How to Paint Realistic Animals on Rocks

Updated on April 3, 2018
theraggededge profile image

I've been creating since I was a child. My hobbies include watercolor, drawing, art journaling, painting rocks, sewing & crochet.

Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls.
Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls. | Source

Why Paint Rocks and Pebbles?

Why not? Turning rocks into 3-D art is lots of fun and can be very rewarding. Small children love to transform pebbles into bugs and imaginary monsters. More advanced artists are able to produce the most wonderful life-like animals.

Painted rocks make great gifts, especially if you develop the skill to create a good likeness of a pet. Alternatively, you can paint houses, flowers, snakes or insects. Ladybugs are perfect subjects to paint on rocks and make a lovely project for children.

You don't need too many supplies to paint rocks either—read on to see how easy it is to paint stones, rocks, and pebbles.

What Kind of Rocks Are Suitable for Painting?

Well, it depends on what you have in mind to paint.

  • I find that animals are better on smooth, oval pebbles.
  • Angular, rougher rocks are good for houses and cottages.
  • Small pebbles are best for young children to paint.

You can find rocks at the beach, in a river, and even in your backyard. Give them a good scrub to get rid of any algae and dirt.

Rock Cottage
Rock Cottage | Source

What You'll Need

  • Clean Rocks
  • HB Pencil
  • Acrylic Paint: You'll need a range of colors. The craft or hobby paint is fine, as you don't need anything too expensive.
  • Brushes: Nothing fancy is required but you will need some fine brushes if you intend to paint fur and whiskers. Synthetic brushes are best.
  • Wood Filler: This is optional. I find it useful for filling holes and cracks, You can also use it to create chimneys and other architectural features.
  • Plate: You'll need to rest the rock on something while you paint. A plate makes it easy to turn the rock without touching it.
  • Spray Sealer/Varnish
  • Reference Photos: This will help you best capture your subject on the rock.

Under painting Labrador Retriever's coat
Under painting Labrador Retriever's coat | Source

How to Paint a Rock Animal

  1. Draw a pencil outline of your subject on the rock. This part is crucial; if you are painting an animal, ensure the features line up correctly. If you look at the dog above, you can see I have not done it quite correctly: His tongue is not lined up with his nose. If you are uncertain, it is possible to trace over the outline of the animal's features with a soft pencil and then transfer it directly onto the stone by burnishing it with a pencil or a hard edge.
  2. When you are happy with your pencil drawing, use a round brush and black paint to go over the pencil lines.These black lines will form the base of the shadows.
  3. Animals with fur or feathers need an all-over undercoating. For example, a dark Labrador will need a deep orangey-brown undercoat, but a lighter dog will need a lighter undercoat. Make sure each layer of paint is dry before adding the next!
  4. Paint the eyes so the rock immediately gets some 'character'. It then becomes more animal than rock, if you see what I mean. If it's a cat or a dog with upright ears, use pale pink to paint the inside of the ears and the tongue.
  5. Take a flat brush, preferably one that is a bit worn. Begin adding fur to the face, making sure to follow the direction that the fur grows.
  6. Deepen the shadows under the ears and at the sides of the face. Paint the details on the nose and mouth.
  7. Continue to add detail until you are satisfied, and finish off by adding whiskers and ear hair with a fine brush.
  8. Take the pet rock outside and spray it with a coat of polyurethane or another suitable sealant. When it's dry, turn it over and do the underside. Allow it to dry. Repeat the process several times to make sure everything is protected.

Another Labrador-in-progress
Another Labrador-in-progress | Source

Getting Past the Awkward Stage

When painting animals, you'll find that there is a point, after undercoating and before details, when the rock looks pretty horrible. The features are blurred, and it's difficult to see how it will ever look like a real cat, hedgehog, or anything. Don't give up! Continue to work on the face with a fine brush—then suddenly, you'll see a real animal looking at you. That's the reason I do the eyes first.

Finished doggy
Finished doggy | Source

Where Should I Keep My Painted Rocks?

Painted rocks look lovely nestled in the garden. I have cats, kittens, and cottages in mine. It's a good idea to keep them somewhere that is sheltered through the winter. I noticed that one or two of mine require a little touch-up and resealing after all the rain we've had this year.

I have seen people put their rock animals in baskets and on pillows indoors—some are so realistic! My mother keeps her little pebble kitten by her fireplace.

Kitten
Kitten | Source

Does My Painted Stone Need Sealing?

