How To Decorate Concrete Gnomes and Other Garden Ornaments

Any undecorated plain gray garden ornament can be "zipped up" with a little subtle color.

Usually, when a concrete garden gnome or ornament is hand painted, it is not long before the paint begins to peel and the ornament looks shabby. The following method of decorating overcomes this problem and allows the ornament to age gracefully. Instead of peeling, the paint may wear away in time, giving an old established look, rather than tatty and worn out. What is more, at any time during this aging process, you can re-paint it straight over the existing paintwork.

Step 1

Blackwash the ornament. Paint the ornament with black emulsion paint -- suitable for outdoor use -- which has been diluted with clean cold water to the proportions: three parts paint to one part water. The proportions are not critical. The secret is to make the paint just thin enough to partly soak into the surface, thus giving it a firm key on the cement. When painted, it should look like this.

Step 2

Remove surface paint. The paint should be dry to the touch within about half an hour and is then ready for phase two. Rub the surface with a sponge sanding block dipped in clean cold water, removing all the paint from the high points. Wash off surplus paint as you go. Once the surface paint has been removed, it should look like this.

Step 3

Color your ornament. For the coloring, use colored powder paints or the colored powder used to color cement. 

While the excess water is draining from the ornament, take an old jam jar and pour in about five fluid ounces (150ml) of cold clean water and add about a dessert spoon of PVA glue. Stir thoroughly.

Find something that will take a small amount of each of the powder paints you have available. An egg box or an oven bun tin are particularly suitable as each compartment can house a different color powder, allowing you to dip your paint brush in various colors and mix them on the palette. Use an old plate or paint tin lid as a mixing palette.

Wet the paintbrush with PVA solution then lightly dip the brush in the powder paint. Mix the paint on the palette adding more water or powder as necessary. Then apply the paint to the cement surface. More water or powder can be added directly to the item you are painting to obtain the required density of color.

Any paint runs can be wiped off with a dry cloth and the smeared area painted again. Here is an example of a finished ornament.

Step 4

Create the best color. As with water coloring, one color can be added and fused with another to obtain the desired effect. The density of color should be such that the original blackwash shows through, thus highlighting all the fine detail. Any concrete ornament lends itself to this form of decorating!

Leave the ornament to dry for at least an hour then give the surface a coat of the dilute PVA solution to seal in the paint and give the surface a slight sheen. The more PVA you add to the water, the more pronounced the sheen.

Clive is an established part-time freelance writer of illustrated articles for magazines. Clive is also a Manufacturer of concrete garden ornaments -- now retired.

There are other methods of decorting concrete (see author's other articles).


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