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Painted Abstract Sailboat Bench Project

Steps to make a beautiful personalized Bench!

Bench completed
Side view of completed Bench

Materials link:

  1. Unfinished wood Bench

  2. Chalk Paint (I used white) or other furniture paint, spray paint works fast

  3. Acrylic paints in your choice of colors (list I used below), Pencil

  4. Brushes, Sea sponge (provides color and texture to the sky)

  5. Palette knife (or plastic butter knife) to paint abstract Sailboats

  6. Resin (optional) to coat the top of the seat, & Polyurethane to protect the rest

  7. Painters Tape for pouring the clear coat 


View of the bench seat


This is a longer project, so I apologize for the length of the instructions. I got my inspiration from googling abstract Sailboat paintings and found some great artists works that inspired me to try my own.


Check your furniture to make sure it is 'ready to paint', if it needs sanding (new wood sometimes has rough edges, if you are repainting wood you may need to lightly sand the existing paint in order for new paint to adhere). 


Lightly sketch out your design in pencil. The horizon should be about 2/3rd's to 3/4ths of the way down the page, this will give you plenty of space for the sails.  A Sailboat is an easy & elegant shape to create, the sail is a tall triangle slightly curved, the boat is also a triangle shape, zoom in on the photos to get ideas on how to vary the boats. Make sure that the boats closest to you are larger.  You will notice three different painting styles that I used. You can experiment with more styles or try to copy these, it's abstract, so there is no 'wrong' way to paint it, and it only needs to please you!


I tape off the edges where the white is going to be, to make the lines straight and so that I have less cleanup work later. At this point, you can paint all of the white areas or save that step for later. 


Painting the artwork tips:

  • Start with the background and work your way forward. This means painting your sky down to your horizon, mostly white, I like to mix just a small amount of blue, for bright summer sky, try Cerulean. If you want a cooler sky use Ultramarine. I used both on the bench top: Ultramarine on the left side and Cerulean on the right. I did the same with the water, just because I thought it would look nice.

  • When painting the water, keep the water calm by using long even strokes of blues and greens. For added interest add occasional strokes of red and purple. Feel free to move around your painting, I turn mine to get a better angle all of the time. Add white sparingly to create the illusion of the sky reflecting across the water. 

  • Water reflections, after I have the base water color down I go back with a small brush to paint in the highlights using my sky colors, and I'll add in some darker water lines beneath if I need more contrast. 

  • Side mountains were done with a Palette knife, as were the multi-colored sky on the side, the top colors were the sky colors with less white, the side colors were magenta, turquoise, and metallic gold. Holding the knife at a 20-degree angle and dragging the paint down creates interesting effects. 

  • Paint the sailboats and any trim colors last! I trimed mine with a combination of Cerulean & Ultramarine straight from the tube.

  • Once you are happy with your painting you will want to seal it to protect the artwork. I use a waterbased polyurethane from the hardware store. You can use any kind that you like or have. I usually put 3-5 coats on furniture for durability. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

  • Top Resin, to protect my bench seat I opted to use Resin to coat the top. I honestly don't know yet how it will hold up to sitting and I expect it may scratch. You may want to invest in a sheet of acrylic or glass top. Or just put artwork on the sides of your bench. 


Side view of Bench painting
Side bench view of painted bench

Acrylic Paint Colors I Used:

Cadmium Lemon Yellow

Quinacridone Magenta

Ultramarine Blue

Phthalo Turquoise

Cobalt Turquoise Light

Naphthol Red Light

Cadmium Orange

Dioxazine Purple

Mars Black

Metallic Gold

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