I enjoy writing about creative and crafty things—the world can never have enough pretty things to look at!
Meet Your New Hobby: Painting on Rocks!
I have recently discovered the enjoyable craft of decorating stones. What's not to like? Your canvas is free! Okay, maybe it's not so free if you actually purchase a bag of stones from Michael's Crafts. But that's still okay. Stones are cheap no matter what! And if you have little kids and you want a project for a rainy day, a bag of Michael's stones can be your best friend!
What can you do with your finished, painted stones? Lots of things!
- Make them into magnets.
- Decorate your garden.
- Create seasonal decorations.
- Unleash your inner artist and create a mini masterpiece. (And if you make a mistake? It's okay. Just get another stone!)
- Have craft time with the kids (indoors or outside.)
- Make paperweights or gifts . . . or give paperweights as gifts. ( I think creating decorated stones for gifts is a great idea. Kids love to make them, and grandparents love to get them.)
- Make your very own pet rock (with google eyes, bows, or hair attached)
- Write inspirational messages on them.
- Sell your creations! If you get good enough, that is . . . there are plenty of Etsy shops that feature artsy stones for sale.
- A million other things I haven't thought of yet!
How to Paint Rocks Step-by-Step
- First, of course, you need to find the perfect stone. Look for smooth rounded stones. River stones are best, or stones found on the beach. If you have a certain design in mind, like a cat, an owl, or a caterpillar, be on the lookout for the right shape stone to be your canvas. Searching for just the perfect stone is part of the fun!
- If you don't have time to wander around looking for just the perfect stone, you can march on down to Michael's Crafts or another nearby craft store. Michael's has bags of natural stones that come in small, large, dark or light colors so you can take your pick!
- If you're picking up your stones from mother nature, be certain you're allowed to take the stones. National and state parks prohibit their removal.
- If you picked up your canvas from the outdoors, you'll want to make sure it's nice and clean. Wash it off with some warm water and soap and pat it dry. You could even scrub it with an old toothbrush.
- Some stones have rough patches on them that will make painting a little more difficult. You can sand it down with sandpaper, starting with 100 grit and moving to 150 and 220 grit until the patch is gone.
- At this stage, you're ready to draw your design onto the rock. It might be good to try practicing your design on a piece of paper beforehand to perfect it. When you actually draw your picture onto the rock, you can use a pencil, chalk, or soapstone—or even an ultra-fine Sharpie marker which offers a lot of control and the ability to draw small details.
- Now you're reading to start painting! Be patient and move from the biggest parts of the design to the smallest, letting each coat dry before moving on. You can use a hairdryer to dry the paint faster.
- Once you've finished painting your design, it's time to seal it! Use a sealer and add a coat or two to make sure your art lasts for a long time. See below for some notes on what kind of supplies to use.
Choosing the Right Supplies
Here are some other supplies to have on hand:
- Paints: All kinds of craft, water-based, or acrylic paints work well for rocks. One downside of acrylics is that they tend to be difficult to wash out of clothes, so be careful when using them. Wear a smock and put down something to protect the painting surface. If you're painting with very young children, tempera paint is the way to go because it washes out much easier (though the colors aren't as bright). If your rocks will be living outside, make sure to use patio paint or outdoor-friendly paint. Test out your paint on paper before painting your rock to make sure you don't have any surprises with consistency or color.
- Fine-point markers: These are great for adding details that can be tricky to do with brushes, especially on smaller stones. Markers, in general, can be fun to use for "painting rocks."
- Marker paints: These are perfect if you like the control of a marker but the look of a paint. Both markers and marker paints come in cool metallic colors, too!
- Mod Podge or other sealer: You'll want to use a sealer to make sure your creations last for a long time. If you'll be using your finished product indoors, you can use an acrylic spray that will make the colors brighter and glossier. You'll need to use it outside, however, and only under adult supervision. For rock art that will be outdoors, you should use a spar urethane sealer which will prevent cracking and wear. Modge Podge is also a good option for indoor art.
