Gilded Watercolor Artwork Tutorial

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Today I’m sharing a little art project that was St. Patrick’s Day inspired (I originally shared this over at Craftaholics Anonymous), but I still like it even though St. Patrick’s Day is past. The idea was to create an abstract gold at the end of the rainbow thing, but wouldn’t this be gorgeous with a monochrome watercolor background too? Yes, yes, it would.

Gilded Watercolor Artwork Tutorial

To make your own, you will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I recommend 140 lb. weight)
  • Watercolors (tubes or pan colors work great)
  • Brushes
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Water
  • Metal Leaf Adhesive
  • Gold Metal Leaf

Once you have collected everything, it’s time to prepare your paper and colors. Tape your paper to your table using the painter’s tape. This will minimize warping of the paper and give you a nice, crisp edge around your painting.

I used tube watercolors and mixed up red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. It’s a good idea to test your colors on a scrap piece of paper to make sure you are happy with them before you begin painting.

Because I wanted the colors of my rainbow to really blend together, I painted my rainbow onto a wet surface. To do this, you start off by painting the entire piece of paper with water. The paper should be damp and look shiny, but there should not be any pools of standing water on the paper.

When the entire paper is wet, start by filling your brush with your red paint and paint a stripe along the left side of the paper. Just eyeball the width. Because the colors will all blend together, the spacing of the stripes does not need to be exact. Next, fill your brush with orange and brush a stripe of orange right against the red stripe. Then just keep moving on down the rainbow.

You will need to work fairly quickly to complete the rainbow while the paper remains wet. If your paper dries before you get to the end, just go ahead and add more water.

When the paper is filled with color, it is time to let everything dry. Your painting needs to be completely dry before you can add the metal leaf.

It’s gilding time! The metal leaf adhesive is applied with a brush, and the metal leaf will stick where ever you apply the adhesive. I just brushed the adhesive on in a kind of random shape along the bottom of the painting. If you look at the paper from an angle, you can see exactly where it is.

Once the adhesive is applied, wait about 30 minutes to let the adhesive dry and get tacky. Then place the metal leaf over the adhesive. This can be a little tricky, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure metal leaf is placed on all of the adhesive.

Any leaf that is not placed on adhesive will easily come off. Use your brush to wipe away all the excess gold leaf and reveal your beautiful design!

I am so happy with the way this turned out. The mix of the watercolor and the gilding has such a cool mix of textures – hard/soft, matte/shiny. I lurve it.

I’m actually working on switching up my little “mantel” area right now, so I’m not sure if this little guy will stick around for the Spring edition, but he will definitely find a home somewhere.

How do you all feel about creating artwork for your homes? Is it too scary or would you give something like this a go?

Linking up at some of my favorite parties.


  1. says

    I love making art for my home! I've made a few that I've shared before. I haven't tried watercolor though. You've made it seem easy enough and I love how it looks!

  2. says

    Two things:<br />1. This beautiful and simple wall art that is a must do for my craft room. It looks like it would make me smile every time I saw it.<br />2. I love the way/ items you styled it with. I can&#39;t wait to see how you decorate your mantel for Spring!

  3. says

    Love this!! I am always creating my own art for our home…will definitely try this soon! I love using gold leaf as well (Or at the moment my new fave is copper) Yours turned out beautiful…love the styling as well!!