Gold Leaf Techniques On Glass & How To Start

Below, I use one of my most recent projects to demonstrate the process of Reverse Glass Gilding, and after the demo I provide a list with links to the materials you will need to get started.


REVERSE GLASS GILDING

Step 1 : Clean the Glass

Before getting to work, make sure the glass is free of finger prints / smudges and any lint or fuzz. Clean both sides of the glass with glass cleaner and a lint free paper towel.

Before getting to work, make sure the glass is free of finger prints / smudges and any lint or fuzz. Clean both sides of the glass with glass cleaner and a lint free paper towel.

Step 2 : Create your design

When you are just starting out learning the application of gold leaf, the design you create is second in importance to learning of the process. For your first project, I would recommend keeping the design as simple as you feel comfortable. Maybe just a primary shape, or a single letter. My first two gold leaf projects were a capital letter 'A' and a number '2'. Since this is my third gold leaf project, I decided to create a composition including a 'Lm' monogram paired with some custom Roman Capitals with Italic flare on the letter 'L'. "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well." -Steve Brown I've included this quote as a little reminder for anyone just beginning to learn about this stuff. The only way we can get better and attain a stronger understanding of the gold leaf process is by just starting. Start simple and once the process makes more sense, then we can begin to create more intricate designs.

When you are just starting out learning the application of gold leaf, the design you create is second in importance to learning of the process. For your first project, I would recommend keeping the design as simple as you feel comfortable. Maybe just a primary shape, or a single letter. My first two gold leaf projects were a capital letter 'A' and a number '2'. Since this is my third gold leaf project, I decided to create a composition including a 'Lm' monogram paired with some custom Roman Capitals with Italic flare on the letter 'L'.

"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well." -Steve Brown
I've included this quote as a little reminder for anyone just beginning to learn about this stuff. The only way we can get better and attain a stronger understanding of the gold leaf process is by just starting. Start simple and once the process makes more sense, then we can begin to create more intricate designs.

 Step 3 : Create A Pounce Pattern to Transfer Design to Glass with Chalk

After sketching or printing your design onto paper, the pounce wheel is used to create little holes around the outlines of the design. After tracing the entire design with the pounce wheel on top of a cutting matt or piece of cardboard, rub the back of the paper with a fine grit sandpaper. This will open up the holes you created with the pounce wheel to allow chalk to transfer through the paper and on to the glass. 

After sketching or printing your design onto paper, the pounce wheel is used to create little holes around the outlines of the design. After tracing the entire design with the pounce wheel on top of a cutting matt or piece of cardboard, rub the back of the paper with a fine grit sandpaper. This will open up the holes you created with the pounce wheel to allow chalk to transfer through the paper and on to the glass. 

 Step 4 : Prepare Water Size (water/gelatin based glue)
 

Water size is the "glue" that adheres gold leaf sheets to glass, and it needs to be prepared fresh before each application of gold.  Water Size Preparation: First, take apart the two halves of two capsules, and soak them in cold/room temp. distilled water for a couple minutes (just enough water to cover the capsules). The capsules won't dissolve into the cold water, but you will notice that they increase in size and get flimsy. Now, hold the stainless steal mug over top a medium flame about 1" away while constantly swirling the mixture. After a couple minutes, you will notice the capsules beginning to fully dissolve into the water. Cook the mixture until there are no visual remnants of the capsules. Then you can add more cold distilled water to the mixture to increase volume.

Water size is the "glue" that adheres gold leaf sheets to glass, and it needs to be prepared fresh before each application of gold. 

Water Size Preparation: First, take apart the two halves of two capsules, and soak them in cold/room temp. distilled water for a couple minutes (just enough water to cover the capsules). The capsules won't dissolve into the cold water, but you will notice that they increase in size and get flimsy. Now, hold the stainless steal mug over top a medium flame about 1" away while constantly swirling the mixture. After a couple minutes, you will notice the capsules beginning to fully dissolve into the water. Cook the mixture until there are no visual remnants of the capsules. Then you can add more cold distilled water to the mixture to increase volume.

 Step 5 : Apply Gold
 

Before laying down any gold. Tape your design to the back of the glass, and use it as a guide to know where to apply the gold. Notice, I have a white circle drawn. This circle was traced with a grease pencil, then the sketch was removed.  If you traced over the area with a grease pencil, make sure to flip the glass over so the grease pencil is on the opposite side from where you will be applying the gold.  Now, Take a Water Size Brush, dip it in the Water Size (glue) and flood the area of glass where you will be applying the gold.  Next, create a static charge by rubbing the Gilders Tip Brush on your hair, then open up your packet of gold to reveal a sheet and place the Gilders Tip Brush on top of the gold. The static charge should pick up the gold, and now the gold can be transfered from the gold packet to the glass. When laying down multiple sheets of gold, it is desirable to overlap the sheets by maybe around a quarter inch. 

