Embellishing Your Photos: Gold Leaf | Joann Benzinger | Skillshare

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Embellishing Your Photos: Gold Leaf

teacher avatar Joann Benzinger, Fine Art Photographer, Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (60m)
    • 1. Part One: Intro

    • 2. Part Two: Background

    • 3. Part Three: Supplies

    • 4. Part Four: Applying the Adhesive and Leaf

    • 5. Part Five: Experimenting

    • 6. Part Six: Working through the Mistakes

    • 7. Part Seven: Fineliner Details

    • 8. Part Eight: Daisy

    • 9. Part Nine: Vintage Photo

    • 10. Part Ten: Concluding Remarks

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About This Class


Add interest to an ordinary photo by accenting it with gold leaf and perhaps a touch of paint. Use copies of your own photos to work on. You’ll be amazed as what a touch of gold leaf can add! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Joann Benzinger

Fine Art Photographer, Teacher


Joann’s use of photography as a means of expression began with film and has journeyed to include digital and  alternative methods.  Her work has roots in more traditional media but has expanded to include unusual print surfaces such as aluminum cans and image transfers to wood.  


Joann shares her work through Instagram, Etsy, her website, at local art shows and personal exhibits as well as at the White Rabbit Gallery where she is a founding member.  She teaches classes at Greenville Center for Creative Arts and Spartanburg Art Museum as well as gives private lessons in photography, digital processing, and alternative processes such as image transfers and cyanotypes.


