How to Paint an Outdoor Wooden Bench

A wooden bench consigned to live outdoors will eventually need a facelift to disguise the weathering of age.

Balloon-Colored Benches

A hand-painted wooden bench in front of a stucco wall nestling between flowering shrubs.A hand-painted wooden bench in front of a stucco wall nestling between flowering shrubs.
Paint yours to add a note of fantasy, a shot of color, or a celebration of the valued and vintage -- and change the look of your porch or garden. Outdoor paint wears well, although the new finish will last longer if the bench winters indoors. A fancy makeover with interior or hobby paints needs a final clear coat of poly or lacquer to protect your art from the elements.

Set up a circus on your porch with a slatted bench painted in alternating contrasting stripes or a rainbow of hues. Paint each slat a different color or vary slats to pick up the colors of the house, trim and shutters. Your buttoned-down dove-gray shingles and ivory trim are neatly reflected in charcoal, pewter, pale gray and ivory slats. The multicolored painted lady presides over a side porch bench of tangerine, lime, morning-glory-purple and cream. A summer bench on a white porch is delightful in sharp red, white and blue -- sprinkle a few white stars over the blue slats or the bench back. Autumn decor blends with a witchy orange and black bench, surrounded by giant pumpkins and parked beneath a mobile of soaring black bats.

Garden Harmony

Paint that odd collection of castoffs and lucky finds that passes for garden furniture into harmonic convergence by painting them all one color. Restful sage, healing turquoise, energetic melon, or slightly sunny maize bring a bench in line with a table, a few mismatched chairs, a love seat or a garden swing. Cover the trellis or arbor in the same color to peep out from dense heritage roses or flowering vines. Give the bench a little extra interest by adding some faux detail -- streaks of verdigris in a turquoise setting, a bit of greening like moss edging a yellow or orange bench.

Ombre Bench

Shade a pair of garden or terrace benches from dark to light with ombre-style paint in a favorite hue. The easy way to plan ombre is to select colors from a paint strip in intensities from deepest to palest. Purchase sample sizes of the colors or translate your color scheme to hobby paint to avoid cans of leftover color. Start with the darkest shade at the bottom of the bench and go lighter as you go up, blending in each change in color to create soft gradations, not hard stripes of color. Paint peony benches from deep pink to faintest blush. Work up from vivid bluebell to the barely blue of a cloudy sky. Start at the burnt-orange base and drift towards creamy apricot -- for a bench with a back, consider adding decorative finials painted in the darkest color.

Hobbit Seating

Add some elfin magic to an old bench with a back by painting it trompe l'oeil-style, as if it were enchanted out of the woods. Paint the back and edges to look like wood bark -- a bench that grew out of a tree. The seat should mimic a slice of tree interior, with rings and varying shades of cream and reddish-brown to represent sapwood and heartwood. Mine your own imagination or use fantasy drawings for inspiration to paint gnome heads emerging from the wood of the bench -- one on the back or just a few on a larger bench. Finally, paint a delicate flowering vine to twist around part of the bench and hide a winged creature that can't quite be identified amid its leaves and blossoms.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .