Add a touch of elegance to family photos with a gold leaf picture frame.

How to Gold Leaf a Picture Frame

by Diann Cabler

Gold leaf picture frames complement family photos and add a touch of sophistication to your decor easily and inexpensively. You can use almost any wooden picture frame, from plain to one with engraved details. Buy old wood picture frames at thrift stores or flea markets and recycle them into elegant frames with gold leaf -- this will cost a fraction of what you would spend to purchase gilded frames. Gold leaf frames fit in well with any home decor and never go out of style.

Sand the picture frame lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface. Remove all dust from the frame after sanding. Paint the entire frame with a base coat of acrylic paint. This is the color that will show through any cracks in the gold leaf. Allow paint to dry completely.

Apply adhesive size to the back of the picture frame. Cover the back surface of the frame completely to ensure there are no bare spots in the gold leaf. Let the size dry until tacky -- usually around 15 minutes. The size goes on white and turns clear as it dries. Drying time will vary depending on humidity.

Place sheets of gold leaf over the size, making sure to completely cover the back of the frame. Gently smooth the gold leaf with a soft paintbrush. The gold leaf is thin and fragile and will tear easily. Apply more size and re-apply the gold leaf if you miss an area or the leaf tears. Repeat this process to cover the front and sides of the frame. When applying gold leaf to the front and sides, make sure it gets into the details of the frame. Gently rub over the frame with a soft cloth to smooth out any creases.

Apply spray sealer to the back of the frame. Let it dry completely. Apply spray sealer to the front and sides of the frame, and let it dry completely.

Items you will need

  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic paint
  • Adhesive size
  • Soft bristle paintbrush
  • Spray sealer
  • Soft cloth


  • Popular base coat colors are white, black and red, but you can use any color.
  • For a shiny look, gently burnish the frame with the back of a spoon in small, circular motions.


  • Use spray sealer in a well-ventilated area. Keep the kids out of the room when you're using it.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Diann Cabler was co-owner of a home remodeling and construction company for 25 years. She is experienced in all areas of new home construction and remodeling. She is currently working on a non-fiction novel.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images