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How to Apply Gold Leaf to a Canvas

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Gold leaf can be used on almost any solid surface to add a real metal look. Learn how to apply gold leaf to a canvas and other surfaces to create beautiful art and home decor.

Gold leaf canvas

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What is gold leaf?

Gold leaf is actually real gold! However the term is often used to describe a wide variety of imitation metal sheets.

True gold leaf is gold hammered into thin sheets and used for gilding or coating items in a real gold look. It has been used for centuries in architecture and even to adorn elaborate desserts.

These days we have access to faux gold leaf and can use it for all kinds of crafts and home decor. To apply gold leaf to a craft project you will need a metal leaf adhesive that is specially formulated to adhere these thin sheets to just about any surface.

For this project I used metal leaf, square sheets of hammered thin metal with a gold look. They are much more cost effective then real gold which means I can do a lot more projects.

Prep the canvas

Gold leaf can be applied to most non porous surfaces. You need a firm surface to apply the adhesive and push the sheets onto.

painted canvas

To apply it to a canvas follow these steps.

  • Put a book or piece of wood under the canvas, this will give you a solid surface to work on.
  • Paint the canvas to add interest. The paint is not necessary but will make your gold leaf stand out. Let the paint dry completely before moving on to the next step. I used two colors to create a watercolor effect in blue.
  • Use an adhesive stencil for this project. You can use gold leaf free hand but for this project having a stencil will make it much easier.

How to add gold leaf to a surface

Once the canvas paint is dry, it’s time to start the gold leaf process. Using the adhesive stencil you chose will help keep the gold where you apply it. There is a large selection of these types of stencils available. Invest in a set you like, they can be reused over and over again.

Place a book or piece of wood under the canvas to create a solid work surface. Then apply the adhesive stencil and press it down well to seal it.

Now grab your metal leaf adhesive. This is a specially formulated glue that takes a long time to dry. It is very runny and you do not need much at all!

Gold leaf adhesive

Using a soft brush, apply a small amount over the stencil. Too much and it will run under the seal. The adhesive has a milky look to it. Once everything is covered, let the piece sit for 30 minutes until it becomes tacky.

After 30 minutes the adhesive will feel tacky to the touch and become clear, now it’s ready for the gold leaf.

Place a sheet of gold leaf over the stencil and use a soft brush to push it into the spaces on the stencil. Pull off any extra and use it to cover the other parts of the design.

gold leaf sheets

Once all the adhesive is covered, brush off any excess so the only gold that remains in on the stencil.

Then pull off your adhesive stencil and let the piece dry fully.

Watch the video for more detail on the gold leaf process.

Gold leaf can be used to gild all kinds of items like jars for luminaries or even cabinet doors.

I recently used gold leaf flakes in a resin project. This is a craft item that can be applied in so many ways. Buy a pack and get creative with it.

Key Gold Leaf Supplies

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