All About Fence Paint – How to Create Something Special


A fence is just a fence. Or is it? When you paint your fence there’s suddenly plenty of potential for transforming a boring yet essential structure from something entirely practical into something that also visually enhances your outdoor space. And now is the perfect time of year to get busy painting your garden fence.

Why paint your fence in the first place?

You might adore that lovely silvery sheen you get on worn fences. It’s subtle and beautiful, if you like that kind of thing. But to some people’s eyes it just looks knackered! If you’d rather keep your fence looking in tip top condition and keep weathering at bay, fence paints provide a wealth or creative and practical choices.

Using coloured fence paint in your garden

When green foliage sits against a coloured background, all the different greens appear even more vivid. Paint your fence a dark shade of purple or blue and the contrast is simply stunning. Paint your fence raspberry red or magenta pink and, because pinks and reds are the diametric opposite of green and offer the most brilliant contrast, the effect is even more dramatic.

If you feel bright colours are a bit too ‘out there’ for your taste, dark browns and blacks also form a beautiful contrast with plants and flowers. And – an old interior decorator’s trick – the darker the colour you paint your fence, the larger your garden will look.

In contrast, painting a fence a pale colour makes the space inside look smaller. Paler colours also tend to look grubby sooner than darker shades, something it’s wise to remember if you’re painting a front garden fence near a road, where it is vulnerable to dirt and pollution.

Do your preparation first…

If your fence is in good condition you can paint straight onto the surface. But it’s best to do a proper job and get busy with the preparation. We recommend Barrettine Premier Universal Preservative, a special spirit-based wood preserver, for preventing and treating dry rot, fungi and mould. It even protects wooden fences from the ravages of woodworm. And because it doesn’t contain wax, you can paint right over it. It’s easy to apply with an ordinary brush or roller and it’s safe for plants and animals once dry.

Beautifully Painted Fence Panel. Photo credit to: Dejan Krsmanovic

Recommended coloured fence paints

Heritage colours are still very popular for interiors and they also translate beautifully outdoors, delivering a subtler look. Take the Cuprinol Garden Shades paint range, designed to help you transform wooden sheds, fences, summerhouses, garden furniture and decking. It’s brilliant stuff, also being suitable for use on terracotta, stone and weathered concrete. It’s safe, water-based and protects the wood as well as looking beautiful, with its attractive paint-like matt finish. It repels water and resists fading, and comes in six cool ‘natural’ colours including a couple of stunning blues and a gorgeous mellow sage green, bang on trend.

We also rate Ronseal Garden Paint highly, which comes in 24 brilliant shades, including vivid pinks and purples. Like the Barrettine product Ronseal’s Garden Paint waterproofs, colours and protects a wide range of garden and exterior materials, including wood, metal, terracotta, brick and stone. It’s crack resistant and rainproof within one hour.

Sneaky amateur tip – Using exterior eggshell paint on wood fences

Special garden paint does a fantastic job. But so does water-based exterior eggshell paint. And it comes in a massive range of colours. How do I know? I’ve been experimenting with it extensively for decades, using it on wood, metal, stone, plastic and all sorts of other surfaces, and it works like a dream.

I tend to buy Dulux Trade water-based exterior eggshell, available at major decorating outlets and mixed on the premises to match a choice of literally hundreds of different colours. It’s more expensive than regular paint but it sticks fast to almost any surface including glass, which has absolutely no texture for the paint to adhere to, and seems to last for years. Remarkable stuff.

The peculiar beauty of naturally-occuring shabby chic

Isn’t life strange? A few years ago there’s no way you’d put up with a shabby-looking, distressed garden fence. Now, with several years of shabby chic prominence under the nation’s interior design belt, tatty, faded fencing with multicoloured paint jobs showing through have acquired an eccentric beauty of their own. Can you maintain the look while keeping your fence in good physical order? It’s a tricky compromise between condition and looks, and protecting and maintaining a natural shabby finish might be a bit too much of a challenge. But there’s another way…

Faded fence panel achieving shabby chic. Photo credit to: Cindy Shebley.

