Sunday, 21 May 2017

Gold and Metal Leaf Part 2 - Application Methods

A selection of gold leaf catalogues and Sizes....and my FAVOURITE skewings brush
We apply gold leaf, silver leaf and a range of other metal leaves in a wide variety of styles, shades, carats and weight.

We are often asked about the application methods and why we use one over another so I have outlined below the different types of application, what they are generally used for and why. This follows on from Gold and Metal Leaf Part 1 where I explain the different types of metal leaf. I'm thinking this may need a part 3 to show you some of the amazing and outrageous extra bits and bobs there are available. Meantime let me explain why size REALLY does matters

Size is the material used to stick the leaf to the surface.
a selection of Oil Sizes

Oil Gilding
Oil gilding is the most common form of architectural gilding, highly durable and providing the substrate is prepared correctly and the size and gold applied correctly, a surface that is gilded with a high carat gold will have an incredible life span where the substrate is more likely to break down before the gold will.
The process involves using an oil (solvent borne) size. The material is similar to a yacht varnish in appearance. It comes in different drying times (3-4 hour, 8 hour, 12hr and 24hr). Which one the gilder will use depends on the size of the project and the brilliance of gold required but also on site conditions. The slower the set of the size, the brighter the gold will be but if site conditions are dusty then the slower drying sizes may pick up dust and dirt.
The gold is applied when it just becomes tacky enough….an experienced gilder knows when this is and how to manage the size types to maximise the gilding time in the day. The time each size is going to come tack is indicated by the “hours” but it is variable depending on atmospheric conditions - humidity and cold can slow the setting time, in hot dry conditions the size may come to tack early

Benefits of Oil Size
  • Oil size has self-levelling qualities and sets to a smooth, glossy surface.
  • Oil size cures to a hard durable bond for the gold. 
  • Oil size will adhere and give good intercoat adhesion to most substrates well. We advise a substrate of high quality water based eggshell for all interior work. Alkyd eggshell or gloss for exterior projects 
  • Oil size is not affected after curing by damp
Disadvantages of Oil Size
  • Slow drying so it tends to attract dust however goodhousekeeping and timing can minimising this
  • Limited working time which means that it may not be ideal for very, very large areas and also means careful management of time
  • Affected by weather conditions during application however a skilled gilder can manage these.
2 different acrylic size products
Acrylic Size using the Oil Gilding Technique

Acrylic size is a contemporary material usually associated more with “hobby” crafts however it does have its use in interior architectural gilding.
It is similar in appearance to a thin PVA glue and it dries within about 15 minutes to a permanently sticky finish. There is no complete drying of the material that can be bought in the UK, although Marlow Demars has kindly pointed out in the comments below - there are some US products that dry hard.

Benefits of Acrylic Size
  • The main advantage to the material is you can size a very large area such as a ceiling and spread the work over a period of days rather than having to complete within very tight drying times. We recommend it for areas that will not be subject to traffic like ceiling areas. 
  • It is better for Copper Metal Leaf as it is a more inert less complex product and less likely to encourage oxidising 
  • It is water based which may suit some site conditions where solvents are strictly controlled 
  • If the leaf needs to be varnished then you don’t have to wait for curing.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Size
  • The material holds brush/application marks and doesn’t level off 
  • The material never dries, it stays soft and sticky under the gold so if it gets scratched what will be revealed is a dust attracting sticky layer. It is also much more easily damaged because of this 
  • The material will deteriorate quickly if moisture gets into the area, because this material scratches through easily then this happens more readily in high traffic areas than if oil size is used 
  •  Acrylic sizes reduces the sheen 
  • Poor adhesion and a tendency to ciss over oil based paints
The Absolute Maestro of Water Gilding and Verre Eglomise Gareth Evans of

Water Gilding
Water gilding produces the highest shine but because of the very complex and slow preparation of the surface required, the cost is generally prohibitive for most architectural purposes. It is a technique generally used for high quality furniture and frames and for Verre Eglomise (gilding on glass). The Size used is Gelatin

Instacol is a German Sizing system that offers the gilder a method of achieving a very well bonded high sheen look similar to that achieve with a slow set oil size and can even give the brilliance of Water Gilding. It is entirely water based and is a two stage system which controls when the size will become ready to gild reducing the chance of dust pick up.
There are many advantages to this system but it is a more expensive system than traditional oil size and because it is a two-stage system then sizing is double the labour.
We are happy to discuss Instacol with you and offer you costings if this system would suit your project best.