Before laying down any gold. Tape your design to the back of the glass, and use it as a guide to know where to apply the gold. Notice, I have a white circle drawn. This circle was traced with a grease pencil, then the sketch was removed. 

If you traced over the area with a grease pencil, make sure to flip the glass over so the grease pencil is on the opposite side from where you will be applying the gold. 

Now, Take a Water Size Brush, dip it in the Water Size (glue) and flood the area of glass where you will be applying the gold. 

Next, create a static charge by rubbing the Gilders Tip Brush on your hair, then open up your packet of gold to reveal a sheet and place the Gilders Tip Brush on top of the gold. The static charge should pick up the gold, and now the gold can be transfered from the gold packet to the glass.

When laying down multiple sheets of gold, it is desirable to overlap the sheets by maybe around a quarter inch. 

 Step 6 : Wait for Gold To Adhere, Then Rub Away Excess Gold
 

Sometimes it takes around an hour or more for the gold to entirely adhere to the glass . You'll know its ready when the gold become shiny. When the gold is shiny, take a cotton ball and lightly brush away any loose pieces of gold. Be aware that gold can scratch gold. So, when rubbing away the loose gold, make sure to clean off the gold that was picked up on the cotton ball before continuing removal. Once you have removed the excess gold, you may find that you missed little spots. Now you can repeat the process, laying down extra gold in the places you missed the first time around. When the second gild has dried, clean away the extra gold again with a cotton ball. This time, you can add a little extra pressure with the cotton ball. Rubbing in a circular motion, you can smooth out any rough areas.

Sometimes it takes around an hour or more for the gold to entirely adhere to the glass . You'll know its ready when the gold become shiny. When the gold is shiny, take a cotton ball and lightly brush away any loose pieces of gold. Be aware that gold can scratch gold. So, when rubbing away the loose gold, make sure to clean off the gold that was picked up on the cotton ball before continuing removal.

Once you have removed the excess gold, you may find that you missed little spots. Now you can repeat the process, laying down extra gold in the places you missed the first time around. When the second gild has dried, clean away the extra gold again with a cotton ball. This time, you can add a little extra pressure with the cotton ball. Rubbing in a circular motion, you can smooth out any rough areas.

 Step 7 : Transfer Design Using Pounce Pattern and Chalk
 

I am using a Quilt Pounce to apply the chalk, but if you're trying to save a bit of money, I've heard that you use also use a thick sock.  ***I taped the pattern to the glass on the top, bottom, and sides. And when I was done chalking the pattern, instead of taking the whole thing off, I kept the pattern taped on the top. This way, I could fold and tape the pattern up and away from the glass, and fold it back down into the same position incase I needed to re-chalk the pattern. ***

I am using a Quilt Pounce to apply the chalk, but if you're trying to save a bit of money, I've heard that you use also use a thick sock. 

***I taped the pattern to the glass on the top, bottom, and sides. And when I was done chalking the pattern, instead of taking the whole thing off, I kept the pattern taped on the top. This way, I could fold and tape the pattern up and away from the glass, and fold it back down into the same position incase I needed to re-chalk the pattern. ***

 Step 8 : Paint Backup Black Overtop Gold
 

 Step 9 : Wash Away Excess Gold
 

 Step 10 : Paint in the background a solid color
 

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 Step 10 : Let Background Paint Dry then Frame your Glass!


SUPPLIES

When I first started reading about gold leaf techniques, the entire process was foreign to me, as it might be to you. It took me a while to figure out everything that I would need to get started. So, I figured that sharing this knowledge in a list format would be helpful to people interested in learning about gold leaf! I've provided links for most the supplies, so if you are so inclined, you can build up your digital shopping cart.

Gold Leaf Techniques by Kent H. Smith - I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book and reading through the first few sections before getting started. The author explains gold leaf techniques in great detail. And this is how I learned the process. Below I have created a list of the stuff you'll need, and the book will help further explain how to use everything. 

Gold Leaf Techniques by Kent H. Smith - I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book and reading through the first few sections before getting started. The author explains gold leaf techniques in great detail. And this is how I learned the process. Below I have created a list of the stuff you'll need, and the book will help further explain how to use everything. 

A Glass Picture Frame - Glass frames are relatively inexpensive, and most likely you already have some lying around in your basement, or hanging on your walls. I recommend starting with a medium size frame... maybe around 8"x10". Painting tiny details on glass can be difficult, so I recommend starting out with a very simple design. Maybe just one letter, number, or generic shape. The first couple times you try applying gold leaf to glass, its more about learning the process than the final outcome of the art created. So, keep it simple and be patient. 