Instead of trying to preserve a naturally-occurring shabby paint finish, prepare and protect your fence as normal then create the shabby chic look yourself using fence paints, giving it the rustic, worn look by sanding down some areas and perhaps even using more than one shade of paint, either toning or contrasting.

What about adding designs and patterns to your garden fence?

There’s no law saying you can’t use fence paints to create a mural, designs or patterns. It might be as simple as choosing three toning shades and creating a regular or irregular pattern by painting the individual fence slats a different colour, working either vertically or horizontally.

If you feel bold you could paint the top, middle and bottom thirds of your garden fence different shades, or cover a single-colour background with huge circles (or heart shapes, or flower shapes) in toning or contrasting colours. You could paint the fence posts a different colour from the panels, or paint each side of your fence a different colour depending where the sunlight falls at different times of day, for example making a shady side look sunnier or a sunny area look cooler and richer.

There’s also no reason why you can’t get busy with ordinary interior décor or craft stencils, using a contrasting or toning colour to create, for example, a sinuous ivy vine around the top of your fence, flowers, butterflies, fruit…you name it.

Making your own recycled painted garden fence

It’s perfectly possible to cobble together a sturdy, solid garden fence from odd bits of wood, creating an attractive and rugged look. I’ve seen several of them recently, and they look fabulous. Painting the finished DIY fence pulls everything together to create a beautiful visual whole, making it look uniquely stylish. You could even add little recesses into the fence, or bolt on little shelves, painting them and using them to display seashells, driftwood, interesting stones and other found objects. You could even hang framed paintings, photos or mirrors on your fence during the summer. Less fence, more artwork…why not?

Recycled Painted Wood Fence
Recycled Painted Wood Fence

Making your fence painting life easier – Using a fence paint sprayer

You could paint your fence by hand. It’s easy enough but slow. Or you could grab yourself a professional-style fence sprayer system like the  Selecta 7 Shed and Fence Spray System and get the job done much faster.

This Shed and Fence Spray System works with compatible wood fence treatments and lets you cover an average fence panel in around four minutes. All you do is pour your chosen fence treatment product into the container, pump the special handle to build up enough pressure and you’re off. The resulting fine spray ensures the product goes on evenly. And the special long arm means you can easily reach areas as high as two feet above head height.

Protecting plants and creatures from exterior wood paint

Even though most exterior wood paints are plant-friendly and harmless to animals and people when dry, it isn’t a good idea to cover living greenery with fence paint, so carefully cover them first with an old sheet, newspapers or a cheap plastic tarpaulin.

Need help with your exterior wood project?

For more information about wood paints and their uses, contact our team of resident experts who are always on hand to help with project advice and product recommendations. Alternatively, see our wood paints FAQ page which covers many of the most commonly asked questions about wood paints.

We love to see before, during and after photos of any wood finishing project. If you would like to share your project pictures with us and our followers, you can either send us some photos or share on our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram pages.

Other great blogs that talk about painting exterior wood

  • To Paint or Not to Paint: Colouring Exterior Wood
  • 16 Exterior Wood Painting Tips
  • Which Is the Best Exterior Wood Treatment

    1. Hi I have painted my fence with Ronseal harvest gold I would like a change, would grey or willow colour hoover this?

      • Hi Lynn,

        Can you confirm which Ronseal product you used please? The ability to over-paint it with another fence paint product will depend on what was used. Also how long ago was the fence painted with the ‘Harvest Gold’ colour?

        You can call us and speak with one of our in-house experts who may be able to help further. You can find our contact us details here

    2. What can I add to the tin of Forest Green to produce lighter shade of Apple Green.

      White or yellow emulsion?

      Thank you.

      • Hello Micheal,

        Please can you email me directly to with details of the products you are using, the project and type of wood you are applying to and I will be able to advice further on whether you are able to adjust the colour at all.

