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What is the best practice for gilding on paper?
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It would really depend on what you need for a final effect.
If you intend on burnishing, like a medieval illumination, you would generally
need a bulked up animal glue based mordant (or one of the curious variants
including garlic juice, etc. I have not tested these but may work this into an
advanced undergrad seminar or such).
If you are simply attempting to adhere gold
leaf (or another metal leaf) to paper one of the polymer gold sizes should be
appropriate. There are a few on the market (Wunda, Aqua, etc.) Probably any
acrylic dispersion medium would work depending on your particular need (ie open
time requirements, and flexibility).
One word of caution here....you should likely perform some tests on your intended paper substrate as any water-based adhesive/mordant could potentially cause some wrinkling and/or planar deformation, particulaly is the paper substrate is thin.
Could I apply a fixative to the paper to prevent any adverse effects from the size on paper and then gild? Is it possible to oil gild on paper if the paper was first prepared with something like shellac?
You could apply a size to lessen potential planar
deformation but if you are careful and test, this may not be necessary. Additionally,
if you do use a size, make sure that it is compatible underlayer for your chosen mordant.
Oil mordants become very brittle, making it inappropriate for use on a flexible
support like paper. In addition, as oil gilding is not burnishable, it offers
no advantages in this circumstance other than a longer open tine.
Thank you for these great responses. I have one more question. I was recently using the Kolner Instacoll gilding system for a project. I used a small brush to apply the size to a specific area. The area, however, maintained my brush strokes when I applied the leaf. Is there any way to maintain a smooth surface or increase the leveling effect when applying something like Instacoll so the leaf won't be affected by the inconsistencies of the brush marks?
I have not personally used that system. You do point out one
of the shortcomings of polymer sizes. They gel so quickly that artifacts from
the brush strokes are difficult to avoid. Kolner advertises that their product
is sprayable. That would certainly avoid this problem. In addition, they do
suggest a size (they mention shellac but this seems to be in relation to
gilding architectural interiors, this would not be appropriate for paper). Sorry
that I was not more of a help. Perhaps others have more salient comments.
I just read the directions for Instaclay provided by Kolner
and it says that if you have drips you can remove them with sand paper. Have
you tried that?
I was using the Instacoll System and not the Instaclay. So the one I was using is not clay-based and according to the directions there isn't sanding involved. I just watched some online videos of people using it, and it appears that a careful pooling and dragging of the size to fill an area without over-brushing creates a smoother surface. I will give that a try. Thank you again.