Varnishing Leaf
High carat leaf and those metals that are not prone to tarnishing do not require varnishing and in fact the varnish can reduce the sheen and appearance of the material. All architectural gilding done with low carat metals need to be sealed. There are instances where due to high traffic that all metal leaf needs varnishing to increase protection. These may be instances when we would consider recommending metal leaf as opposed to Gold Leaf.
We now produce a metal leaf sealer called Whitson's Universal Lacquer for this specific purpose and this can be found at

Please feel free to ask questions, post comments etc and if you'd like to talk to us about a gilding project give Cait or Gibson a call on 01738 587600

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Gold and Metal Leaf Part 1 - What's What and How do I Specify?

We apply gold leaf, silver leaf and a range of other metal leaves in a wide variety of styles, shades, carats and weight.
Often there is confusion between the different types of materials and the benefits and risks associated with each. Particularly for those specifying the material I felt it was important that they have a better grasp of the material and some time back put together a description for Interior Designers, Architects and Specifiers we work with. I had the need to go and drag it out again for a customer and realised it was possibly a blog post....or even two. So here is part one and I have added to this by doing a second part which is all about the best application methods and that I'll post in the next few days. This is a HUGE subject and I could have written a lot more but I've tried to keep it a manageable amount of information
Gilded dome using 24ct in the Middle East - this was a huge project that the Carte Blanche team played a
small part in.
Gold and Silver Leaf
•    Genuine gold leaf is 85mm X 85mm There are 25 leaves in a book and this will cover 0.18 square metres with no waste. We allow about 7 books per sq metre depending on the type of surface we are applying it to
•    Genuine silver is 95mm X 95mm
There are 25 leaves in a book and this will cover 0.22 sq metres with no waste. We allow about 6 books per sq metre depending on the type of surface we are applying it to
Gold leaf comes in various colours and carats. As a rule of thumb the higher the carat the less likely it is to tarnish. The different carats also are to do with colour. All gold is cut with another metal – despite what you will read on the internet, even 24ct has the tiniest amount of another metal (usually silver) in it to make it malleable enough to use. Correctly applied, high carat gold will normally last longer than the substrate that it is applied to.
To produce a wide variety of colours, copper and silver is mixed with gold. When copper is added, the leaf becomes warmer and richer in tone. When silver is added, the leaf becomes paler in tone. The addition of these other metals lowers the carat value of gold leaf. Gold leaf is manufactured in a range from 9ct "White" to 24ct. Gold is completely resistant to corrosion. The addition of silver and copper lowers the resistance of gold leaf to oxidisation. However, the copper or silver in 23.75ct or 23ct leaf is so low that it will maintain its integrity outdoors for 30 years or more. Carats less than 23 are recommended for indoor use only and many colours and carats are available. We carry colour charts to help you determine the right tone for your project.

A winged lion holding a Bible is known as a Lion of St Mark - these two once graced the Savoy before it's refit.
They were bought at auction in very poor repair. We gilded them in Palladium Leaf.
Silver leaf is very prone to tarnishing and so we seldom recommend using it in architectural gilding – our recommendation is to use Palladium, Caplain, Platinum or Aluminium

There are 3 types of leaf in the "gold leaf" category that aren’t gold and none of them tarnish readily – Palladium, Caplain and Platinum. However it must be noted that be care should be taken using palladium (and therefore also Caplain) in a chlorine rich environment (a swimming pool or fountain. etc.) as the chlorine will cause the palladium to turn. once again I'd like to thank Michael Kramer for this information which he gave in the comments below.
Palladium is a base metal that is similar to Platinum but a slightly warmer look than Platinum. It is good substitute for silver but offering a slightly different tone, like a silver with a slight gun metal undertone. Caplain leaf is a combination of palladium and gold so just a slightly warmer cool tone. Platinum…well that’s platinum, with a suitably platinum price tag to go with it!!!

