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Adding a touch of class to your home doesn’t have to be pricy. Gilding frames is the easiest and most affordable way to elevate your decor! Release your inner Midas with this simple gilt frame tutorial! Learn how to apply gold leaf and turn an ordinary frame into a stunning showpiece!

A yellow dresser topped with basket filled with plants, a buffet lamp, and two gold picture frames on the wall.

My home has gone through many changes. With so many decor options, making decisions can be overwhelming. I love gallery walls and admire them in all different forms. Black frames, white frames, wooden frames, and antique frames. Homes with all types of gallery walls look fantastic!

Sadly, sometimes my vision doesn’t turn out like I planned. Or I change my mind. For instance, there was a time when I dreamed of a home filled with wooden picture frames. Thinking they would add warmth and coziness to my walls, I bought a ton. After, I realized they just didn’t mesh with my cream and greige color palette. The amount of money I spent on those frames still hurts.

After years of soul searching (and internet searching), I’m learning that I love gilt frames! In addition to being timeless, they also look great surrounding intaglios. They’re a perfect blend of warmth and elegance. No matter what you put inside a gold frame, it will always look classic!

Meanwhile, I was left with a wall full of unwanted wooden frames. Buying a whole new set wasn’t in the budget. Instead of breaking the bank, (and my husband’s sanity), I got crafty!

A living room corner with curtains, a dresser topped with basket and plants, a buffet lamp, and two pictures on the wall.

Creating gilt frames is so much easier than you think! The process is forgiving, and mistakes are welcome. Rips and tears in your gold leaf enhance the overall look. Above all, imitation gold leaf is low-cost, and looks like the real deal!

What is Gilding?

The process of applying gold leaf to surfaces such as wood, ceramic, glass, or metal is known as gilding. Similarly, it also refers to the application of any gold-like material such as imitation gold, gold paint, and any metal mimicking gold. Your wallet (and your spouse) will thank you for these alternatives!

Is Gilding Expensive?

Real gold leaf comes from thinly hammered sheets of gold and little bit goes a long way. Although pricy starting around $1,500 per ounce, gold can be hammered so thin, large text can be read through it. The average cost for one sheet of real gold leaf is a little over two dollars. In comparison, one sheet of imitation gold would only set you back around thirteen cents. Luckily, imitation gold looks real but at a fraction of the cost!

Methods

There are many ways to gild a frame, or any material for that matter. Stores offer a variety of products that easily help you get the gold look!

Gilding Wax

There isn’t an easier way to gild an item than with gilding wax. A mixture of waxes, pigments, and powdered metals, this product is a super affordable way to gild almost anything you want! It may be sold in a tube or jar, comes in a variety of colors, and is used the same way you would shine silver. With a soft cloth take a small amount and buff it over the surface. That’s it! Easy peasy.

Metalic Paint

Another easy way to gild is with metallic paint. In order to get the best look, apply paint in thin layers, sanding in between coats. Metallic paint is versatile and can be used on many surfaces including plastic, wood, and metal. Just make sure to read the instructions in order to properly prep your surface. You can gild to your heart’s content with this stuff since it’s super affordable!

Gold Foil Flakes

As the name suggests, gold foil flakes are small pieces of imitation gold consisting of copper and aluminum. Foil flakes are great for smaller crafts such as jewelry making, resin, and small paintings. Gold leaf adhesive is needed to adhere the product.

Metal Leaf

The best way to achieve an authentic look is with metal leaf. Also known as imitation gold, metal leaf is a mixture of aluminum, copper, and other non-gold metals. The application method is the same as the real deal, but at a fraction of the cost. By antiquing your gilt frame afterwards, you can get a truly authentic look! Yes it’s a bit more messy than the other methods, but you will love the results!

An Antique Finish:

This part is optional, but I highly recommend it. Painting over a gilt frame adds a beautiful faux patina. Mix brown and black acrylic paint with a little water and coat your frame. Wipe off excess with a paper towel. Once dry, it should look like it was sitting in an attic for a hundred years (in a good way).

Why You’ll Love This DIY

  • Beautiful
  • Easy
  • Timeless
  • Affordable

Tools and Supplies You’ll Need

  1. Wooden frame
  2. Metal leaf adhesive
  3. Metal leaf sheets
  4. Mod Podge or Metal leaf sealer
  5. Glass jar
  6. 1 inch paint brush (or Gesso brush)
  7. Newspaper or drop cloth
  8. Microfiber towel
  9. Acrylic paint (black and brown)
  10. Paper towels

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you gild wood?