For more information, please visit her on Instagram at... See full profile

Related Skills

Fine Art Creative

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1. Part One: Intro: My name is Joanne Benzinger, and I'm a fine art photographer from Travelers Rest South Carolina, where I have an art gallery, teach photography lessons and I also teach private lessons. Thank you for joining me in this skill share class on embellishing your photographs with gold leaf. 2. Part Two: Background: a za fine art photographer. An important component to my work is choosing the right surface to print my photographs on . Now you might think that my choices are pretty limited. Glossy paper. Matt Paper. Well, really, There's a lot more to choose from. I've printed on muslin. I've printed on content, have printed on chiffon aluminum cans, vellum. I do image transfers. There are a lot of options out there. You just have to start researching at and saying, Well, what will happen if I do this? One of the things that I found when I was printing on developments that it's really transparent and that lends itself to some interesting that characteristics when you put it up against something, and I really found that I loved to have gold on my photographs when I was printing on the vellum. It just adds and iridescence that nothing else can really give. I love it with the black and white photos, especially something that's got a lot of contrast to it. I've also done it with image transfers where I've painted with gold paint on the wood panel , and then I've done the image transfer on top of it and again. I just really like what the gold does for my photographs. So having used gold leaf as part of my process with the vellum, that wound up having a lot of little scraps. And I wonder, Well, what can I do with these? And I decided to start experimenting and see if I could find a way to use them on the surface of my photographs. I'm finding that I really like thumb on a black and white photograph. This is printed on an Epson cold press paper. It feels a lot like watercolor paper, and I actually have some red watercolor on this image as another embellishment. And I think that the gold leaf works really well. It adds another layer of interest to my photographs. So that's the project that we're going to do today. I'm going to encourage you to pick out a photograph of your own that you think will work with gold leaf. Don't worry if it doesn't work, just print something else. If it doesn't give yourself room to experiment when you print your photographs. This four by six size is great for testing, and you want to make sure that you print several copies of your photographs, Because guess what? They don't all turn out so great. So go ahead, give yourself permission to experiment and ham some that maybe didn't turn out the way you would have liked print a couple of extra photos. That way you're not gonna feel bad if you goof up on the 1st 1 Okay. And then put that one aside and save, because maybe you're going to come back to it in a few days or a few weeks, and you're gonna say, Oh, but if I do this, I'm gonna love that. So the four by six size again works really great. I'm going to be doing something that's more of probably eight by it's not eight by 10. It's probably nine by six. Um, but this is the one I'm going to be working with. It is slightly colored. It's pretty muted. So it's not my traditional black and white, but I think it's gonna be real interesting when I add a little bit of gold leaf toe. I'm looking forward to seeing 3. Part Three: Supplies: forest supplies are concerned. Let's talk about the paper for a minute for your photographs when you have them printed, or if you print them at home, you can choose any kind of paper you like. If you want to use a glossy paper experiment with that, maybe printed on a few different kinds. That way you can experiment and see what works the best for you. This is kind of a satin pearl paper. It's the semi gloss and it worked out just fine. The other one that I showed you again, that was an Epson math paper, and I think that would be my favorite. So far, I really like that. But it's all personal preference. You just try whatever you want, experiment and see what happens. This one is Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl, which is lead is the same as this, so it'll probably work the same. The paper itself is gonna have a little bit of sheen to it, but that gold is gonna really pop. You're going to need to get some gold leaks. There are a couple of different brands. It doesn't matter what brand you get, and you do not need to get 24 karat gold. If you get 24 karat gold, the sheets are a lot smaller, and it's a lot more expensive, so it hurts a lot more when you make something that doesn't look so good. Go ahead, give yourself permission to play, get the less expensive one and practice with this. If you decide you really want to use 24 karat gold later, do it. After you've given yourself a little bit of time to practice, you'll need to have some adhesive. This is Old World Wonder adhesive, and this is what I bought when I first started working with gold leaf. The amount of gold leaf that I used. This is probably gonna last me a lifetime. I think there's about this much out of it that I have used. It already cost about $7. You don't know that you don't necessarily need to have specifically for gold leaf it, he said. But it's what I got on. Like I said, it's gonna last me forever. You will need to help at least one brush that you