How to Paint Realistic Animals on Rocks
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.
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.
How to Paint a Rock Animal
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Deepen the shadows under the ears and at the sides of the face. Paint the details on the nose and mouth.
- Continue to add detail until you are satisfied, and finish off by adding whiskers and ear hair with a fine brush.
- 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.
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.
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 a sealant (according to the manufacturer's directions) to help preserve your rock.
Rock Painting Resources
© 2012 Bev G