Technique Of Water Gilding

June 4, 2019 Off By Gregory

Water-based sizes are often used when gilding object surfaces with gold and other metallic leaf. However, one perception is that water sizes do not allow for burnishing after the gilding; they leave behind a gluing surface on the gold or metal-covered object that does not allow polishing and burnishing.

Water-based sizes, however, are still quite popular among artists and often used when gilding with gold leaf. Gilding with water-based glue should not be confused with water gilding.

Water gilding is a technique that results in a shiny mirror-like finish on the object and is achieved by using loose metal leaf, usually gold and silver and a water based size.

The technique of water gilding with gold leaf and size

The object surface that has to be gilded is coated with water size. The loose gold leaf is picked up carefully and placed on the gilding surface, now covered with water-based glue or size.

Care must be taken to ensure that the workplace is free of drafts and breeze. Loose gold leaf is extremely susceptible to any kind of pressure, including air currents, however weak.

When water gilding with loose leaf gold and silver, or other precious metals, ensure you follow the size maker’s instructions carefully. Some sizes may be overlaid with metal after a lapse of some time to ensure the right viscosity of glue. Pick up loose metal leaf with a sure hand to minimize shakes, and place onto the glue.

Because water gilding may require higher amounts of size and glue, the metal leaf needs careful attention while handling. Loose leaf gold and silver is prone to sticking and breakage. Other metals in loose leaf form are also susceptible to damage and may crinkle or lose their smoothness upon handling. Water gilding should result in a brighter surface, which is why the artist needs to be extra careful to not allow the gold and silver leaf to break or smudge due to excess size.

Once you are done with the entire process of water gilding, it can be treated the same as objects gilded with gold leaf and size. A piece of soft cloth or polishing cloth can be taken and rubbed all over the surface that has been gilded to ensure that the size evens out. This also gives the surface a burnished and polished effect. The polishing and burnishing also enables the gilding to stick onto the object better.