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Acrylics on Gold Leaf

21 thoughts on “Acrylics on Gold Leaf”

  1. Hi, I’ve been painting with acrylics over 24k gold leaf for a number of years now. I use an acrylic size with 24k patent gold leaf. Let the gilded area cure for several days before painting or top coating. I only top coat when my painting will be detailed or require many layers: the gold is thin enough to be damaged so I often top coat with MSA spray varnish. Works really well. Transparent glazes over gold work really well. I also use Dutch gold (imitation) leaf but be aware that it can start oxidizing long before it is used (in the package) so be aware of any color shifts in the squares of gold.

    Reply
    • Hello Margie,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and techniques! It seems that you have found a good way to work with real gold leaf as well as imitation leaf. I too have seen oxidized imitation leaves that were still in a book. Keeping the imitation leaf in airtight packages certainly helps to prevent that. Thank you for that extra tip!

      Best,
      Mirjam

      Reply
    • Thanks for the heads up on imitation Dutch leaf gold! I just wonder if those imitation leaves that are already tarnishing in their packages will stop that process once protected with either paint or a medium.

      Reply
      • Hello Karin,

        Thank you for your comment. Mediums and varnishes can provide significant protection against tarnishing but they are permeable to moisture. Therefore they can only slow down the oxidation process, but not stop it. At what rate the imitation leaf will continue to tarnish also depends on the environment in which the artwork is placed. The less humidity the imitation gold is exposed to, the better. To err on the safe side it would be better to use new imitation leaf and keep it in air-tight containers or packaging.

        Reply
    • Can you recommend a very high gloss varnish that can be applied over (imitation) gold leaf? I’d like to experiment with a thick high gloss over genuine gold leaf as well, while not being wasteful.
      Thanks in advance.

      Reply
      • Hello Susan,
        you could use MSA Varnish w/UVLS and dilute it a little less than what we recommend, which is 3 parts varnish to 1 part solvent. MSA Varnish is very thick and resinous as it comes out of the container and you could experiment with different ratios of varnish to solvent or even try using it as is on a small sacrificial trial piece.

        Reply
  2. Interesting!

    I learned metal-leafing from Golden certified instructor Nancy Reyner who counsels coating with Polymer Gloss Medium as a sealant.

    If I want to brush Archival Varnish Gloss – what do i thin it with and at what ratio?

    Appreciate your assistance!

    Reply
    • Hello Glenna,

      Thank you for the comment. The Gloss Medium definitely creates some color change, making the imitation leaf darker and deeper in color. Some artists might actually like that. The Archival Varnish w/UVLS comes in an aerosol and is ready- to-use for spray applications. For brush applications the MSA Varnish can be used. That is thinned with MSA Solvent or full strength/high aromatic mineral spirits in a 3:1 ratio (3 parts varnish to 1 part solvent). The mixing ratio can always be adjusted as desired, going thicker or thinner.

      Reach out if you have more questions or take a look at the Varnishing resources.

      Reply
    • Just want to add my comment here as I am misquoted. I would never recommend to seal imitation leaf with Golden’s Polymer Varnish. As you can read here it will tarnish the leaf. I always recommend using the MSA or Archival Varnish to seal the imitation leaf. After my painting is complete OVER the sealed leaf, then as a final topcoat I will use the Polymer Varnish. This way the Polymer Varnish never comes in direct contact with the imitation leaf.

      Reply
        • Hi Renee, in the video I recommend to use a solvent-based varnish (like Golden’s MSA or Archival Varnish) to seal imitation leaf. That is what I use in my work. I get many requests for alternatives for artists that do not want to work with the toxic nature of solvent-based varnishes.So that is why I added in the video this alternative. I wrote an updated blog article here with more specifics, as Youtube does not allow changes to the video: https://nancyreyner.com/2017/06/22/prepare-gold-leaf-oil-painting/

          In that article I explain how YES you can use GAC 200 as a substitute for the solvent based varnishes to seal the imitation leaf. The issue is that it must be applied very carefully, so that it is not drying slow enough for the ammonia to tarnish the leaf. If it is applied as I instruct in my article then it will work. I’ve used this in workshops for many years, and have experiments in my studio that do not show signs of tarnishing after years of leaving them out to see.

          GOLDEN’s tech specialist Sarah Sands and I discussed this alternative process – using either GAC 200 alone, or in a mixture of GAC 200 with GAC 500 (the 500 makes it easier to apply – adding a bit more glide). Sarah approved it. The issue is that many artists who try this are applying it in a way that slows the drying, and will then tarnish. If water is added to the GAC mixture, or if it is applied too thickly, or if it is overbrushed – any of these application errors will cause tarnishing.

          Note of caution: Just applying ONE coat of the GAC200 (or mixture with 500) will NOT keep the leaf from tarnishing if heavy amounts of acrylic are applied over it – such as with pouring. I recommend at least 4 or 5 coats of the GAC 200 (or mixture with 500) then letting it dry for at least a few days, prior to applying heavy applications of acrylic.

          So in conclusion – Use a solvent based varnish whenever possible as a first coat sealer over imitation leaf. If and only if that cannot be used, then using GAC200 (alone or mixed with GAC 500) in multiply coats, and applied CORRECTLY (so that it dries within seconds) still holds as a good solution.

          Thanks for the opportunity to explain more clearly.

          Reply
  3. This seems like an odd question, I know…but, a client of mine wants to attempt to remove some of the gold leaf that is used as heavy accents on a acrylic canvas painting she recently purchased from me. I’ve told her that if she wishes to keep the painting, it is hers to do with as she pleases, but a full refund can only be forthcoming if she ships the painting back to me in its original state. Now she’s asking me for tips on removing the imitation gold leaf from portions of piece. She says it’s detracting from the aesthetics of the color layers and that it didn’t seem that heavy in the purchase photo. This was an in stock painting; I’ve not altered or changed it all since I originally painted it three years ago. I’m kind of feeling discouraged at her response to the piece, to be honest, but I’m also trying to retain professionalism and quality customer service. Does anyone have any idea how she might remove the leaf without lifting or scratching the paint layer and thus, destroying the work? If not, any advice on what my next reply should be? The piece is sealed with GAC 400. No additional varnishing besides that. The paints were primarily Golden and Liquitex.

    Reply
    • Hello Taylor,

      It is unfortunate that the buyer of your work is dissatisfied with it, however, we would not encourage any attempt to remove the gold leaf, which would most likely only serve to ruin it. Overpainting the gold leaf with a matte medium to tone it down, or with more colors would be possible, but whether or not you should change the piece in order to please your buyer, is a question we cannot help with.

      We would also like to point out that artist’s works are protected by the copyright law – The right of Integrity clause, which says: The right of integrity is one of the moral rights now protected by the Copyright Act for works of visual art. The right of integrity is the right of an author to prevent others from doing things to his work which can hurt his reputation. So the author can prevent others from distorting, mutilating or misrepresenting his work.

      We hope this helps.

      Best,
      Mirjam

      Reply
  4. Do any of these products react with metal leaf sealers? I generally use Speedball Metal Leaf sealer as instructed over the imitation leaf – then I apply a gloss medium over that before I start painting.

    Reply
    • Hello Hailey,

      thank you for your question. Since we have not tested the Speedball Metal Leaf Sealer and there is little information on the product online, we cannot be 100% sure that the product is compatible with our acrylics or with imitation leaf. However, since the product is especially formulated to seal gold leaf, it is likely fine, especially if you have used it successfully in the past. Oxidation stains occur relatively quickly and if 1 year old applications still look good, the sealer should be trustworthy.

      Warm regards,
      Mirjam

      Reply

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