        Many Thanks Samantha.

    3. Hi There,

      Please help!

      I bought a 9 litre CUPRINOL “Forest green” paint pot and have started painting my garden fences, i’ve painted almost done two of them now but really don’t like it at all as I think it’s too dark and blends with the plants (doesn’t stand out) when really I would of preferred a much lighter colour, I’ve only applied a coat of paint on top of a bright light brown, my question is, how do I change the colour? how do I get rid of this awful dark green?

      I don’t want to waste the entire paint pot, so if I applied one coat only on all the fences then painted another colour on top to brighten it up, what colour should I go for? a light green/blue? PLEASE could you give me some ideas? If you could help me I’d be most grateful.

      Kind regards Christine

      • Good Afternoon Christine,

        Thank you for getting in touch with your question. Sadly once a penetrative colour is applied it is difficult to change it and virtually impossible to lighten it. Forrest Green is a strong colour and for rough sawn you will have trouble getting this off. If the wood is smooth you will stand a better chance however with sanding and this is likely the only way to remove something that has soaked into the wood surface. Perhaps if you are able to get in touch via or contact us page with details of the product used and some photos of the fence, I may be able to advice further.

        Kind regards Samantha.

    4. Hi I’m moving into a rented property that has a small back yard I want to paint the fence panels a dark rich royal blue but I don’t know what to use?, the fences are old and grey looking, also would I need to treat them first? And if I do go ahead and paint them is there a way of getting them back to looking like just stained plain fence panels at a later date if I need to? If you could help with this I’d be very grateful

      • Hello Maria,

        Thank you for getting in touch. For bold and bright colours you could have a look at Ronseal Garden Paint I would also recommend a good quality Preservative to be applied first, this will protect against mould, mildew and rot and then 2-3 coats of the paint. It will really brighten up your space.

        I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate too let me know. Always try a test area first.

        Kind regards Samantha.

    5. Hi I have purchased a house with a very large garden…it has fencing all the way round and needs painting… I have never painted fencing before so don’t know where to start. Ideally I want a brown shade to match the exterior of my house. What will I need to do because the fencing looks in need of attention.

      • Hello Asma,

        Its worth doing the water test first, this involves applying some water to the wood and seeing if it beads up and repels the water. If it does then this can indicate that there is something on there currently protecting it.

        If you feel that there is not anything protecting it then I can recommend the Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative this will protect against mould, mildew and rot and contains wax which will repel moisture. It comes in clear and coloured finishes.

        Always try a test area first and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    6. Hi, I’ve had to replace some of my wooden garden fence with new wood due to deterioration from age and wind. I’ve now got some old and new pieces of wood on the one fence. What is the best way to get them all to look as similar a colour as possible? The old fence has twenty plus years of dark brown paint? ? I’ve about 30 old post along side thirty new.


      • Hello Roisin,

        Making new wood look like old is never an easy project and getting a match is easier the darker that you go. I would be happy to take a look if you would like to send me some photos and see if I can make any suggestions for you.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    7. Hi Sam,

      I would like to paint a range of wooden items black – fence panels, pining table, planter and swing seat. I like a dark black and some items may or may not have been treated. What Tyree, brand and shade would you suggest. BTW the black preserve doesn’t claims to be water-based.

      Many thanks

      • Hello Lorraine,

        You could have a look at the Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative which is available in a black finish. One coat will give a very dark brown finish and two coats will intensify this. It will be suitable for all you projects.

        For a top coat product that will give UV protection and help to make the wood water repellent you could have a look at the Osmo Country Colour which is a coloured oil that soaks into the wood and is easy to maintain and repair and can be applied over a coat of the preservative.

        I hope that helps and always try a test area first. If you have any further questions please do let me know.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    8. Hi Sam,

      Last year I put up new vertical fence panels. This year I am looking to paint them the ‘Muted Clay’ colour by Cuprinol. I have to paint 31 panels in total and am looking for an economical way of doing this. I understand that 2 coats will be ideal but to save on cost is there a way to do a first coat in white and then do the second coat in the Muted Clay colour? Or would that not work. If it would, do you have any recommendations for the White I should use as the ‘under coat’. Thanks.

