San Francisco Painting Contractor notes: How to apply gold leaf.

Newel post painting for a San Francisco home                                     Gold leaf layer painting job for a San Francisco home

(Newel Post with  a coat of “sizing”)                 (A layer of gold leaf applied…)

My team of professional painters is often asked to apply gold leaf to Victorian exteriors. Here are some tips:

First off, I choose patent gold leaf, which means that the gold is actually lightly adhered to the  removable tissue pages for easy gilding outdoors. Otherwise, the fragile leaves of (non-patent)gold tend to flutter off and disintegrate in the slightest breeze.

I like 22 karat gold as it’s fairly bright and punchy. In San Francisco, I purchase my leaf at “Sinopia”, and I find them to be very competitively priced, at $45/book.

Before applying the gold, make sure that the surface being leafed is clean and sound. Also keep in mind that even the slightest blemish will show through the gold, so fill and sand to a smooth finish. The traditional approach is to prime using a Venetian red, although this is not necessary.

Next, paint on the “sizing”, which acts as a glue for the gold to stick to. Sizing can be oil or water based and  fast or slow-dry. We like an oil-based, slow-drying sizing, as it is smoother than water-based sizing, and more durable for exterior use than the fast-drying products. Slow-dry sizing will dry to a tacky consistency after about 12 hours, and then will completely dry to a non-sticky consistency after about 16-20 hours. Keep in mind that the gold will stick to the sizing wherever it’s applied, so try to be accurate! We like to paint the sizing at the end of the day, then return the next morning to apply the gold (Alternatively, paint the sizing in the early am, and then apply the gold in the evening).

To apply the gold, We use scissors/razor and a small, soft brush. We then cut the 3-3/8″ sheets into more manageable chunks, to avoid wasting gold. So, for a detail that is 1 or 2″ wide, we can more accurately apply the gold without waste. Then, carefully extract each leaf from the book, place one corner against the pre-sized detail being leafed, then use the brush to paste the leaf against the sizing. The brush allows one to paste the gold more evenly against the sizing than by using  fingertips alone.

Next, carefully peel away the paper backing. The gold should be mostly adhered, but loose bits can be carefully pasted into the surface using the brush. There will still be some missing spots in the gold finish, which can be then filled in with left-over bits of leaf.

Apply a second layer of sizing and gold to solidify the finish and cover any cracks/gaps left from the first layer. Then, carefully burnish the finished product using a clean, soft cloth if desired, and voila! You’re done.

True gold leaf should outlast the adjacent painted finishes and so it does not require clear-coating like artificial leaf or painted gold.

Contact Color Touch professional house painter for special painting projects including gold leaf application on classic historical homes. We provide painting services for homes in Danville, San Ramon, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, and other Bay Area cities.