A Glass Picture Frame - Glass frames are relatively inexpensive, and most likely you already have some lying around in your basement, or hanging on your walls. I recommend starting with a medium size frame... maybe around 8"x10". Painting tiny details on glass can be difficult, so I recommend starting out with a very simple design. Maybe just one letter, number, or generic shape. The first couple times you try applying gold leaf to glass, its more about learning the process than the final outcome of the art created. So, keep it simple and be patient. 

Genuine / Professional Quality Gold Leaf - It's an expensive way to learn, but I think it's important to use the real deal if you want to gain a better understanding of how genuine gold works. Imitation gold is a lot thicker, tarnishes quickly, and just doesn't act the same way as genuine gold, so why even bother? 

Genuine / Professional Quality Gold Leaf - It's an expensive way to learn, but I think it's important to use the real deal if you want to gain a better understanding of how genuine gold works. Imitation gold is a lot thicker, tarnishes quickly, and just doesn't act the same way as genuine gold, so why even bother? 

Gilders Tip For Loose Gold- This Gilders Tip Brush is very thin, and is used to pick up and place the flimsy gold leaf sheets onto the glass. In order to pick up the gold leaf sheets, it helps to charge this brush with static electricity by rubbing the bristles on the hair of your head and/or arm.

Gilders Tip For Loose Gold- This Gilders Tip Brush is very thin, and is used to pick up and place the flimsy gold leaf sheets onto the glass. In order to pick up the gold leaf sheets, it helps to charge this brush with static electricity by rubbing the bristles on the hair of your head and/or arm.

Gelatin Capsules (Empty Pill Capsules) ,  Stainless Steal Mug,  and Water Size Brush - Gelatin Capsules are dissolved into distilled water to create the Water Size AKA. "glue" that adheres the gold to the glass. Water Size Brush has thick hair and is able to hold a lot of Water Size, making it easy to flood your glass before adding the gold leaf.

Gelatin Capsules (Empty Pill Capsules) ,  Stainless Steal Mug,  and Water Size Brush - Gelatin Capsules are dissolved into distilled water to create the Water Size AKA. "glue" that adheres the gold to the glass. Water Size Brush has thick hair and is able to hold a lot of Water Size, making it easy to flood your glass before adding the gold leaf.

Pounce Wheel,  Chalk Quilt Pounce, & Cardboard/Soft Surface - The Pounce Wheel is used to perforate the outline of your design. Once you have holes in the printed paper version of your design, use it as a pattern/stencil. The quilt pounce is a little pouch filled with chalk, and when rubbed on top of your stencil, the chalk moves through the holes of your stencil, and in effect transfers your design onto the glass. 

Pounce Wheel,  Chalk Quilt Pounce, & Cardboard/Soft Surface - The Pounce Wheel is used to perforate the outline of your design. Once you have holes in the printed paper version of your design, use it as a pattern/stencil. The quilt pounce is a little pouch filled with chalk, and when rubbed on top of your stencil, the chalk moves through the holes of your stencil, and in effect transfers your design onto the glass. 

Backup Paint - After you've laid out all your gold and it's looking good on the glass, use Back Up Black to preserve the gold. Back Up Black is a black paint that dries hard and will protect the gold beneath where ever it is painted.

Backup Paint - After you've laid out all your gold and it's looking good on the glass, use Back Up Black to preserve the gold. Back Up Black is a black paint that dries hard and will protect the gold beneath where ever it is painted.

Brushes and Brush Maintenance  - Lettering Quills - Mineral Spirits - Brush Preserving Oil -  Mack Lettering Quills are a nice brush to work with for sign painting. Since they have long hair, they hold a lot of paint and have a large range in terms of mark making capabilities. A single brush can create a hairline using the tip of the brush, and with a bit of pressure, can create a much thicker line. Mineral spirits serve two purposes. They work to thin down paint that is too viscous, and also is used to clean the brushes after use. When you're done painting for the day and your brushes are clean, dip them in Brush Preserving Oil to keep them from drying out. If oil based paint dries in your brush, the brush will be ruined and the hairs will slowly start to fall out.  

Brushes and Brush Maintenance  - Lettering Quills - Mineral Spirits - Brush Preserving Oil - 

Mack Lettering Quills are a nice brush to work with for sign painting. Since they have long hair, they hold a lot of paint and have a large range in terms of mark making capabilities. A single brush can create a hairline using the tip of the brush, and with a bit of pressure, can create a much thicker line.

Mineral spirits serve two purposes. They work to thin down paint that is too viscous, and also is used to clean the brushes after use. When you're done painting for the day and your brushes are clean, dip them in Brush Preserving Oil to keep them from drying out. If oil based paint dries in your brush, the brush will be ruined and the hairs will slowly start to fall out.  


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