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Gold Leaf Coral Frame Tutorial

Who doesn’t love combing through the soft beach sand, where the shore meets the water, and coming up with hands full of sea treasures?

Leyna and I spent hours doing this on our Carnival cruise excursions.


Carnival asked me to write about bringing our vacation home with us, and I knew this tutorial was the perfect fit.  Why should those bits of coral and shells be destined to a life in a dark closet (or the trash, honestly)?


All you need for this are:

  • A picture frame
  • *CLEAN pieces of coral that have washed ashore, or shells
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks
  • Mod Podge
  • Sponge brush
  • Clean and dry fine bristle brush
  • Package of gold leaf sheets (don’t let this throw you, it’s not expensive – about $8/package)

*Guys, don’t go breaking off live coral, okay? There’s plenty to be found that’s dead and dried up along the shoreline. 


Start by arranging all your pieces on your frame how you think they will best fit.


Then carefully remove a couple pieces, hot glue them back down, and repeat.


Dilute your Mod Podge with about 40% water, then apply over the pieces, really soaking them. The coral will drink up a lot. It’s probably wise to make sure you’ve removed the backing and glass from the frame by this point.


Let it dry for about 5 minutes. You want the pieces to be tacky, not wet.

Now rip small pieces of gold leaf and dab it on with your dry, clean, fine bristle brush. Really work it into the crevices, and all that great coral texture.


The gold leaf is crazy delicate and will flake everywhere. Don’t worry. It wipes up fine. After the gold leaf has had about 10 minutes to dry, you can go back over with a light coat of Mod Podge, then apply another coat of gold leaf if you’d like.

I wound up doing 2 coats of gold leaf, then a final coat of Mod Podge to seal it. I didn’t cover the coral in it’s entirety because I liked the unfinished look. But, with enough time, you could probably get nearly full coverage with just one package of gold leaf, if that’s what you’re going for.


I started out wanting to frame a picture from our trip in it, but I love the simple look of the coral and the gold so much that I don’t want anything to detract from it.


So now it’s just a statement piece on our eclectic mantle. A simple reminder of our Carnival cruise, and all the treasures we brought home with us.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.