It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but today I wanted to share with you what is probably my last wedding DIY project that I did for my wedding last year. We’re talking about how to make a gold leaf globe, which we used as our wedding guestbook.
Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a traditional guestbook, I knew that we would probably look at it once after the wedding, and then stow it away in a closet, totally forgotten. Instead of that, I wanted something we could display as part of our home decor after the wedding was over. I found a few ideas on Pinterest, but ultimately decided on a gold leaf globe.
I was rather nervous to work with gold leaf, because it looked difficult and messy. It wasn’t the best DIY project that I completed for the wedding, but overall it turned out fine. There are already a lot of tutorials online showing you how to make these globes, but like with my previous DIY glitter table numbers post I shared last year, I also have some tips to offer.
PS – sorry if some of the photos are bad – I took them last year when I was still trying to get better at photography!
- Acrylic paint
- Paper plate to use as a paint palette
- Various large and small paintbrushes (for painting the globe) – mine are from the Dollar Store
- Gold leaf sheets – I used the Speedball 25 12″ x 12″ gold leaf sheets
- Gold leaf adhesive – I used 2 fl. oz Speedball Metal Leaf Adhesive
- Sponge or stiff paintbrush (for buffing the gold leaf)
- Clear Acrylic Sealer (matte or glossy) – I used Mod Podge
Choosing a Globe
This is a bit of an obvious thing to say, but there are SO many difference types of globes to choose from. Our criteria was that we wanted it to 1) be somewhat inexpensive, 2) have a more modern base, as a rustic base wouldn’t go well with our wedding or our home.
We ended up finding ours online at The Bay half price for $50. It is a 12-inch globe to accommodate the names of 130 guests, so if you have fewer guests, it’s possible to find an even smaller globe at a cheaper price. As you’ll see below, our globe is black; we mainly chose it for the chrome base. If I were to do it again, I would have picked a globe in a lighter colour, because it’s more difficult to paint over a dark surface. I didn’t have a horrible time trying to cover it, but it could have been easier.
Just like nail polish, there are so many choices in paint finishes at the craft store – matte, chalk, satin, pearl, metallic, and the list goes on. A lot of the Pinterest examples that I saw for DIY globes used chalk paint, again going for the rustic/shabby chic vibe that wouldn’t go well with our wedding or our home decor. I hemmed and hawed between the Satin and Pearl finish, before ultimately settling with Satin. As much as I like some bling, a pearl finish with gold continents would be shininess overkill! The satin finish still gives the globe a bit of a sheen. Unless your globe is significantly bigger than 12 inches, a 59 mL bottle of paint like the one I bought should suffice – I didn’t even end up finishing the entire bottle.
About Gold Leaf
There are a number of brands that sell gold leaf and gold leaf glue, but I didn’t know much about gold leaf so I went with Speedball, a popular brand that I had already knew of. I bought this from Amazon for $13. The pack of gold leaf sheets comes with 25 sheets and is more than enough to cover a 12-inch globe. I didn’t use up any more than 5 sheets! For the adhesive, you do have to use something specifically designed to use with gold leaf, otherwise it won’t stick to your surface properly. It’s a very sticky, messy product, so make sure you have something covering your work surface. I also purchased the adhesive off Amazon, for $9.
Finally, onto how you actually go about making the globe!
- Use your acrylic paint to cover all of the “water” on the globe. I had to go in with a small brush when painting the edges where land and water meet. On a globe, the edges of the land are rugged, but don’t worry if the edges are smoothed out when you paint, because you’ll automatically get rugged edges when you apply the gold leaf. It took a good 4 layers of paint to build up to full opacity.I have to let you in on a secret: I painted over a bunch of islands and I felt really bad doing it! I did it for good reason, though. Firstly, you don’t have to go through the trouble of painting around teeny tiny islands, nor will you have to apply tiny pieces of gold leaf onto the islands. Second, it leaves more space for your guests to sign their names. Bye bye, Vancouver Island, Maritime Provinces, Hawaii, Philippines, and Malaysia (just to name just a few).
Applying the Gold Leaf
2. Once the paint is dry and opaque to your liking, you can start applying the gold leaf. The adhesive comes with instructions: basically, you mix the glue, then apply a thin layer to the places you want the gold leaf. You wait for the glue to turn from milky to clear on the surface, and then you lay down the gold leaf and use a sponge to smooth it out. Instead of going through it step by step, I have some tips and observations I picked up:
A) The gold leaf was a LOT thinner and more fragile than I thought it would be. Be very gentle when handling it, and make sure your hands are completely clean (aka no residual glue or water) when touching it, otherwise it’ll rip while you’re handling it.
B) Start off working on smaller bodies of land first to get used to how the gold leaf works, before moving on the larger continents.
C) For smaller areas of land (such as Australia), cut off a piece of gold leaf that is just large enough to cover the area of land. The excess gold leaf is buffed off and you usually won’t be able to reuse the excess, so this minimizes wastage.
D) Use a firm sponge or a soft but stiff brush to buff off the excess gold leaf that hasn’t been glued on.
E) If you have any bald spots, you can always go back and re-cover those areas.
Sealing the Globe
5) Once you feel like you’re completely finished with the globe, you will have to set it with a sealant. This is not a necessary step, but it’s supposed to help the gold leaf from wearing off. Again, the sealant comes with instructions – hold it about 12 inches from the globe, and spray evenly. I did two layers to make sure I had even coverage.
The final step, which is again optional, is to write a quote. I chose “You are my greatest adventure”, which I thought was fitting for a globe. The above photo is a finished look of the globe before the wedding, and below is a photo of what the globe looks like signed by all of our guests and sitting on our dresser!
And that’s it! This was a pretty fun DIY project and I’m happy with the way it turned out, BUT if I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll ever attempt using gold leaf again! I found it difficult to work out – maybe some of you will have better luck!