Easy Glueless Gold Leafing on Paper




Introduction: Easy Glueless Gold Leafing on Paper

About: Sysadmin and coder by day, maker of more tangible things by night. I love embroidery, chainmaille, and blinkenlights.

I tried gold leafing with glue several times, with little luck. Maybe I was impatient, or maybe I didn't have the right glue, but I could never get the leaf to stick. Frustrated, I set aside my leaves, wondering if this skill would be the one that got away.

Little did I know that I just had to do away with the glue and replace it with lasers .

This is a method for applying gold leaf to a laser printout, like what you would get from most copy machines or any old laser printer. It turns out that with a little heat, the toner will bond the leaf too. In my short time using this technique I've not been able to get an absolutely clean gild, but I suspect that it is possible with better materials and techniques than I am using now. (Besides, I rather like the distressed look.)

Step 1: Gather Supplies

You will need:
- Gold leaf
- Laser printout
- Pressing cloth (I'm using a scrap of linen, but it could be a piece of old sheet or something similar)
- Something to press the paper on (like another stack of paper -- it may be printed, but inkjet only, please! Don't use anything important.)
- Sheet of glass (optional, but may be beneficial to a cleaner gild)
- Burnisher (such as a spoon or a bone folder)
- Tweezers
- Piece of felt or fabric (could be another piece of an old sheet -- I use cheap polyester felt)
- Iron (not shown)

Most of these things you'll already have around. The gold leaf and felt can be obtained from a craft store. Note that I am using a bag of leaf scraps instead of a far more expensive book. I suppose a book of quality leaf, all smooth and shiny, would work; however, the book I have is pretty much crinkled leaf steamrolled to waxed paper. It works, but it's not easy to get off of the wax paper, and ironing it with the wax paper attached will ruin the paper surrounding the gild.

Step 2: Prepare Your Gild Platform

I'm using a short stack of scrap paper topped by a sheet of glass for the pressing platform. The glass isn't strictly necessary, but I think it gives me a slightly better gild. You can adjust your platform to whatever works best for you. I haven't set anything on fire this way, so I'll stick with it.

Place your laser print face-up on the platform. If you're gilding a larger document, you probably don't want to cut it up. Experiment a bit with your platform size (or lack of a platform) to avoid creasking a larger sheet.

Step 3: Lay the Leaf

Now, prepare to deal with tiny little hyperactive bits of metal. Turn off the fans, close the window, shoo the pets out of the room, and make no sudden movements. With the tweezers, select pieces of leaf from the bag and carefully lay them over the print, covering all of the toner. (The heat will cause the uncovered toner to stick, otherwise.) If you've exhaled by now your leaf will be all over the place -- I work around this by not breathing. (Actually, I just hold my breath while I'm placing the leaf, and do all my breathing to the side.) Be mindful of your movements. Anything you move too fast will also generate a breeze, so take it slow.

When you are done placing the leaf, lay another sheet of paper on top very gently. Lay the pressing cloth over that.

Step 4: Ironing

With a hot dry iron, press the whole thing for about a minute. Don't rub it; if you have to move the iron, lift it. My pressing cloth got a little brown in this whole process due to the heat, but nothing burned.

Step 5: Burnishing

Remove the iron, cloth, and top sheet of paper. Carefully remove the print from the platform -- it's hot, and even hotter if you use glass. With your burnishing tool (the back of a spoon, a bone folder, or something similar) gently rub the leaf over the print. (This step may not actually be necessary, but, like the glass, I think it works better.) If you have places where the leaf is folded over on itself, you can straighten it out now.

Step 6: Iron Again

Place the piece facedown on the glass and cover it again with the paper and the press cloth, just like before. Iron it again for another minute, then remove it from the platform. Set the platform aside.

Step 7: Gratification

With the felt (or whatever you choose for this step), gently remove excess leaf by rubbing the felt in small circles over the print. As I've said before, the edge you get is unlikely to be absolutely clean, but careful work will minimize the amount of tearing caused by the leaf just being too thick. Your fingers may be able to pick up some teeny bits that the felt can't get. Of course, if you're going for the distressed look, feel free to ignore me.

You can burnish further at this stage if you want to, but I don't think it does much good. Firm burnishing is a good way to distress the gild, though.

Step 8: Finish!

You're done!

Further notes and thoughts:

I like the way the A and the E look with the color showing through, but if that's not your thing you could match the print color to your leaf color. You can also re-gild spots that didn't take. I had to do it for the A and the C, and obviously I didn't have complete success, but it did help.

The B was my attempt to apply the book leaf with the wax paper still on. It's a little hard to see, but the paper left an oily impression around the B and caused leaf to adhere where it was not wanted. Not cool. If you can apply sheet leaf without the paper, I would expect superior results to anything shown here.

I haven't had the opportunity to apply this to anything useful, but I'm expecting to use it in some custom bookbinding. It could also be used in cards, invitations, certificates... the list goes on.

In my research I've seen (in a PCB etching tutorial) a toner transfer method that involves printing on glossy photo paper, ironing the toner to metal, and dissolving the paper in water. This could theoretically be used to gild (waterproof) things other than paper. I haven't tried it, but if you do, please let me know how it goes!

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    6 years ago

    This is genious... Still prefer traditional methods but this is a really awesome find...


    7 years ago on Step 8

    What a great idea. I plan on trying this with some of my art work. When I do gilding on wood or canvas, I rub off the excess with a soft, blending brush. I doesn't scratch the gilding and is softer than the burnishing cloth.


    7 years ago on Step 8

    What a great idea. I plan on trying this with some of my art work. When I do gilding on wood or canvas, I rub off the excess with a soft, blending brush. I doesn't scratch the gilding and is softer than the burnishing cloth.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    as eggtempera painter (hagiografia of Orthodox religion icons) i use a lot of gold leaf and fragments of of this expensive material. For even better amazing results after the delicate apply of gold leaf without touching with bare hands (it gets blure and loose the natural brightness) try to remove bubbles of air with a nylon bag use like sponge or with someting like jean or wool material. After that for more brightness take a natural onyx stone and try gently polish the gold use it only from one direction and about 3 passes totaly. The result will leave you speachless....


    7 years ago on Step 8

    Just use this guy's method. A million times easier and a LOT cleaner looking