don't care about, that you don't want to use for anything else ever again because it gets in the glue. I can't guarantee that it's gonna be usable for anything else again. This is actually an old makeup brush, and I love it for doing fine detail work. You may also want to have a larger brush so that if you're doing bigger areas of gold leaf , you can smear it on a lot faster theater piece of. But this is great for doing fine details where you want to make a real fine line. That'll work real well. You'll also need to have one other brush that does not touch the adhesive. This is a real soft bristle brush, and what it's for is after I've laid the gold leaf down on the adhesive, I need to smooth it out. So this never touches the adhesive. It's just for smoothing out the surface of the gold leaf. If you already have experience using gold leaf and you have remnants that you've been hanging onto, this is a perfect time to give them a try. If you are new to gold leaf, go ahead by the package of gold leaf at the store. Get yourself a jar and save your remnants for the next time because you may have another project that you want to do in the next video. We're actually going to get ready to start laying down some adhesive, so get your photographs printed and meet me back here seeming a little bit. 4. Part Four: Applying the Adhesive and Leaf: alrighty. Well, I think I'm ready to start doing the gold leaf. A couple of other things that I've got on hand that I didn't think to mention got a paper towel just because I may need to block something up. And I also have a little bit of soapy water in case my brush gets old donkey and I decide I need to clean it off. So I'm gonna take this person. I'm gonna set it over here so I don't accidentally put it in the blue. I am probably not going to talk a whole lot on. And if it's prolonged silence, I may end up speeding up this video so you're not bored to tears. But for right now, while we get started, I'm just going to let it run. So if you think you're gonna be doing a lot of really fine details, it's a possibility that a toothpick would are you A little debt might be another thing to have on hand. This adhesive is going to be able to sit for a little while once I apply it. If it takes a little while for it to set up. So I don't have to apply the the gold leaf right away. Okay. All right. So I'm not going to do a lot of large spaces on here. I'm thinking I'm going to maybe outline the bridge like that and maybe every other stone are. So, um, and I will probably decide things as I move along. This is already matted and this mantas sealed. Otherwise, I think I would like to take it out of the mat for fear that I'm gonna end up drifting on it. So I'm gonna just take this piece of plastic and set it down because that might save me a little bit of grief later on. All right, so just gonna dip it in, I'm gonna wife it off on the edge, and I'm just going to start dry and some adhesive lines, and you don't have to do like a solid line, you know, stopping here and there is just fine. If it is in bits and pieces, I think that actually adds to the effect, so I'm not going to be perfect at all. Perfection is overrated anyways, And this is what makes each piece unique. Because if I do this one again, I am probably not going to be able to duplicated. Exactly. I'm gonna look in here and I'm gonna just start digging some small pieces on. Now. I'm not sure I can remember where I put glue down, so you may have to look at it from the side and do your best. If your gold is different tones, I think that's fine to again. This is a personalized piece. This is not something you're ever gonna be able to duplicate, so anything that makes it a little bit different from the next time down the road, I think that's good. In fact, I know I've got some copper leaf in here that's gonna probably end up being a part of this . So it's gonna have a little bit of gold. It's gonna have a little bit of copper, and you see how some of this is sticking to my fingers. That would be why some people where the cotton gloves, if you're doing big sheets, if you if you pick it up using wax paper, that's actually a great weight for the static to keep to release it from the static. It's awesome when I'm doing a big piece. I really, really do do that a lot. All right, So I'm gonna use this brush now, seeing I'm gonna just flatten it out. So don't worry about that. See how that's moving? That's not a problem. That just means that there was no adhesive there, so no biggie. I'm just gonna put it back. Okay? So thistle is another one of my little bits and pieces. So in here, I have all sorts of little teeny, tiny flakes. And when I get ready to sweep this off of my picture, I think I'm gonna just put him right in here. All right? So that peace didn't land on any glue, so I'm going to stick that back in my jar, all right? I'm just using the tip of the brush. I'm not really applying a lot of pressure, but there is a little bit of pressure just enough to kind of rub the gold leaf so that the parts that aren't glued down fall off. And I'm just going to sweep it on here because I can save this and use it for other small projects, so don't sneeze. Um, don't use a fan. Any little bit of a puff of air is going to send all of that stuff flying, and you will have gold leaf everywhere. All right, So I'm liking this. Yeah, I think I'm gonna be okay with this. I feel like that. She must a little bit. I might be able to scrape it off really gently. I don't want to damage the photograph. All