Magical Pink, Ivory, and Gold Frame Tutorial

I just finished refinishing four frames for another beautiful wedding in Ravello, Italy! I really love how they turned out, so I thought I’d share the process.

When choosing frames, I look at weight (for shipping), condition, dimensions and style. Vintage and antique frames tend to be more majestic than modern frames, however they are rarely the right color. So I then refinish the frames to match the rest of the event. In this case, I did something similar to the last wedding I helped with in Italy. I wanted to capture the magic of Villa Cimbrone with gold leaf. But I also didn’t want to gold to overwhelm the design. The wedding planner, Exclusive Italy Weddings, had already designed the tables with gold & ivory Florentine chargers, so I incorporated ivory paint to match. And as a final touch, I custom made different pink waxes and dusts to match the wedding’s romantic color scheme.

Frame Inspiration: Florentine Chargers

The Frames are Inspired by this Tablescape & Florentine Chargers, Designed by Exclusive Italy Weddings


These are the brands that I enjoyed using for this project. I am not sponsored by anyone and am always trying new products:

* This project uses imitation leaf. Real gold leaf crumbles easily and can be hard to handle. I’ve always been happy with both types so I went with the easiest option. The following results use imitation leaf and will probably vary with real leaf.

Project Steps

The following steps are how the project is *supposed* to go *in theory*. In reality, as you will see in the videos, I often re-did steps out of order, sometimes many times over, when I decided I didn’t like the paint color or gold effects enough. Hopefully when you try this, you won’t need to re-do steps like I did 🙂 I highly recommend: 1.) being VERY sure of your paint color before applying 2.) use a separate non-contaminated batch of shellac for sealing, so that your final result is nice and shiny and not muddy 3.) using an ivory base coat and 4.) applying several base coats. Those were my mistakes!

surface preparations & gilding

I won’t go into much detail on the first three steps, if interested I cover these in depth here. Clean up the frames, two coats Gesso, and at least two coats ivory base color. (It’s important not to skip the base color step — I did on the first frame and really regretted it later. It made it so I had to re-guild a few times, because the colors that shown through the gold were too dark.) Then cover the frame in size, wait 15 minutes, and then guild. Touch up gaps if necessary. Wait until size cures. (Note: If the frame is already gilded, you can skip these steps.)

french soda wash & paint

Mix up a batch of Washing Soda & water, at a ratio of 1:1 in a plastic cup. I found two tablespoons soda to two table spoons water to be more than enough for one frame. Be sure to use gloves when handling soda wash, as its an acid and will irritate your hands. Apply soda mix into the ornate groves of the frame. Let dry until soda is hard, typically overnight. Once dry, sculpt into the desired look using a small steel brush (like one you would use for a grill).

Cover frame with clear wax. Wait 20 minutes, then apply 1-3 coats of ivory paint, depending on how much gold you want to show through. Expose some the of gold below the paint by using clean rags with a bit of mineral spirits. The amount of gold exposed is a personal preference.

pink wax & dust

Pink Wax & Dust

Ingredients to Make Pink Dust & Wax

Mix up different shades of pink wax using clear wax, calcium carbonate & different amounts of red & pink powders, and mineral spirits. Apply colored waxes to select accent parts of the frame, like the corners. I like to apply a darker pink to the lower parts of an ornate accent, and lighter shades at the top. Let dry, then apply a clear wax to select parts, wait 2 minutes, and pounce on blush colored dust, again mixed from calcium carbonate and pink powder. Wait for wax and dust to dry (at least 30 minutes), then brush off excess. Clean up all areas where dust overboard with a clean rag.

re-guild accents & seal with shellac

Mix up two separate batches of homemade shellac. One is used as size, and the other to seal. The reason I like to separate the batches is to avoid contamination. Shellac that has dust residue mixed in it, will produce a muddy effect, where I want a clear, golden look that enhances the shine. Apply the size shellac to the corners and any select area on the frame you want to stand out. Shellac dries very fast, so you will only want to do small sections at a time. Wait a minute or two after applying shellac and then add gold leaf. About an 1-8 hours after applying leaf (will depend on amount of shellac you used and temperature), you can use a soft brush to remove excess. Seal with fresh batch of shellac, being careful to clean brush every time with denatured alcohol and a clean rag. Let dry overnight.

The Four Finished Finished Frames

The Four Finished Finished Frames


Laser Engraving and Laser Cutting

Lasers are incredibly powerful tools. Their intricate designs are almost impossible to achieve by hand.

Laser Engraved Whiskey Glasses

What is laser cutting and engraving?

It can be hard to imagine a laser if you have never seen one. It’s a lot like a regular printer. But instead of ink on paper, lasers create designs by burning off the top layer of your chosen material. You strategically work with your material so that when the top layer is burned off, the layer below reveals your design. Lasers can also make extremely detailed cuts that would be nearly impossible to recreate with scissors.

The best part is that you can laser almost anything imaginable — mirror, glass, wood, leather, marble, paper, cork — even a an iPhone!(There are a few exceptions, but even if something can’t be printed on a laser, it can likely be cut / engraved on a different piece of specialty equipment. This list here provides even more examples of laser friendly materials.)

Engraving Mirror Signs

Mirrors signs look beautiful laser engraved. It’s a little tricky to engrave them the first time. This short video explains how we print them. Unlike most materials, you have to engrave the mirror’s back side with a reverse image. (If you were to accidentally engrave the front, the laser will automatically reflect back onto itself and self-destruct. Yikes!) When the sign is finally flipped over, the design will be correctly oriented and very pretty! 

Laser Cutting Mirrors

Acrylic mirror is especially wonderful for cutting, since glass mirror cannot be laser cut (only engraved). The photo below is an example of why we love acrylic mirror! It’s lightweight, comes in range of pretty colors (like the gold pictured), and can be cut to any shape or size. In this case, we cut out the State of Michigan, with a heart for Ann Arbor and Detroit. It’s worth noting that acrylic mirror will achieve a much better engraving contrast than glass mirror, which is why we instead use a technique called sandblasting for glass mirror.   

Laser Cut Heart of Michigan Sign

Laser Cut Paper

Paper is a very delicate material to laser cut, but with the right settings (so you don’t burn the paper) you can achieve very beautiful results. This sympathy card below is an example of an intricate laser cut. As you can imagine, the tiny cuts would be incredibly hard to recreate with scissors or knives. And you can select any color and texture of paper that goes underneath.

Thinking of You Card: Laser Cut Paper Sympathy Card

Engraved Chalkboard

Chalkboard is another material that lasers very well. The only tricky part is figuring out the colors to go beneath the chalk paint. This example here is actually engraved chalk foam board, where the color below is white.

Laser Engraved Chalkboard Sign: Choose a Seat Not a Side Many Thanks from the Groom and Bride

The possibilities really are endless!

If you think of something out of the box to engrave please let us know! For any questions / comments please comment below or email

Thank you for visiting! — Susan Dodge