Are you wondering about what kinds of paints to use for outdoor wood craft projects? So what’s your bag – palettes? yard art? Or maybe even doing a touch-up on an old sign and giving it a farmhouse makeover?
Well I’ve got you covered as let’s face it lots of people love being in their backyard (myself included) and wanting to embellish it with your own artistic creations can be a lot of fun. So if you’re looking to paint birdhouses, windspinners, or rustic signs, read on!
Choosing the right kind of paint will require choosing the kind of paint that can handle exposure to the elements, prolonged sunlight, what have you. I’ve painted on just about everything and anything, even things like cinderblocks and sometimes the worst that can happen is fading over time (where I live, the sun is a force to be reckoned within the summertime.) Don’t let all your hard work go to waste – choose wisely.
Using myself as an example, I love birds and watching them. Birdhouses are a great example of something I’d want to paint and preserve the longevity of. Here is a closeup of a few of them I worked on for a community project I was a part of back in the 90s.
Now I have no idea what kind of paint I was using at that time, but I’d have to guess it was something kind of entry level. Eventually, before the finished birdhouses were mounted in their respective locations, I applied some kind of preservative to them so my handiwork could be saved indefinitely. Now looking back at them (I took this picture below in 2018) and after 20 years, you can see that they’ve faded.
Of course I was still learning about paint back then, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have used a different kind of paint right? that’s what I want to assist you with in this post.
Buyers’ Guide to Paint for Wood
Of course, not all paint is crated equal, so I’ll cover the main kinds and how well they work in this section. How well it adheres, resistant to the elements like prolonged sunlight, moisture, etc. There’s a little bit of overlap between the kind of paint you see at the home improvement store and “craft” paints, so I’ll go over that here. Both kinds can be great, if you know what to look for.
Don’t Forget to Prime First!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you rule number one – prime first! Natural wood has its flaws and it’s important to protect it as well as minimize the look of rough areas. It will also enable your chosen color to look its best. You can choose your own formula, or check out my own white primer variation here if you’ve got all the right ingredients nearby.
Another option is to choose a “paint + primer” option. You can sometimes find these at hardware stores. This 2 in one product comes in a spray-on application that provides good coverage and is ideal for many outside project types.
Is Latex or Acrylic Better For Wood?
This is a common raging debate amongst the DIY community…I found myself thinking about this subject not too long ago as I have been tackling another project that involved wood. The hubs and I have recently upgraded our hen pen so they have more space. I was tasked with painting the lumber planks that were used as part of the foundation (as you can see we built it onto the fence corner.) I’m using latex paint and I can say it’s definitley a different experience (somewhat.)
My husband has been employed at more than one cabinet shop as a painter so he knows about this stuff too. And his vote is with latex paint. Both latex and acrylics are great for wood, in different ways. But first, how are they similar? Well, for one, they are both water-based. You can also get them in the common finishes: matte, satin, gloss. As far as toxicity goes, it’s minimal when used as directed.
But then there’s the makeup…There is a synthetic polymer contained within acrylics, and with latex, it’s main component is PVA (polyvinyl acetate) You may have heard me talk about that and it’s familiarity as a common glue type in addition to binders, pigment for color, and fillers. Latex is a little bit thicker, as I discovered, and it takes longer to dry, perhaps as much as an hour. I was glad I was able to re-wet my brush and roller when I wanted to take a break and come back to it later.
Primer is optional but of course, recommended, for acrylics…You may need to apply a coat of primer before using latex IF you’ve previously painted the surface before with oil based paint.
Latex is a less expensive affair than acrylics, and it can be obtained in larger quantities- this is a five-gallon bucket here. We bought it from an independent seller on the FB marketplace for about $50. Not too shabby.
Holding Up to Elements
Acrylics are viewed more favorably in resistance to the outdoor elements such as less likelihood of peeling, chipping or sunlight fading, due to the level of expansion that takes place as it dries. If you don’t have extreme weather conditions, this may not be something of be concerned with.
What About Acrylic Latex for Wood?
Now if you can locate acrylic latex paint, that’s the creme de la creme…Due to the addition of a resin binder, it will adhere well, and be more adaptable to outdoor projects’ conditions It comes in the same finishes, but the dry time remains about 1-2 hours. You can find it in a good color selection, so if you can get your hands on this, you’re golden.
Now onto the fun part…choosing a good kind of paint for your outdoor wood yard art, whether you’re focused on a base coat or details. These below I have found met the criteria for being weather resistant, great for wood, and excellent color selection.
There’s a benefit to using spray paint for creative endeavors…of course, it’s diffusive and you have to take what you’re doing outside for the obvious reason. Especially if you’ve got a lot of space to apply a base coat to. If you’re wanting to tackle small details, I know of other good options too, which I’ll share as well.
Outdoor by FolkArt
For small details, I would check out an outdoor formula by FolkArt. I’m not sure what’s in the ingredients (the label doesnt’ say) but it’s formulated to be thicker and more weather resistant. You can dispense as much as you need and use a brush application, or use a sponge applicator.
It comes in 2 oz and 8 oz sizes, you can choose more “conservative” colors or more bright and vivid like the set on the right. There is also a similar product known as Curb Appeal, which is formulated for home exterior use (things like shutters, doors, etc.), but I understand based on the description that it would work for other wood projects.
According to the reviews, people in the majority used it for home trim makeovers, but nothing craft related, so I can’t say for sure.
I heard someone mention “Patio paints” in a forum and thought I would check these out myself. These beauties are made by the trusted DecoArt brand, and are water-based and formulated to withstand whatever the outdoors may throw your way. A great option for whatever you’re looking to embellish your yard or garden with including wood crafts….They come in vibrant colors, are weather resistant and need no finishing sealer. They would be best for small scale projects as their size is limited to 2 oz bottles although you could definitely mix the colors if needed and choose a certain color a la carte although a “sampler” set like this one would be great for many projects you have on hand.
Other colors I have seen include teal blue, purple and terra cotta . They will also adhere well to other surfaces as well (with the exception of plastic..one customer review confirms this.)
Americana Decor Outdoor Living Exterior
The name says it all – it’s a green light as far as outdoor wood craft and yard art go, and a trusted, popular brand as well. I chose the purple here as an example as it’s my favorite but it also comes in neutral colors like cream and more vibrant colors like this, and turquoise and orange. It comes in a 8 oz size which is perfect for applying to wood pallets, rustic signs and yard art.
It gets good reviews and is formulated to stand up to conditions of the outside world so you can rest assured your projects will remain vibrant and beautiful time and time again. As you can see on the label “exterior/interior” so need to switch between paints when the mood strikes! So I would definitely recommend this one as well.
Pin for Later?
I would also be sure to preserve your work later with spray on sealant. Well that about wraps it up. Good luck and enjoy your outdoor yard art!