right, so let me move this out of the way for a minute. So I sent my brush stone in this wet water, soapy water, and I'm gonna make sure I dry it real good, because I really do not want any water on that photograph. It probably would have been just a good to set this off to the side because I was gonna go back to it pretty quickly, so it shouldn't have have dried on there. It would have been just fine if I just laid it down and come back to in a few minutes. My point here is I am making sure this is really dried. Well, because most photographic papers, if I get them wet, there's gonna be a stain there or just kind of a weird looking little water market. A texture. And it's not gonna be pretty. So that's why I wanted to make sure that it was really nice and dry. All right, So I might do a little bit of gold leaf up in here and maybe just some little dots along the water trail here. I'm gonna give that a try and see what I think. So I'm going to dip in. This is just gonna be kind of messy because I don't want it everywhere, and I'm doing this on a photograph. I don't feel it's really necessary for me to spray this with varnish afterwards. But if I'm doing it on canvas or if it's an image transfer than definitely, I will spray it with a spray varnish to protect everything. So there was some little sparkles in here, And if I could make a tiny enough glue dot I think the sparkles would be kind of pretty now if I could get it like that. So I'm going to turn off the camera and go find a pen or maybe a toothpick or something and see if I can get a little tiny speckles in there 5. Part Five: Experimenting: All right, I'm back. So I found two things that I'm going to give a try to. This is I don't know what it's from, but it's got kind of a nice point on it. And this needle, I think this might actually be what I want. It looks like it's got a really nice fine tip on it. That's kind of I want something that looks a little bit like stardust in there. So I'm going to do this the smart way and practice on something else first. That's why we have these practice photos. All right, So Okay. So what I'm finding here is when I dip it in, that's gonna leave a pretty good size block. And if I go from the side, I think that might be what I have to do. Let's try this. Little wouldn't pick. I might like the wouldn't pick a little better. They dio All right, so let's test and see how that works with the gold leaf. I'm gonna clean off my needle first. I'm gonna clean off my little wooden by the time I get back to it knows. All right. I'm just gonna Sprinkle some of that stuff on. Okay. Yes, I like that. I think that'll work real nice. Just want to have a little sprinkling of gold up in that arch. All right, so let's do really thing now. Okay? Plastic safety sheet. Just kind of going half hazard with these. No rhyme or reason. Some are gonna be bigger. Some are smaller. I'm not trying to make a pattern. Unfortunately, the eye tends to do that on you. So if you do this, try real hard to just be scattered about it. All right? Let's give this a try to see what we think. And I am using both gold and copper here. I think that's gonna be nice. All right. So what happened? It looks like we're made bigger blocks with loose spread out a little bit, so it doesn't really look so much like stardust. And there is a little bit more pattern than what I would like, so I'm gonna go back in. I'm gonna give it a little bit more, and hopefully it will just be wonderful. - I'm not liking these dots here, so I'm gonna turn it into a line not crazy about the gots up here. You really get what I wanted, But that's okay. I know for next time I do like these knots and I do like this over here. I might just see if I can mess that up a little bit. Learn to like it. Like I said before, it's okay, The mess up. Let me think for a minute. - Somewhat . I'd probably do with this is I probably would sit on, uh, just let it be for a day or so and come back and look at it tomorrow, um, and then decide if I want more. There's a possibility that I would like to have a real thin line going up the back. That's the more I look at it, the more I'm thinking that's what I want. So it's always good to step back from your work and see if it's doing what you wanted to do . Look at it in different lights because it's a different light than what we've got right here might change everything, and certainly the light is reflecting on the gold. It's gonna look a whole lot different. A little bit goes a long way. You don't want to overdo it. I do want to just go over how I kind of scribble scrabbled in here. And I just want to show you on my other one how we did that, What I did okay to get that scribble Scrabble kind of thing. It just took this angled brush. It kind of just went and dabbed at it. I don't know if you can see that, but that made it so it was, like, a little messy thing. So I didn't want to have a stroke like this where I was making a big, even patch of glue. The effect of that is gonna be completely different. Let's just use this something, see? And incidentally, if you're doing ah, large spot where you do use a brush to just make you know something like this use the whole sheet. Don't use these little scribble Scrabble zip. It doesn't It doesn't really look very good when you do that when you're doing little tiny bits and pieces than this stuff works. Great. But if you're doing a big piece like that, use the whole sheet and this is going to show you exactly what I mean. All right, So this was where I did the scribble