Gold signs are often the choice for Central London signage.  Historically the gold signs have been used to show a class & high end appeal. Its also still very much a visually attractive look, especially in certain fields of retail. Its very much previlant in this trade, which is Fine Art Dealing. The fine art itself is high end so the finish & appearance of the dealer needs to be high end too.

Gold signs give off that appeal, espcially when genuine real gold is used instead of vinyl stickers, which can’t compete with the real thing. Maybe in terms of look for a little while, but over time will peel away, where as the real gold is applied so it can’t come away if produced properly. That makes the real gold signs not just more high end appealing, but also in the long run more durable, so therefore actually more cost effective over time, even if it doesn’t appear so when purchasing & having it produced.

The clients aready had gold signs but didn’t like the shiny effect the stickers had on the marble, which real gold wouldn’t do & they also didn’t like that the window ‘gold’ wasn’t matching the marble pillar ‘gold. This was due to the sign firm using 2 different types of vinyl. The clients had this as a quick temporary measure having recently moved premises from another location in St James.

The first stage was to measure the existing signage & then use the measurements to match the sizing that was already produced. For the marble pillars this meant simply drawing round the existing stickers & then removing them.

Having had the experience of the vinyl stickers the clients prefered the idea of an outline around all the gold signs so that it would give more definition.

When applying real gold to marble its not actually possible to get a reflective finish. This is only possible when doing a specific type of gilding (water gild) & to the inside of windows. Any other form of gold leaf gilding gives a matte finish.

To apply the real gold the lettering is painted with a mix of specialist ‘Size’ & oil based tan colour paint.  The Size is a liquid a bit like varnish which dries quickly & tacky. The gold sheets are pressed against the signwriting & applies to where the Size & paint have been painted. This dries & the excess of the gold is ‘burnished’ off. Burnishing makes the gold bind to the size, cover smoothly & flakes off any excess gold not stuck down.

A specialist soft brush is used to do the burnishing this doesn’t scratch the gold & gives a nice even finish. Any excess that has stuck to the surface where it shouldn’t is cleaned off with a wet wipe.

The next stage is to hand paint the outlines. A specialist signwriting chisel or liner brush is required for this. It helps give a consistant flow of paint & therefore a consistant line so the outlines look neat & uniformed.

The real gold does show the pitting in the genuine marble, but that can’t be faked, so is good to be seen. The gold covers the pitted areas, but they are highlighted in shadows. The signwriting is done with time & care taken to get acurate & neat lining.

As you can see the outline painted around the gold signs does help it stand out a little more & gives a bit more definition. Its important not to have too thick or chunky an outline or that would take over & stand out more than the gold & that isn’t what is needed.

Both pillars were produced in the same way & at the same time. This helps with dry times.

With the pillars completed it was onto the premises glass gold signs. The clients already had vinyl as a temporary fix here too, so this was removed before a window clean was produced in the areas where the real gold was to be added. The first part to be produced was their contact details in the lower right part of the entrance window. Its placed here so there is no distraction from any fine art presented in the front window for display. This is a technical issue for a signwriter but overcome with use a specialist paint mask. It can be achieved without one, but this gives uniformity, neatness & also speeds the process up without having to lie on the floor for many hours.

When using a paint mask, there is still plenty of work to do. Producing it to size in the studio before being on site, then weeding it (removing the areas that need to be painted) then adding an application tape. The lines to make sure its straight need to be applied too. Then once on site the window neeads to be marked with where to place it, The backing paper needs peeling & the mask applied without any creases, before the application tape is removed. Only then can the mask be used to fill in with paint. Its painted in & then peeled of the window. This is all still quite time consuming while lying on a floor, but still quicker & neater a finish than producing it all by hand.

The next stage is to add the oil size to the window for the gold to stick to. This has to be brushed on by hand that way its consistant & ensures all the lettering is covered. The size has powder mixed into it, so what has been painted & covered can be seen. This gives a frosted look to the letters until the gold is applied.

While the size is still tacky the gold leaf is then applied. Some speed is essential or the size will go over & be too dry for the gold to stick.

Care is taken to make sure all the lettering is covered by the gold & as can be seen, there is always some excess gold that applies to the window. This is often the case. Its no issue as the gold will only stay stuck to where the size has been painted once it dries. The excess gold is then burnished smooth & cleaned off with a damp soft cloth.

 With the gold dried on &  the excess cleaned the final part is to go over every letter with a clear varnish. This hardens when dry & protects the gold signs from any window cleaning, so won’t come off, which is where they have a longevity over vinyl as well as the overall look from using real gold.

The final part of the job was to repeat what had been produced on the main window but on the entrance door window, but with a branding logo instead of contact details.

The same method was used for the wording, with a paint mask, to keep the outlines a crisp & neat as they can be. The logo was specific & had to be painted on by hand. The logo was enlarged to size on paper, then placed on the outside of the glass, so the the signwriting could be produced on the inside.

This is applied using a specialist fast drying paint. Once all is dry the size is applied into the centres of the lettering & the logo in the same way as the contact details on the main window.

The gold signs on the windows completed

The gold signs produced on both the marble & the glass

Traditional & Contemporary Hand Painted Sign Writing in London

Sign Writer Traditional Signs of London