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Pinterest and I have a love/hate relationship right now. I love being inspired, but its eye candy overload:  I get distracted from things I should be doing, like working on the as yet unfinished drywall repair in the bathroom. Instead, I wind up working on projects I shouldbe saving for a rainy day – like my new office map art that I made with gold leaf.

It just so happens that it’s been pouring this week. My blogging friends are also total enablers, and come up with awesome share spectacles like the Pinterest Challenge. I have been able to resist the temptation previously (okay, I’ll admit that I have just been too swamped to participate), but decided I’d give it a shot using this pinned image as inspiration:

Original post found here.

After painting the study-o, I noticed some old (and might I add, hideously unfinished and uninspired) canvas in the closet. Canvases this size aren’t cheap, so it’s better to reuse them if you can. I simply took some leftover wall paint and covered the canvas to start fresh.

painted over canvas

I then began the painstaking process of transferring a map outline I found on the computer to my freshly covered canvas. I guess you could say I went old school with my transfer method:

1. Scale the computer image to size, print it out, and tape the pieces of paper together.

Step one of office map art

closeup of taped paper for map art

2. Then, grab a pencil.

It all starts with a pencil.

Flip the entire taped paper image over, and using a strong light source (enough to somewhat see the dark outline through the paper), rub the pencil lead along every part of the outline.

old school transfer process with a pencil and computer paper

3. Flip the image back over again, and using a more careful hand this time, trace along the outline. When you lift up the paper, you’ll have a clean (and probably light) pencil outline of the transferred image.

old school transfer process with a pencil and computer paper

transfer process pencil outline

Next up:  the Midas touch. I used an adhesive pen specially made for gold leaf and yet again traced along the map outline. I also used the pen to color in entire sections. Because the glue becomes tacky and ready for gold leaf in only five minutes, I took the project in small sections.

adhesive pen for gold leaf

The toughest part was not touching the gold leaf. Exposure to finger oils can tarnish the leaf, and it’s hard not to apply each sheet as a whole. To remove the extra, I used a soft paint brush. Flakes can be reused for additional applications (and to fill in gaps), so I collected them in a bag to keep them from flying everywhere (those delicate little suckers will waft all over the place with a single breath).

gold leaf application

gold leaf closeup

After hours and hours of this process, I had as close to a finished product as I’m ever going to get. A little sealer, and I was ready to hang my new study-o art:

Pinterest Challenge: Gold Leaf Map Art

gold leaf map art
gold leaf map art

gold leaf map art

gold leaf map art

gold leaf art closeup

gold leaf closeup North America

gold leaf closeup Europe

gold leaf map art

I’m pleased with how it turned out. I even like the imperfections that make it look worn and old (every office needs a few aged pieces). So now that my Pinterest Challenge needs have been met, maybe now I can go back to the bathroom.

That didn’t sound right.

(Link up! Sharing this post with Young House Love, Bower Power, Centsational Girl, and Ten June.)

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  1. Very pretty! You should get some pretty pushpins and mark places you have gone/want to go!

  2. Gasp, that is GORGEOUS! I like your gold version much better than the wood inspiration. Sounds like the process was a bit tedious, but boy those results are something to behold. Pinning it! So glad I clicked over from Bower Power…PS – I call my house an ugly duckling, too :)

  3. Oh girl! I love that! I have a ridiculous obsession with gold leaf so I'll be sure to try out this project!

  4. This is so stinking pretty!!! I'm glad you didn't sugar coat the process because when I first clicked the link I was like “I'm totally going to do this.” And now I'm just going to drool over yours!

  5. That's so cool I love it.
    I probably would of had gotten fustrated with the leafs

    Great job

  6. Wow! That is stunning! Amazing job! Can't imagine the man hours that went into that one, but so worth it!

  7. OMG!!! Gorgeous thing ever!!!! What an amount of work!!! Absolutely fabulous <3 Congrats!! xox

  8. Great work I must say! I like your golden work with the maps. I was wondering how many man hours did it take to complete!

  9. This is lovely. Hell, this is ART. Forget DIY, this is straight up fine art. I don't think I would enjoy working with the gold leaf, however. (I'd probably be more inclined to just color everything in with a metallic gold pen. Or paint.)

