DIYdiy projects

diy project: silver leaf botanical tray

by Brenna

I love using trays in our house. A tray has the wonderful ability to confine a grouping of otherwise disorderly items and make them seem neat and organized. To refresh a tired old tray, I used an age-old mirror-making technique to silver leaf a piece of glass. To modernize it a bit, I added a graphic botanical silhouette in a deeper metallic hue. Enjoy! — Brenna (paper & ink)

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CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • tray (I found mine at a thrift store)
  • glass cut to fit inside the tray
  • botanical image
  • contact paper
  • X-Acto knife
  • tape
  • pewter spray paint
  • book of silver leaf
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • paintbrush


1. Spray-paint your tray if you need to.

2. Cover clean glass with the contact paper. Try to apply it as flat as possible. Don’t worry about bubbles; they will come out later.

3. Lay the botanical image over the contact paper, and use tape to secure where you’d like it to be. Keep in mind that it will be reversed once the glass is set in the tray.

4. Using the X-Acto knife, cut the outline of the image through the paper and the contact paper.

5. Once you are done cutting around the entire image, remove the paper. Remove the positive image from the contact paper. You will be left with contact paper covering most of the tray and just the botanical image removed to expose the glass. Now make sure that any large bubbles are away from the open area of the glass.

6. Using the pewter spray paint, lightly spray the area of exposed glass. If it is sprayed too heavily, the paint will come off with the contact paper. Let the paint dry until tacky, and slowly remove the contact paper. You will be left with a botanical silhouette in pewter. Let dry completely.

7. To silver the tray, start by melting the gelatin in 1 cup of hot water. Make certain that the gelatin is completely melted, heating the water further if necessary.

8. Start at a top corner on the painted side of the glass. Use the paintbrush to liberally apply the gelatin water mixture in a square the size of the sheet of silver leaf.

9. Using the paper booklet as a support for the sheet of silver leaf, gently slide the silver off of the booklet about ½ inch. Touch the top of the sheet to the top of the glass and pull your hand down and away to allow the silver leaf to stick to the glass. Tilt the glass to allow the wrinkles to fall out.

Note: To redo a silver square, simply wipe the square off of the glass and start again. Continue covering the glass and allow to dry an hour before touching up, and overnight before inserting it into the tray.

10. Once it is dry, place the glass in the tray. If the tray is uneven or rough, it could scratch the silver off, so consider placing the glass on a piece of felt or cardboard to protect it.

11. You are done!

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