Using Kolner Miniatum for gilding on paper
As an artist, I feel that it is important to use archival and time-tested materials in my work. I have a responsibility to sell a work that is not only beautiful but also designed to last. But as a vegan, I couldn’t bring myself to experiment with the parchment or rabbit skin glue that many artists traditionally use in gilded art. I was delighted to find a line of products by Kolner made specifically for gilding on paper. Their products bring a new technology to an art that has been around for thousands of years.
I found their products on Etsy and a variety of online calligraphy shops. However I found very little information about techniques and tips for working with the Kolner Miniatum and using the Miniatum ink. I read the manufacturer’s tips and instructions, and have created many pieces using the materials. I am sharing a few of the techniques that have worked for me in the variety of pieces that I have created with metal leaf.
About Kolner Miniatum
The original Kolner Miniatum is very thick and viscus. Once applied, it needs about 8 hours to set and achieve a proper tack. Thick applications may take days to dry completely. Miniatum only works with gold, white gold, and silver. Copper and brass will not stick ( the metal might be too thick? ) My tips:
- It separates. Stir with a toothpick or coffee stirrer. Don’t shake it, that will introduce bubbles that will show up in your work.
- I apply at night and then let it sit flat overnight. I then do my gilding in the morning. It’s always ready then.
- On larger areas, the gold (or silver, or white gold) can get little wrinkles. It took me awhile to figure out that I can lightly brush the gold with my fingers to even it out.
- Don’t ever try to burnish it, or brush it with anything even as abrasive as paper. It’s super-delicate.
- It can take up to a week to dry entirely in large applications.
- It stays flexible even when dry. It’s designed specifically for use with paper so it’s meant to bend.
A thick cushion of Miniatum will create a raised area of metal with a brilliant shine. However it is difficult to get a consistent and smooth ground that is more than 2 square inches, so I use flat gilding when I am covering a larger area.
About Kolner Miniatum Ink
The Miniatum ink is a little harder to find and more expensive. It is ready to gild in about an hour with an open time of about three hours. I have let it sit overnight and it still had some tack. Far easier to work with and much more forgiving, this liquid size is great for detailed work with a brush or pen. I also use a high gloss acrylic varnish when I’m applying gold to paper; I put the gold on the varnish while it’s still tacky. I can burnish gold applied over varnish, but not Miniatum ink. My tips:
- I’m a watercolor artist, so I work almost exclusively on watercolor paper. The grain of the paper will show through the Miniatum ink.
- On rougher papers I apply a layer of varnish or gesso so the tooth of the paper is less prominent. I sometimes even build a cushion of gesso and then sand it with 800 grit sandpaper before applying the Miniatum ink, so the area is smooth and the gold is shinier.
- The open time is listed by the manufacturer as 1-3 hours, but I’ve come back as many as 6 hours later and my gold still stuck.
- Don’t burnish it. Just rub it with your fingers.
- If you’re working on a smooth paper, multiple layers of the Miniatum ink will give you a really shiny finish.
- Glop it on. A thicker layer of Miniatum ink makes a shinier and smoother gold field.
More Gilding Ideas
I work on watercolor paper so you might have other experiences for different papers. After I add gold leaf, I like to put ink over the gold. For drawing over gold, I have only found one ink that has consistently given me wonderful results. Dr Ph Martin’s ink has a wonderful matte finish that contrasts beautifully with the gold leaf. It sticks to gold applied using Miniatum, Miniatum ink, varnish, or other glues. I haven’t found another waterbased pigment that will mark as consistently on metal leaf as India ink.
I would love to hear about your experiences with different sizes and techniques for gilding on paper!
– Jamie Hansen