Copper Leaf Wall - this installation is being finished off by Gibson removing the last of the "skewings"

Metal Leaf
Also known as Schlag, Brass Leaf and Composite Leaf
Metal Leaf comes in 3 colours – Gold, Copper and Aluminium
•    Metal leaf comes in sheets 14cm x 14cm. There are 25 leaves in a book and this will cover 0.49 square metres with no waste. We allow about 2.5 books per sq metre depending on the type of surface we are applying it to
Both Copper and Gold Metal Leaf tend to tarnish Copper being the most risky. Reducing the risk of this tarnishing relies on a number of factors – most are to do with product knowledge and strict good practice but there are no guarantees with it. The reduced cost comes with a risk, like so many things in life. 

Patinated Aluminium Leaf
Aluminium leaf on the other hand seldom tarnishes - as pointed out by Michael Kramer in the comments below - it can tarnish if it is in a salt air environment (along the sea shore, a port city, etc.) and there is high humidity. This makes it an excellent alternative to Silver Leaf, although the larger size of the squares does give the knowledgeable person the hint that it isn’t silver if you are installing a gridded wall or ceiling

Reducing Risk of Tarnishing
Here are the things we do to reduce the risk when using metals that tarnish 
1.    Great care is taken in the preparation of the surface to ensure it is sealed as many oxidants can come from the back of the leaf - thanks to Marlow Demars for reminding me in the comments below of the importance of this. If we are not doing the preparation we supply a comprehensive specification for the decoration of the substrate prior to the leaf being applied.
2.    We insist on a strict site conditions – there are a number of atmospheric site conditions that can affect the metal. These are mainly chemical; glues, solvents, acids and alkalis used in the area can affect the metal.
3.    The substrate must be scrupulously clean as must the tools used.
4.    Great care is used not to touch the leaf and leave acid from the skin on the surface.
5.    Knowing the correct combination of products to use for each leaf to minimise contamination is vital.
6.    Sealing the leaf with the correct material

I hope this is a useful post - do ask questions if I've missed anything I'd be delighted to help.
If you'd be interested in finding out more about the costs of having gilding carried out in your home or business premises, please don't hesitate to give us a call 
01738 587600 and speak to Cait or Gibson

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Beautious Baths - Tremendous Tubs!!!

The bathroom has always been a place you could make a statement! It's where you can be a bit crazy or a bit daring but it's also a great place to spend wisely to get the greatest impact. Decorative finishes can be at the expensive end of your decoration budget but they can be used in small doses like on a bath tub to great effect.

Here are a few we have done over the years

Gilded with Alumium Leaf and Patinated
to match light fittings and picture frames in the room
Glitz is easy to use in a bathroom, the bath tub above is obviously to the floor but the one below has feet and the balls of a ball and claw foot are fun to gild. I always long to paint the nails of the claw if they have nail varnish on
This bath was marbled to match the tiles in a travertine finish
Here's a close up

On this bath we used foils and a stencil to create the glamour - it is subtle enough that you have to angle the camera to catch the light before you see it so not "in your face"

This bath is in "The Bathroom Company Perth" showroom.
The stencil is from The Stencil Library
Matching wallpapers and fittings is a common thing for us - here we bridge well between the wallpaper and the floor
Mottled stoney finish with using our Klondike finish - it has a subtle sparkle in there that you can't really see in this shot
Finally a bit of showmanship - if you can't afford a big mural a bath panel is a great place to have a wee one.