- Magnet backings: For if you want to use your finished stones as magnets! Just attach magnet circle to the back. When making magnets, be sure to use stones that are not too big or too thick, or you will need a super-strong magnet to keep your stone from sliding down the fridge!
- Newspaper or other protective covering for your table.
- Paint palette: You can either purchase a paint palette or make one out of a paper plate, a piece of cardboard covered in foil, or something similar. If you're going to be painting over a long period of time, you might want to invest in making or purchasing a wet palette, which will keep your paints wet for longer.
- Paintbrushes: Get some stiff, cheap brushes with wooden handles in a wide variety of sizes. The stone's surface will quickly wear brushes out, making expensive brushes a waste. Wide, flat brushes will be good for parts of your design that are bigger, and smaller, pointed ones will be good for adding details like faces or whiskers (cute!). Look for brushes with long bristles that can hold a lot of paint.
- Google eyes: Eyes are a must for those pet rock and rock monsters you plan to make! Also, any other mixed media that you want to use in your art.
- Glue: If you're attaching stones to each other or some kind of media to the stones, you'll need some glue. Elmer's can work just fine. Hot glue guns can also do, but if you want your rock to last for a long time outside, you should ask about an outdoor-safe glue.
Rocking Painting FAQs
What kind of paint is best?
Bright acrylic paints work well. And when I say bright, I mean BRIGHT! Trust me, this makes the difference! Do you want to create a truly remarkable and dynamic stone? Or just a sort of "blah" one? I thought so! Martha Stewart offers acrylic paints in bright, dynamic hues. If you don't have bright paints, you can always add white to your regular colors to lighten and brighten them up.
How should I start painting?
You can always outline your picture with a fine-point marker, and then fill in with regular paint. If you really want to "cheat," you can use highlighter markers and tell people it's paint. Highlighters will work well on a very light-colored stone. Shhh . . . you didn't hear it here)! Both markers and marker paints come in cool metallic colors, too! Using a silver marker on a dark stone creates an interesting look. Personally, I prefer light color stones with bright color paint.
What about a background?
If you want a painted background on your stone, be sure to use two coats of paint, allowing the first coat to dry completely before adding the second. Then you can start your actual "picture" after the second coat of paint dries. You must have patience! Little kids don't, of course, so you can just let them go ahead and start painting on the stone.
Some people like to paint a white background on a dark stone for a really cool look. A black background also creates a very interesting look. Just be sure to paint your picture on top with a bright color, such as bright yellow.
What else can I use besides paint?
You can utilize mixed media on your stone by gluing on material, magazine cut-outs, and sequins. You can even stick on some stickers!
What should I draw or paint on my stone?
The possibilities are limitless! Animals are popular, such as cats, owls, fish, birds, ladybugs, butterflies and dragonflies, turtles, caterpillars, frogs, flowers, and suns. There are also holiday designs such as snowmen and pumpkins, hearts for Valentine's Day, or why not turn an egg-shaped stone into a pretty decorated egg for Easter?
Here's an idea for Valentine's Day: Make that special someone a pet rock with a heart painted on the side and a Valentine that says, "YOU ROCK!"
Most importantly, have fun! This is art, so remember there are no limits to what you can do. Get out there and create!
P.S. The video below is really beautiful and fascinating. Maybe you'll get some ideas from it!
Fe cabanig on July 18, 2020:
I love doing rock painting
And i have some of my craft
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 04, 2020:
Thanks for these super ideas. I love rock painting. Keeps me sane!
Rebecca Pulos on September 28, 2019:
I do this daily and like to put them around Windsor for others to find in hopes to make someone smile an feel good when there found :) #WindsorRocks :)
Kim Corrick on November 16, 2018:
I haven't had success on painting on rocks. I want to have a fairly detailed stone with fine lettering. Any suggestions? Also, after I finished the rocks which actually didn't look so good, I attempted to spray with acrylic and the color ran all over. Need help! I want to have a Christmas campaign painting and distributing rocks but I gotta figure this out. Need help!
