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How to Paint Rocks

Beth Fairweather is a wife, mom, and writer. She is currently working on her first novel and slowly losing her mind, one piece at a time.

Learn how to create beautiful painted rocks with these simple, step-by-step instructions!

Learn how to create beautiful painted rocks with these simple, step-by-step instructions!

Rock Painting!

People everywhere are discovering the joy of spreading happiness and positive messages using something as simple as a rock! In this article I will share how you too can join this fun, new trend!

Painting emojis on rocks is just one of many awesome rock painting ideas to try!

Painting emojis on rocks is just one of many awesome rock painting ideas to try!

What You Need to Begin Painting Rocks

This is one hobby that is relatively inexpensive, which is a definite plus! So what do you need to begin?

  • Rocks! Obviously you need rocks for rock painting. You can use any rock but small (not tiny) rocks with flat, smooth surfaces will be the easiest ones to use. If you decide to use something more "jagged" try to pick something that has at least one smooth side to add your design to. You can purchase rocks from craft stores, dollar stores, or big box stores such as Walmart. These are relatively inexpensive and come in netted bags of around 25 or more. Be advised that these rocks often come with a waxy coating on them that you need to remove before decorating your rock. My preferred method is to soak my rocks overnight in a bowl of hot water mixed with a little dish detergent. In the morning you can take a plastic pot scrubber and wipe them clean. Once they are completely dry you are ready to "rock"!
  • You can also simply pick up rocks from your yard or property or on walks. Just be sure not to steal any rocks from a home or business. I do recommend washing these in warm water with a little bit of detergent then dry completely to remove any "debris".
  • Coloring Mediums: you can use acrylic paints, which are readily and cheaply available everywhere in a rainbow of colors, or, paint markers and metallic marker pens (be sure to use only in a well ventilated space, they are stinky!)
  • Some people like to spray paint their rocks, especially if they want an all over effect. Again, be sure to use outdoors or somewhere well ventilated with a tarp or cardboard down to protect any surfaces.
  • You can also use Archival Ink or Staz On ink pads and rubber stamps to "stamp" an image on your rocks.
  • Sponges, paint brushes (I use the very cheap ones) and stylus tools are all handy for designing. I especially like using stylus tools for painting little dots or designs and making flowers.
  • Other items to use for making designs include leaves dipped in paint or ink and even a pencil eraser for making dots.
  • You can add glitter or googly eyes or stickers to your design as well. Use your imagination!!
  • You will want to use a sealant, such as Mod Podge on your rocks, as well as an outdoor sealant to protect them from the elements. I like Mod Podge Outdoor myself. Sealants come in either sprays or in a pot that you apply with a sponge or brush.
  • Don't forget paper towels, newspapers, and wet wipes for clean up. You might also want to keep an apron, smock, or old shirt handy to protect your clothes (especially if you are all thumbs, like me!)
Use a stylus, craft sponges or inexpensive paint brushes to aid in your design.

Use a stylus, craft sponges or inexpensive paint brushes to aid in your design.

Acrylic paints are best to use when painting rocks, but you can also use paint markers, and metallic markers.  I personally use all 3!

Acrylic paints are best to use when painting rocks, but you can also use paint markers, and metallic markers. I personally use all 3!

How to Paint Rocks

  • Gather your supplies; make sure to start with clean, dry rocks!
  • First, use a spray sealant (I prefer Mod Podge) or from a jar with a sponge, and spread a thin coat over your rocks and let dry. This will make painting on your rocks much easier since the rocks are porous and will want to suck up the ink or paint without first using a sealant.
  • Next paint and/or use your markers on your rocks. You can do whatever you want, words, pictures, flowers, poems, whatever. You will probably need to use several coats to get the effect you want, just be sure to let each coat dry thoroughly before adding the next. Patience is a virtue here! (ask me how many rocks I've ruined by not waiting for them to dry!)
  • If you are a member of a rock group, be sure to use a marker to put your "handle" on the back of the rock. This way whoever finds it can go to the Facebook page or site and post a pic when they find your rock. As exciting as it is to find a rock, it's equally thrilling to see that someone has found YOUR rock! Try not to get discouraged if your rocks seem to "disappear". Remember, not everyone has access to a camera and can take pics, and not everyone knows about this project yet. They may find your rock and take it home and put it on a shelf. The thing that matters is that they found it and you made an impact on them in some little way. Paint your rock and then send it off to give joy to someone else. You will have done a great thing!
  • Finally seal your rock so that the elements don't wreck your creation. I recommend using Mod Podge Outdoor which will guarantee your design stays safe in any weather. Make sure to let your finished rocks dry completely before hiding them.
Inspirational messages can really make someone's day!

Inspirational messages can really make someone's day!

Where My Idea of Painting Rocks Began

In the "merry merry month of May," I found myself strolling along a river path that I often walked for my daily exercise, when my eye was drawn to a bright blue rock in the branch of a tree.

I paused in mid stride, looking curiously at this smooth, flat rock that someone had painstakingly painted. Carefully written in black was the word "Breathe", surrounded by decorative little dots and swirls. It was beautiful and I picked it up and turned it over. Printed on the back was "Owosso Rocks F.B." I had no idea what this was, but I was intrigued!

I went home and quickly logged into Facebook to see just what "Owosso Rocks" was. That was when I discovered the world of painted rocks. Apparently, this was a growing trend that I was oblivious to. Folks all around the country, not just in little old Owosso, Michigan, were painting rocks and then hiding them for others to find. Why? To spread a little bit of happiness around. Cool idea, I thought! Where can I sign up? It was amazingly easy. I joined the Facebook group, got myself some supplies and was up and running.

