Gilding Mica Powders
Article by: Ron Percell
Gilding Mica Powders involves basics of Flashing Mica Powders to surfaces for decoration. We hope to simplify these steps to help you gain the basic knowledge behind these techniques to use for hobby or business.
Basics: Many surfaces and Objects such as Lettering, Pinstriping, decorative designs, Reverse Glass & for Finials such as Post caps can be flashed with Mica. The benefits to Mica's are that they will not tarnish. Mica's are used in many fields for their natural iridescent tones such as the cosmetics industry for their hyper allergenic qualities. Mica's may also be added to paint or clear coat for custom spraying and pinstriping. Mica's simulate Gold, Silver, Pearl, Brass, Bronze, & Copper and may be mixed to create custom colors.
Clean surface free of dirt grease and wax. Lightly dust surface to be flashed with Shadow Kaolin as a resist, and then lightly blow off any excess powder. If a pattern is needed, now place pattern over the dusted surface and use the Shadow Kaolin to pounce your design to the surface.
Use brush of choice to apply Gold Size to area being covered with Mica. When gold size has dried but still has tack then the size is ready to flash with Mica. Open a bag of Mica powder and use the mica pad or a gilders dusting mop to flash Mica over the size until object is completely covered.
Upon finishing you may leave as is or choose to clear coat.
Surface preparation is important when gilding for success.
I prefer to Flash Mica's on the cleanest surface possible, I also prefer to also paint any Surfaces, Finials, Pinstriping, Designs or lettering with a coat of oil based gloss enamel such as One Shot's Sign Painters Enamel or Ronan oil based Enamel that matches the color of the mica your using. This provides a clean dirt free undercoat, and if there's a minor hole on the flashed item, the undercoat will help hide any flaws.
Shadow Kaolin as a Resist?
This one of the finest powders available to use as a resist in keeping Gold, Mica's, and other gilding products from sticking to the surface of a project. Having to clean up undesired Mica or Gold stuck in areas you don't wish it to be can be a pain. Shadow Kaolin can be applied with the mica pad or a rag by wiping surface area to apply a light flashing of powder or could be described as a light Frosting. After dusting I blow of any excess powder or debris with my mouth. When applying gold size to the surface over the Shadow Kaolin, it turns clear from the wet size and shows/indicates good coverage so as to avoid missing an area that you wish to have gold applied.
On projects when a pattern is needed, place pattern over powdered surface and use the Shadow Kaolin to pounce your design to the surface. The use of regular pounce powders can over contaminate a surface and cause a ragged edge. If you only have pounce powder, make sure to blow off as much as possible. Never place recently coated boards in the sun with pounce powders on the surface; paints have absorbed powders in the past while sitting in the sun.
Applying Gold Size:
Gold size should be applied in a thin single coat. While Sizing a surface I always prepare a test panel of gold size to the side of my project on a similar piece of material that I can touch to check drying time of Gold Size, so I don't contaminate the sized project I'm working on. Gold Size may be applied with brush, roller, or sprayed. Always read directions on the can of size, and ware the proper OSHA approved masks.
You can use many different gold sizes to apply Mica, such as Oil Based, Water based like Wunda, and even alcohol based like Instacol. Check with your supplier on your gold size durability for interior or exterior use. One technique I’ve discovered for myself was creating stippled blends in reverse glass panels to simulate golden blends.
For those who get dust or particulates in their size and have tried eliminating all dust from their room and are still getting particles, you might try warming the size (oil based) slightly and then use coffee filters to filter the size. In the case of possible fish eyes / separation areas, this can be caused from the size settling over time. Just slowly pour the size into a clean can then pour back into the size can, this is enough mixing. You should never stir your size because it can introduce air bubbles which may never make it to the top of the size to escape, and could dry in the size as debris, causing problems on later gilds.
When is Gold size Ready?
The goal with size is to have it dry to the surface, but have a tack strong enough to attach leaf. A sizing that is still wet underneath can sag or tear later causing the gild to fail. After all if you put a metal lid over wet paint, it tends to slow or stop the drying process. When you check the size, most use the knuckle test which involves bending your fore finger and touching your knuckle to the surface of the tester then lifting up to check for a popping sound. A perfect dry size feels as tacky as masking tape, but if the knuckle is dragged across the tester with a little pressure and the size slides off with a wet underside, the size will need to set up longer. If when dragging the knuckle across the tester, if the size is tacky and rather rolls up, like rubber cement without any wet underside, your size is good. If the size is dry and no longer tacky, remove size with mineral spirits or turpentine, and resize. It's good to size out of the sun when possible.
Applying Mica in its simplest method could be described as sprinkling glitter on glue. Flashing refers to the application method of applying a powder using a brush or make-up pad in which sparkles or produces light. Start off with small amounts; Mica's have good coverage, place your Mica pad or Gilders Dusting Mop inside the container to pick up a small amount of Mica, and then wipe gently over the tacky gold size to transfer mica to the size.
Clear coat or Not to Clear coat?
Typically if the finished item can be touched (if attached 8' or below) we Clear Coat the project with 2-3 coats of clear for protection. If a gild is in a position 8' or above ground and won’t be touched don't clear coat. You can use any clear you like, just make sure it will hold up to the environment.
I myself am currently using a product know as Frog Juice straight from the can applying with brush without thinning. After gilding project is completed I wait 24hrs before clear coating to allowing the sizes to close or dry completely then I apply 1 coat early in the day and a second coated late in the day being careful not to over brush an area that might soften the coat applied earlier that day. Now many believe this to be enough but I choose to apply a third coat on the next day to get a good deep gloss, the surface when dry shouldn't have any dry spots.
If I were rushed, I use clear coat in a spray can, and give a 2-3 light coats allowing the clear to flash dry before adding additional coats. Once the surface has had a few light coated I can spray one final coat that's heavier and gives met a wet look, being careful not to apply too much clear that could run or sag.
Now have a little patients, and you'll be adding Mica's all the time with practice. The best tip I can offer in promoting Mica Powders to customers is to make small sample panels every time you Flash Mica's on a project.
Mica powders are non-tarnishing and universal.
They can be combined with virtually any medium and applied as a paint or glaze, creating a glowing metallic luster. Mica powders may be Flash Gilded by dusting over water-based or Oil-based gilding adhesive. Change the background color and mica powders take on different hues. Lessen the amount of powder in the medium, and the surface becomes translucent with an appearance of great depth.