Oil Gilding

Oil gilding is the process of using an oil-based - a sticky adhesive, with the consistency of varnish - to adhere the gold to the surface. This is the gilding that should be mastered by an amateur before they move onto water gilding or glass gilding, as the handling of the gold and application here is much easier and so will provide a solid foundation to your learning.

There are several types of oil gilding and a wide selection of metals are used including gold, platinum, silver, copper and aluminium. Oil gilding is without doubt the easiest process of all. In theory, you can oil gild any object that you can paint, but it is especially fitting when wanting to gild a metal object. Also, if the object is to be outside in the elements, or is in a damp atmosphere, then oil gilding is the only choice.

When first learning to gild - and as a decorative finish in its own right - cheaper and thicker leaves of metal can be used before the advancement onto gold. With this in mind, I have included three projects in the oil gilding category, with each project advancing your learning.

Gilding Sizes

To successfully learn how to oil gild, you will need to first understand how the gold-leaf is stuck to an object. This is done with something known as a 'gilding size'. This section will take a look at oil based gilding sizes and the principles that make them work. With many types available, we also look at the effects of different timings on the size and how they affect the finish too.


Copper Horse

The first project is an introduction to metal leaf and its application using an easy technique. For this, I have gilded a carved wooden horse head with copper. This project involves the use of copper sheets and because of the thickness of the leaf, the application can be made by hand. The copper is then treated with chemicals to create a Verdigris or tarnishing effect.


Gilding on Metal

The second project is how to completely gild a small metal item in gold-leaf. This technique ensures there are no misses or holes. Of all the gilding that is completed, this is without doubt the most popular form of gilding. The entire surface is gilded, giving the appearance of solid gold. For this example, I am using 23.5 karat loose gold-leaf and am gilding a small cast iron item.


Flower Frame

The third technique uses what is known as a localised gilding technique. This will show you how to oil-gild certain select areas of a project. This can be found a lot with furniture, where the finials, or decorative elements are gilded on their own. In this case, it is picking out individual daisies on a resin frame that I purchased from paperchase.


Complete Frame

In this exercise, we will take oil gilding a little further. Here you will be gilding an entire resin frame with 23.5 karat gold-leaf on a deep red background. You will then look at ageing it with the aid of pigments. Although this is a small frame, it will give you experience in developing your gilding with further processes on larger projects when you're ready.


Photo Section

In this section you'll find a wide and varied range of oil gilding projects and photos. Each photo also has some small added text that takes a brief look at what each picture is about. This area has been designed to inspire you and open up how diverse the area of oil gilding can be. As well as gold-leaf, it also contains work completed in copper and other metals.