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How to Paint Realistic Animals on Rocks

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

Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls.

Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls.

Why Paint Rocks and Pebbles?

Why not paint rocks and pebbles?

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 want 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

What You'll Need

  • Clean Rocks
  • HB Pencil
  • Acrylic Paint: You'll need a range of colors. 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

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

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

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Feltmagnet

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.



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 sealant (according to the manufacturer's directions) to help preserve your rock.

Rock Painting Resources

© 2012 Bev G

A new hobby for you, perhaps?

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 05, 2020:

Hey Audrey, it's easier than you think... once you accept it is going to look pretty horrible in the earlier/middle stages. Give it a try.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 04, 2020:

So happy to find this article on painting animals. I've wanted to try this even 'tho I'm not an artist. These are so cute. Thanks so much!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 15, 2017:

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

Lyn from England on February 15, 2017:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 13, 2017:

So do I, alocsin :)

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 13, 2017:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on October 19, 2016:

Merci, Jean. x

Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on October 04, 2016:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on October 04, 2016:

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.

Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on October 04, 2016:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 25, 2016:

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

Norma Lawrence from California on August 25, 2016:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 19, 2016:

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

mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on March 19, 2016:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 05, 2016:

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

Diana Abrahamson on February 05, 2016:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 11, 2015:

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 from Northeast Ohio on March 10, 2015:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 17, 2014:

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

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on September 17, 2014:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 31, 2014:

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

cheapstuff from California on July 31, 2014:

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!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 21, 2014:

Thank you, SweetiePie :)

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on February 21, 2014:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 05, 2013:

My pleasure, Elvira. Thanks for visiting :)

Elvira Garcia on September 05, 2013:

Very nice article! and thanks for mentioning my work .

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 22, 2013:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 22, 2013:

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!

Jennifer from Queens New York on August 21, 2013:

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 from USA on August 21, 2013:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 21, 2013:

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

ignugent17 on August 21, 2013:

Interesting hub and it is very creative. :-)

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 21, 2013:

[curtsies] Thank you :)

CraftytotheCore on August 21, 2013:

Very impressive!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 24, 2013:

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

Diana Grant from London on March 24, 2013:

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!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 26, 2013:

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 from Cumberland, R.I. on February 25, 2013:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 17, 2013:

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

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 16, 2013:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 14, 2013:

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.

Sam Little from Wheelwright KY on January 14, 2013:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on December 28, 2012:

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!

Michelle on December 27, 2012:

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 from USA on November 30, 2012:

Very cute and well done -

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 29, 2012:

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

Felix J Hernandez from All over the USA on November 29, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 27, 2012:

Go to it, Audrey!

Audrey from Arizona on November 27, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 10, 2012:

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

idigwebsites from United States on September 10, 2012:

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. :)

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 03, 2012:

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

CanvasArtShop on August 03, 2012:

Love these, really brightened up my afternoon!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 01, 2012:

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

Lovelovemeloveme from Cindee's Land on August 01, 2012:

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

xovial on July 22, 2012:

nyce post. keep it up

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 13, 2012:

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 from Upstate New York on July 12, 2012:

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!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 10, 2012:

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

carol stanley from Arizona on July 10, 2012:

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 from Rochester, New York on June 27, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 26, 2012:

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

tlmcgaa70 from south dakota, usa on June 25, 2012:

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 from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 25, 2012:

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

Barbara Badder from USA on June 25, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 25, 2012:

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

rutley from South Jersey on June 25, 2012:

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!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 25, 2012:

Thank you, Green Art! Much appreciated :-)

Laura Ross on June 25, 2012:

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!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 24, 2012:

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

dobo700 from Australia on June 23, 2012:

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

Venugopaal from India on June 23, 2012:

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

Nira Perkins on June 23, 2012:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 22, 2012:

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!

Cynthia from North Myrtle Beach, SC on June 22, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 22, 2012:

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

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on June 22, 2012:

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

Claudia Porter on June 21, 2012:

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

BritInTexas from San Antonio, Texas on June 21, 2012:

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.

Leandro Villagran from Los Angeles, CA on June 21, 2012:

Really nice and artistic. thanks for sharing

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 21, 2012:

Thank you, hardcov and Island Girlie.

Island Girlie from Jamaica on June 21, 2012:

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 from Vienna, Austria on June 21, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 21, 2012:

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

jeanniedoe from Princeton, New Jersey, USA on June 20, 2012:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 20, 2012:

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

Ronna Pennington from Arkansas on June 20, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 20, 2012:

Many thanks, jennzie. :-)

Jenn from Pennsylvania on June 20, 2012:

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.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 20, 2012:

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.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on June 20, 2012:

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!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 20, 2012:

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

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 19, 2012:

Thank you... and I love your name!

Ginger Ruffles on June 19, 2012:

Wow, awesome hub!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 28, 2012:

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

Jasmine on May 27, 2012:

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 :)

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 16, 2012:

Thank you tobey100 x

tobey100 from Whites Creek, Tennessee on May 16, 2012:

Incredible. Great hub, voted up!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 15, 2012:

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.

Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on May 15, 2012:

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