how to gold leaf a frame

Marian Parsonscrafts, Decorating, Dining Room, My House, Tutorials22 Comments

 When I was out shopping for the upcoming Lucketts Spring Market last week, I was looking for artwork for my living room as well.  I was really hoping for a pair of charming paintings, but I didn’t have any luck.  I did find two vintage Currier & Ives prints, though.  They were sweet farmhouse scenes and I thought they would work well with a new frame and mat.  The frames they were in looked a little dated and didn’t showcase the prints very well.

I had a couple of black resin frames I bought on clearance a few years ago that were the perfect size.  The black looked too dark for the prints (and my room), so I decided to gold leaf them.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

This is what the frames looked like before.  They were a bit dusty, so I cleaned them off to get them ready for the sizing.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

When applying gold leaf, you need sizing, a brush to apply the sizing (I like a 1″ flat artist brush), gold leaf (or imitation gold leaf, like I’m using) and a fluffy brush to smooth down the leaf.  Don’t try to use glue or ModPodge or something else for the sizing.  You need sizing specifically for applying metal leaf.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

Apply the sizing with a brush.  It will look milky when applied, but will dry clear.  Allow it to dry until tacky to the touch (about 30 minutes.)  The tack will hold for several hours, but make sure you check the label.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

Lay a piece of leaf onto the tacky sizing using a piece of tissue paper, which is in between each piece of gold leaf.  You can also pick up leaf with static electricity created by rubbing the fluffy brush on your palm.  The leaf is delicate, so the idea is to handle it as little as possible.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

When applying gold leaf, it’s normal to get a few cracks here and there, especially when leafing something that has some detail to it (as most frames do.)

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

Take smaller pieces of leaf to fill in those cracks.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

Rub the leafing into the cracks gently with your finger…

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

…and it’s amazing how those cracks just disappear.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

The last step is to brush away all of the fly-away gold leaf pieces with the fluffy brush.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

It’s a little messy, but the results are worth it!

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

The prints are so pretty, aren’t they?  I’m not sure if they are hand colored engravings or just prints.  Anyone know how to tell the difference?

Anyway, I cut a mat for each of them using my mat cutter (you can see a tutorial for that HERE.)  At first, I intended to hang them in the living room and I gave that a try…

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

…but they just weren’t right in there.  I decided to move them into the dining room, to flank the doorway to the home office.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

Those walls have been blanked since I painted, so I was looking for something to hang there as well.  These frames and prints suited the dining room better.

 gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed

…and the gold leaf frames work well with Eulalie and her gold leaf frame, which was an $11.00 clearance frame from Hobby Lobby that was a pink, pickled-looking wood finish.  It was the perfect size, so I just gold leafed it to make it suit a cow as special as Eulalie.

gold leaf tutorial | miss mustard seed


Back at the studio…it’s Christmas in April again!  I’m working on another round of tutorials for Christmas. A flocked tree is being delivered tomorrow for the occasion…

  christmas in april | miss mustard seed

how to gold leaf a frame

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22 Comments on “how to gold leaf a frame”

  1. The gold leaf frames and prints add a nice punch. I was an art ed major before the days of a mat cutting system and those days were brutal. A flocked tree? Bet that will turn heads coming in.

  2. Marian-if they are hand colored engravings there will be an engraving plate impression that surrounds the outside of the image. If they are reproductions you should be able to see a dot pattern in the images, just like the Halftone/dot patterns you see in newspaper & book photographs. Here’s a link to a halftone image.

  3. To tell if a piece is hand-colored or four-color-process printed, look at it with a magnifying glass. If you see dots of yellow, blue, a reddish pink and black placed closely together it has been printed via a printing press that uses their placement to create what looks like, to the human eye, full color.

  4. Wow!! You have been on a roll lately. So many wonderful projects. Everything you touch turns to, well, gold! Love it! Thank you for spinning my creative juices.

  5. THANK YOU for this How To…. the frames look amazing with your “new” prints and I LOVE where you put them! What a cool thing about the $11 Hobby Lobby PINK frame…. I would have never thought of that – You are just so darned smart! Again, great post!!

  6. Yes! thanks for this….I’ve been trying to get enthused about leafing some of my frames too….good incentive for me.

  7. Wow…when I think of all of the frames that I got rid of before reading several blogs about either spray painting them or now gold leafing that I could be using. Anyway, thanks for this idea…I just purchased some inexpensive black framed mirrors from Walmart that I think would look great with this application!

  8. I have seen very, very old gilded pieces on which the gilding has been applied over “bole” in a rust-red or vermilion color. The “bole” gives a warmer color to the gilding itself and if/when fine cracks develop, they reveal the underlying color, which is an added decorative element in the piece. “Bole” traditionally is a clay mixture. I wonder if a modern-day piece, like a resin picture frame, could be painted with acrylic paint in the traditional color, and whether the effect after gilding would be the same? It is a more interesting effect than just plain gilding.

    1. So glad you brought this to our attention here. I’m an old art major too (operative word being “old”), and the under painting was the first thing I thought of when I saw this version of gilding. The bole gives the piece so much more depth and presence. Rubbing over it with an umber wax also diminishes some of the “bright,shiny, new” look.

    1. Are you viewing them on a phone or tablet or on a computer? We just changed to a mobile version and the ads are within the post, instead of on the sidebar, so they are definitely more intrusive. They were showing after every picture, but that was way too much, so I asked to have them cut back by half. Let me know how you’re viewing it. Thanks!

  9. I inherited a real Currier and Ives lady from my mother. Most of them have names and mine
    is Mary. She also had an Alice and I gave it to another Alice who treasures it. She is wearing a
    red top. Used the same frame and she matted it in the same red. Very nice.

  10. Hi Marion, you’re the first blog I read each morning and am loving the inspiration. I’ve gilded before and my imitation gold leaf suggested sealing so I went over it with dark wax and then wiped and polished. Loved the finish, didn’t dull off at all but gave it a bit more patina and brought out some cracks. I’ve also been painting old mat boards with AS chalk paint, leaving to dry out thoroughly and loving the upcycling of old pictures bought at junk shops. Minimum outlay 🙂

  11. Beautiful frames! I have done the silver gold leaf, too and love it as well as the gold in our art gallery here at home.

    I love the sweet prints! They look perfect in the dining room!

    The changes you have made in your boys’ room are so handsome! And if you are ever looking for pencil portraits of your boys….. my 15 year old daughter does commission work for a very low price. Her work is considered at professional level – and so of course I have not a little maternal joy in her gift! 🙂

    Here is her info….

    Thank you for sharing all you do with us – I am always so inspired by your creativity and the beauty you produce in the things you do.


  12. Hi Marian- Those frames look like a million bucks! Love the way they came out! I have to ask though, my eyes were drawn to the corner hutches- I have a dresser that I’ve been clueless on what do to… if you don’t mind my asking, what paint colors did you use on those corner hutches in your dining room? I’m thinking they might look great on my dresser….

  13. Do you have any recommendations on brands/colors of gold leaf? I love the color you chose and I’m a little overwhelmed with all of the options out there.

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