Charlie woodhams on October 27, 2018:
Cant wait to get started
Gail Hedlund on October 10, 2018:
Here locally we have a rock "hunting" group. People paint rocks, place them in public places. Once they are found, it's posted on Facebook. Example: Butte County Rocks, Paradise Rocks
br14n on April 06, 2018:
Will be using ideas with my 8 yr old grand daughters, what would the best adhesive or fixing compound would be best use to stick stones together
Nan on February 24, 2018:
I have so many rocks, just from our property ! Most are very rough, all different kinds, none that are smooth. What recommendations can you give on painting these rocks ??
Derrick on December 29, 2017:
That was very entertaining and educational.
Jamie Hughes on November 01, 2017:
I came across your website and really liked what I saw. I am in the progress of setting up a website to sell hand craft supplies, ideas and patterns. Does your store dropship and if so what policy do you have with it? I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Chez on October 26, 2017:
Going to give this a go with my granddaughters tomorrow! :)
rok on October 02, 2017:
my fave hobby!!
forrest on September 26, 2017:
I was painting rocks before I seen them posted my friends thought I had Lost it.
Dipen Das on September 11, 2017:
Tell me what colour I should I use on stones to keep them inside an aquarium.
Shivani paintal on August 31, 2017:
Thank you so much..your article on painting stones is of great help..beautifully explained..all doubts got cleared..thank you once again
Sandy on August 13, 2017:
Great info! I am putting together the crafts an activities for the kiddos at our neighborhood picnic. Will have all ages, so thinking stickers for the really little kiddos might work best. If they want to use it outside (the hidden rocks are big in our local parks right now). I am seeing Modpodge, Clear Acrylic Paint and Elmers followed by one or the other for paints and markers. Would it be the same for stickers or would you suggest something different? Thanks : )
GLee on August 10, 2017:
Great article! It had ALL the information I needed to get started AND some great ideas/samples too! Now I can go shop for my paints, since I already have a collection of rocks! Thank you!
Cee on August 01, 2017:
Can't wait to start painting.. so inspirational. Thanks
sunflowergirlntx on July 29, 2017:
Can you recommend the best type of paint that stands out on the rocks that won't fade with the weather?
Jan on June 11, 2017:
Love all the great ideas. ,, is there any paint that shines in the dark? Would like to paint our name on a rock in front of our house
email@example.com on June 11, 2017:
This was really amazing enjoy it and can wait to try it...... Thanks
Deborah Nessmith from Florida on June 01, 2017:
Great post. For the summer, me and my kids are going to paint rocks for Tallahassee Rocks. My friend got started with it and my kids want to paint, hide and find other rocks. I'm inspired by paintings I saw and can't wait to get started.
Samantha Louise Allen on June 01, 2017:
Hello what kind of paint can you put on the stones and the paint that don't come off the stones please help me
JoAnn on May 14, 2017:
I am new to rock painting and love it. I have a lung problem which prohibits me from using spray sealers. I would like to,use out door modge podge, but am finding that 3 days after applying it still has a tacky feeling to it. Do you have any recommendations?
Mckayla on May 08, 2017:
How do paint them in steps please
Touseef on May 06, 2017:
Plz can any one told me what is the name of that art painting or drawing on stones called?
Cheryl on April 28, 2017:
Your blog was very informative and encouraging. Thank you
sabina on April 20, 2017:
I am the author of the 2nd and 9th Rock. It is very incorrect not to indicate the source of the images! I asked the author of this article to write the names of the artists who painted these stones, but I did not receive an answer.
Tanya on April 16, 2017:
iamradiantrose on March 23, 2017:
Love your hub! I've been collecting smooth stones to paint so your hub is very timely! I'm all inspired to get out my paints. Thanks for a great hub.
Lori on March 14, 2017:
You can hide them in your town so people can find them.
Gayle on January 24, 2017:
Inspirational. Great for telling family stories and children's favourite stories. Put into a basket or tray with fluffy fabric children learn great skills. Importantly communicating, listening and turn - taking. Love it.