Scrabble. So It's a really uneven, and if I rubbed it a little more, I probably would get a little bit more gold leaf off. It's It's not for a big, even patch of gold leaf. If you look at this one over here, do you see how model that looks compared to this? Think about the effect that you want. Maybe this is what you want, and it's gonna look fine. But if you're looking for a smooth sheet of goal than be sure, toe lay that adhesive down, use the whole sheet, smooth it out, and then you you saw how I've removed the edges. Edges will just lift up, and you could tear him away and put him in your jar, and that will work out really good. But it's definitely a smoother feel than this over here. This in certain applications. It it's fine. I wouldn't mind that at some point. Um, it's different, and it is kind of cool if you look at it because you can see the copper in here, too. There's the gold and copper leaf, and it does make for a very pretty sheen on a nice variegated look. So maybe that's what you want 6. Part Six: Working through the Mistakes: All right, I'm gonna have to go in and do this already, and I'm gonna find a finer brush in this. This'll one should give me a nice party line. It's possible it would have given me the Stardust to to steady my hand. I'm just going to rested on my other hand, Not crazy about that. You know, I think I'm just gonna go gold over the whole thing and see if I can live with that on. If I ruined ruined it, it's okay. Like I said earlier, give yourself permission to mess up. So first I'm gonna find myself a full sheet of gold leaf. So they come in these little tissue packets, and I've used quite a few of them. But here's a nice one. All right. Actually, we're gonna use this partial right here. That should do it. I think I mentioned earlier when you're trying to pick up a larger piece of gold leaf. If you use wax paper to pick it up, it will control the static. So I'm gonna You're gonna get to see that. See how nicely it thinks that up. I'm just gonna let it rest here for now. On When I pick it up, it will be attached to the wax paper. Lay that down on blue and it's all that great. Alright? And we're just hope that like in our wall food up drying off my brush on some effects are necessary. It did not go all the way to this edge, but I did not go all the way to the top. Hopefully, I'm gonna like what I've done. All right, so there's gold. Leaf it down. It's going in a jar. - All right? Yeah, I do actually think I might like that better. And I might just take a fine liner on draw left, lying back up here, maybe up here to add some detail. I think that's it for the moment. 7. Part Seven: Fineliner Details: So I am going to go ahead and draw lying up side here, and I just want to show you these. This is a fine line applicator. I filled it with white acrylic paint and this one I filled with You don't know what it's called, but it's bland, but it's got a shimmer to it. So I think I'm gonna like that. So we're gonna give that a try? I am going to what? A test squirt this has. And that gets down deep insight here. This from clogging. And it allows me to squeeze paint. Elgin a nice fine tests court. Want to get it going before you. Really? Okay, so I've got a flow going here. I should be good. All right? 8. Part Eight: Daisy: This is a piece that I put the gold leaf on earlier, and I've been looking at it for a few days, and I decided I'd like to do a few more embellishments. I'd like to have a little bit of accent along the pedals here, I think not a lot. I don't want to overdo it, but I think along the pedals and maybe a few drops that are kind of mimicking the water drops that are so I decided not to use the goal lead. This time. I'm going to use a gold metallic paint that I fall in love. I'm going to use one of these fine line applicators to put it on, because I want a real thin line. I don't want to have a lot of thick blobs or anything on. That is part of the reason why I chose to paint rather than the whole leaf, because finding the gold leaf has a tendency to spread the glue that's underneath it. So I think I will get a finer line if I used this fine line applicator. This is a standard tip. There's also a fine tale. I am, of course, going to do a practice stroke. So I just want to mention that on these fine line applicators they come and they've got this really tiny little needle like thing that's gonna make your line. And then there's inside the camp. There's this little pin that goes down inside here when you put the cap back on, and that's gonna make it so that it doesn't clog the tip later. But I have found that it's a really good idea to make sure that I cleaned the tip before I put everything away. Otherwise, I get clogs, and they're a bit of a beast to clean up afterwards. So when you're done using this, be sure you run some clean water through it. I keep an extra one of these that's filled with water so that I can actually just go right yet put the used tip on the one with water and give it a good sport, and that will get all the pain tone of it, and it won't dry inside. So So if you saw that that really lobbed out, that's why you want to just give it a test first. And I think that this tip is gonna be too wide for this application. So I'm going to go find a finer tip and we're gonna work with that. Alright, So I've switched taps on here, and I don't know if you're gonna be able to see this real well. But if you look as I'm looking at it, I can see there's a distinct difference between the whole on this yellow line