If you intend to keep your painted rock indoors, then there's no need to seal it. However, I would do it anyway to protect it from knocks. For painted rocks that are for the garden, then, yes, apply several coats of a sealant (according to the manufacturer's directions) to help preserve your rock.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Bev G

    A new hobby for you, perhaps?

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      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 14 months ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks, Lyn! And you could do just as well with a bit of practice :)

      • LiveMusicLoverLyn profile image

        Lyn 14 months ago from England

        I collect rocks as memento's of vacations and such like, those photo's of your work are stunning, I could never do that so well! Beautiful.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 14 months ago from Wales, UK

        So do I, alocsin :)

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 14 months ago from Orange County, CA

        I like how the primary material for this craft is free and can be found anywhere.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 18 months ago from Wales, UK

        Merci, Jean. x

      • profile image

        JEAN 18 months ago

        Absolument beau , superbes associations de couleurs , quel talent merveilleux !

      • Margaridab profile image

        Margarida Borges 18 months ago from Lyon, France

        I've already picked some ideas on the net, because they were gorgeous, but I never tried them.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 18 months ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, Margaridab. Yes, give it a try - it's fun. Start with ladybugs and bees. There are lots of ideas how to paint rocks on the internet.

      • Margaridab profile image

        Margarida Borges 18 months ago from Lyon, France

        I love the ideas and I also could try some of them. It was the first hub of yours that I visit and it it's also important for me the way you structure your content and photos. Thanks

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 20 months ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks, Nora. Yes, do give it a try - it's fun.

      • norlawrence profile image

        Norma Lawrence 20 months ago from California

        I have seen rocks painted but never with animals and the detail you put into it. Great article. Must try rock painting. Thanks for great share.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 2 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you! I really want to do more of these.

      • mythbuster profile image

        mythbuster 2 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

        Very nice! I really like the owl and the cats painted on rocks. Thanks for sharing some tips for rock painting, along with a list of basic art items needed for doing this hobby.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 2 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, Diana. I haven't done any of these for ages - maybe I should start again in the spring.

      • profile image

        Diana Abrahamson 2 years ago

        Love the cat painted on the rock..such a unique way to express your art!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 3 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks for your kind words and up-voting, Kristen, I intend on painting some more very soon. I'd like to sell them at a local craft fair.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Sounds pretty cool and interestingly fun, Bev. Thanks for sharing this awesome hub. Voted up!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 3 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you very much, Nadine. Your kind words are appreciated.

      • Nadine May profile image

        Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

        What a delightful article on this creative craft. Great photos to see your step for step instructions. Well done.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 3 years ago from Wales, UK

        Hi cheapstuff, they were actually three different rocks/labs - I always forget to take photos at the right time!

      • cheapstuff profile image

        cheapstuff 3 years ago from California

        Love the hub, I especially love the picture of the rock transformed into a lab. Seeing the process like that makes it come to life even more!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, SweetiePie :)

      • SweetiePie profile image

        SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

        Love the rock that is painted to look like a cat.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        My pleasure, Elvira. Thanks for visiting :)

      • profile image

        Elvira Garcia 4 years ago

        Very nice article! and thanks for mentioning my work .

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        Glad to inspire, HermeticDestiny. Have fun with your rock!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        Exactly, nothing to lose! Start simple with a ladybug or something. Be prepared for it to look pretty horrible. Then try something else. Your rock-painting skills will increase exponentially!

      • HermeticDestiny profile image

        Jennifer 4 years ago from Queens New York

        Omg! I just picked up a rock today by the shore and was going to paint it...Now I have some ideas Great work thank you :)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

        I really like this hub. This is definitely a craft that I intend to try. Although I do not fancy myself a painter, your instructions make me feel brave enough to try. The risks seem minimal. After all, it's a rock. Voted up and more.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, ignugent17. Thanks for taking the time to view it.

      • profile image

        ignugent17 4 years ago

        Interesting hub and it is very creative. :-)

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 4 years ago from Wales, UK

        [curtsies] Thank you :)

      • CraftytotheCore profile image

        CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

        Very impressive!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        No reason not to give it a go, Diana. You should follow those urges :D Thanks x

      • Diana Grant profile image

        Diana Grant 5 years ago from London

        I've seen painted stones and rocks before, and now you've given me the urge to put my acrylic paints to good use, and paint some myself - thanks!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Get to itwildove5, you'll enjoy it, I'm sure. Don't let the first attempt put you off -- after you get the feel for it, you can clean off the first rock (soak in water) and you'll find the second one is much better. Thank you!