Pat on January 22, 2017:
Very inspiring videos
Delina Youngs on January 08, 2017:
Beautiful work ! What a gift and treasure you have !
rocky on January 01, 2017:
i have been painting rocks for about a year now. LOVE IT!!! After I have about a dozen or so, I take them to the walking path at the lake and set them out for other people to see them. Once in a while I will paint a few as houses, make a little town and set it out . I would love to see the face of the people that find them. Hope it makes them smile.
DrDokatz on November 20, 2016:
I just finished this one: http://puu.sh/spoDn/ef7b3ebea4.jpg
Mary on July 24, 2016:
Using acrylic paint on smooth stones and can't get the brush strokes out. They look awful. Have under coated them and still have brush strokes. What can I do?
firstname.lastname@example.org on July 13, 2016:
Hi, I am about to undertake this project. I bought a huge bag of 3-5" smooth river stones at a local masonry store for $15! I am planning to paint the names of each of my 35 fruit trees on the rocks and leave them in the trench at the base of the tree. These stones will take a beating with weather. What would someone experienced with this suggest as the best sealer for a long life? Thanks!! Love all the comments/photos/ideas/inspiration!
JF Kara on July 07, 2016:
I just love your rocks. I received a Happy Birthday Greeting Stone last year with a handwritten message on the back. I decided to decorate the front of the stone using a fine Sharpie. Do I need to add a sealer?
Paula on May 23, 2016:
This isn't a painting: it is a masterpiece!!
Jo Schram on April 22, 2016:
Hi i have painted rocks in the past and got my stones free from the shores of Lake Michigan when i lived in Illinois. Now i live in CA and dont have access to any stones and cant see to find a place that sells them. Would you have any idea on where to buy them at a reasonable price as my budget is limited. you can let me know at Filetofsoulart@aol.com... thanks so much as i am really in need of them for a project. Thanks so much once again jo
Kelly from New Jersey on April 11, 2016:
These are Amazing. Such talent thank you for sharing. Brings me back to my days as a child where painting on rocks and seashells were such an enjoyment. I try and get my kids to do things like this, with the technical age we are in I try everything any anything to pry kids away from their computers, phones and video games......
NiaG from Louisville, KY on March 23, 2016:
Great article! Love the idea of rock painting. May give it a shot one of these days. Thanks for the tips!
Ruby from United States on March 17, 2016:
i have always wanted to paint rocks but never really inspired to except once with my mom. We will have to try it again! Great read... or look.
Fay Favored from USA on March 10, 2016:
I really like this idea, and your designs are so clever. The girl hiding in the rock is my favorite. Pinned & shared!
KarenCookieJar on January 21, 2016:
I've done this once and really enjoyed it, but the stones were stolen out of my garden in the front yard!
Sabina from Paris on October 22, 2015:
it's looks like very intresting and i want to try it
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 16, 2015:
This rocks--no pun intended. I love this idea. Two thumbs up! Great hub!
Morayma Natali Rodriguez Rivera from Lehigh Acers, Florida on October 15, 2015:
This is so cute! I love your designs! This is a wonderful idea for a class project too!
Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on October 13, 2015:
This is a great idea! I've been looking for stuff to do with my son and he'd love creating these monster face. Cheers.
O from New York on October 12, 2015:
I LOVE THIS! I am an artist so I love sketching and painting but I have never painted on rocks I need to do this. This is awesome!!
Sajesh from India on October 05, 2015:
Nice creation and I am trying to do something like this for my home showcase! Thanks
Endearing Joshent on October 04, 2015:
such a very nice idea!And I love the pictures as well, like the pictures I got from http://www.backgroundimagepro.com/.
Jonas Rodrigo on July 26, 2015:
Very cute! Imagine going for a normal stroll around the park and you see these adorable things. It just might brighten someone's day.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 12, 2015:
Beautiful examples and cool idea.
Char Milbrett from Minnesota on June 13, 2015:
Very cool! My mother used to take rocks from Lake Superior, glue felt onto them and paint them like little rock turtles. This was way back in 1972.
