Prepare the Table
Before you start your painting project, clean off the table and prepare it for the job. Take all objects off the table and sweep away any dirt or debris. If the table is very dirty, scrub it with a bristle brush and warm, soapy water. Spray the entire table with a high-pressure hose and allow it to dry.
Use construction adhesive or wood filler to seal cracks in the wood. A power orbital sander helps you sand down the table's surface if it has too many scratches to paint. If you want your paint job to last for years, apply a coat of bonding primer. Skip the primer if you want a worn, weathered look.
Use Two Colors
You don't have to choose a single color for your picnic table. Select two or more colors that complement one another. Bright, cheerful colors work best for outdoor picnic tables. Colors such as yellow, red and turquoise give the table a festive, summery look. Paint the tabletop and seats one color, and the table legs another color. Alternatively, paint each table slat an alternating color. For a more natural appearance, just paint the tabletop or seats, leaving the rest of the table unpainted.
Stenciling lets you decorate your picnic table with charming graphics or lettering. Most art stores sell a variety of high-quality stencils, as well as plastic sheets for making your own. Use stencils to spell your family's names on the table seats, or try stenciling the tabletop with tropical flowers, palm trees or other beach imagery.
To stencil properly, secure the stencil to the table by taping it down. Use a special brush and paint designed specifically for stenciling to get the best results. Allow the paint to dry before removing the stencil to avoid smearing wet paint.
Turn painting the picnic table into a family project by allowing everyone in your home to add his own personal touch. Designate a section of the table for each family member, and give everyone a small brush and paint. Ask everyone to paint a small picture or his name on the table. Coat your family's artwork with a water-based paint protectant if you want it to last for years.