Printing on Gold Leaf….again


Printing some of my photographs on gold or silver [actually just metal] leaf is something I do from time to time, but have never gotten around to pursuing it enough to print a body of work that way. What I found surprising is that all kinds of subject matter from documentary to more illustrative work lend themselves to this process.A couple of weeks ago I needed to come up with a print to enter into a local arts center exhibit. The photo I had in mind was from a 35mm film negative and – with apologies to Simone Martini –  depicted a ‘re-enactment’ of his annunciation piece from the 1300’s. I have always been particular drawn to and amused by the way he depicted Mary, interrupted in the reading of what might be interpreted as a romance novel, by the Angle Gabriel, with the announcement.Her expression seems to say ‘What…..!? are you out of your mind?!”

So much for background. To make my gold leaf prints I need ,in addition to my ink-jet printer and all that, watercolor paper on which to print, some acrylic paint for the base which will receive the gold leaf, adhesive size, metal leaf, InkAid, and protective spray, some brushes.

After picking the image on my computer:

I create a new layer on top of the image, select an area slightly smaller than the image and fill it with white. That way I can make a preliminary print of the image dimensions on the paper.

and fill that area with the acrylic ground on which to apply the gold leaf. That is, after the acrylic ground has been brushed on, it needs to dry and then the adhesive size is brushed on. It dries in about 30 minutes and then the gold leaf can be applied. I am rather sloppy doing this. The operation is a bit messy but very simple. There are all kinds of ‘how to’ articles on line that tell you how to apply the leaf.

Once the gold leaf is on, and the remaining gold debris has been brushed from the paper and been cleared from the work surface, the InkAid can be brushed on. I usually brush on one or two coats. It needs to dry several hours, best overnight, before the coated paper can be run through the printer. Once it is dry open your image in Photoshop and load your paper into the printer. Be careful to insert it the same way you inserted it when you just printed the border, and use all the dimension and margin settings you used then. For printer settings I use ‘Enhanced Matte’ and slow down the Ink Configuration drying times in hope of avoiding too many ‘pizza wheel’ tracks. Usually I am not very successful at that. On my printer the ‘pizza wheels’ are those little wheels inside the printer that hold the paper down. Some people who do this kind of printing a lot sometimes remove those wheels permanently. I don’t have the guts to do that and would advise against it. Sometimes I try to spot them out after I have applied the finishing spray to the print – usually I let it go and just consider it part of the process. Of course there are also some printers who don’t have those wheels.

Here is my print coming out of the printer:

This one has some really bad pizza wheel tracks and I printed another one, where they were less noticeable.

Here it is framed [not under glas] and ready to be hung.

I have learned that I can’t properly scan or photograph these prints in a way that acurately reflects their appearance. So, this was a ‘quick and dirty’ guide on how I do it. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions if you need clarification on some of this.

Oh by the way, the links to materials are just for information.I have no connection with the manufactureres or sellers.

About christian harkness

Photographer and printmaker; living and working in north Florida.
This entry was posted in art, digital, photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Printing on Gold Leaf….again

  1. Greg says:

    I want to try this technique with a print I made and was curious what you meant by, “…. fill that area with the acrylic ground.” Is that just a matter of painting the acrylic on, inside the “crop marks” you created for the image? Do you use any type of acrylic, or black? white? Is there any type of image that lends itself to this technique (portraits, landscapes, etc…)?
    I appreciate any help as this looks like an interesting technique I would like to experiment with.

  2. Hey Greg – yes, I use any type of acrylic. Instead of the acrylic you can also use a sealer that is made for metal leaf and should be available at any store that sells the leaf.[I have never tried that though, using acrylic instead.] One reason I use red/crimson acrylic is that if you look at traditional gold leaf work, you will notice that they used that color for a base.
    On the type of image – I have found that the subject does not matter much. Obviously you don’t want to use an image where the detail and tonal range are of utmost importance. I have used it with anything from documentary work to more ‘photo illustrative’ work. Also keep in mind that you can have different metal leaf colors such as silver, copper, etc.
    Hope this helps – best wishes – christian

  3. Greg says:

    Thanks Christian, I am looking forward to trying this technique. I have followed your blog for quite some time now and enjoy your work. Keep up the great work!

  4. Greg says:

    I see there are five InkAid types which one do you recommend?

    • Hi Greg, I am using “inkAID™ Clear Matte Precoat.” You definitely want to use the clear coats, and then it is up to you what type of finished look [matte – glossy] you prefer.
      Hope this helps – chrstian

  5. Greg says:

    Thank you that helps a lot. That is the last thing I need to buy. I love your work great inspiration. Thanks again.

  6. Thanks! You are most welcome – any time.

  7. Nancy Farmer says:

    This is fascinating. I use gold leaf in painting, but I would never have thought to put it through my printer!
    On the subject of photographing it accurately, I have the same problem with my paintings, however, the last time I finished a very gold one I shot a video clip of it and uploaded it to you tube. I moved the camera in relation to the light source, so you can see the effect of the gold leaf. Personally I wasn’t very impressed with my own filming skills but I posted it anyway, and other people said it was very helpful to see it like that. Anyway,just a suggestion. It’s embedded in this post if you are interested: http://nancyfarmer.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/finished-painting-vis-a-vis-a-masquerade-in-gold-and-orange/

  8. Dee says:

    My friend forwarded your blog to me and I love it, desperately tried to do the project but for the life can’t get ink aid. Except from sandiego ?? Scoured micheals today no joy. Hoping to get the gold leaf onto the sheets tonight and if u can help me find the ink aid or similar hope to print Sunday.
    Look forward to hearing from you. Dee

    • Hey Dee- I ordered mine on-line literally years ago:

      http://www.inkaid1.com/

      Do you have an art supply store that carries the
      ‘Golden’ varnishes and stuff? You could try their ‘GOLDEN Fluid Matte Medium, Pint’ or spray on a fixative from Golden or Krylon. I have not done any of those, but it might work. I have a piece hanging up that is several years old, where I just printed right on the gold leaf, but that is pretty fragile and fading.

      If you want inkaid I am afraid you will have to mail order it. Sorry I could not be of more help. Do let me know how it goes. Best wishes – christian

  9. Pingback: Experimental photography project | My Camera Diaries…

    • Hi Nik – thanks for the link and the good words!!!! I greatly appreciate it. ONE THING THOUGH….when clicking on your ‘contact’ link in your header it comes up with MY name and address and web site. Some serious internet gremlin at work here. Please check it out and let me know!!!

  10. Pingback: Digital Printing Research – Frescos & Goldleaf – Nancy Jo Ward | MA Digital Fine Arts

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