      • wildove5 profile image

        wildove5 5 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

        I am so going to try this! I collect rocks and shells and this is a great idea for displaying them!!! thank you!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        It is soothing, isn't it? There is something very relaxing in bringing the animal out of the rock :) Thanks so much, MarleneB.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

        Very good! I really appreciate the tip about doing the eyes fairly soon in the process. I just started painting rocks and find it quite soothing. My neighbor paints cat faces, so I wanted to learn how to do that. Thank you for your wonderful instructions and tips.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, and absolutely - they can be as complicated or as simple as you like - there are lots of free resources and ideas on the web.

      • lorddraven2000 profile image

        Sam Little 5 years ago from Wheelwright KY

        These are amazing! I love the creativity here. This might be a good project for me to try at the library I run. Thanks for posting.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, Michelle. Acrylic paint is best. If you go wrong, just soak the rock in a bucket of water overnight and the paint will lift off easily. Have fun!

      • profile image

        Michelle 5 years ago

        Wow! You can really paint. At first I tried painting rocks with nail polish, but the smell was toxic. I better run to the art store to get some paint now! Great photos and directions, by the way ;)

      • By Lori profile image

        By Lori 5 years ago from USA

        Very cute and well done -

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks DRG, but don't try mailing them unless they are very small!

      • DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

        Felix J Hernandez 5 years ago from All over the USA

        Awesome. Those rocks are selling and are low investment ideas for resale. TY for the lesson.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Go to it, Audrey!

      • Audrey Baker profile image

        Audrey Baker 5 years ago from Arizona

        Very fascinating. Where I live, rocks are everywhere... waiting to be painted.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks so much, idigwebsites! There are many more 'rock artists' who have so much more skill than me.

      • idigwebsites profile image

        idigwebsites 5 years ago from United States

        Wow! These works are really amazing, never imagined before that a rock can be used as a "canvas"! Voted up and awesome and two more. :)

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        I couldn't ask for more! Thanks for stopping by.

      • CanvasArtShop profile image

        CanvasArtShop 5 years ago

        Love these, really brightened up my afternoon!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        I hope you do, Lovelovemeloveme. Glad you feel inspired to give it a go.

      • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

        Lovelovemeloveme 5 years ago from Cindee's Land

        Very interesting. Ive never heard of this but all of a sudden now I want to give this a try.

      • profile image

        xovial 5 years ago

        nyce post. keep it up

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks so much, Karine. I bet you could do it easily. My first one or two were pretty horrible but you soon get the hang of it. There are lots of online resources and step-by-steps that will help. It's definitely easier to paint on a rock than on a flat surface - the rock dictates the shape of the animal.

      • Karine Gordineer profile image

        Karine Gordineer 5 years ago from Upstate New York

        Hi "theraggededge" love this hub! So creative, inspirational and easy to follow....I'm not much of a painter but you make me feel like I might be able to do this! Thanks for such a fun piece!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        I only do them for fun too. Some have been given away (how many rock cats do I need anyway?) some get soaked in a bucket of water and repainted. Thanks for stopping by Carol x

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

        I can see why this article is so popular. It not on is totally charming but inspires people to get their paints out and try this different surface for painting. I am a struggling painter (I paint just for my own enjoyment). Great thumbs up article. I am a new writer on hubpages. Take a look when you get a chance. Thanks again for the great article.

      • photostudiosupply profile image

        photostudiosupply 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

        This is really nice. I like it. Its such an amazing and different activity to show your imaginative ideas. Very creative work.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Barbara Kay, Angela Brummer and tlmcgaa70 - your comments are delicious! Thanks so much for your support.

      • tlmcgaa70 profile image

        tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

        absolutely incredible art work. of all the things i have tried i never thought of PAINTING rocks. but now i will give it a shot as soon as i find the perfect rock, tho i may have to order one online lol, we only have clay chunks out here. thanks for the great hub, i am sharing, bookmarking and voting up and across.

      • Angela Brummer profile image

        Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

        This is really cool! I will share this on tweeter, pin it, and google+.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

        My sister use to paint these and sell them at craft fairs. Sadly, Kathy is gone now, but thanks for the memory.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks. Very nice to meet a fellow rock painting enthusiast!

      • rutley profile image

        rutley 5 years ago from South Jersey

        Love painting rocks.......I have done many to look like food. A hamburger w/cheese and lettuce....I call it my FAT FREE BURGER. Cake slices, cookies, cucumber slices, hot dog on bun and so on. Gave some to the kids teachers a while back for paperweight gifts. Oh and an old lady bent over slipper that was dirty pink....forgot about that one. Nice hub!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, Green Art! Much appreciated :-)

      • Green Art profile image

        Green Art 5 years ago

        Wow, what a fun hub! Your rock paintings are beautiful and your explanations on how to do them are very clear. Voted up and awesome!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks, nmdonders, naimishika and dobo700. It's a fun and rewarding hobby.