      • Hello Shaz,

        I am sorry to say that there is not a primer to go under the Cuprinol Garden Shades that is any more cost effective than the Garden Shades itself.

        If there is anything further that I can help with please do let me know.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    9. I bought a tin of wood preservative to paint my shed about ten years ago but i cannot remember the name of it. It was supposed to be the best as recommended by someone in the trade. Any ideas
      Search instead for I bought a tin of wood prservative to paint my shed about ten years ago but i cannot remember the name of it. It was supposed to be the best as recommended by someone in the trade. Any ideas

      • Hello Jim,

        Many products have changed names and ingredients over the years and there are lots and lots of different brands and types within brands. I can recommend a good quality preservative that is available on our website and that is the Barrettine Premier Wood Preserver. It comes in clear and colours and will help to prevent mould, mildew and rot.

        If you have a read up of the products and feel free to come back to me if you have any questions.

        Kind regards Samantha

    10. Hi Sam

      I have 40 fence panels in my garden and due to winds have recently been replaced. Next door have painted their fences so there are lots of drips running down mine and I am wanting to source paint that will cover them all at the best price in a grey.

      What brand is best for the best value.

      Thanks michelle

      • Hello Michelle,

        Its worth finding out what treatment your neighbours have used, just to ensure you can choose a product that will cover with out any adverse reaction.

        I can recommend a surface paint such as Ronseal Garden Paint to give an opaque protective finish. It comes in a wide range of colours and is cost effective for a covering a large area. If you have a read up of the product and feel free to let me know if you have any further questions and always try a test area first.

        Best Wishes Samantha.

    11. Hello

      I bought new fence panels about 18months ago, I believe they were pre-treated.
      Now they are all now a dirty grey in colour rather than the silvery colour.

      Can I use Ronseal Garden Paint to paint straight on top? Do I need to prepare/clean the wood at all?

      Many thanks

      • Hello,

        Thank you for your enquiry, Ronseal Garden Paint the would be ideal for your fencing. There are some simple steps you can take, remove all traces of mould, algae and fungi with a stiff brush or scraper, treat areas affected by mould, algae and fungi with Barrettine Mould and Mildew Cleaner.

        Treat with a suitable wax and oil free exterior wood preservative, if required, where possible, preserve all sides including end grain prior to application of Ronseal Garden colours. Ensure that the wood is fully dry before applying Ronseal paint. And always try a test area first.

        If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let me know.

        Kind Regards Samantha.

    12. Can I put a stain on my fence this winter before the leaves on the ivy come out? I don’t want to remove the ivy, but would like to spray on a dark brown stain over the top of the existing stems. I would use a water-based stain, of course.

      • Hello Dennis,

        If you are able to get a dry couple of days with a temperature at least above 5 degrees or to the specification on the product, which you will find on the tin or the Product Sheet from the manufacturers.

        Every product will be different so just read up on your specific products for full details. Application during wet or cold periods could result in a slower drying time or poor protection results. I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let me know.

        Kind regards Samantha.

      • Hello Alan,

        Its difficult to say if this would be viable because it very much depends on the paint being used and the spray machine that you are using it with. I am sorry to say spray machine are not my speciality and you may be able to get the information needed from the manufacturer of the spray machine.

        Kind Regards Sam.

      • Hello Christine,

        You can not use a preservative that contains wax, oil or silicon as these can prevent adhesion of the Cuprinol Garden Shades. We have one from Barrettine called Premier Universal Preserver that would be suitable for use before this paint. Test areas are always recommended. And please do let me know if you have any further questions.

        Kind regards Sam.

    13. Can I add anything to my Cuprinol harvest brown paint to make it darker?? I’ve got a nearly full tub but fancy a darker shade and can’t really afford to buy a new one and was wondering…..

