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

A cushion of Miniatum in yellow gold beside an area of white gold done in Miniatum ink.

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

Detail of yellow gold over Miniatum ink on arches hot press watercolor paper.

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