  10. Oh my goodness, this is soooo good! I definitely need to try something like this soon. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  11. Wow, I was expecting this to be a total flop. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, everyone!

  12. Wow that is a really cool idea. I think I want to try that but instead maybe use planets instead and cut the spheres in half and paste them on a board so they have a 3D effect. Thanks for the inspiration! Great job!

  13. This is probably my favourite pinterest inspired project! Looks like a million bucks!!!

  14. BEAUTIFUL! Really…just stunning! I'm a sucker for random projects that take me hours and hours, so this might just be up my alley. ;)


  15. Sarah on my gosh, this is amazing! Totally my style of project. I love maps, I love gold leaf, wow, bless you for spending all that time on this. It was well worth it! I'm going to share this on my FB page.

    Now I'm trying to figure out what I can gold leaf around here… :-)

  16. Wow, this is fantastic!! I wish I had faith in myself that I could do it too, but instead I'll appreciate yours ;) Amazing job!!

  17. This looks absolutely stunning! I wish I had the patience to try it myself :( haha. I'd never manager! How on earth did you not blow the leaf everywhere? I'm so clumsy I can't even imagine being that precise.

  18. This map is truly awesome. I am DEFINITELY putting it on my to-do list for this winter. Great work!

      1. Hi Sarah! Awesome work!! I’m planning on trying to make it myself! I was wondering… Do you think it’s preferable to apply the gold leaf on the canvas directly or to paint the canvas first? Which one will give a more beautiful result?
        Thank you so much in advance for your help and for the inspiration!!

        1. I painted mine first. I usually always “treat” my canvases with paint or gesso even if I’m planning on keeping them white, to prep the surface and stiffen it.

          1. did you paint the areas below the gold leaf gold before you applied it? if not do you think this would make it look better?

  19. First time to your site, popped over from YHL…you did a gorgeous job on this! I'm a reluctant commenter in general, but felt the need to offer kudos on a diy well done and say thanks for the shot of inspiration :)

  20. Also came over from YHL… I've been wanting to do something like this in watercolor. Where did you get the map outline?

  21. Came here from YHL and I love your project! I'm very interested in trying to tackle this project over the winter.
    Some quick questions: how big is your canvas and could you give me some more info on how you scaled the map picture to fit the canvas?

    1. The canvas I believe is 24 x 48 inches. I used the image that I found (see above for the link) and scaled it to size on the computer with Paint. Then I resized to the canvas size and printed it out so I could tape each piece together. It wasn't very simple, so I bet there are easier ways!

    1. It was a used canvas, so all I did was paint over the existing art with flat white wall paint. As for the sealer, you can see in the photo above where I took a picture of the glue pen I used. There is a small bottle in the background (fuzzy but it's there). That's the sealer. Both are made by the same brand and you can usually find it right next to the leaf and glue. Hope that helps!

      1. Hiya. I’m so loving this! But don’t think mine would be as perfect looking. Wanted to know if I could pay you to do me one. Maybe not as large but still quite big. I live in the UK. Let me know! Thanks.

  22. This is GORGEOUS! So very pretty it makes me want to do one of my own. I’d use it as a world-travel map with pushpins of one color for the places I have been and pushpins of another for the places I want to go.

  23. This is gorgeous! I stumbled upon your site through a search for maps. Where did you get the gold leaf and how much did the supplies cost to make this? Thanks! It’s so amazing!

    1. I got the gold leafing kit from Michael’s crafts. Not sure of the cost anymore, but not actually all that expensive (I had the canvas already from a previous art project, so all I had to buy was the gold leafing). So perhaps less than $20.

    1. It’s about two feet by four feet. I picked it up at a craft store, so it’s a standard canvas size somewhere around those dimensions. The canvas itself was older by the time I’d used it for this project (I’d already painted it with something before that), so the label for the dimensions had already been removed by the time I did this project. Though if you choose a different size, it’s still pretty easy to do (just measure a canvas size you have, and make your computer print the image to scale).

  24. I absolutely love what you have created. Are you interested in selling it or possibly creating a new one for sale?

    1. I’ve considered it but haven’t really found the time to create more. I may do a smaller version and put it in my Etsy shop.

