Nothing Compares To Actual Metal Leaf

Last week, I showed y’all how I used a Krylon 18kt Gold Leaf Pen to add some gold accents to my studio cabinets. The result wasn’t bad, but the more I looked at it and lived with it, the more I wished that it showed up more and was more vibrant in color, like an actual metal. Here’s how the metallic gold pen accent looked on the cabinets…

Last week, I also ordered some actual gold leaf (well, the imitation stuff) to use on the insides of the pendant lights that go over the countertop on the mural wall. I didn’t get those completely finished, but here’s a sneak peek of how those are looking with the gold leaf. I also added a band of gold around the bottom outside edge, and it looks fantastic!!

So there I was with all of this extra gold leaf, and a whole wall of cabinet doors and drawers that I thought needed a bit more shine. Naturally, I had to try it on one door to see how it compared to the gold metallic marker. Well, when it comes to gold leaf, there is no comparison.

There are so many paints and pens that try to mimic the look of gold leaf, but in reality, nothing comes close. If you want the look of real gold leaf, you have to use real gold leaf. Look at the one gold leafed door compared to the door and drawer fronts with marker accent. The difference is pretty amazing!

The marker, while it does have a metallic shine to it, appears overall darker than the real metal leaf.

And the main thing that sold me was that the real gold leaf (again, I don’t mean to insinuate that it’s real gold, but only that it’s real metal leaf in a gold color) is visible from anywhere in the room, whereas the gold metallic marker accent disappears the further away you get from the cabinets.

So, of course, once I saw the difference, I couldn’t go back to the marker. I’m now in the process of gold leafing all of the doors and drawer fronts. It’s a much more time consuming process, but I think the payoff is so worth it! Here’s the process I used to add the gold leaf accent to my cabinet doors and drawer fronts. (This is a process I’ve done before on a different style of cabinets. You can see how added gold leaf accent to recessed panel cabinet doors here.)

Since these painted cabinet doors haven’t been finished very long, I used painters tape for delicate surfaces. I wanted the gold leaf accent to cover the outer edge of the trim, and about 1/4 inch of the top of the trim. So I started by taping all the way around the trim that I added to my IKEA Veddinge doors.

Next, I used some 1/4-inch painters tape to tape off the outer 1/4-inch of the trim. This tape was just being used as a spacer, and would be removed before I added the gold leaf.

And then just inside the 1/4-inch tape spacer, I added more of the painters tape for delicate surfaces.

To clean up those inside corners, I used my utility knife and very carefully cut at a diagonal, making sure I didn’t cut deep enough to score the painted finish.

And then I removed the extra pieces that I had cut off, and was left with mitered painters tape corners.

I put a scrap piece of painters tape over the corner to hold it together. Since this tape is for delicate surfaces, it’s not as sticky as regular painters tape, so corners like that have more of a tendency to move or come up if they’re not secured.

After that, I was able to remove the 1/4-inch painters tape that I had used as a spacer, which revealed the area that I wanted to cover with gold leaf. I used a small artist paint brush to apply the Speedball Mona Lisa Extra Thick Adhesive Size (affiliate link).

The last time I gold leafed cabinets doors, I used the regular Speedball Mona Lisa Adhesive Size. That stuff is very watery, and had a tendency to get underneath the painters tape. The super thick adhesive is still thin enough to brush on, but it’s thick enough that it won’t bleed underneath the painters tape.

I brushed on two coats of the super thick adhesive, letting the first coat dry completely before brushing on the second. The Speedball Adhesive Size goes on cloudy and dries clear and shiny. After applying two coats, and letting the second coat dry thoroughly, I applied the gold leaf. This is the imitation gold leaf I bought (affiliate link). I’ve used this several times on various projects, and I’m always very pleased with how it looks. It’s very messy, though! 😀

After I had all of the area covered with the gold leaf, I used a 1-inch artist brush to brush the whole area somewhat vigorously in order to make sure all of the gold leaf was secure and to remove any excess. The I used another brush to brush on a coat of General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in a flat finish (affiliate link). I used the flat finish because that’s what I always have on hand, but I don’t find that it makes any difference at all in the sheen of the gold leaf. Even with the flat finish clear coat, the metal leaf is still has a very shiny metallic finish.

After that top coat dried, I removed the painters tape.

I used a large dry paint brush to brush away all of the excess gold leaf, and then added one more coat of the General Finishes Topcoat to seal the edges of the gold leaf.

Once that was dry, I reinstalled the door and gazed upon the beauty of that gorgeous metallic shine. 😀

I mean, there’s just simply no comparison. Trying to imitate the look of metal will always fall short. Nothing shines like a real metal leaf.

Last week was kind of a dud for me as far as getting work done in the studio. I started off the week with a cold and felt horrible for a few days, and then I shared my cold with Matt. I was so afraid that he would end up in the hospital again, as has happened the last three times I’ve come down with something and then shared it with him. Because he has M.S., even something like a cold can be so severe for him because it can cause extreme weakness to the point that he can’t even drink water or speak.

