When painting, there are many ways to use real gold leaf sheets to create different effects. They are desirable for their gorgeous color and for adding a unique shine. The process of adding gold leaf is called gilding.

Before you add gold leaf, you have to make sure you choose which paints you’re using. Gold leaf is naturally flakey so you want to make sure it sticks on your paper and some paints won’t work well. When it comes to gold leaf, oil and water-based paints are ideal. You can use acrylic but it’s not recommended. 

After choosing your paint make sure you select the appropriate adhesive for it. Your adhesive should be tacky instead of wet, so let it dry for a couple of minutes before putting on your gold leaf.

We recommended putting your gold leaf on top of a darker color so that way it looks intentional if any of it scratches off. You can achieve this by painting a dark color and letting it dry before putting on the adhesive or just using a black canvas.

Below we have 5 ways to use gold leaf sheets in your paintings. You can choose to take these ideas or use them as inspiration.


Any gold added to a painting will immediately draw the eye. This is why it is a good idea to use it to emphasize different parts of your art. 

You can use it to enhance an emotion, like coloring a tear with it. Or to draw attention to some jewelry or a part of the clothing.


Any piece that has a light source can benefit from added gold leaf. Wherever the light hits, you can add a shiny reflection. 

You need to make sure your painting is completed before adding gold leaf to it. This way you know exactly where to put it and won’t be wasting any gold leaf on an area you might choose to repaint.

The reflective nature of gold leaf makes it ideal for highlighting water or mirrors. It makes it seem realistic and adds an extra dimension to your art.


Gold is usually associated with many mythical creatures. Dragons and their hordes, angel halos, mermaid scales; so many creatures can be enhanced with real gold.

The ethereal feeling that gold can bring works well for beings that are not of this reality. Even adding a little bit can bring out the details that you wish to portray as magical.

Plants And Animals

Not only does gold leaf work well on fictional creatures, but it can also enhance non-fictional items. Some examples are animals and botanicals. Many people consider these parts of nature to be the best inspiration for an artist.

You can bring a metallic color to flowers, butterflies, and even the eyes of larger animals like tigers or wolves.

There are a lot of bioluminescent animals that would perfectly match the effect that gold leaf can bring. You can use it on drawings of fireflies, or whenever you are painting marine life.

The blue of the ocean really contrasts with the gold leaf so when you mix the two it can make your art really stand out.


No matter what time of day you’re painting, you can always incorporate gold leaf. It can add dimension to the moon and stars at night, or even emphasize a lit-up city skyline. The gold can really make an object twinkle.

You can even add gold leaf to sunsets, it will add a glow to clouds and accurately color rays of sunlight. Gold leaf will really work well with beach scenes, they call them golden sands for a reason. 

When you have your golf leaf where you want it, you can then use a soft paintbrush to brush away the access. If you have applied your adhesive correctly then you should be left with only the gold leaf you want.

The final step is to seal your painting, if you don’t then the gold leaf may scratch or come off over time. We recommend waiting a couple of days for the adhesive to completely dry before adding sealant. Your sealant should have UV protection to stop your gold leaf from tarnishing.

Gold leaf can help to bring your painting to life. While it may be a challenge to use at first, once you get the hang of it you will become addicted and all of your paintings will have that golden glow.