How to Gild Canvas

jewelry vertical amy renea a nest for all seasons

Do you remember this photo from my leather and barbell bracelet tutorial?  Notice that cool, shiny base the bracelet is sitting on?  Is that just paint?  Well, not so much.  Metallic paint can NOT hold a candle to the real thing.  That super shimmery finish comes from none other than GOLD.  Real gold.  Slivered off into the tiniest sheets of paper that are so light and fine, they feel like angel’s breath. That finish is created with sheets of gold leaf.  We call this finish “gilding” and ConsumerCrafts offers both gold and silver leafing.  This is a project that takes a VERY light hand, a lot of patience and a little bit of crafting know how!

How to gild canvas - Crafts UnleashedReady to take the challenge?  Join me today as I show you how to gild some canvas!

Supplies needed to make your own gilded canvas:

When you first start out with the leaf, you will probably break a piece or two.  There is definitely a learner’s curve in learning how to handle it.  Most gilders recommend using a brush to pick it up to avoid the oils on your fingers, but I found that using VERY dry and lotion free fingers gently, gave me the most control over the sheets.  Experiment with a couple to find how you can best handle the leafing, but do NOT try this anywhere with a breeze or children running through the room.  Disaster will ensue!


Spray or brush a very light layer of adhesive over the canvas.  It must be SUPER thin or else the leafing will buckle and bubble too much.  I tried a multitude of adhesives with varying degrees of success (sticky embossing powder made me want to CRY!) and the best was a 50-50 watered down Mod Podge lightly brushed onto the canvas.  Lightly pick up the leafing and set it onto the canvas, focusing on getting good corner pieces.  Let the leafing fall onto the canvas (it will wrinkle – that is OK!) and it will adhere itself.  DO NOT touch it at this point!

gilded squares on canvas amy renea a nest for all seasonsThe way I created these canvases was to lay out a loose grid of sheets and then fill in with paint.  The larger the canvas, the more sheets you will need and the greater chance you will tear a large portion and are doomed.  My advice?  Start small!

A few wrinkles are fine for this aged canvas look, but big bubbles are not.  Once the leaf and adhesive have had a few minutes to set, VERY gently start pushing bubbles out towards the edges.

wrinkles in gildingWhen you are finishing, the wrinkling adds a cool texture and aged look, so don’t worry about those wrinkles, but make sure buckling and bubbling are smoothed out early or they will cause holes later down the road.

closeup gildingBack to the process though.  Once your six sheets (for a small canvas, more for larger) have dried and hardened slightly, it is time to add a little paint.   I did the edges in copper, the in-between spaces in gold and then blended the two here and there throughout the canvas.  The trick is to leave as much of the pure leafing visible.  That gold paint just can’t compete with the shimmer of that true gold.

how to gild canvas halfway amy renea a nest for all seasons

gilded canvas painting amy renea a nest for all seasonsIf the leaf starts to move AT ALL, stop painting in that area and leave it alone.  Come back to it when the leafing has dried some more and is more stable.  To blend the paint colors, a little bit of that watered down Mod Podge can help and further seal the canvas.  Again, just use a LIGHT hand.

gilded canvas spraying glue amy renea a nest for all seasonsWhen the canvases are totally dry, you can use them in a variety of ways.  You can add vinyl lettering on top, use the gilded canvas as a base for a painting, or any other type of artwork you can dream up!  I use them as-is for the base in photos (like that bracelet up top!) and also as a little hint of shimmer at my work desk.

posy full viewA photo simply cannot capture the glimmering brilliance of this gold leafing.  You literally cannot work on this project in the sun because it blinds you.  You try working on the canvas, then look up and you can’t see anything but dark, dark shadows.  Do it indoors!  The way the light coming in the windows glimmers off the canvases is akin to magic and makes me want to gild just about anything and everything!

desktop 4So will you take a chance on this complicated craft?  Is it worth the glimmer and shimmery delight that is pure gold???

About Amy Renea

Hey y'all! I'm Amy Renea, a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. I spend my days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about my food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!


  1. Dalia Mattar says

    Dear Amy,

    You make it look so easy, thanks. But I have a question. The painting I want to do is a simple white back background with hazy gold-leaf humanlike shapes standing in it. First I wish to work with acrylic paint ( any problem there?) , then do I start with the white base and gild the leaves on top, or start with gilding first?

    Thanks for your help in advance, Dalia

  2. says

    I’ve been meaning to try leafing for a while. But its been one of those “back burner projects”. Thanks for showing me how to do it. I might go ahead and give it a try soon.


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