Now that I’ve figured out how to restore a garden gnome, I am scoping-out every gnome I can find to give them all new life!
How to Restore a Garden Gnome
Here at Ruffles and Rain Boots, we have identified a handful of gnomes owned by myself, friends, neighbors – a whole neighborhood of them – that need a little refresher. This gorgeous cutie was my tester to figure out how to restore a garden gnome, volunteered quite nicely by a friend of a friend.
You see, this gnome has had quite the life – several coats of paint and they think this vintage gnome might be about 40 years old. For me, age didn’t matter, but giving this gnome a new life? That was the goal.
If you have a garden gnome to refurbish, let’s get started.
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Tips to Refurbish a Gnome
- Do not start without cleaning your gnome. I kid you not, that’s going to run your whole gnome refurbishing project. Just a little dust and the new paint will be lumpy or not stick. Clean.
- If you don’t have one and want to rehab a gnome, I found these ridiculously adorable vintage gnomes here. Just so sweet – and I really LOVE the sleepy one.
- To make sure that the paint stands up to the UV rays and rain – and whatever else being outside might throw at your refurbished gnome, I recommend using outdoor acrylic paint like this. That being said, to be super safe, I used this clear coat as well, that was rated for outdoor use.
How Do I Restore a Garden Gnome?
I’m so glad you asked. Below is our written tutorial.
- Sandpaper, 120 grit
- Paper Towel or Terrycloth Rag
- Paint Palette
- Toothpick or Wooden Clay Dotting Tool
- With a paper towel or terrycloth rag, dampened with water, clean the gnome from head to toe. Allow the gnome to dry completely.
- Gently but vigorously sand the gnome from top to bottom, knocking off any loose paint or debris. Make the surface as smooth as possible.
- Clean the gnome again, this time working on getting all the dust off them from the sanding.
- With a large paintbrush and gesso (or white acrylic paint), coat the gnome completely from head to toe in a thin coat to cover the entire gnome. Allow the paint to dry completely (I used gentle blowing with heat gun to speed up the drying process). Repeat painting the gnome with an additional coat of gesso to cover any remaining color and dry completely once again.
- Start by selecting the colors for your gnome's primary elements like their hat and pants, which were the two most prominent elements of my gnome. Start with the darker color, particularly around the areas that won't be touching lighter colors. It's easier to go over the lighter colors with a darker color if you get a little messy, but darker colors sometimes need an extra coat to cover the lighter color beneath, so think about this before choosing where to paint first. I painted the shirt, pants and shoes before moving to the lighter parts of the face. Be sure to allow the paint to dry completely before moving to the next area.
- When painting the face, I found that mixing my own color for the paler shade was my preference, but you can make your gnome any skin tone you like. Paint the entire face with one coat of your skin tone, allow the paint to dry completely, then repeat with another coat. While this second coat is still moist, add a small amount of pink paint to the cheeks to make a little blush, if desired. Blend in the blush using the face color, if necessary.
- Paint the lips the same pink as the blush, but do not blend it in.
- Paint the inside of the eyes white, then allow them to dry completely. Using a darker shade and your toothpick or wood clay dotting tool, fill in the center of each eye in a nice, round shape. It so small, it's hard to make a perfect circle. I found that turning the gnome over upside down helped for some reason. Add a tiny dot of white paint off-center inside each of the darker centers of the eyes.
- Paint the white portions (beard, eyebrows, etc.) with a final coat to ensure good coverage.
- Paint the hat and add a second (or third) coat to any areas of the body that need additional coverage. I used a dotting tool to with a fine point to get in all of the fine crevasses. Allow this coat of paint to dry completely.
- Take your gnome outside to a clean and dry place and spray it with 2-3 light coats (waiting 10-15 minutes between each coat) of the clear coat sealant. Allow this to dry overnight then display your gnome!
For more fun gnome crafts, visit Ruffles and Rain Boots!
More Garden Gnome Crafts You Might Like
- How to Make Plaster Gnomes – A quick and easy DIY that you’re not going to believe the results of (psst: the gnomes are GORGEOUS).
- DIY Gnomes with Flower Pot Hats – Fun, easy and absolutely a blast to make, this is a customizable gnome you’ll love.
- Sculpt a Garden Gnome from Concrete – Making your own DIY garden gnome is not as hard as it sounds – just check out this quick tutorial.
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