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How to Apply Fired Metallics - Gold, Platinum, Silver, etc.: Article or Project

Suitable fired glazed item
Metallic over-glaze
Q tips (cotton swabs)
Soft cloth
Suitable brushes (small, soft bristled)

More Details

Fired Gold, Platinum, Silver are somewhat tricky to learn. Not difficult, but touchy and temperamental.

These precious metals are suspended in a liquid and do not look at all like you would expect. Different brands have a color agent in them to help you see where you paint them. There are different grades, especially with the gold. Some are 14k, 12k, 10k etc. The metallic is released during the firing process.

The resulting sheen will be affected by the sheen of the fired glaze. Gloss glazes will give a high sheen and Matte glazes with give a satin sheen.

Metallics are intended to go over a fired glazed item, but may also be used on prepared, fired porcelain bisque. The final results will never be shiny, but rather a matte, antique, burnished effect.

HINT: applying grey underglaze to the area to be covered with metallics will enhance the end result.

You must use care to keep your work area and your item clean. Select your glazed item and determine where you want the gold. Clean the item with a soft, lint-free cloth and alcohol. Use care to not touch it and leave finger prints. Work a small area at a time.

Use a small, dry, clean soft bristled brush that has not been used for anything except gold. There may be traces of other chemicals remaining in brushes used for other purposes which will conflict with the metallic.

DO NOT shake or stir the metallic.

One of the most difficult things to teach in writing is how much to apply. A good motto is “less is more”. In this case, it means that applying too little is better than applying too much. You can always go back and fix thin applications, but it is not quite so easy to fix heavy applications. It is recommended that you practice on some small items (things with less gold coverage) until you get the hang of it and remember, each brand is different. Most brands are very good, but this author highly recommends Hanovia though it is now hard to find.

Take your brush (usually a detail brush or small liner) and dip it in the gold. Next paint a thin coat on the area you wish to be gold. You will see brush strokes, but try to apply it as smoothly as you can - don’t scrub. You do not want puddles as they will drip during firing. Use care, gold is rather unforgiving. A little bit goes a long way. Do not get it on your fingers as it will leave traces on your item wherever you hold it even if you ‘think’ you cleaned your hands.

If you make a mistake, STOP. Do not try to wipe it away. Use gold essence (or alcohol) to just dampen a Q tip or a toothpick to wipe away the error. Do not wipe the Q tip or toothpick more than once. If you do not get the error removed in one swipe, use a new one.

After your gold has dried for 24 hours, fire it to cone 018 (unless manufacturer recommends a different temperature). If you want to be extra cautious and want to see if there are any repairable errors, you can soft fire your piece to cone 022. This will reveal the gold, but it will be soft and it can be wiped off. You can repair thin spots by painting on another thin coat of gold as well as remove errors more easily with a gold eraser.

This soft firing can also create a unique effect in that you can cover a detailed area with gold, soft fire it and then scrub off the gold from the high points giving an ‘antiqued’ appearance. After you check your item and are satisfied with the application, you will then want to re-fire it to a hotter temperature/cone to permanently affix the gold.

If you see purple smudges or purple instead of gold, that is probably because the gold is too thin. Easily remedied by removing unwanted purple or applying another thin coat of gold. If it is purple and feels rough to touch, it could be that your glaze was applied too thin and not receptive to accepting the gold. If you have cracks or crazing in the gold, it was applied too heavy. If you have drips, it was applied too heavy. These things are easily repaired in the soft fire stage. The over application is not as easy to repair when fired to maturity.

Clean your brush with gold essence or mineral spirits and mark it in a manner that will prevent it from being used for any other purpose. If you clean brushes by swishing them in the bottle of essence, do not use the same essence for other over glazes. Contamination will result and compromise future applications and firings.

Do not fire gold/metallics in the same kiln as lusters. Fire the gold first and then the luster next - usually one cone cooler (cone 020 or per instructions on your luster)

Metallics and Lusters create fumes during the firing process which conflict and contaminate each other. After their first firing, there are no further issues with contamination.


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