How to Restore a Garden Gnome – A Fun Gnome Craft

I’ve figured out how to restore a garden gnome and I am scoping-out every gnome I can find to give them all new life! This afternoon DIY takes about an hour from start to finish and you don’t need a lot of supplies.

Grab some soap and water, sandpaper, and paint to get started. Learn why I use the paint and sealant I do and a few other tips and tricks on how to refurbish a garden gnome to last outdoors.

refurbish a ceramic gnome
I loved learning how to restore a garden gnome and plan to do it again for all my local tomten.

How to Repaint a Garden Gnome

Here at Ruffles and Rain Boots, we have identified a handful of gnomes owned by myself, friends, and neighbors who need a little refresher. This gorgeous cutie was my tester to figure out the best way of how to restore a garden gnome.

You see, this cute outdoor 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 Into Fresh Garden

  • Clean the gnome thoroughly with soap, water, and a scrubbie. If you want to get really into it, use a wire brush. The entire gnome refurbishing project will be ruined by dirt, dust, and soil which might be left on it. Also, a lot of gunk will mean the new paint will be lumpy or chip off.
  • If you don’t have one but can’t stand the cuteness of this one, I found a few of this exact garden gnome statue: here, here, and here. Other styles are here and here.
  • Do not skip the white paint base layer. It’s going to help the colors really pop and be more true to those hues you’ve chosen.
  • 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. I always use this clear coat as well, because it is rated for outdoor use.
  • If your little gnome statue is going on a patio garden or covered fairy garden, you could skip the sealant but know the paint will wear faster.
  • This painting tutorial will show you how to paint a gnome when you have a basic shape defined by ceramic or concrete molds. If you want to create patterns on the gnome, go for it! I chose to restore this one, but if are refurbishing a garden gnome, go wild. Oh, wouldn’t this be adorable painted as a Christmas gnome?
repaint a ceramic gnome

How to Restore a Garden Gnome?

Below is the written and printable tutorial with pictures showing how I did it. I encourage you to watch the how to restore a garden gnome video tutorial here on YouTube. It details a few more tips and tricks I’ve learned restoring a few of these.

Yield: 1 Restored Gnome

How to Restore a Garden Gnome

repaint a ceramic gnome

Such a quick and easy way to breathe new life into an old gnome, I love that I learned how to restore a garden gnome - now I only have 10 more to go! LOL!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $10

Materials

Tools

  • Sandpaper, 120 grit
  • Paper Towel or Terrycloth Rag
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint Palette
  • Toothpick or Wooden Clay Dotting Tool

Instructions

  1. With a paper towel or terrycloth rag, dampened with water, clean the gnome from head to toe. Allow the gnome to dry completely.
  2. Gently but vigorously sand the gnome from top to bottom, knocking off any loose paint or debris. Make the surface as smooth as possible.
  3. Clean the gnome again, this time working on getting all the dust off them from the sanding.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. in-process step of painting a gnome to illustrate a garden gnome restoration project
  6. 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. in-process step of painting cheeks on to illustrate steps to restore a garden gnome
  7. Paint the lips the same pink as the blush, but do not blend it in.
  8. 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.
  9. Paint the white portions (beard, eyebrows, etc.) with a final coat to ensure good coverage.
  10. 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.
  11. 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! photo collage tutorial of how to restore a garden gnome

Notes

For more fun gnome crafts, visit Ruffles and Rain Boots!

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