Want to try your hand at making your own lacquered and leafed box? What you’ll need:
1. Something to leaf. You can buy cute little boxes at a Paper Source or any craft store, find them at a thrift store or refurbish something you already own.
2. Get your gold leaf. I bought this starter kit at a nearby Blick art store. I would not spend more than $10-12 on this, and the leaf I got in this starter kit was enough to cover two small jewelry boxes, the inside of a small bowl, and a 12” tall toy horse. A lot was also wasted in my first attempts. That’s an easy-to-convert unit of measurement for you!
3. Black spray paint. A simple matte black from Home Depot is what I used.
4. Lacquer spray paint, also very inexpensive at Home Depot.
5. A couple of cheap brushes to apply the adhesive sizing. This stuff is incredibly sticky and hard to remove from bristles, so I wouldn’t recommend using your favorite brushes.
Ok, are we ready?! Yeah!!!
For quick and dirty directions, look at this Design Sponge DIY, which doesn’t give any step by step info.
First, spray paint your little object with your base spray paint color. If you have any drips, sand them down and spray paint again. The gold leaf is very thin and will pick up the texture of any object it’s applied to; you won’t want those drips showing through. Go easy on the sanding if you’re working with a cardboard craft box, because you don’t want to rough up the actual paper.
Ok? Ok! Good job! You’re ready for the next step!
Now it’s time to apply your gold leaf. As you can see in the first picture, I did a simple triangle pattern. I free-handed it, but you could lightly draw on your pattern with a pencil to follow it, too.
*You will want to work on a solid surface, like wood or glass, because once the sizing starts flying, the gold leaf will stick to anything and everything.
*The gold leaf comes in a little book with each leaf sandwiched between sheets of tissue paper (see pictures 2 and 3). This can make it a little tricky to pull out a whole square intact, because it is sewn into a binding and is likely to tear.
*The imitation gold leaf is also incredibly responsive to static electricity, so it twitches a bit as you try to pick it up. This makes working with whole sheets very difficult. It also gets a bit jumpy as it nears the adhesive sizing on the object: it wants to stick to it asap, and will twist and fold around as you try to apply it.
*That’s why I suggest cutting out the shapes from your book to create many small triangles, squares, or what have you, instead of trying to cut them out of individual sheets or imitation gold leaf. I would also recommend having a plate or some other more non-sticky surface to keep your gold leaf separate on and minimize the risk of wasting it by having it stick to things.
So, you’ve cut your little shape out and now you have a whole stack of little gold leaf triangles sandwiched between tissue paper triangles, as in picture 4 (or whatever shape). Right now, while your hands are not sticky, delicately separate the gold leaf from the tissue paper so that your little gold triangles are all ready and waiting on your separate gold leaf work space (see picture 5).
Pour a bit of sizing in a cup, as in picture 6. The plastic bottle is easy to tip over, and you don’t want to spill this thin glue everywhere.
Now use one of your brushes to paint on your design in adhesive sizing. Your gold leaf directions recommend that you wait till the adhesive sizing is dry but tacky, but I think this increases the chances of making mistakes and ripping the leaf. You have more flexibility to correct your mistakes as you go if you work while the sizing is wet.
While the sizing is still wet, then, use your wet brush to pick up your leaf pieces. Touching them gently with the wet brush should be enough to pick them up, and you can use another wet brush or your finger to help tap each piece of leaf into its desired place.
As you place your gold leaf, don’t worry too much if it tears or wrinkles; you can always place another piece of leaf over it and it will not be noticeable. It’s totally fine to overlap pieces of gold leaf, and the wrinkles are pretty and, let’s face it, inevitable. The most important thing is to stay “in the lines” of your design. If you don’t, you can always go back and touch up and paint over lines and errors with a little spray paint in a bowl and a brush.
I also suggest covering each piece of leaf with some adhesive sizing as you go. Keeping it wet will help keep it from sticking to an errant finger tip or piece of tissue paper, and set you up to place another layer of gold leaf on the piece if you desire.
Alright. So, you’ve applied your design to the best of your ability. Now let that sucker dry. Give it a day at least, probably two. I know you’re antsy, but wait.
Now you can go back and apply gold leaf to any areas that have errors. To fix up areas that you intended to leave your base color, you can spray some spray paint into a bowl so it pools and you can dip a brush in it. Work quickly with one of your brushes to paint on the spray paint where it’s needed.
Looking good? Good! Once you’re happy with your object, apply a couple coats of lacquer spray paint. Voila! You’ve made your own lacquered, leafed box!