Step-by-step instructions and two videos.
1. Prime the surface with gesso.
2. Paint a dark-coloured acrylic or metal leaf basecoat. For gold leaf choose red oxide or burnt sienna. For silver choose black or dark green. For copper choose red oxide or burnt umber. Let the base coat dry before continuing.
3. Use a ¾” or 1” brush to apply gold size. The metal leaf will only adhere to the surface where you apply the size so be sure to check that you have not missed any areas. For imitation leaf, use either water-based or oil-based size. For real silver leaf, use only oil size. Let this application reach the proper tack (the necessary degree of stickiness to be ready to receive the leaf.) This should be between one and eight hours. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label.
4. Apply the sheet of metal leaf to the sticky surface.
5. While you protect the leaf with tissue, press it onto the surface with a soft blending brush.
6. When the leaf is dry, burnish it with a soft, flat brush to remove the excess, then polish the surface with a soft cloth to buff to a shine.
7. Apply a coat of gloss varnish to seal and protect the fragile metal leafing.
Here is a video showing bad and good techniques for applying silver leaf.
Are you looking for a quicker application?
Do you want an easy project for kids? Here is a fun idea.