Lettering, marking out and painting

In any glass gilding project there are always several steps. Traditional gold leaf lettering goes through a number of stages in its formation. First a pattern on the front of the glass acts as a guide for gold leaf placement when water gilding. After gilding, the pattern is marked out on the back of the gold and the lettering is painted. When the paint is dry the excess gold can be cleaned up leaving the lettering in bright gold from the front of the glass.

Often lettering will use outlines,shadows centres and any number of other treatments. You will have a choice in the order these are done in.

The are a number of variations depending on individual preferences but the result is the same. Here's my method and some tips for basic bright gold lettering

1. The Pattern: I always make a pattern on paper which is used twice during each job. Using carbon paper, mark out the back of the pattern in reverse too. Tape into place on the front of the glass. Registration marks are made with a chinagraph pencil so that it can be lined up again on the back of the glass.
2. Clean the glass with whiting and water gild following the pattern as a guide for gold placement. Patch any holes and missing areas where necessary.
3. Tape carbon paper over the gold (face down) and then tape the pattern in place over it. Lining the pattern up with the registration marks on the other side of the glass. Lightly redraw the pattern with a hard sharp pencil (4H). You don't need much pressure at all.
4. Paint the lettering/design with a suitable backing paint. I use Viponds Drop Black which is a short oil alkyd with high pigment levels. It dries flat and fairly fast. Normal lettering enamel is not ideal as it dries too slowly and tends to chip during the clean up process.
5. Allow the paint to dry overnight for trouble free cleaning. Rush jobs or small jobs can be done after 1-2 hours but care must be taken to not chip the backing. When the paint is dry you clean up the excess gold that is not covered by paint. Most people clean it up with cotton wool but I prefer a soft polyurethane sponge as it sheds no fibres. Wet it, squeeze out excess water and sprinkle on whiting. Rub until all excess gold is gone. Remove every speck, leaving a crisp line. Rinse off with clean water and gently dry with a window cleaning squeegee or soft cotton scrim.
6. Varnish the back extending the varnish just slightly over the edge of the letter for protection from wear.

Other variations include: