Exterior paint buying guide
Get creative with masonry, metal and wood outdoor colour
Adding a lick of paint isn't just for indoors. Get creative and bring colour, style and character to your outdoor space with an exterior paint. Outdoor paint adds much needed protection to structures and surfaces that weather the elements. You can also use exterior paint to complement or contrast the planted areas of your garden depending on the look you're going for.
Let our exterior paint buying guide help you to find the right paint for the task at hand.
Before you begin
There are a few important things to consider before getting stuck into your painting project.
What type of surface is being painted?
Our extensive selection of exterior paints includes ones for any surface in your garden. Whether painting wood, brick or metal, you'll find something that suits your surface - as well as some paints for more specialist projects. Browse the range to find the right one for your outdoor surface.
What is the quality of the surface?
The state of the surface is important both in deciding what type of paint to use and also the preparation work you’ll need to do (if any at all). If you’re painting over an older surface, make sure it’s dry, clean and in good repair; that any dust, mould, algae or moss has been removed and any rust has been sanded down. You may need to use a primer and/or undercoat to ensure both the best finish and that your paint job lasts for as long as possible.
What’s the desired look?
Are you looking for a bright shade to add a splash of colour or a more muted tone? Something that adds eye-catching contrast or blends in beautifully? And think about the surface being painted. Do you want to enhance the existing look of the surface, like staining wood to enhance its natural beauty, or conceal it cleverly with colour?
Don’t forget the style of your home and garden. Is it traditional and classic, or more modern and edgy? There are plenty of things to think about to help you narrow down your choice of colour and finish.
How much time is available to complete the project?
Don’t worry if you’re not time-rich. We offer quick-drying options that will help you get your painting job done quickly. More on this, and other clever features of our outdoor paints, in the Features section of this article.
Types of exterior paint
There are three main types of exterior paint; for wood, masonry and metal. We will talk you through what the different types do and the options available .
Suitable for wooden sheds, fences, decking, garden furniture, garden storage, playhouses and other structures
When protecting and colouring exterior wood, there are four options to choose from: paint, stains, varnish and oil. Many of these products are created especially for certain areas or tasks, so explore our range to find the right one for your project.
Exterior wood paint
This gives a splash of opaque colour and is available in a massive range of shades. Ours are designed to survive the elements and most are quick to dry. Look for ones that are resistant to cracking and blistering even after a lot of exposure.
Exterior wood stain
These let the natural wood grain show through while still giving colour. They soak into the wood and offer protection from the elements.
Exterior wood oil
These nourish the wood, replacing natural oils that are lost through exposure to the weather and protect the finish. They’re a popular choice for decking as they protect against foot traffic. Oil can take time to dry, so check the product's details and factor this in when planning.
Exterior wood varnish
These combine a high level of protection with a natural wood finish. More transparent than other woodcare options, they allow the full grain of the wood to come through and can be applied to wood that’s previously been varnished or stained (although we recommend stripping previous coats).
Choose between a clear varnish that simply protects and adds a sheen to the surface, or a coloured varnish that enhances, or even changes, the natural colour of your wood.
Exterior masonry paint
Suitable for brick, pebbledash (roughcast), stucco, cement, concrete, stone and more
Masonry paint protects and decorates exterior house walls, garden walls and garages. It can help revitalise the front of your house to maximise kerb appeal and create a great first impression. Masonry paint is available in either a smooth or textured finish and is offered in more colours than you might think, including subtle neutrals like cream and beige, cool and calming shades like grey, green and blue and warmer tones like yellow and red.
Exterior metal paint
Suitable for metal railings, garden gates, sheds, garden furniture, garden storage and drainpipes
Metal paint offers weather protection for all outdoor metal surfaces battling the elements. Its available for use outdoors only, or opt for multi-purposes ones that can be used on interior and exterior metals to double-up on painting projects. We offer a range of both quick-drying water-based and more traditional solvent-based paints.
It can help to understand as much about the metal surface you’re interested in painting before buying. Choose between:
Direct-to-galvanised metal paint
This is for non-rusting metal surfaces such as galvanised steel, aluminium, copper and brass. It’s formulated so that it can be directly applied without primer and is available with a built-in topcoat too.
Direct-to-rust metal paint
This paint is for use on metal surfaces without the need to fully remove the rust. You won’t always need a primer, but do clean and sand down the rusty area before application – check the instructions for more information.
Finishes of exterior paint
With the type of paint chosen, it’s important to think about the finish you’d like.
Produces a flat, non-reflective finish that helps disguise bumps and uneven surfaces.
Also known as silk, this finish offers a low sheen. It offers a happy compromise between matt and gloss.
The highest level of sheen, choose gloss for the most durable option. This hard-wearing quality makes gloss ideal for areas that will get bumped and scuffed regularly, like external doors.
Hammered effect finish
Only available for metal paints, this finish makes the surface look distressed or textured. For example some hammered effect metal paints can replicate the look of cast iron, or galvanised metal. Perfect for outdoor upcycling projects.