      • Hello Claire,

        I would only recommend adding a darker shade of the Cuprinol paint and even this, I would have to check with Cuprinol. I would not recommend mixing any other product or stain in with the Cuprinol that you have as this could effect the overall performance of the product or even cause issues with application and durability.

        Kind Regards Sam.

    14. Hi Sam,

      We have a very small courtyard garden (5mx 6m). We had painted the fence with willow last year but have now added some raised beds along the edge and a playhouse for the kids and it doesnt seem to work having the raised beds a darker colour or similar colour to the fence.

      I want to make the tiny space appear as big as possible, so would it be better to choose a darker colour such as urban slate for the fence, with a lighter colour for the boxes? To try deceive people into thinking the garden is bigger than it really is?

      Will this work? Help please!

      • Hello Liz,

        A difficult question for me to answer as design is not my field, and without seeing the space, fence and beds that you are wanting to treat I can not really make a viable suggestion. I would be happy to have a look at some photos of the garden should you wish to send some in,

        But I also believe there will be many gardening Blogs available on line that will be able to answer you question a little better than I, not because I do not wish to help but because they are more qualified in the design aspect that I am. As I say I am happy to look at some photos for you and can advise on suitable products to use for your project.

        All the Best Sam

    15. I have a front fence with railing at the steps from house to sidewalk (16 steps)

      The front part rotted away, so it was replaced with new cedar wood fence. The railing at the steps was not because it was still in good condition.

      The railing already has light grey paint, which is peeling.

      I am hiring someone to seal the cedar front fence, and to repaint the railing into similar color to match the front fence

      He advised strongly against repainting the railing without painting the front fence, meaning that the whole front and railing should be painted in one color

      He said that sealing front and painting the railing to match the sealed front would not work

      any comments on it? I very much would like to leave the front as it is except for sealing

      • Hello Mary,

        Thank you for your inquiry. Paints will often peel and flake over time and so this is why we tend to recommend oil based products for exterior projects. I would recommend removing all previous treatments from the existing fence so that you are back to bare wood and then depending on the colour that you are looking to achieve have a look at Osmo Natural Oil Woodstain is a good option over a coat of Barrettine Premier Wood Preserver.

        Or if you want a clear natural finish any of our Decking Oils such as Manns Premier UV Decking Oil these would also give good protection. I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let me know.

        Kind Regards Sam.

    16. Hi,
      I have a large new fence and summerhouse I would like to paint grey. However, I would rather it wasn’t a translucent finish, but a solid Matt finish. Can you recommend a brand or type of paint to use?

      • Hello Pam,

        I would recommend having a look at the Osmo Country Colour. This product has a great range of colours and gives water repellency and UV protection, it will cover 26 square meters per litre and so goes a long way with very thin application required. As it is an oil it soaks into the surface of the wood and gives an opaque paint like finish, but it won’t peel and flake over time like a paint will. Test areas are always recommended and if you have any more questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

        Kind Regards Sam.

    17. I have painted part of my fence with cuprinol ducksback silver copse and have put one coat on and hate the colour. I have done two coats on certain areas and it still looks more blue than slate like some of the google images pictures show.if i go over this in a brown will it cover and also would it look the same colour as the rest of my fence which hasnt got the grey on or not?? I dont know whether to continue, get more paint and just stick the colour for a year or get a brand new colour.


      • Hello Katie,

        A dark brown will probably cover the colour you have already applied, but you will get a variation from where you have applied one coat, two coats and no coats. If you want to maintain a even all over finish then you will need to continue to finish the fence in the Silver and leave to weather for a year and then re treat or finish the silver and carry out a test area with another colour to see how it comes out over the current finish.

        Kind regards Sam.

    18. Hello,

      I want to paint my already dark stained garden fence with Cuprinol Gardem Shadesin Lavender. Do I need to use a primer or basecoat as I have tested an area and the lavender just is not showing.

