Using Kolner Miniatum: techniques I use in my pieces


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

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

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

sepia ink

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

jamie hansen