Only available for masonry paint, this finish has a creamy formulation and is quick and easy to apply to large areas.
Also known as fine textured, this masonry finish provides durable coverage that helps cover uneven surfaces and fine cracks.
Features of exterior paint
As well as the exterior paint type and finish, there are particular features to look for in your chosen paint that can help achieve the look you want and a lasting result.
Dirt & stain-resistant exterior paint
Make it difficult for stains and residue to ruin your paint job with dirt-resistant paint. This low-maintenance paint is perfect for the grubby world of the garden.
Washable exterior paint
Just because you’re painting outside doesn’t mean that you won’t occasionally need to give your painted surfaces a wipe down to get rid of marks or mess. For example, exterior gloss paints allow you to wipe clean your doors and windowsills without damaging the finished look.
Self-cleaning exterior paint
Make the rain work in your favour! This innovative paint boasts a self-cleaning formulation so that dirt washes off easily when it rains.
Algae & mould-resistant exterior paint
As kitchen and bathroom paints tackle unwanted mould indoors, so do some outdoor paints. A great way to make your paint job last longer, algae and mould-resistant paint offers long-lasting protection for your outdoor surfaces.
Colour protection/ fade-resistant exterior paint
Out in the elements, unprotected wood can go grey and discolour over time and your paint, stain, oil or varnish can fade or even change colour. Look for exterior paints with UV protection and/ or fade-resistant technology for a longer lasting, bright colour. We love the Cuprinol UV guard range, designed to keep your decking looking its best.
Anti-scuff exterior paint
Maintain outdoor flooring, such as doorsteps, with paint formulated to be more durable and resist wear and tear. This anti-scuff paint protects against stains, helps your outdoor surfaces look good for longer and ensures minimal scuffs. This makes it well suited for garage floors, protecting against the moving of heavy items like lawnmowers and garden furniture, and even cars being parked.
Anti-climb exterior paint
Apply this specially-designed paint to your drainpipes or on the top of walls, fences and gates to stop intruders. Our anti-climb paint remains greasy even when dry, making it difficult to get a hold on the surface.
Quick-drying exterior paint
With the unpredictable weather here in Britain, finishing your painting job quickly is essential and so many of our paints are quick drying. Check the packaging for advice on timescales to help you plan your project properly and look out for options that are showerproof in 30 minutes, as well as touch dry within a few hours. Be sure to factor in the recommended amount of time between recoats to get the best result.
Waterproof/ water-resistant exterior paint
Waterproof and water-repellent paints help protect surfaces from rain and damp. If a masonry surface is particularly porous, extra precautions might be needed to protect it.
Breathable exterior paint
While wanting to protect your surfaces from the rain, it’s important that any moisture within your brickwork can be expelled. Our breathable paint allows moisture to escape through the paint, helping to prevent mould and algae from developing behind it and damaging the surface.
Colour matching exterior paint
Colour match your exterior paint to make sure it's the exact shade you want. With over 2.2 million colours available for wood, metal and masonry paint, our Valspar range allows you to create your own perfect colour scheme for your garden.
For more on our Valspar paint mixing service, check out our helpful guide.
You might need
Once you’ve chosen the paint for your job, you will need some tools and equipment to help finish your painting project.
Paint preparation tools
Complete any necessary preparation work prior to painting with fillers. Wood ones correct any holes or spaces in wooden surfaces, while masonry options fill unwanted cracks in your brickwork.
Wire brushes are a good way to remove paint and rust from metal and when used with sandpaper will ensure that you have a smooth surface for application. While sandpaper used alone on smaller surfaces, such as door and window frames, helps primers and paint adhere to the surface.
If you’re concerned about an old colour showing through the new one, explore our range of paint strippers.
Primers and undercoats
Certain paints and stains require a layer of undercoat or primer before you apply them. This ensures that the paint go on smoothly, that it adheres properly and that the finished effect looks good for as long as possible. We offer primers and undercoats for wood, brick and metal surfaces.
Paint brushes, rollers and sprayers
Paint sprayers are best suited to painting larger outdoor surface areas. They take less time than a brush and some models allow you to control the speed and accuracy of the spray for more fiddly paint jobs. Rollers are ideal for painting exterior walls – but be sure to pick one that is for outdoor use. If you’re painting areas that are high up, opt for one with an extension pole to more easily and comfortably tackle these parts without needing a ladder.
For smaller areas or more delicate painting, go for a paint brush. We have ones designed for use on specific materials, such as those for painting wood or masonry, and even decking brushes that remove the need for kneeling or bending down.Use a synthetic brush if you’re using a water-based paint, varnish or oil as natural bristles won’t apply it properly to the surface.
Don’t get covered in paint with our range of workwear. From coveralls to dust masks, safety goggles to gloves - we've everything you need to protect yourself and stay safe from splashes and dust.
Remember to protect the area where you're painting - even outside it's all too easy to make a mess. Pick up a dust sheet to stop unwanted paint from ending up on your decking, pathways or patios.