A great childrens bathroom with a mural bath panel

Detail of bath panel mural

Detail on the other side

Monday, 29 September 2014

Graining and Marbling Extravaganza

3 Award Winning Teachers in 4 days!!

Painted Faux Portoro and Mahogany
Graining and Marbling are techniques executed in paint that imitate marble and wood. They are almost the foundation skills of the decorative painter. Learning these techniques gives you core abilities in the manipulation of paint that you will continue to use throughout your decorative career.
I have been teaching graining and marbling for a lot of years, in colleges, art schools and private school here in UK and abroad as well as in our own studio.

Class at Lynne Rutter's studio in San Francisco
Graining and marbling can be applied to any surface that you can paint, so make a cheap fireplace into expensive wood or luxurious marble, have marble floors and walls in your gives the decorator the opportunity to really show off and also give the client really high ticket products at a much more reasonable price.
Carrara marbling in a home in St Andrews
Recently we decided we would like to put on a really special class and include some top UK specialists as guest teachers so that the attendee really gets a lot of bang for their buck. 2 classes of 2 days so you can choose to do one or both.

13th and 14th November 2014 - 1 places
Advanced class
15th and 16th November 2014 - 1 places

The first 2 days taught by me (Cait Whitson) is a class that will help beginners get a handle on the techniques and help those that have had experience in traditional oil techniques learn how to use the cutting edge Golden Proceed acrylic products that have been developed in America to meet today's market.You will learn white veined marble, Portoro marble and Sienna marble and then pine, mahogany and walnut. All these will be taught in water based materials.
A montage of some of the water based finishes we have taught in the past

Then we will have the great pleasure of welcoming Jeremy Taylor from Elgin and Roy Makin from Walsall

Jeremy is a traditional painter and decorator with an extensive training and experience in traditional and restoration work. He has a passion for decorative arts and has striven to attain training and projects that reflect this. As well as doing work for Historic Scotland, Jeremy has done work for Architects, Designers and the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. More recently Jeremy travelled as far as Sweden to develop his skills further by taking a Trompe L'oeil class at Palm Fine Arts, learning architectural elements such as molding profiles and decorative ornaments, this is a wonderful addition to add to graining & marbling and

Roy started as a painter decorator at 17 and went into teaching in the eighties at Walsall College of Art teaching decorating, sign writing, French polishing, furniture restoration and marbling & graining. While at Walsall did some teaching at West Dean School in West Sussex, again teaching Marbling on their yearly summer schools. I was the first winner of the acorn gold award for decorative painting back in the eighties. Started as a self employed decorative painter completing projects  in and around England and France for 20 years, also teaching one to one courses structured around clients needs.


The second 2 day class we will be working extensively with these two wonderful guys. Jeremy will teach oak on the Saturday - this is his absolute speciality. Check his Facebook page and his site meantime here is a little taster

A Jeremy Taylor project in oak

 His other speciality is executing trompe l'oeil mouldings and ornament - this is the art of creating a realistic but fake moulding that is purely executed in paint. Here is a fabulous example
Jeremy Taylor trompe l'oeil moulding and ornament
He will be helping us start our career in trompe l'oiel by teaching a moulding on one of our panels similar to the one he has achieved here

trompe l'oeil

Roy Makin will be delivering a master class in marble - again his speciality. He will deliver a class  on the Saturday afternoon and here's a sneak preview of his work

Arabescato by Roy Makin

This is the panel that Roy will be teaching
Finally I will teach some crotch mahogany. This is also known as feather mahogany. It really needs 3 workings and so we will have a chance to execute the first two stages and then demo the overgraining and all students will go home with materials to complete at are a few examples of this technique.

