DIY transformation: The Lazy Girl's Gold Leafing How-To in 4 Steps (and under $100)

I have been on the hunt for a pair of mirrors for our bedroom, inspired by gorgeous pictures like these: 

I had two things to keep in mind when looking for the perfect pair of mirrors: unique shape, and budget. After scouring Etsy, Craigslist, and even eBay for about a month, I found these dark Spanish-style mirrors on Craigslist for $35.  The shape is what attracted me to them first. They actually came off an antique dresser, so weren't made as "wall mirrors" per se; but I was about to change that :)



All hail the power of gold leaf!

My mother is an artist and loves to gold leaf (we say if it isn't nailed down in her house, she'll gold leaf it). There's a reason for this... gold leaf can really turn a drab or dated piece into something fresh and expensive-looking.

I'm sharing what I did on these mirrors, but please remember there are lots of ways to do this and you can add beautiful glazes, finishes, and layers for different looks. My way is minimalistic and only uses adhesive, gold leaf, and sealant. So here we go!

My easy-peasy, gold leafing how-to in 4 steps:

2. Gold leaf adhesive
3. Acrylic sealant
4. A small paintbrush
5. A workspace that can get messy (the gold will flake)
...and patience!
         *Type and brand of gold leaf: My mom recommends Mona Lisa gold leaf sheets in GOLD. These can be purchased at Michael's (Hobby Lobby used to carry Mona Lisa but mine carries another brand now). Mona Lisa has a ton of kits, some with all the items mentioned above in one package. 

1. Prepare your workspace as if you're about to paint. I used painter's tape to protect the mirror edges, and copy paper to cover the mirror itself. 

2. Put adhesive all over item you're gold leafing. Any spot you miss will not be sticky and the gold won't adhere, so be meticulous. Using a paintbrush worked best for me, the sponge brush I tried soaked up the glue. Let the adhesive sit, as it gets stronger and stickier as it dries.

You can either paint on the adhesive, which is what I did ($3):
 or get the type in the spray can ($10) or pen ($11) for small projects.

3. Time to pull out your book of gold leaf sheets. I found the sheets much less messy than the flakes, since I had a larger surface to cover. They are $6 for 25 sheets; I used 3 books (my rec is to buy more than you think you'll need, then just return the unopened ones. It's never fun to run out mid-project!)

Carefully pull off a sheet, doing your best not to wrinkle it in the process. For me, the best application was letting the sheet "float" onto the surface, then smoothing it down with my finger.  For tiny crevices my finger couldn't get to, I used the tiny paintbrush.
After you have your piece covered, go back and look for any gaping holes where the gold leaf didn't adhere. Take your paintbrush and add adhesive to any "holes" in your gold leaf... wait to dry... and repeat process.

You don't want it to be patchy, but remember: to get a naturally distressed look, you don't want the gold leaf to cover every single inch of the piece. If you wanted that look, you could just use spray paint. With gold leaf, the richness and gild of the finish really comes from the unique way the gold is applied.

4. Congrats, the hardest part is over! It's tempting to finish the project here, but the sealant is very important. You don't want flakes all over the floor instead of on your lovely piece. Let the gold leaf cure overnight, then finish with an acrylic topcoat (about $6).
Let dry, and enjoy your beautiful work!

Project cost:
Mirrors- $35
3 Books of Gold Leaf- $18
1 jar of adhesive- $3
Pack of paintbrushes- $4
2 cans of acylic topcoat- $12
Total: $72

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  1. Thanks, for posting this tutorial. I've always wondered about gold leafing things --- and after I saw your pic on IG I was even more curious. That shot of your bed with the wall mirrors looks like it came right out of a magazine. Your room looks amazing. And I'm sooooo glad this blog is back up and going!

    1. Thanks so much, Ally! I really had fun with this project, and for the difference it made in the look it was really minimal effort (and more importantly, $$)! Yes, the blog is back with a bang... much to Stephen's chagrin :)