How to Paint on Driftwood. Gnarled and misshapen pieces of wood wash up on the seashore or on river banks and have been worn to a smooth patina by rushing water. Natural driftwood looks great as a landscaping addition or an inside decoration. For a different spin, paint a design on the piece using the wood's odd shape for inspiration.
Things You'll Need
Clear spray varnish
Choose a piece of driftwood in good condition. You want it to look like it has been floating in water for many years but you need to avoid rotted wood or a piece full of insects. Scrape the wood with your fingernail or the side of a coin. If it scrapes easily, find another piece.
Rinse well with water to wash off loose debris. Next, scrub with a firm bristle brush and a small amount of liquid detergent. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry in the sun for a few days.
Sand using medium-grain sandpaper. Rub with a cloth to remove any dust.
Stand back from the driftwood and really look at it. Decide what it reminds you of--a fish or a bird, for instance--and paint that onto the wood.
Freehand your design with a paintbrush and acrylic craft paint. Pencils or pens make grooves in the wood and will show when the project is completed. Let your imagination flow. It doesn't need to be perfect. The wood has a rustic appeal, anyway. When finished, dry for at least 24 hours.
Coat with one to two coats of clear acrylic spray varnish, allowing it to dry after each coat. This protects the piece and prevents peeling of the paint.