A recent project after 2 workings

Grained door after 3 workings
Close up

Introduction/refresher class
13th and 14th November 2014 - 1 places
Advanced class
15th and 16th November 2014 - 1 places

Cost - £265 each class - £495 for both

For more info click  here and  to buy go here!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Makeover Magic

What happens when stuff gets you throw it out? Sometimes yes if it's broken, that's the best thing to do. What if an item has still got life in it and it's just a bit tired or dated? I think we all feel these days that we should try and reuse or recycle it. There are lots of ways to reuse, you can give things away through Freegle and Freecycle, you can recycle if it is made of a recycleable material or you can "upcycle"...which means to change it and make it better than it was.

The painted revolution has made many of us think again about throwing useful things out - even an old bike can get painted turquoise and popped in the garden as a feature - this one aint too shabby and is pretty chic in my opinion.....recycling it took not much effort as you will see from the link below.

pop over to I Love That Junk to see how this was achieved

So if we love saving the small stuff, why do we throw the big stuff......clever paint finishes can turn something like this from ebay

To this at Carte Blanche Studios and you can learn how this was done on our  

But people are ready to throw out much bigger purchases, like a full blown kitchen, even a well designed one. Lucky for us a few people who see the opportunity to save money and create something new and fresh from the old  

This couple could see that opportunity and with a little colour help and a lot of labour we gave them a totally new space.

This is what they had - a really high quality well designed kitchen that used the space well. Not everyone has as good quality cabinetry as this but often there are very few designs that can be executed in someone's space and if you have solid units  and a good layout, why go through the upheaval and cost of a new kitchen

 and this is what we left them with. Now we didn't manage this alone - we did it with the help of our lovely friend and colleague Andrew Fizpatrick the most laid back, easy to work with, super cool cabinet maker and kitchen maker that I have worked with ever (testament is I've worked with him for 17 years!!!). He made new doors, tightened hinges and we got going with the paintwork.

A fresh new space!!!

Now none of this is rocket science but it is a LOT of work and not everyone has time to do it themselves - you can give us a call or drop us an email with images and we'll send you a price. Alternatively come on one of our classes and learn how to do it yourself.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

General Finishes - What is is GOOOD for? ....absolutely everything

Some time back we had a call from one of our favourite suppliers General Finishes UK to tell us they had moved their warehouse to Scotland and inviting us to pay a visit. The timing of this call was amazing. We had some time earlier decided to concentrate more on contracting and teaching than retailing.......but we still needed product to teach classes with and I needed something new to work with, I felt I was getting a bit stale teaching the same thing over and over and I also felt that people were looking for a new fresh looks so here we are, with a lovely new range to play with.

We have been using the products for an absolute age.....they are a truly professional product range that I never thought to bring to the DIY market but as soon as I had the call it was like a lightbulb moment.

So what does this product range offer the painter? A fully versatile easy to use paint and varnish range.
The Milk Paint was the first product we used about 10 years ago - washes of the paint were applied to beech units and then it was varnished with their High Performance Topcoat. We were so impressed, not just by the ease of use but how durable the system was

Three years later we had a large job toning new woodwork to match old woodwork and it all needed staining and varnishing and we used the water based Sanding Sealer, the Glazes and once again the High Performance TopCoat


Both these projects have lasted an absolute age...High Performance is really High Performance.

So what are the benefits of these two products over other paints, waxes, varnishes and lacquers

  • Easy to use paint  
  • GF Milk Paint isn't actually a traditional Milk Paint it is actually an acrylic paint, based on primer technology so it is self - priming. It will go over and adhere to old varnish, lacquer, paint (oil gloss as well as all others), wood stains, french polish; it can go inside and outside
  • Beautifully smooth even when applied by the least experienced of us
  • Consistent colours and quality - every tin is the same as the last
  • Keeps without loss of quality for YEARS - providing you store it in the right conditions. We have some that is 10 years old and it is still good to go.
  • No colour leaching
  • Very quick drying
  • Easy to touch up with no visible difference in colour - providing this is done before varnishing
  • No need to wax or varnish in low traffic areas
  • No wax
  • Sealed with their varnish it is REALLY hard wearing for kitchens and bathrooms and high traffic areas
So here are a few questions I have answered recently about it -

