Gold Leaf in Visual Art: Radiant Beauty


Gold leaf in Visual Art, with its captivating luminosity and timeless allure, has been a cherished medium in the palette of visual artists throughout history. Derived from beaten gold, this delicate material transcends mere aesthetics, carrying with it a rich cultural and artistic legacy. In contemporary visual arts, gold leaf has found renewed popularity as artists explore its applications and symbolic significance.

Giotto's Madonna


Gold Leaf in Visual Art, Historical Significance:

In ancient civilisations, it had adorned religious artefacts, manuscripts, and monumental structures. From the gilded mosaics of Byzantine churches to the intricate details of illuminated manuscripts, the use of gold leaf has symbolised divinity, wealth, and cultural opulence. Giotto’s Madonnas and the Florence Renaissance have strongly influenced my artistic formation. These masterpieces keep inspiring my art.

Gold Leaf

Silent Universe

37cm x 57cm

Watercolour and Gold Foil on Hahnemuhle paper


Versatility in Visual Arts:

Gold Leaf in Visual Art offers a myriad of possibilities across different mediums. From traditional paintings to sculptures and mixed-media installations, artists embrace it to impart a sense of luxury, warmth, and sophistication to their creations. The juxtaposition of the radiant gold against other textures and colours can create a visually stunning effect, adding depth and complexity to the artwork.

Ethereal Painting

La Nuit
Acrylic & Gold Leaf
116 x 122 cm


Gold Leaf in Visual Art, Symbolism and Expression:

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, it holds profound symbolic value. Artists often use it to convey themes of spirituality, enlightenment, and the eternal. The reflective quality of gold leaf can evoke a sense of transcendence, inviting viewers to contemplate the ethereal and the sublime.

Gold Leaf in Visual Art

Technical Mastery:

The application requires precision and skill, however, with a little practice and following basic principles, you will master this technique!
Gold leaves come as loose leaves or transfer leaves. The transfer leaf is pressed face down onto the sized surface and the backing paper is rubbed over with slight pressure to release the gold onto the surface. Transfer leaf is usually used for flatter surfaces and outdoor gilding and is easier to handle than loose leaf.

Gold Leaf in Visual Art

Steps for applying the leaf over acrylic paint:

Seal the acrylic paint with acrylic medium gel before applying the leaf.
Let it dry for 4/5 days.
Apply a water-based gold leaf size in the designed area. You might have to wait 15 minutes up to 2 hours before applying the leaf. The size usually will remain tacky for at least 24 hours.
After applying the leaf brush off any excess with a clean soft brush. Leave another 5 days before to seal the leaf with a varnish.
Proper sealing is essential to ensure the longevity of the artwork and preserve the luminous quality of the gold leaf.
I usually use Golden MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Gloss Archival Varnish to seal the work.

Gold Leaf in Visual Art

Steps for applying the leaf over oil paint:


Let the oil cure, it might take up to 6 months depending on medium and thickness.
Apply an oil based size. You might have to wait 15 minutes up to 2 hours before applying the leaf. The size usually will remain tacky for at least 24 hours.
After applying the leaf brush off any excess with a clean soft brush. Leave another 5 days before to seal the leaf with a varnish.
Proper sealing is essential to ensure the longevity of the artwork and preserve the luminous quality.
I usually use Golden MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Gloss Archival Varnish to seal the work.

Gold Leaf

Time Forgotten
Acrylic & Gold Leaf
116 x 122 cm

Gold leaf continues to captivate the imaginations of visual artists, offering a timeless and versatile medium that transcends cultural and historical boundaries. Its application adds a layer of depth, symbolism, and sheer beauty to artworks, inviting viewers to experience the radiance and splendour that only gold leaf can provide. As we continue to push artistic boundaries, the golden legacy of this cherished material lives on, connecting past and present through the gilded threads of artistic expression.

I hope you enjoyed this article, let me know in the comments below if you already use this material in your art and what is it your technique!

Further Readings on Gold Leaf:


Jackson Art – Tuesday Riddel
Jackson Art

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