A fresh coat of paint can give a new lease of life to your garden shed, wooden fence or exterior furniture. From clear stains that highlight the natural beauty of the wood to contemporary paint shades that add a touch of modernity, there are dozens of products to choose from.

Unless you’re an expert, choosing the best garden and exterior wood paint is often harder than it seems. At a first glance, most products look similar.

To help you find the right product for your garden renovation, our team has tested and rated some of the best-sold exterior paints in the UK. Check out our top picks below.

painted wood outdoors


Our #1 Best Pick

Ronseal Garden Paint

Ronseal Garden Paint

Outstanding garden paint – ideal to use on a variety of outdoor substrates and available in 24 attractive colours.

Low Cost Option

Cuprinol Ducksback

Cuprinol Ducks Back

Wax-enriched paint for rough sawn wood – it provides up to 5 years of protection and is extremely budget-friendly.

Best Of The Rest

Johnstone’s Garden Colours

Speciality wood care paint available in a range of attractive, vibrant colours.

Cuprinol Garden Shades

Formulated to protect all exterior wood surfaces, including garden furniture and decking.

Ever Build Wood Stain

Quick drying wood stain provides long-lasting protection and enhances the natural qualities of wood.


There are several factors to consider when choosing the colour palette for your garden and exterior woodwork. The exterior colour of your home, the shade of the pavements and even the colours of the flowerbeds can determine which tonality works best on your exterior wood.

In a traditional environment, highlight the natural beauty of the wood with a clear varnish or translucent wooden stains in shades of brown. Tan and beige also look great in a traditional or rustic garden.

Green is another popular hue. We recommend a darker shade if you have an elegant outdoor space.

White is a timeless choice that looks amazing in all environments. A satin finish adds elegance while a gloss finish gives a contemporary touch to your exterior. Pastel shades, maybe paired with white, give their best in a shabby chic garden. Opt for blush blue, vintage pink or light shades of green.

Contemporary choices include a range of greys but also more dramatic shades like burgundy, purple and electric blue.

White and blue look perfect in a coastal environment. Yellow or orange are perfect for the backyard of a countryside cottage.

One decoration ‘trick’ to achieve a flawless exterior design is to match the colour of the fence with the colour of the roof.

Ronseal Garden Paint

Superb garden paint available in a range of vibrant colours.

Our favourite product is Ronseal Garden Paint, a water-based paint that forms a water-repellent and rainproof film on a variety of outdoor surfaces, including wood, terracotta, metal and brick.

Of the many features that impressed us, the most surprising was the application ease. Garden Paint is thick yet easy to apply with a brush, it touch dries and becomes rainproof in only an hour, and it can be re-coated after just four hours.

The colours are also amazing, albeit not always true to the shade pictured on the tin. Another slight downside is the covering power, which is lower than expected.

However, on a positive note, the product is formulated to resist cracking and peeling – the low-sheen finish gives a contemporary look to the exterior surfaces – and this paint is amazing to use on sheds, fencing or garden furniture.


• High-quality pigments ensure a bright and long-lasting colour. The paint comes in 24 contemporary shades.
• The water-based product is non-toxic and easy to clean from brushes with soapy water.
• Garden Paint is supplied in 250ml, 750ml and 2.5L tins – and has a coverage of up to 12m²/litre.
• Ideal to apply on multiple surfaces, the product has a contemporary opaque finish and performs well on smooth planed and rough sawn wood.


• Disappointing covering power. The manufacturer recommends a minimum of three coats but substantial colour changes may require four coats or more.
• Although bright and attractive, the colours do sometimes dry to shades different than expected.

Cuprinol Ducksback

Low price, decent coverage, and attractive colours – the perfect paint for the budget-savvy homeowners.

A low-cost alternative to our top pick is Cuprinol Ducks Back. This exterior wood paint boasts a wax-enriched formulation designed to protect rough sawn wood from weather and environmental elements for up to 5 years.

The consistency of this paint is perhaps its best feature. Not too thick nor too thin, the product boasts a non-drip easy application, and it becomes rainproof in an hour. Thanks to its surprising covering power, one coat is usually sufficient to achieve satisfactory results.

Ducks Back is supplied in 5L tins, and this is another thing we like. A single tin covers up to 24m² with one coat meaning a tin of paint really goes a long way.

One slight drawback is the limited colour choice. There are nine shades in the range but unfortunately they’re all quite dark.


• Quick drying and low odour formula is safe to use around pets and plants. Water-based product is enriched with wax and provides waterproof protection.
• Despite the limited choice, the colours are superb and true to life. We were especially surprised by the richness in the colour Black.
• The non-drip formulation is easy to apply on vertical surfaces. Ducks Back touch dries in two hours and can be re-coated after approximately four hours.


• Ducks Back is a product formulated specifically for rough sawn wood and is incompatible with other surfaces.
• There can be slight colour differences between the tins; it is recommended to mix the product in a larger container if using more than one tin.

Johnstone's Garden Colours

High-quality paint perfect for refreshing old coatings or weathered surfaces.

Johnstone’s speciality Garden Colours is a range of exterior wood paints ideal for sheds and fences, trellises, garden furniture and summer houses. Like most of Johnstone’s products, this paint impresses with its quality and price.

Affordable and long-lasting, Garden Colours paint has a thick, waxy consistency and forms a protective, waterproof film while maintaining the natural grain of the wood.

Harmless to pets and plants, the product is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Among the qualities of this paint, we should mention the quick-drying formula. It takes approximately two hours for the paint to touch dry; a second coat can be applied after about four hours.

Another nice thing with this paint is the ability to control the colour intensity. The first coat ensures a decent covering power and a soft shade. If you aim to achieve a bolder look, just apply additional coats until you achieve the desired effect.


