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How To Apply Gold Leaf To Furniture

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As a lover of glam decor, I love furniture with metallic finishes. But I can’t always find (or afford) the pieces I want in a gold or silver version. So I decided to do my own by learning how to apply gold leaf for this Hollywood Regency bar makeover. And it’s much easier than I thought it would be!

How to Apply Gold Leaf To Furniture

When I decided to give my old bar a makeover, I loved the idea of applying gold leaf to the front of it. (Okay, faux gold leaf…I didn’t want to spend the money for the real thing).

But since it was my first time applying gold leaf sheets, I was pretty nervous about how it was going to turn out.

It seems like such a complicated process. But it really ended up being much easier than I thought!

Yes, the gold sheets are very delicate (they tear and wrinkle very easily!), but since I wasn’t looking for a perfectly smooth gold finish, I think that actually added to the look.

So here’s how to apply gold leaf to furniture.


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  • Painter’s tape
  • Foam brush
  • Small disposable plastic container – this will be used to hold the adhesive so you’ll probably want to throw it away after.

How To Gold Leaf Furniture

The steps for applying Gold Leaf To Furniture

Now we’re ready to actually start applying the gold leaf to the furniture.

Step 1 | Apply a Thin Layer of Adhesive

Foam brush with gold leaf adhesive

1. Use painter’s tape to tape off the area that the foil is being applied to.  I didn’t do this step, but it would have made the job a lot easier.

2. Pour a little bit of the adhesive into a container that is large enough for the brush to fit in.  You don’t need very much.

A thin layer of gold leaf adhesive applied to a door

3. Cover the entire area with a thin layer of adhesive.  Try to get it as thin and as evenly distributed as you can.

4. Let the adhesive sit for 20 or 30 minutes until it has turned clear but is still sticky.  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make the gold foil stick, so don’t worry if you think it’s too dry…it’s likely still sticky enough.

Step 2 | Glue On the Gold Foil Sheets

Gold leaf sheet sticking to gold leaf adhesive

1. Use the tissue paper to lift a gold sheet on to the sticky adhesive.  I found that keeping the tissue paper covering the foil helped to keep it from tearing too much.

Faux gold leaf stuck to gold leaf adhesive

2. Pat the top of the tissue paper to make the gold foil stick to the glue.

Don’t worry too much if there are wrinkles at this point…this step is just to get the gold foil to stick.

Gold leaf after it has been smoothed onto gold leaf adhesive

3. Remove the tissue paper and use a piece of paper towel to gently rub across the top of the gold foil to smooth it out.  This should remove any rough spots.

Gold foil sheets stuck to furniture

4. Repeat with other pieces of foil.  Make sure they are not overlapping the first one (they won’t stick to the top of the other gold foil sheets).

Gold foil sheets with a tear glued to furniture

Don’t worry if some of the gold leaf comes off or rips in the process…you can cover any holes with the next layers.

Step 3 | Add Some More Gold Leaf Layers

Faux gold foil sheets applied in layers to the furniture

Apply more layers of gold foil to fill in the holes left by the previous layer.

Multiple layers of gold leaf with a coat of gold leaf adhesive

To do this add another thin layer of adhesive over both the the gold foil and the blank spots.  As before, wait for it dry until it is clear and then apply more gold sheets to fill in the spaces.

Cabinet doors with gold leaf applied to the front

It will take a few layers to completely cover the area, but all those layers add depth to the finish.

Step 4 | Finish the Gold Foil Surface

Gold leaf with adhesive applied over it

1. The adhesive does dull the finish of the foil a little bit, so if you want it to have a more even look, you will want to do one of two things:

a. If you like the duller look, apply a final layer of adhesive on top of the final layer and wait for it to dry.

Additional layer of gold leaf applied to previous layers of gold foil

b. If you like the shinier look, use extra pieces of foil to cover all of the adhesive areas when you do the last layer.

After you have stuck everything down, remove the excess foil and use your paper towel to smooth everything out.  (This is what I did with my cabinet).

Leftover bits of gold leaf on the table after the project is finished

2. Clean up all of the little bits of gold foil.  I think this was the worst part of the whole process!  Note to self:  Don’t do gold leaf on a table that has grooves in it…you will end up with little bits of gold leaf stuck in all of them.

3. The last step is to spray on the foil leaf sealer.  This protects the leaf from being chipped off.  Wait until the adhesive has dried before doing this step.

Enjoy the Finished Gold Leaf Furniture

Gold foil on the doors of a cabinet

The finished doors have a rich gold finish to them.

Black lacquer cabinet with gold leaf on the door fronts

The whole piece of furniture looks much more expensive than it actually was. (You can see the whole bar makeover project HERE.)

And the whole process only took an afternoon to complete!

These are the kind of DIY projects I love!  Next, I think I’ll try something with silver leaf 🙂

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Have comments or questions on how to apply gold leaf to furniture?  Tell us in the section below.

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This post was originally published on September 5, 2016 but was updated with new content on August 12, 2021.

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  1. What kind of sealer I need to use to protect the gold leaf on my furniture to chipped off? I used Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer but the gold leaf on the arm rest get chipped off.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Gilbert…You can buy sealers that are meant for gold leaf (search for gold leaf sealer and you’ll see some come up). However, if the gold leaf is chipping, it sounds like it didn’t adhere very well to the furniture (which a sealer probably won’t fix). You might need to re-apply the gold leaf with a different glue.

  2. I just wrote you a whole email and it DISSAPEARED suddenly! How annoying! I’ll try to write it again……..???

  3. Very pretty! Did you know you can do this using aluminum foil? Cut into squares and apply with an adhesive.Then burnish and seal.Years ago, I did bathroom walls this way using rubber cement for adhesive. There may be a better adhesive nowadays for this.( mod podge?) You can put the dull or the shiny side out, or you can alternate them.

    1. Thanks, Julie! I had not thought of using aluminum foil, but that’s a great idea! I’ll have to come up with a project to try that out 🙂

    2. Michelle Hanson says:

      Hiya Julie,

      I have done the aluminum foil paper on an old malamite book shelf in My Daughters room when She was ready to update Her room from a Princess theme to Teen chic!!
      She loved it so much She carted it off to College earlier this Fall!!
      With the thicker foil it was much easier to use than the tissue paper thin Metallic craft foils and was a stunning piece……
      I have used the craft foils many times on cards, small canvases, upcycling older vases, etc. The trick is to have a tray under everything to contain the mess!!
      Blessings from the North,
      xo Michelle
      PS Remember creating feeds YOUR SOUL!!

      1. Michelle,
        I was referring to regular old grocery store aluminum foil in rolls. You don’t need to use the “extra heavy duty either.” Much less expensive than craft foils. The extra heavy duty Grocery store foil might be embossable too, for more possibilities!
        The trick is to cut it into “ tile” squares that overlap somewhat, for more interest and texture.