      • Hello Lynsey,

        The Cuprinol Garden Shades is a tranlucent finish and so any underlying colour will have an effect on the colour that you are going to achieve. And even though the Lavender is quite a dark shade it will still be effected by the dark tones underneath. To get the colour effect of the Lavender you will need to remove the previous treatment taking the wood back to bare wood.

        Kind Regards Sam.

    19. Hey there

      We have a rectangular small sized suburban garden measuring 8.3 metres along the house and 4.5 metres away from the house.

      As we get on with our neighbours and want to encourage more light into our garden, we are mainly going to install horizontally slatted fence panels and solid (hit and miss) with horizontally slatted trellis at the top fence panels.

      They are pressure treated and not dip-treated, so come in a nice light pale timber colour and not the common dark orange brown colour.

      Firstly, can we paint these fence panels as they are, only pressure treated, with ‘Cuprinol Garden Shades’?

      Secondly, due to the small size and rectangular shape of our garden, would it be best to paint with ‘Cuprinol Garden Shades’ colours ‘Urban Slate’ rather than a lighter colour ‘Muted Clay’ to make the fence appear further away and garden feeling larger?

      Thirdly and finally, we have a mini Willow and two Dogwood bushes with bright green leaves now, but over Winter the branches turn from brown and green to red and mustard yellow respectively. Would these more vibrant and vivid against the ‘Urban Slate’ colour than a lighter colour ‘Muted Clay’?

      Thank you so much for the brilliant and inspiring article above and in advance for your response!

      Andy K

      • Hello Andy,

        Thank your questions, in answer to the first, yes you can use the Cuprinol Garden Shades on your fencing, as with all products I would recommend a test area first.

        For the following two questions about which colours would best suit your needs, this is more difficult for me to answer and I am always a little nervous of advising colours, this is because my taste will differ to yours and because I can not see the area that is to be painted. Grey tones are hugely popular at the moment and make a great backdrop for for all sorts of floral and fauna and so I think you are going down the right route, but for whether to use a darker shade or lighter, I can not advise I am afraid and this is down to your personal preference.

        Please let me know if there is anything further that I can help with and I would love to see the end result of your project, you can send photos to

        And if you buy the Garden Shades from us now it is on offer 2 for just £24

        kind regards Sam

    20. Hi,

      What brand, type of paint is recommended for fences in black matt? We are trying to achieve a more contemporary look in our own garden, hence we would like to paint the fences in black matt. Any advise please?

      Many thanks,

      • Hello Cristiano,

        There are a couple of products that you could have a look at, and these recommended for application to bare wood. The first is a Black Preserver which will protect against mould, mildew and rot. And then a top coat of the Osmo Natural Oil Woodstain in Ebony. This will give you good solid black finish, with one coat of the preservative and two thin coats of the oil. I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do get back in touch.

        All the Best Sam.

      • Hello Leigh,

        I would not recommend this. That’s not to say it wouldn’t work and a test area will give you a good indication, but its not really what I would recommend for the best finish and one that is long lasting.

        I would recommend removing all the Ronseal first and if it is a paint, then it will be a surface product that can be removed with a stripper like Peelaway Sample Pack and then once you have bare wood it opens up your options for better products to use the finish the frame with. I hope that helps and if you have any other questions feel free to get in touch.

        All the Best Sam.

      • Hello Jess,

        It is difficult for me to answer this with out knowing the brand or at least the type of paint that is currently applied to the Wendy house. Generally speaking we would always recommend removing previous products before retreating with paints as do the manufacturers. If you are able to let me know if you have a water based paint, stain or Oil or anything else on the wood hopefully I can advise you from there.

        All the Best Ben.

    21. Thanks for sharing this advice on getting your fence painted the right way. I really like that you offered a bunch of various colors that would look really good with your grass and gardens. Since most of my landscaping is made up of bushes and grass, I would probably benefit the most from a simple white or cream colored fence. After all, a green lawn paired with a white fence is a very classic look!


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