This is a cast resin plaque I bought 9 or 10 years ago at a discount store for $5. It was a grey stone color, with darker areas to accent the depressions in the pattern. That should have been my clue that it was painted, but I really didn't think about it. When it emerged from the snow this spring, I happened to take a really good look at it (for the first time in years, actually) and noticed that much of the paint had flaked off. The color of the resin underneath is not much different from the paint color, so I guess that's why I hadn't noticed. Anyway, I decided that the thing to do is scrub off whatever might still be loose, and apply silver leaf the to raised areas. So here it is scrubbed and sized, ready for silver leaf. The directions that follow work for gold leaf or copper leaf as well.
The first step is to apply a special sizing to the areas where you want the metal leaf to stick. It needs to be brushed on and allowed to dry until clear. It will stay tacky a long time after that, giving you good working time. Then the silver leaf is applied to the tacky areas, and brushed with a firm short bristle brush to make sure it adheres. You can also use the brush to remove any that lands on areas not covered by the sizing.
I have covered all the areas I want silver leafed, and now I want to add tarnish to it to make it look aged. I have found instructions for two different methods. One was to use a bit of bleach on it, and the other was to use a boiled egg mashed up and smeared on. Well, that sounded a little dicey to me, since the silver leaf is tissue thin and might be dislodged by rubbing something on it, so I have tried the bleach. I put just a bit in a spray bottle with some water and misted it. So far, there is no change, but I will leave it overnight, and if that doesn't do it, I'll try some variation of the egg technique. After I get the degree of tarnish that I like, I will seal it to prevent further discoloration, and post again with the finished plaque.