So the latter part of last week, and over the weekend, my focus was on him and not my studio. Fortunately, his cold never turned severe, we avoided a hospital stay, and today, we’re both feeling great! So I can return to normal life this week, focus more on the studio, and hopefully see some real progress over the next few days.



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  1. Wow! I can’t believe that you went to so much effort in adding the gold leaf as an accent to the cabinet fronts. It was definitely worth it.

    Adding the gold leaf to the inside of the lights will “add” so much reflective light. You’ll appreciate that when you work on projects on the counter tops.

  2. The lights look so nice, and ties in well with the rest of the room.
    I just can’t bring myself to get behind the gold leafing. To me, gold accents are very ‘French Provincial’, and not necessary for a work horse studio/workshop. If it were a cabinet, with a few doors & drawers, you could appreciate the leafing more. There is a lot of trim on your cabinets, and gold leafing all of them might kind of blur them together. This is just my opinion…I love mostly everything you do, and am awestruck by your talent, skill and determination.

  3. You really can’t compare the metal gold leaf to the other stuff you painted on all those drawers. That is a lot of work, however. I am excited about seeing the studio all finished and cleaned up. Are you going to do curtains?

    What have you decided to do about the bathroom? And the plans for the addition?
    I’m sorry, too many questions!

    1. I’ll only be doing curtains in the back entry. The other windows will have the same woven shades that I used in the home gym and master bathroom.

      Are you talking about the hallway bathroom? I’m doing the teal wallpaper in there. I haven’t ordered it yet because I don’t want to be tempted to work on that room when I have so much more to do on the studio. When the studio project starts winding down, I’ll order the wallpaper.

      I had lots of time to work on the plans for the addition this weekend since I had so much downtime. I think I’ve figured it out. And I also found a great floor plan creator. I’ll share that later in the week. The architect is about to go on a week-and-a-half vacation, so our meeting wont be until he gets back. That gives me a little more time to mull over the floor plan.

      1. Be sure to post the intended floor plan for us to see and marvel over! Can’t wait until that addition starts!
        Thanks for showing the difference in the real metal leaf and paint pens. I think you just saved some of us alot of time and money on a future project!

  4. You should never feel bad for taking time to heal and taking care of Matt. I am amazed at how much time you are willing to spend on a detail, I think that is where I fall short, I get over a project once I am 95% done….there are a few I have finished well, but others, I am a “good enough” person. You give me courage to up my game!

  5. There is such a huge difference! I’m glad you went ahead and did the gold leaf. I knew that gold would look so good with the pink. Glad you and Matt are feeling better.

  6. First of all, I’m so glad your colds are over and gone, and they were not at bad as they could have been! What a difference between the two products. The work is much more, but the results speak volumes. When I started reading, I KNEW you would do the work…or never be happy. I know I would have been satisfied with the less than perfect as I’m getting too old to take on that kind of project. 😅 Meanwhile, I was looking at the topcoat you use. Is it the satin you used on the doors? And I see they have an exterior grade too…is that what I should use on dresser tops in case they get wet from a glass or something? (I think it was still water-based too) I so hate oil based, and my painted dressers already wound up with a water mark. 😓 PS) A WOW on the lights!

  7. Beautiful work as usual! I did get nervous when I saw that you had masked the doors with the delicate (purple) masking tape, I used it last week on my kitchen cabinet doors as my daughter and I worked on the countertops and when I went to carefully remove it, it removed paint off my doors. So I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that you didn’t have the same issue. Again, thank you for sharing all of your creative and beautiful hard work in your lovely home!

  8. THANK YOU! I can’t wait to gold leaf a round multi faceted mirror that is currently a distressed white and a focal point in my dining room. I have anguished about taking this step for wag too long. Now, I can big wait to get started!

  9. I know you are loving the gold leaf, but I have to be honest – I think it’s a bit garish and harsh. Just my feelings though. I thought the paint pen was a bit softer, but all that matters is if you like it. I do like the lampshades though. Will you leave the white in a matte look or are you going to give them a gloss to go with the gold leaf? So glad you both are feeling better. Never let work take you away from yours or Matt’s health! Be sure you are eating well and resting enough!

  10. I’ve always wanted to try gold leaf and now I feel like I can try it thanks to your information. Just a funny note, I saw you had a new post in my email but I didn’t have my glasses on and read the headline as ” Nothing compares to actual Meat Loaf” for a minute there I thought we were getting a recipe! 😂
    So glad I was wrong- keep up the great work!

  11. It’s good to hear you and Matt are back to feeling good.
    Wow…those lights are out of this world beautiful. So beautiful. You really did an outstanding job on those.
    The real gold leaf is beautiful on the door you so painstakingly did. The gold leaf pen doesn’t even compare to the shimmer of the real thing. You have so much patience to put the real gold leaf on one drawer…..not to mention you will be doing all of your drawers and doors. I salute you. Your studio will be the “you” of all of your decorating and building.

  12. Such a difference! Well worth the effort. The lamps are gorgeous. I am anxious to see it all come together.

    I am glad you and Matt are well again.

    Regards to you both.