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Using Paint for Garden Affects



One of the simplest and cheapest ways to create a feature or change the mood of a garden is with paint. Even if you are not very creative; you can still create a stunning effect with very simple designs or geometric shapes. Just using a couple of plain colours can achieve a lot.

By introducing bright colours, you can really liven up the atmosphere of an area. Using cool colours (eg. blues and greens) will create a psychologically calming affect all year round.


You can paint all sorts of things in a garden, to change the mood or create an impact.

Consider painting pots, seats, walls, concrete or paved areas, even glass in windows. Patterns might be painted on concrete to create the illusion of pavers; or if you have the artistic ability you can create any sort of image such as a landscape scene, a portrait, or perhaps a pond complete with fish and water plants.

Paint can be used to change the colour of something in order to create contrast or to make something appear more subdued. A bright white seat for instance might stand out too much for your liking, but with a coat of dark green paint, it’s appearance becomes more subdued, fitting in amongst surrounding plants. A large decorative terracotta planter might not create sufficient impact, until you paint a bright coloured pattern on it, and make it stand out.


Before you paint anything, consider the things that surround it. If you want to create contrast, choose colours that are opposite to the predominant colours that surround that feature. If you want the thing you are painting to fit in then choose a colour or colours that match or complement the colours of surrounding items.


The great thing about painting something is that if it doesn’t work; you can paint over and start again. You really have little to lose by being daring. Before you start though, you need to not only decide what surfaces you will paint over, but what colours, designs or images you will paint onto that surface. If you plan to paint a design or image, draw it on paper first, then when you get it right, draw it lightly with a pencil on the wall, pot, concrete or other surface you plan to paint. Don’t limit yourself to 2-dimensionsal images, try to create the appearance of “real objects”.


Some paints work well with particular materials, but not with others. If you are painting an absorbent surface such as wood or terracotta, you may need to use an undercoat first. Always consult a paint expert before buying (or using) paint. Most paint shops have experts who are trained in the intricacies of such decisions.

For Timber

· Clear finishes protect the timber, and preserve the natural colour and grain of the timber. Not recommended for rough sawn timber, and only lasts a couple of years.

· Stains help protect the timber, and will highlight the natural grain of timbers, but will alter the colour. Stained surfaces usually require more maintenance than painted surfaces.

· Paints will provide the highest level of protection to timber, but will alter it’s appearance. Paints offer the widest range of colour selections.

Other Surfaces

· Paints are used for other surfaces such as metal or plastic. There are two main types of exterior paint: oil based (alkyds) and water based (acrylics). Water-based paints are generally much easier to clean off brushes, or to wash off painted surfaces (prior to drying) if you make a mistake or change your mind.

· Use paints designed specifically for concrete and paved areas. You cannot use just any type of paint on a concrete path - it may quickly wear off.

Wall or Fence Paintings

Some ideas:

· Tromp L’Oeil (Trick of the Eye) - These are realistic images meant to make you think the painting is part of the garden and in doing so extend the scope & the feel of the garden. An example might be a picture of people in a garden beyond the wall on which it is painted, as though there is a hole or gateway in the wall, which you are looking through.

· Abstract images – obviously not realistic like Tromp L’Oeil, but can add colour & interest.

· Designs or patterns, such as waves, sun rays, flames, or clouds.


· Paint a doorway or gateway where there is not a real one.

· Paint a pond on an area of otherwise boring concrete.

· Attach a smooth panel to a wall and paint it one colour to create a backdrop for a modern/minimalist garden.

· Paint a picture of climber on a wall or a column.

· Paint pictures of pots of plants on a wall, and put a few real pots of plants just in front of them.

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