  • Q. Can I distress it?
  • A. Yes it distresses beautifully. If you are not too worried about cutting right back through to the substrate then just layer the paint and sand back. If you want to isolate a colour and ensure that one coat only goes through to the next then apply a coat of topcoat between layers. Here is an image of what we produced in a recent class


  • Q. Is it suitable for painting prefinished kitchens - mine is looking tired
  • A. YES!!!! Uber-suitable. Here is a kitchen that we originally painted over 15 years ago. Originally we painted it in oil based eggshell, glazed in oil based glaze and put the most durable oil based varnish we could find on it All these years on we were back to give them an equally long lasting finish in water based paints - using General Finishes Paint. 

  • Q. Can I antique something I am painting?

  • A. YES!  you use the premixed coloured glazes to put a transparent wash of colour over the surface - here is a tray we antiqued in that way. No wax!!!
  •  Q.Can I use it on floors?
  • A. YES!! Lovely to use on floors but use a few coats of the High Performance Topcoat. Here is our studio kitchen floor finished in a dry brush technique

Hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight into the new products. If you would like to find out more, then join us for one of our new

Furniture Painting 101 - General Finishes Painting Class

or join us for our Painting Party on the 26th April 2014

    Wednesday, 8 January 2014

    Apple Store

    We have done a lot of work in the last year at Fasque House in Kincardineshire a wonderful wedding and conference destination that has been created in the house and grounds former home of Prime Minister Gladstone's family.

    The owners Doug and Heather Dick-Reid have taken on what is a seemingly impossible task of restoring and bringing to life a house that seemed beyond economic to do so. With a whole floor of the house attacked by dry rot and parts of the rest of the house that hadn't even been opened in 30 or 40 years, and if they were to get grants it required them to  replace like for like lathe and lime plaster had to be replaced with lathe and lime plaster, stone had to be repaired with lime mortar.  No plaster-board and silicon for these guys...that puts a huge strain on the budget even when you have grants given. Sometimes a grant given to help rebuild an historic home is only just economically viable depending in the constraints that are levied on the restorer, and the hoops that are required to to be jumped through can be endless, paperwork alone taking many hours to prepare.

    A little part of Fasque's estate hidden down in the then dilapidated kitchen garden was the sweetest building originally called the "Apple Store" now known as the Garden Rooms and sometimes referred to in documents as Fasque's Gothic Pavilion

    Source here

    Here it is looking a tad sorry for itself, windows broken, roof crumbling and in desperate need of repair.

    When we first took a tour of this building they had just started on the renovations and much of the original character remained despite it's sad state

    The stair turret
    The distempered walls in a sky blue were charming but flaking beyond repair and while the green is a rather stunning colour it is mould...

    original graining but only one small section could be salvaged

    Upstairs in what is now the bedroom and toilet turret the lath and first coat of lime plaster was in full flow

    traditional lathe hand made by the builders on site
    Using traditional lime plaster limits you as to what you can apply to the surface in the ensuing period. The walls need to breath and must have vapour permeable products applied. This precludes all normal vinyl matt paints and acrylic paints as well as oil based products, nor can you wallpaper as the wall will "sweat" beneath the paper or non breathable paint and the alkali nature of lime will break down these surface coatings.

    We had a challenge ahead when we were asked to complete decorative finishes that would look amazing and could be applied to fresh lime plaster....of course we rose to the challenge. And we have some of the most beautiful and innovative finishes in this tiny building- necessity is the mother of invention as they say.

    Here is the Lathe and Plaster room finished

    a close up of the sparkly finish

    The graining done afresh although one area that will still good was retained

    The bedroom

    The ceiling and wall finish

    A sky ceiling was applied to the stairwell

    Along with a cherub or two

    And here is Emily my stalwart throughout much of this project, very adequately demonstrating the conditions on the site.
    But this is how we left amazing team!

    To see more of how it is today visit -