      • dobo700 profile image

        dobo700 5 years ago from Australia

        Very cool, must say it is something I would have never thought of.

      • naimishika profile image

        Venugopaal 5 years ago from India

        great hub. I love to do painting on rocks. I do follow

      • nmdonders profile image

        Nira Perkins 5 years ago

        Such a neat idea to do this. Very different from painting a sheet of paper or canvas that you hang on the wall. Cute and unique.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        I like 'playing art', xanzacow, I wouldn't call myself an artist. These painted rocks are kind of easy compared to painting on a flat surface. Thanks for the visit, vote and comment!

      • xanzacow profile image

        Cynthia 5 years ago from North Myrtle Beach, SC

        Voted up, interesting and awesome. You are obviously an artist. I probably could never do this, but I will give it a try....

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Great comments, villandro, BritInTexas, Glimmer Twin Fan and GoodLady - you are all inspiring me to do more :-)

      • GoodLady profile image

        Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

        I like this hub and would like to make a link to it in the Hub I'm writing at the moment, so thanks.

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

        These are really cool! Great project for this summer! Voted up!

      • BritInTexas profile image

        BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

        Thank you so much for sharing this! It had never even occurred to me to do something like this before, and I've been looking for a hobby - and possibly even something I could sell at yard sales, flea markets, etc. Brilliant article, greatly informative.

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        Leandro Villagran 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        Really nice and artistic. thanks for sharing

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you, hardcov and Island Girlie.

      • Island Girlie profile image

        Island Girlie 5 years ago from Jamaica

        Really interesting. My son loves art, he loves to draw and paint. This is a cool idea for him to try. Thanks for sharing!

      • hardcov profile image

        hardcov 5 years ago from Vienna, Austria

        This is cool, thanks for sharing! My gf will love it! :)

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks, jeanniedoe - you should try it, you might surprise yourself. It's very relaxing.

      • jeanniedoe profile image

        jeanniedoe 5 years ago from Princeton, New Jersey, USA

        Wow those rocks looks so nice. I wish I have a talent like it and paint that good too. I really appreciate that kind of painting.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you - fun is what it's about! My first one was awful, I have to tell you :-)

      • Ronna Pennington profile image

        Ronna Pennington 5 years ago from Arkansas

        You're good! Mine won't look as artistic as yours, but it will be a fun project! Thanks for the idea.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Many thanks, jennzie. :-)

      • jennzie profile image

        Jenn 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Those look so good! Unfortunately I'm not very artistically gifted, so they probably wouldn't turn out half as nice as yours.

        Voted up and awesome.

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you!

        @Vespawoolf - it's not so difficult. The first few times are not so good and then suddenly you get the hang of it. Painting a 3d animal on a 3d object is much easier than trying to reproduce it on paper.

        @techygran - if you can paint fairy houses, you can do these. Kids like doing ladybugs and bumblebees - have a search on Google images for inspiration.

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Wonderful hub on a garden art I hadn't considered but that really tucks in nicely with what I've been pinning re fairy houses etc. -- my grandkids would love this too! Pinning this for sure!

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

        Wow, what a fascinating concept! I'm afraid my rock art wouldn't look near as talented as yours. : ) Voted up and shared.

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you... and I love your name!

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        Ginger Ruffles 5 years ago

        Wow, awesome hub!

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        I hope you do! Many thanks for sharing the rock-love :-)

      • vox vocis profile image

        Jasmine 5 years ago

        Hey, this is great work! Love your painted rocks! I'm saving this hub for future reference and I'll definitely give this hobby a try. Voted up all over and shared :)

      • theraggededge profile image
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        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thank you tobey100 x

      • tobey100 profile image

        tobey100 5 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

        Incredible. Great hub, voted up!

      • theraggededge profile image
        Author

        Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

        Thanks JayeWisdom and Purple Perl. Yes, my children have painted some too. My daughter wrapped up a little mouse she'd done to give to a friend today. They are really great projects for kids.

      • Purple Perl profile image

        Purple Perl 5 years ago from Bangalore,India

        Beautiful! This is new to me. I know of inscriptions on rock, but this is so creative. Thanks for sharing.

      • JayeWisdom profile image

        Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

        I have some adorable rock art--one my younger son gave me when he was a child and the others painted by my great-grandchildren. They take up little space, but are charming. I smile every time I see them.

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