and along the one. This is if you could read this, it would have said it's a fine tip. The fine tip is definitely a small on the pins that go inside. There are also this one is for the standard tip. This one is for the find. So I am going to use the fine tip on. It's all I did was I took the tip off of this battle and I put it on this bottle. Let's give this a go. Definitely applying are still going to need to be careful, but I think this will give me what I want. Cross your fingers and hope I don't mess it up. So I think what I'm going to do is I'm gonna follow this line here and this line here just a little bit of a stroke. Really? Easing up on the pressure. I really don't want big blobs of paint coming. You can see that. Just gonna stand back a little bit because I want to decide if I want more. Definitely something I don't want to do too much. All right. I'm gonna call that done, and I can look at it for another day or so and decide if I want more. But I think right now I'm going to just call that one. Done clean up this tip. The I thought they do one other thing. I would like to take this old photograph. I've scanned it, adjusted the colors in photo shop and gave it a bit of a definite edge. And I think that one of these two do a little bit of globally. 9. Part Nine: Vintage Photo: trying to decide which of these two to give some gold embellishment too. And I think I've decided on this one. I look at this one, and as much as I'd like to do it, I'm just not sure where to start. So I guess I need to live with it for a while. So I'm gonna do this one. I was originally thinking I put it on this side, but then as I looked at it, I realized the light seems to be coming from here. So I'm going to line the outside of her with a little bit of gold and make like it's reflecting. Young thing is gonna be one of those cases where I don't really know if it's gonna turn into something I like, or it's going to turn into something that well, we'll go in my pile of examples of what not to do. So we will find out together. Wait, I decided what it is I might do is I have this piece of gold leaf that I laid on this side when I laid it there. I kind of thought that just didn't look right, because it's so dark over there. So I brought it over here, and I think that feels better. I'm not sure how much I'll dio. I'm not sure if I will be able to feather it out like it is in my mind, but we'll give it a go, and we will just see what happens. And, uh, there we go. Alright. So I've got my adhesive I mentioned early that have not used much of this. And as you can see when you look in here, Yeah, I've had this for a couple of years and I'm not going through a very fast. That's because of the kind of gold leaf work I dio. I'm sure somebody who was trying to do a frame would go through it like crazy, and this would be ridiculously small amount for them. But for me, it seems to work. I'm gonna turn this upside down because I think I can work on it better at this angle because I'm left handed. And so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to try to carefully going here, and I'm going toe mine her arms and around her hat in this wonderful feather and go up to this corner and that's what I think I'll do. I'm going to try and stop short of this edge. That's the plan at this point, subject to change. Of course. I think this is gonna be a good time for me to pull out a full sheet of the schooled Leaf to because this is a pretty big surface area, and I don't want to be messing around with a little itty bitty pieces. I'm gonna put my jar away. There we go. All right. Where is my wax paper? My wax paper. Picking it up. I got my brush for smoothing it out. Got this brush. We're gonna go have decided to sacrifice another brush to the glue. This one has a nice tip on it. It's a little bit bigger so I can get this bigger area little easier, but I think I can control myself around her arm a little bit better. So choose the right tools for the job, right? It's a new brush, so I just need to loosen it up, get the sizing out of it, and then I'm gonna dry it off. Really? Good. Not going to do this over the picture because tragic. If I wind up getting water drops on my picture. All right, so that's nice and dry. Look up the tip on it. Let's give this thing a go. Yeah, this brush is a lot better for control. Good choice. - His hand has a big, giant feather on it. And so I'm trying to be mindful of the look of a feather. I don't want to obliterate all that fine detail. All right, I've got the glue on. I think you can kind of see what I did. Using the tip of this soft brush to kind of feather my way into this edge with a little bit of pressure gives it a nice, jagged edge. And that's kind of what I want. Yes, that's what I want for now. And I'm gonna do that. You're too, because those feathers need to have a light eeriness to them. I think I'm going to do a little bit down from this corner, - and I'm gonna just a little bit right down here, all right? And I think that is just about enough for this one. 10. Part Ten: Concluding Remarks: Well, that's about it. For this class on embellishing your photographs using gold leaf. Thank you so much for joining me. And I really hope that you are able to pull something from the sessions that helps you create something truly special. Please remember to post photographs of your work in the class project area. And if you have questions, let me know and I will be sure to answer as best I can again. Thanks so much for taking my class. See you next time.