You can absolutely gild wood!

Is gilding permanent?

When applied properly, metal leaf stays put on its surface. However, it’s still prone to damage. Mod Podge or a metal leaf sealer will protect your work, keeping it from oxidizing. Real gold will not oxidize, but sealing it will shield it from damage especially in high traffic areas.

Why is gold leaf so cheap?

You might think $2 for a sheet of gold leaf sounds cheap, but it’s all relative to its size and weight. Real gold starts at $1,500 per ounce. To put it in perspective, one ounce of gold can be hammered into about 100 square feet, and is thin enough large text can be read through it. When purchasing gold leaf, you are only getting the tiniest fraction from that ounce of gold.

A close up of a wooden picture frame on a drop cloth.
Apply a very thin layer of adhesive.
A closeup of gilding foil covering a picture frame.
Cover the frame completely with metal leaf.
A hand rubbing gold foil onto a picture frame.
Rub the metal leaf with a soft cloth to remove excess.
A closeup of a gold picture frame laying on a paper towel with a paint brush coating it in brown paint.
For an antique finish, cover frame with a mixture of acrylic paint and water. Completely wipe off excess with a paper towel.

Tips and Tricks

  • Apply adhesive in a thin layer (no puddles or bubbles).
  • Mod Podge dries clear.
  • Antique frame for an authentic look (see instructions below).
  • A few cracks add an authentic look.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you enjoy simple DIY projects as much as I do? Comment below!

More DIY Projects!

How To Apply Gold Leaf

Gilding Frames

Create gorgeous frames on a budget! Save money and add a touch of class to your home with this easy gilt frame tutorial. With metal leaf and adhesive you can turn your old wooden picture frames into a showpiece!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Drying time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Keyword: craft, decor, DIY, Home Decor
Servings: 6 picture frames
Author: Kristen Stuertz
Cost: $40

Ingredients

Gilding Materials

  • 2 individual wooden picture frames you can make up to 6 16" x 20" frames with 100 metal leaf sheets.
  • 1 bottle metal leaf adhesive any brand
  • 1 packet 100 metal leaf sheets size 5.5" x 5.5"
  • 1 glass jar
  • 1 paint brush 1 inch or a Gesso brush
  • 4 sheets newspapers or any type of protective sheet.
  • 1 microfiber towel A paper towel works if you don't have a microfiber towel.

Antiquing Materials

  • 1 roll paper towels
  • 1 bottle bottle of metal leaf sealer or Mod Podge 2 oz or more
  • 1 paint brush 1 inch or a Gesso brush
  • 2 tubes acrylic paint brown and black
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 glass jar

Instructions

Gilding A Frame

  • Protect your work area with newspapers or a drop cloth.
  • Pour approximately 2 tablespoons of metal leaf adhesive into a glass jar.
  • With a paint brush coat the picture frames with a thin layer of metal leaf adhesive. Make sure there aren't any large puddles or bubbles.
  • Allow adhesive to dry around 30 minutes. (Or per the bottles instructions).
  • Once dry, the adhesive will become clear, shiny, and slightly tacky to the touch.
  • One at a time, carefully lay metal leaf sheets over the frames. Cover the entire surface trying not to overlap. To fill in tears, use a smaller pieces of metal leaf to fill in the gaps.
  • Take your towel or microfiber cloth and rub off excess metal leaf. Rub until the metal leaf has completely adhered to the wood.

Antiquing A Frame

  • In a glass jar, mix a dime sized amount of brown and black acrylic paint with water.
  • Cover picture frames with watered down paint and rub off with a paper towel. Repeat steps until you get the aged look you like.
  • Allow acrylic paint to dry completely.
  • Using a paint brush, coat frames in Mod Podge or metal leaf sealer. Allow to dry completely.
  • Hang your frame and enjoy!

Notes

Don’t worry about getting rips in your metal leaf. You can fill in the gaps with smaller pieces, but a few cracks here and there give the frame an aged look. 
You might have to play around with the amount of paint and water for antiquing your frame. For a stronger look, add more paint and use less water. For a lightly aged look, water down your paints more. 

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