But first, I wondered, how did this all come about in the first place?

Prehistoric man loved rock painting!

Prehistoric man loved rock painting!

The History of Painted Rocks

Painting on rocks is not new, although hiding them is. As far back as the days of the dinosaurs, prehistoric man was drawing and painting on his cave walls in order to entertain, inform and record history (though he probably didn't know he was doing something so momentous at the time!)

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Much later on in the 1970's we had "Pet Rocks" which were all the rage. These "pets" came in a tidy box with air-holes and googly eyes; proof that yes, people will buy anything!

Today we have "painted rocks". The idea of spreading the love through decorated rocks came from a gal named Meghan Murphy, who was getting tired of all the negativity, pain and sorrow, fear and just plain ickiness of the world we live in. She wanted a way to spread kindness and she stumbled upon the simple idea of using painted rocks, with positive messages, pictures or just plain color as a way to do it. The Kindness Rocks Project was born. Their goals are simple: to inspire others through random acts of kindness and to recruit those who stumble upon painted rocks, to create their own and spread the message. Spreading kindness, can there be anything better??

From this one, grassroots organization, local groups began to pop up all over the place. Today, most communities, including mine, have their own local groups, usually on Facebook. Anyone can join and share the happiness. (If your own area does not have such a group, consider starting one!)

*you do NOT have to join a "group" if you don't want to. You can absolutely paint and hide rocks on your own, it's just more fun in my opinion to be part of a community and you'll get more feedback and be able to see when someone finds your rocks!

If you find a rock, what do you do with it? Well, you can choose to take it home and keep it, gift it to someone, leave it where you found it (I like to at least take a picture and post it to our local Facebook Group so the artist knows it's been found), or re-hide it. My seven year old twins love finding rocks, but they can't part with them, so we take pics and post them to the group and the twins decorate the house with them!

Pet rocks were all the rage in the 1970s!

Pet rocks were all the rage in the 1970s!

You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Be An Artist

Some people create gorgeous works of art on their rocks and this can be very intimidating for newcomers, especially children. You do not have to be a professional painter to take part. People will love anything you do, even if you just color the entire rock one color and that's it. Finding that rock will be the highlight of their day. You can just write a simple word like "Joy" or "Love" or "Happy" on your rock and you'll make someone smile. Don't worry about what your rocks look like! It's all good!

Don't be rude or obscene, that's not what this is about. If you find a rock don't be a jerk and toss it into the bushes or throw it away. Just leave it for someone else to find and consider joining the fun yourself!

Use bright, fun, vibrant colors so your rocks are easy to spot!  Try to stay away from neutrals that will just blend in with the scenery.

Use bright, fun, vibrant colors so your rocks are easy to spot! Try to stay away from neutrals that will just blend in with the scenery.

Where You Can and Cannot Hide Rocks

The best places to hide your rocks will be public parks, walking trails, OUTSIDE of businesses as long as they don't mind. It's not a good idea or recommended to hide rocks indoors unless it's a sanctioned event. Your local rock groups will have plenty of ideas for you. I like to hide my rocks out in the open where they are easily seen. My goal isn't to play hide and seek with them, I do want them found after all! I like to place mine on a park bench, or on a branch at eye level, perhaps on the rail of a gazebo, or in a flower bed (public only please!) Try to use bright colors too. I once got the brilliant idea to paint a orange, brown and red rock, which I quickly realized blended in completely with the fallen leaves! My guess is it's still there on the trail where I left it!

Try not to hide your rocks in places where they will be a nuisance, or possibly harm or disrespect someone or their memory. For instance, stay away from ball fields (no player wants to break an ankle on your rock while sliding into home), large grassy areas that will be mowed, and definitely do NOT hide your rocks in a cemetery, that's very disrespectful (unless it's a personal rock you place on your loved ones grave). Most cemeteries have very strict rules about what you can and cannot leave at or on a grave.

Stay away from hiding rocks in National Parks, it is illegal do so and they've been getting a little testy lately about the rock hiding trend. Be respectful and knowledgeable about any rules or laws in the areas you are hiding.

Also, if you see someone hiding rocks don't follow along behind them and pick up their rocks. Go someplace else for the moment and let them hide. It takes the fun away when they feel like they are being "stalked" (plus it's really kind of creepy!) Follow the Golden Rule when hiding and finding rocks and you can't go wrong!

You can hide rocks in downtown/urban areas, but be aware that if you walk around stashing things in a big city under trash cans and signs, the cops might pick you up and question you thinking you're a terrorist! (especially in foreign cities, such as London and Paris) . Always check up on local laws and ordinances so you know what is and isn't allowed. I don't recommend hiding rocks in airports, buses, trains or stations, or on subways and in subway stations for the same reasons.

Where to Find Ideas and Designs

The internet is a treasure trove of rock painting ideas, especially Pinterest. They also have layouts and easy to follow diagrams which make it simple to paint animals, cartoon characters and all sorts of cool things.

You can Google quotes, and poems, song lyrics, and much more to use on your rocks. (remember, no profanity please!) Also, try to NOT be political, or judgmental, racist, any of that. Always remember you are spreading kindness as your message and that's it. If you want to sell something or get a point across, consider blogging instead. No one wants an infomercial on a rock!

Check out YouTube for rock painting tutorials, they are super! (don't blame me if you get hooked though!)

There are also many rock painting books available for purchase and classes are routinely offered at libraries and craft stores, so check out your local paper to see what's out there.

Rock painting is a fun, safe, inexpensive hobby that spreads a message of positivity around what can sometimes be a very negative world. So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a rock and start painting!

Spread Kindness!

Spread Kindness!