How To Create Your Own
This project brings together a refreshingly simple method of
gilding onto paper with an even simpler method of making an
imitation vellum, to create a convincing gilded
manuscript. If you just wish to know how to gild onto
paper ignore the last stage of the four steps mentioned
further down the page.
Generations of bookbinders have
known how to make their own imitation vellums,
having as their ideal the medieval gilded
The paper you choose for
this project is important. Bookbinders knew a great deal about
paper and chose those papers most suited for what they
were trying to achieve.
There are many suitable papers, almost
any hand made, or mould made paper of about 175gsm in wieght
and off white to cream in colour will do.
A good choice would be a good quality
heavy cartridge paper, we used this a lot.
This is what you
An inkjet printer, “Word”
software or similar.
A good quality paper to print onto.
The paper you use is important, best to consult an art supply
shop where good quality papers are commonplace. A 200gsm
cartridge would be fine for this project.
Imitation gold leaf, you can use
23 carat gold leaf, but after you have applied the finish to
the gilded manuscript it will be hard to tell them
size or adhesive, I have developed my
own gold size after extensive experiments with traditional
and modern gold sizes. The size I supply is called“Simple
Scribe” it is available from the gold lead supplies
small amount of blonde de waxed shellac.
going to be the basis of our gilded
manuscript finish, it is important to get this type of
shellac by name; it is the right tint for what we are
Spirit is needed to dissolve
the shellac, this is a 90% proof alcohol made to smell and
taste bad, in America it is known as denatured
small paint brushes and one larger one
for applying the imitation vellum finish to the
whole sheet of paper.
Lastly you will need a pair of scissors, a scalpel, or craft
knife, a steel ruler and a cutting mat or sheet of waste
card to cut upon, and a little masking
This gilded manuscript project can be broken up into four
1. The printing
2. Applying the gold adhesive
3. Applying the gold metal leaf.
4. Applying the imitation vellum finish.
OK, the first thing to do is set up
what you want to print in a Word Document, make sure that
you are set to print an A4 document
For those who
don’t know, you can insert a large capital like I have
done by highlighting the letter you want to capitalize and
in Word go to Format/Drop Cap/Dropped, and enter the
number of lines you want the capital to extend, in effect
this determines the size of the capital and arranges all
the text around it.
You will notice the capitals of
the gilded manuscript are printed in pale pink. This
enables me to see the areas I have to apply gold adhesive
Applying the gold adhesive.
Do not apply to much
adhesive, we don’t want to form a high bead with the liquid
size forming a domed effect. Rather, give the
letter two thin coats.
Now leave to dry completely, say half
an hour in a warm room and don’t worry, remember the gold
size dries sticky, you can do the gilding right away or
weeks later if you want, but dust may be a problem if you do
wait that long.
Try to resist the temptation to touch
the dry but sticky adhesive, it is very sticky and touching
it will disturb the surface of the
Applying the gold metal
If you have not gilded before don’t
worry, imitation gold leaf is much thicker than 23 carat
gold leaf which makes it much easier to handle, you can even
handle the leaf with your fingers if they are dry and grease
Take the book of metal leaf and remove
one sheet of gold sandwiched between two sheets of tissue, I
have found it easy to tear the three layers straight from
the book of leaf, grip the sandwich firmly and gently tear
I have to say it
would be a little easier if I had some patent gold leaf, it
being mounted on a thin sheet of paper and in this one
respect easier to use than loose leaf, but as you can see
from the pictures it is not difficult to handle the
Now lay the
sandwich onto your cutting mat or waste
Cut the sandwich according to the size
pieces you need.
case I am going to cut the leaf into quarters as this size
suits the capitals I am going to gild.
sheet of tissue from one of the pieces and lay the leaf
down over the capital to be gilded keeping the top piece
of tissue in place.
Lay the leaf down flat over the area to
be gilded and smooth the paper down flat.
You can now rub down firmly with the
tissue still in place; in effect this is burnishing the
leaf, so rub down well.
we want to remove all the surplus leaf which will reveal
the letter we have gilded.
Tear of a piece of
masking tape 2 or 3 inches long.
Using a gentle dabbing
action work your way over the leaf, as soon as the tape has
picked up leaf move on to an unused part of the
If you use the
masking tape too aggresively you may remove the
works because the gold adhesive is stickier than the
Applying the imitation vellum
As I have said, bookbinders in the past
used to produce imitation vellum and parchment by varnishing
certain types of suitable paper.
We are going to do the same thing. What
makes this so much fun is the difference applying shellac is
going to do to the paper.
The shellac is mixed up 1 part of
shellac to four parts of methylated spirit/denatured
Place the shellac in a glass jar with a
screw top, add the alcohol and shake occasionally over a 48
The alcohol does give off fumes so work
in a room that has good ventilation if they bother
the shellac on, doing so does several
It colours the gold slightly giving it
a deeper hue; it also seals the leaf so it will not
It also changes the colour of the paper
as well as hardening it, making it more like vellum in the
way it handles.
the appearance of the paper, making it slightly translucent,
the thinner the paper the more translucent.
alters the tint of the paper considerably. It also increases
the surface abrasion characteristics, making it more like
vellum, it is also quite stiff by virtue of the shellac
which now permeates the whole of the paper, again just like
Let the print dry in
a warm room.
And that is the end of the
So you see, it's quite straight forward
to create this convincing gilded manuscript. However there
are other things you can do with this
You can also make inexpensive
bespoke seasonal cards that look both hand made and
You use the same
process as used to make the gilded
I happen to be working with Christmas
themes in these examples, but you can use this method for
This is the first two verses of “In the
bleak mid winter” with gilded capitals.
Any stationers should be able to supply
you with matching blank cards and
You can purchase the whole gilded
manuscript kit, which is enough for 5 A4 projects or 15/20
average sized seasonal cards from the
The manual for this
project can be found at the
So far we have looked at imitation gold leaf in
a craft context, but their are people who are using gold metal
leaf in their work as artists. Take a look at what
can be done when imitation gold leaf becomes
gold leaf art.
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