13 Ways to Incorporate Silver and Gold Leaf in Your Paintings

Gold and silver leafing, also known as gilding, has been used in artwork for centuries, dating back to ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. While gold leaf may hold the most value, there are various other forms of metal leaf that you can use in your artwork, such as copper leaf and tin leaf. These metal leafs can be incorporated into different painting mediums, including decorative objects like picture frames and even edible creations like cupcakes. Regardless of the form of gold leafing art you choose, it will add a special luminous effect to your artwork.

If you have been hesitant to use genuine gold leaf in your paintings due to intimidation, fear not. In this article, we present thirteen different examples of artwork that use silver or gold leaf sheets to inspire you, followed by a tutorial on how to use these metal sheets in your artwork.

Adding a Touch of Surreal to Your Abstract Art

Enhance your abstract art by incorporating gold or silver leaf, transforming it from mundane to surreal. Explore the possibilities of using silver foil transferred onto textured acrylic for a captivating conversation piece. You can also experiment with adding gold leaf to geometrical artwork to break the monotony of black and white tones.

Capturing the Ethereal Beauty of Angel Wings

Angels possess an ethereal beauty that is challenging to capture without a substantial amount of light. Enter gold foil sheets, which effortlessly emulate this glow. Consider creating angel wings with thick acrylic layered with gold leaf, using a palette knife. For a step-by-step guide, check out a real-time tutorial video.

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The Magic of Night, Illuminated

When the sun sets, certain elements come to life, twinkling under the night sky. Gold flakes or foils can perfectly represent this natural radiance. From stars and lightning bugs to the moon itself, numerous subjects can inspire your artwork.

Golden Clouds: Capturing Nature’s Splendor

Have you ever gazed at clouds on a sunny day and marveled at how they shimmer like 24-karat gold? Attempt to recreate this breathtaking sight in your art. This artist beautifully captured the golden essence of clouds, and you can too. Refer to a simple tutorial on using gold leafing to outline clouds.

Find Inspiration in Klimt’s Golden Period

Famous painter Gustav Klimt extensively used gold foil in his work, earning the period his artworks were created the name “Golden Period.” Study his masterpieces, such as “The Kiss,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” then create your own gilded golden art. Who knows, you might even begin your own “golden period.”

The Radiance of the Cityscape

While city life can often appear dirty and dull up close, stepping back and viewing a cityscape from a distance reveals its true beauty, even a touch of sparkle. Some artists choose to incorporate silver or gold foiling to capture this allure.

Creating a Collage with Metallic Leaf

Composition gold loose leaf is an excellent choice for creating collages. Explore examples that highlight the value gold leafing brings to artwork, whether it’s a watercolor collage or an acrylic collage.

Botanical Prints that Twinkle and Sparkle

If nature serves as your muse, consider creating botanical prints that truly shine. Incorporate real gold foil to add a twinkle and sparkle to your artwork.

Elevating Geode Art with Gold or Silver Accents

Geode art has gained popularity, and adding gold or silver accents to your geode creations can make them stand out even more.

Highlighting the Portrait with Luminous Gold Foil

Certain artwork pieces masterfully use gold foil to highlight portraits. Whether your portrait is a modern watercolor painting or a traditional oil-based piece, incorporating gold leaf will give your subject an ethereal personality.

Starting from a Golden Gilding Background

Many historically significant gold paintings began with a gilded canvas before the application of any paint. Although this technique requires more gold leaf sheets, the impact it creates is substantial. Learn how to gild your canvas with this helpful tutorial.

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Embracing Chinoiserie Style Paintings

Gold leaf was not only utilized by the ancient Egyptians but also by Chinese dynasties in creating magnificent artworks. Your own Chinoiserie-style painting can be achieved by either applying gold leaf first or using gold to paint over the background.

Capturing the Radiance of Sun Rays or Moonlight

Gold leaf is the perfect medium to capture the rays of the sun and the ethereal glow of the moon. Artists have used gold foil to beautifully reflect the sun off a hot air balloon or even as the sun itself, creating stunning reflections on water.

How to Apply Silver and Gold Leaf to Your Artwork

To incorporate gold and silver leaf into your artwork, you can use acrylic, oil, or watercolor paint. However, the technique differs depending on the art supplies you are using. For instance, applying edible gold leaf in artwork requires specific steps. Here’s a breakdown of the correct technique:

Prepare Your Surface

Choose a canvas, heavyweight paper, or panel as your surface, depending on the type of paint and effect you desire. Underpaint the surface with one color that you want to peek through under the gold. If you intend to use gold leaf as an accent, complete the image first. Some artists add molding paste to create texture before applying gold leaf.

Apply Adhesive

Seal the paint with an adhesive to gild or size it. The type of adhesive you use depends on the paint you have used. Watercolor requires water-based adhesive, while oil paint requires solvent or oil-based adhesive. Acrylic can be used with adhesive, but water-based adhesive is a popular choice. Ensure the paint is fully dry before applying the adhesive, which can be either sprayed on or applied with a paintbrush.

Apply Gold or Silver Leaf

To avoid wasting gold leafing and protect your hands, consider wearing cotton gloves. For loose leaf, cover the leaf with wax or tissue paper before transferring it onto the desired area of your artwork, pressing it into the adhesive.

Burnish the Leaf

Cover the leaf with wax paper and use a cloth to press it into the painting, ensuring it adheres well. Leave it for several days to allow it to set.

Remove Excess Leaf

Brush away any excess gold leaf using a stiff brush in a shoveling motion. A gilding brush, possessing a static charge, will pick up loose gold leaf effectively.

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Seal the Gold Leaf

Spray the leaf with adhesive and optional gloss varnish to protect it before painting over it. Skip this step if you plan to lay gold over paint.

Paint Over the Leaf

Once the sealer is dry, you can proceed to add additional paint to complete your painting.

Post-Paint Seal

To safeguard your paint and leaf from UV damage, apply a post-paint sealer to the entire project.

How to Use Gold and Silver Leaf Pens

For intricate details that are difficult to achieve with foil sheets, gold and silver leaf pens are ideal. These pens offer control and precision, making them perfect for adding outlines, dots, and tiny highlights.

What to Consider When Choosing Gold and Silver Foil

There are various brands and types of gold and silver foil available for purchase, so it’s important to select a product that suits your needs. Here are some factors to consider:


Choose between whole gold foil leaves and variegated gold leaf flakes, depending on the area you need to cover. Flakes are ideal for smaller projects, while sheets are more suitable for larger surfaces.


Consider the different hues available, ranging from darker tones to softer ones. Some foils even exhibit hues such as pinks, blues, and greens. Select a color that matches your artistic vision.


Ensure the foil you choose possesses the desired level of brilliance. Imitation gold leaf may not shine as brightly as real gold, so consider the effect you want to achieve.


Determine if the price aligns with your budget. Imitation gold leaf is more affordable but may lack the luster of higher-quality gold. Beginners may find it advantageous to start with imitation gold leaf before transitioning to pure gold.


While pure gold is preferred, high-quality foil sheets can still provide excellent results. Look for durability to ensure the foil stays adhered to your painting when sealed.

As artists, experimenting with new mediums is vital for growth and creativity. Incorporating gold and silver leaf into your artwork can add a touch of brilliance and elevate your pieces. Practice using gold leaf, referring to the ideas and techniques outlined in this article, until you feel confident working with this captivating medium. For high-quality gold leaf paper supplies, visit Ames Farm Center.

What to look for in gold and silver leaf