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After gold leafing part a piece of IKEA furniture, I'm going a little gold leaf crazy. I'd like to leaf part of my phone case, which is a flexible matte plastic. Will the adhesive stick to it? I would test if I could, but I unfortunately only have the one case.

This is the listing for the case. According to the manufacturer's website the case is made from Thermoplastic polyurethane or TPU. According to the wiki it has the following common properties:

  • high abrasion resistance
  • low-temperature performance
  • high shear strength
  • high elasticity
  • transparency
  • oil and grease resistance

I am using ArtMinds gold leaf.

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    @jackwise I took the liberty of adding more pertinent information based on the link you provided. If something is wrong you can roll back the edit or update as needed. – Matt Jun 4 '16 at 0:39
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    What kind of gold leaf adhesive are you using? And are you using real gold, or imitation? – Martha Jun 4 '16 at 0:57
  • @Martha I'm using ArtMinds Gold Leaf, which I believe is not imitation. – jackwise Jun 4 '16 at 21:06
  • @jackwise: if the main thing you know about it is the brand, not the type of gold (22 karats, 23 karats?), then it's almost certainly imitation. Also, what size are the leaves? Genuine leaf generally comes in 3 1/8 inch (80mm) squares and costs around $50 for a booklet of 25 leaves, while imitation comes in 5.5 inch (140mm) squares and costs about $10 for 25 sheets. Also, you didn't answer the other part of the question: what are you using by way of adhesive? – Martha Jun 5 '16 at 22:21
  • @Martha It was about 10 bucks so it's definitely imitation then. My ignorance shows! And apologies, I somehow missed the first part of your question. I'm using an adhesive meant for gold leaf, I don't recall the brand but I will add it to my question when I can. – jackwise Jun 6 '16 at 13:37
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I've never tried to gild a phone case before, so take this with a grain of salt...

I would suggest using the same methods you'd use for exterior gilding: prime the surface with several layers of primer, sanding in between; apply an exterior-grade gold size (also called "oil size" or "solvent-based size"); wait for the size to dry to the appropriate level of tackiness; apply the metal leaf; after a bit more drying, brush off any loose gold; after allowing the size to fully cure (could take a week or more), apply a sealer to prevent tarnishing.

If you don't want to go to such extremes (trying to buy oil size in quantities small enough for your purposes would probably be difficult), it might be sufficient to use primer + your existing gold adhesive (probably PVA-type) + leaf + varnish/sealer. For the primer, try to find a paint that's specifically meant for plastic: you want something that's guaranteed to stick to the plastic, and then your gold adhesive will stick to the paint (or at least it should), and then the metal leaf will stick to the gold adhesive, and then (after everything has cured as fully as it ever will, but before oxidation has set in) seal the metal leaf both to protect it from abrasion and to prevent tarnishing.

Regardless of what specific steps you follow, you may end up with a phone case that's noticeably thicker than it was before. Make sure to mask off any areas that shouldn't get thicker, i.e. any prongs/thingamabobs that make the case stay on the phone, the inside of the case, the holes for the camera/power cord/headphones/switches and buttons, etc.

The other caveat is that, unlike IKEA furniture, your phone case is probably not flat. This means that you will be gilding around a curve, which is more difficult than just covering a rectangular flat area. You will end up with gaps, and even after doing your best to fill them in, you'll see the seams, and some gaps will just be too small to fill but not small enough to be invisible. (This is where genuine gold leaf would make things easier: it will stick to itself, allowing you to fill in gaps totally invisibly.) Depending on the effect you want to achieve, choose your primer and/or adhesive color to either contrast with the gold (a red Armenian bole color is traditional for this) or blend in as much as possible (i.e. yellow).

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  • Martha - The carriers in the sizing may dissolve some of the plastic or at least eat into it, no? I looked up "ArtMinds Gold Leaf" at the Michaels website - it is made from copper. Therefore, if jackwise wants to retain the gold appearance, the leaf will need to be sealed, especially from hand and ear oils. Again, there may very well be damage to the plastic from the chemicals in the sealer if any of it overlaps the leaf and the 'phone case. Please correct any errors in my thinking. – Inspector 8 Jun 8 '16 at 7:47
  • @Inspector8: gold size, even "solvent-based" gold size, is not usually acetone-based, and is unlikely to dissolve plastic. But like I said at the top of my post, I haven't actually tried any of this, so please apply a generous dose of your own common sense. (Well, I have gilded things before, but never a plastic phone case.) – Martha Jun 8 '16 at 15:14
  • Your answer seems very well informed, but unfortunately this seems a bit beyond the level of effort I'm willing to put into a simple phone case :p Nonetheless, I will accept this as the correct answer. – jackwise Jun 23 '16 at 20:36

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