• Decent coverage ensures great value for money. A litre of paint covers up to 12m², depending on the porosity of the surface.
• Garden Colours is formulated to provide up to 4 years of protection on most types of exterior wood surfaces.
• Smooth and easy application thanks to its superb consistency. The manufacturer recommends a brush application.
• Johnstone’s paint comes in 20 fade-resistant, contemporary shades. The collection includes a selection of neutral and dramatic hues.


• Low quality package may get damaged during transit. Many users have reported leaks.

Cuprinol Garden Shades

Easy-to-work-with paint specially developed to offer up to 6 years of protection on wood.

Garden Shades by Cuprinol is a superb paint that promises to deliver a great value for money. Retailing at an affordable price and suitable to use on wood and on a variety of properly primed surfaces, this product dries to a contemporary matt finish that enhances the natural grain of the wood.

A wide colour range ensures versatility. Garden Shades comes in 37 ready mixed colours; while the manufacturer also offers a wide range of tint-able shades.

Ideal to use on smooth planed and rough sawn wood, this paint has an excellent coverage which is dependent on the material and application method. On smooth planed wood, a litre of paint covers up to 12m² if applied with a brush.

The coverage drops to approximately 5m²/litre if the product is applied with a sprayer or to rough sawn wood.

Nevertheless, a tin goes a long way. Supplied in 1L tins, Garden Shades is water-based and safe to use in the proximity of pets and children.


• Garden Shades is formulated to provide up to 6 years of protection on wood; it is also suitable to use on terracotta, brick and stone.
• The hard-wearing formula can be applied on all exterior wood surfaces, including: sheds, garden furniture, fencing and even decking.
• Ideal to apply with a brush or sprayer. The consistency is on the thin side but the covering power is good.
• Special pigments ensure the richness of the colours while allowing the natural grain of the wood to show.


• Due to its watery consistency, the product is rather drippy. Fortunately, it’s easy to wipe the stains with a damp cloth.
• Colours are sometimes inconsistent.

Everbuild Wood Stain

Translucent wood stain available in 8 natural shades – provides up to 5 years of protection.

Sometimes, a quality wood stain is all it takes to freshen up the look of worn-out exterior and interior timber. Ideal to use on smooth planed wood, Ever Build Wood Stain promises to provide up to 5 years of protection under normal weather conditions.

Whilst “normal weather conditions” is quite a vague definition, we tested the product under temperamental British weather and were satisfied with the results. The product repels water and protects the wood from harmful UV rays without peeling or cracking.

Ideal for internal and external use, this wood stain boasts a water-based quick-drying formulation which touch dries in only half an hour. It is recommended to treat the surface with a minimum of two coats, and the second coat can be applied after approximately four hours.

To ensure the product’s quality, the Ever Build products are also manufactured in accordance with all ISO 9001 standards; this particular product is also subject to a stringent quality control system that assesses the quality and safety of use.


• Low solvent wood stain suitable for a range of indoor and outdoor applications. The product is intended to use on smooth planed wood.
• Outstanding coverage. A litre of stain covers up to 20m² and the product is supplied in 250ml, 750ml and 2.5L tins.
• Translucent satin finish provides a sophisticated glow to the surface while highlighting the natural beauty of the wood.


• The packaging is disappointing. It is hard to open the lid in the first place and near impossible to re-open it again for subsequent use.
• It is necessary to stir the product intermittently during use to ensure an even consistency.
• Colour swatch label is only an indication of the colour. The actual shade could be different than expected.



• Exterior wood paint
• Primer
• Sandpaper
• Caulk
• Drop cloths
• Paint stripper


• Paintbrushes
• Caulking gun
• Putty knife
• Stepladder


Step 1 – Prepare the surface
Whether you’re painting a shed, a fence, or garden furniture – thorough preparation of the surface is key to the success of the project.

The first step is to clean the surface of any dust and existing stains. This step is particularly important if the surface has previously been painted in the past. Use dish soap or another mild detergent to remove all dust and stains. Remove any flaking or peeling paint with sandpaper, then remove the dust with a dry cloth.

In some cases, it may be necessary to remove the old coat completely. For example, if you want to apply a water-based paint on a surface previously painted with a solvent-based product, then you should definitely remove the old coat first.

The easiest way to remove the old paint is with a chemical stripper. Apply the product following the manufacturer’s instructions, let it react, then remove the stripped paint with a putty knife or pressure washer.

You may also have to repair a severely weathered or damaged surface; use a suitable caulk to fill any cracks and wait for the product to dry. Level the surface with sandpaper and remove all dust with a dry cloth.

Step 2 – Prime the surface
Exterior wood is constantly exposed to weather and environmental elements, which is why it is important to properly seal and prime the surface. A sealer is required if the top coat doesn’t provide a waterproof film. Otherwise, priming the surface with an adequate product may suffice.

Apply the priming product as instructed by the manufacturer and let it dry. For the best results, cure the product for at least 24 hours before applying the paint.

Step 3 – Paint the surface
Most exterior wood paints have a thick consistency due to waxes included in the formula, meaning the best way to apply them is with a brush. Thinner products, such as water-based wood stains and some garden paints, can also be applied with a sprayer.

Select the right tool based on the characteristics of the paint and surface to be covered.

With a brush, apply a thin layer of paint, working in small sections at a time. Paint in the same direction as the wood grain to disguise any brush strokes and to enhance the natural beauty of the material. Leave the first coat to dry as instructed and apply a second coat if necessary.

Most garden paints require a minimum of two coats to ensure adequate protection. Unless specified otherwise, we recommend following this rule.

If applied with a sprayer, follow the instructions on the tin in regard to thinning and application. This method provides a superior covering power, but it considerably reduces coverage.

Once the product is dry, you can further treat the surface with a clear top coat to prevent discolouration and chipping.