Painted coconuts often come in traditional tropical designs, using bright colours and with pictures of palm trees and beaches. They make exotic souvenirs and unusual ornaments. Souvenir coconuts painted where they are grown, in places like Florida, often use the whole smooth and shiny pod. If you are lucky enough to find a coconut with its husk still on, you can recreate this look but most of the coconuts in the UK are de-husked and coated in hairy fibres. To get these to look great, they need a little extra care when painting. This is a good project for older children, to make a memento of the summer or holidays. They also make intriguing decorations for anyone who wants to add a little tropical warmth to their home on a dull day.
Choose the smoothest coconut you can find in the supermarket. The best ones for painting have less spiky hair. Make sure the coconut is clean and does not have any soft patches or mould.
Put down newspaper or plastic to protect furnishings. In the summer you can take this project into the garden instead.
Smooth down the hair on the coconut as much as you can. If there are any really long hairs, you can trim these at the base. Be careful not to trim too many hairs and make the coconut's surface spiky all over.
Paint the entire coconut with an acrylic primer. This gives a smoother surface and it stops paint from sinking in. White primer gives a clean base to paint on, which shows all the colours as bright and true. Leave the primer to dry fully, following the manufacturers instructions for application and drying time, as this can vary. Usually you need to leave it to dry overnight and you might need two layers.
Paint your design with acrylic paints. Do the background first then slowly add detail, letting each layer dry before reapplying. This is not as time consuming as it sounds because acrylic paint dries quickly. If the coconut rolls around and is hard to hold, try sitting it in the top of an old plastic cup.
Leave the finished coconut to dry. Varnish, using clear acrylic varnish for a shiny glaze. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the use of the varnish but this usually needs to dry overnight. Always use varnish in a well-ventillated area.
Daub paint in thick layers to give extra texture. Experiment with the technique of glazing thin layers of paint for a glassy depth.
Use a damp brush with acrylic paint but do not thin it with so much water that it is wet and runny.
Keep an old jar or glass of clean water by your workstation to wash brushes out and keep bright colours clean.
Paint the coconut with medium sized brushes so that the paint does not get messy. Fine brushes are ideal for detail. Use a large brush for primer and varnish, stroking it on in even layers to prevent bubbles forming.
Acrylic primer and varnish may be not suitable for children to use but an adult can do these steps and let the children paint designs with non-toxic acrylic paints.
Acrylic paint is water soluble, so washes out when still wet. If it splashes on clothes and dries it can be almost impossible to remove. Wear old clothes and paint coconuts outside or away from furnishings.