing on the gilded paper will ensure that it settles flat on the surface.
viii. The Smoothing Process.
Place the backing paper on the gold leaf. Remove any air pockets trapped between the gold leaf and the sizing by gently running your fingers over the backing paper.
ix. Sticking Firmly.
Run over the gold leaf with a smooth gilder’s brush to even the surface. Apply a light and even up and down motion to get rid of redundant pieces of gild. This will ensure a rich look to the finished work.
x. Mending Flaws.
Small tears or minute cavities can appear at places where the foil didn’t stick properly. This is quite natural due to the frail nature of the gold leaf. Place tiny bits of the leaf on such spots with tweezers and flatten using the gilder’s brush.
xi. Protection Coat.
Select a clear acrylic compound. Apply it as a top coat on the surface using a smooth brush. The acrylic will need at least five hours to dry. This clear coat will protect the gold leaf lettering from UV light, dust, and moisture. Handling can cause scratches and other impairments. The new acrylic coat will act as a good prevention against such damages.