  25. I LOVE this piece and we’ll see if I have the patience to actually create it. I know you made it a while ago, but do you remember how much gold leaf you used? I think JoAnns sells them in packs of 25 sheets, so was it more than one pack?

    1. If I remember correctly, I bought the package that includes the glue pen (which comes with just a few sheets) and then bought a separate pack. I didn’t go through the whole extra pack I think. So just one should probably do it!

    I have been trying for days to figure out how to scale the image to fit my canvas so that I can print it out, I’m so confused! I copied the image to paint but I can only resize the pixel and degree size.


    ps I love this idea so so so much!!

    1. Use a software that can resize your image in inches. There are lots of online programs that do it. I used Paint.NET, which is different from PAINT (the useless editing tool that comes default from Microsoft).

  27. Hey there. This looks lovely and I’d like to give this a try even though I am a total novice when it comes to using art supplies.

    Did you basically trace the image on the reverse side of the page, and apply the gold leaf onto the pages of paper? For some reason I am not sure if the gold leaf is on the canvas directly, and if so, how did you trace the outline onto the canvas? Or is it that all of the taped pages are left together on the canvas and it is all just painted and sealed over?

    I totally realize I might sound stupid but I really meant it went I said I’m a total novice! Just now looking to branch out into some creative home decor :)

    1. No worries! The technique is called “pencil transfer” (you can google lots of simple tutorials on this too if you need other examples). I printed out the image to be as large as I wanted the finished map to be (use your computer’s printer settings to make sure the scale is right). I taped the sheets of paper together and scribbled along the BACK of the paper printout with a pencil in a nice thick line where I could see the outline of the map (you don’t have to be perfect here). I then flipped it back over (correct side) onto the canvas and traced it on the FRONT once again, careful to get the lines exactly right… what this does is basically allow the pencil markings on the back to transfer to the canvas wherever I put pressure. This left me with a faint outline from which to work with.

      To apply the gold leaf, I painted (with a paint brush) gold leaf glue in the areas I wanted the gold leaf to stick. I then waited the appropriate amount of time to get tacky and slapped down the gold leaf, then brushed away the excess with a dry brush.

      Good luck on your project!

  28. Omg this map is breathtaking!!! I am in love and just have to try this soon! Charlie is adorable! she looks like a total bundle of joy and has that…I want to get into everything look! Fur babies are more fun than kids! I haven’t had a chance to go over your site yet but I thoroughly intend to! Thanks for the tutorial on the map it will help greatly!

  29. Hi,
    I have been looking for something exactly like this. I would love to make one myself, however for a slightly different purpose. Since I have never worked with gold leaf just one question: can it be sealed enough so that it can handle being touched it rubbed across (not forcefully but accidentally) or will it potentially come off?

    Thank you so much for the inspiration!

    1. I suppose there’s potential that it might rub off depending on how you seal it. The more heavy duty sealers might also diminish the sheen on the gold foil too or if it’s exposed to say, finger oils (which is usually why you don’t touch the foil with your fingers when applying). Look closely at the labels for adhesive and sealer that you use with gold foil; there are special ones designed to work with this type of material.

  30. Hey! I have been trying to make this for my new apartment but CANNOT figure out how you got the image and scaled it to print…it is driving me nuts. Any tips??

    1. It’s going to be tough to describe without using my own software as an example, but this is excellent feedback and I’ll update the post with that info when I have a moment to take some screen shots! But basically, you’re going to go into your image software (Photoshop, Picmonkey, whatever you use) and reset the dimensions of the image so that it matches up with the canvas size you’re trying to scale for. So, for example, if you want it to fit an 8×10 canvas, that’s 8 inches by 10 inches. In my software, I was able to change settings so it would scale 100 pixels per inch. It may look really fuzzy if you enlarge an image too much, so you can bump up the contrast to help crisp the line again. Until you asked I never really thought about creating a tutorial for this part, but I can if it would be helpful to you! I can also then include a printable. But as you can see from the images, once I scaled it up and then printed it out on normal copy paper, I taped all of the separate printed sheets to form a large canvas of the same size.