Go for the Gold

1 comment Posted on December 1, 2012

by Marion Parsons (Miss Mustard Seed)

Do you have an old picture frame that could use a makeover? Try giving it a glamorous new look with some imitation gold leaf. It’s an easy project and will make even the most dated, tired frame look chic and expensive.

A couple of years ago, I purchased an entire armload of large, dated frames at an auction for a quarter. I was not quite sure what I was going to do with them at the time, but the auctioneer looked at me and almost pleaded for someone to take them off his hands. These two frames were in that lot.

They are clearly 1960′s-70′s style frames and not at all my taste. They had an interesting texture that seemed like a great candidate for gold leafing.

Here’s how I did it…

When applying gold leaf, make sure your surface is clean and dry. Also, what’s underneath the leafing may peak through, so make sure it’s a color that you don’t mind seeing. Red is a popular color to put under gold, but I decided to leave these frames white. Brush a metal leaf adhesive onto your surface with a small paint brush. I use a 1” wash brush that can be purchased at a craft store in the art department. Allow the adhesive to dry for 30-60 minutes or until it’s clear and tacky. A special adhesive does need to be used. I’ve tried regular glue and decoupage and it was a mess!

This brand of (imitation) gold leaf is available at most craft stores for about $9.00 for 25 sheets. Silver and copper leaf is also available and one package is enough to cover at least two large frames.

There are all sorts of methods out there for getting your gold leaf out of the book and onto your surface. I just slip it off onto my hand and gently transfer it. I feel like I have more control over it that way. It’s very light, so it can easily tear or get crinkled.  Try to keep it as smooth as possible.

The frame I applied the leaf to is about three inches wide, but if I was working on a narrower frame, I would cut the gold leaf sheets in half while they were still in the book. That would greatly reduce any waste. Once the gold leaf is on your surface, take a soft, dry mop brush and light smooth the sheet down.

Now, don’t start to panic. You’re going to have all kinds of little wrinkles and if you’re working on a textured surface, you’ll have a lot of cracks in the leaf. This is normal and you’re not doing anything wrong. If you’re working on a flat surface, this won’t be as much of a problem.

Leafing always looks like a mess when you first put it on. I like to pull off larger “scraps” and stick them onto bare spots. So, once the surface is fully covered, gently rub your brush over the leaf, removing all of the pieces that are not glued down. At this point, your work area will look like Tinker Bell exploded all over the place. Leafing is very messy, so have a vacuum at the ready.

This is how it looks when the leaf is first applied…

This is how it looks after all of the excess is brushed away…

See how there are some spots where the leaf didn’t stick. I’m not worried about these, since I’m going to antique this frame. If you want your surface to be perfect, brush more adhesive on the bare spots and repeat the process.

Since the backside of this frame would only be seen from an extreme angle, I painted it with gold acrylic paint.

Once the gold leaf and paint were fully dry, I brushed on some Minwax dark walnut stain and wiped it off with a soft cloth. This calms down the “brassiness” of the gold leaf and makes it look softer and older.

I cut my own mat using a mat cutter and framed a $2.00 thrift store antique bird/botanical print. I then had a $3.98 sheet of glass cut at my local glass shop. So, this entire project cost less than $10.00.

Not bad for ten bucks. Happy leafing!

Marian Parsons (Miss Mustard Seed) is the author of the DIY/Home décor blog www.missmustardseed.com. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and a parade of painted furniture.


  • 12/23/2012
    Kaan said:

    When I was a kid and attending a Baptist cruhch, certain cruhch members (led by the pastor’s wife) convinced everyone to spend thousands of dollars renovating the cruhch’s kitchen. In fairness, the kitchen was in quite bad shape at the time and did need some fixes. However, the glorious, expanded, and far too extravagant at the time for a cruhch that was having trouble paying the heating bill(*) kitchen they installed was completely unnecessary.This is especially because for the first several years after the kitchen had been remodeled, it went almost completely unused. No meals were prepared there. We even had a guest pastor come in and criticize our cruhch from the pulpit for this fact, which many of us were grateful.The thing is, it was a beautiful kitchen with two ovens, a large refrigerator, two sinks, and enough counter space to make most culinary enthusiasts drool. If it had been built by another cruhch that would have made use of that incredible kitchen to open a soup kitchen, for example, I could have been totally on board with it. That would have been helpful to others. But building such a kitchen only to leave it unused is monstrous, in my opinion.Spending all that money of gold filigree and stained glass is even more monstrous, because it can’t even be used to cook food for a soup kitchen.(*) Don’t get me started on the fact that there were donors who were willing to drop in tons of cash for this stylish new kitchen, but weren’t giving enough to cover basic expenses to keep the doors open.


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