Babs on May 24, 2015:
What a delight. Thank you for sharing. How would you make them weatherproof so the will stand up to the elements?
D. Gomez on May 08, 2015:
Very creative! Thank you for sharing the information, I plan to start painting on rocks and pebbles as a hobby and you certainly have given me the inspiration to do so. God bless you!
Drop Sea Stone on April 25, 2015:
If you are interested in painting stones join DROP SEA STONE on facebook . I have set this up to encourage art in the community. It is a cross between Geocaching and Banksy....ie you don't know what art is going to turn up where. It is good for amateur crafters and professionals but especially for families looking for a cheap day out. Please chack out the profile Drop Sea Stone . Note the page is still under construction.
Arwa on February 19, 2015:
Hi. I started painting on rocks as well. I love it. But what to you glue the magnets with? Any particular kind of clue?. Thanks
shirley on February 14, 2015:
Great ideas u could use flow in the dark paint as well x
safa essam on February 12, 2015:
I just love your work. this is real art. I have been collecting stones all my life and i wanted to use them and display them in my home but I did not know how. you offered me great ideas that I can share with my kids. thank you so much.
Jane Sabio on January 07, 2015:
I'm so inspired by just looking at all your creative work. hmmm I wish I can also be like you so so love to start and make a living at home to help my husband. God bless you more real good. Thank you very much...
H on November 30, 2014:
Thank you. These are wonderful designs :)
Levi Herris on September 29, 2014:
Thanks for sharing such great ideas to paint creative stones. This would be great art project for my child. I have tried painting on rocks with the help of video tutorial before, that is going to be useful now - http://www.jerrysartarama.com/art-lessons/Artists/...
Shruti on August 25, 2014:
These are fabulous and so simple. Luckily am surrounded by smooth stones up here in the Himalayas. So, I picked up a few and tried my hand at the simple stuff. I wanted to ask, can one use oil paints on stone? If yes, what's the procedure? Thank you!
candi on July 24, 2014:
I am so in love with this post! My daughter and I are about to have a good time! Thanks for this!
sharon on July 24, 2014:
PURPLECANDY (author) from ANYWHERE on May 02, 2014:
Model Magic both seals and makes the stone shiny! You can buy Model Magic in any craft store or from Amazon. It's a great product to have on hand!
poppy on March 24, 2014:
love the stones,just collected stones from beach yesterday,to paint today for family birthday.
jane on February 21, 2014:
I have a Beautiful rock, I just want to leave it... I want to seal it, can I make is shinny, what do I use? fun fun fun
Aimee on February 12, 2014:
Love it! going to have a go at making some for my wedding.
leeor on December 24, 2013:
thank you so much for the article.
after reading about this I wanted to learn to draw by myself and I found a great video course on the topic. enjoy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HHFXQ2K?tag=troubadour...
retrat-arte on December 23, 2013:
I´ve made some of them, I hope you like it! :)
eachean on December 20, 2013:
Love these ideas. My family has been doing this for a few years now and leaves them out for people to find. You can see our adventures at RentonRocks on Facebook.
Lori on November 02, 2013:
This is amazing! I love how you have so many examples to show all the possibilities. :)
Just wondering, have you used pencil crayons before? If I use pencil crayons, do you think I'll need to spray with a waterproof finisher or something?
adrienne on October 23, 2013:
do you sell this? im planning to have this on my wedding. hope you can email me: email@example.com
Doreen on October 02, 2013:
your talented. Been painting rocks too.
Ellie on September 21, 2013:
Thank you so much for your perfect explanation! :-)
Melissa Schmidt from Camano Island, Washington on September 13, 2013:
What a neat idea you have! How creative.
Tamie on September 13, 2013:
I love this idea and craft. This certainly goes faster than counted cross stitch and still looks relaxing.
manu soni on August 22, 2013:
Rhonda on July 27, 2013:
You can find the rocks you need at just about any garden or landscaping center. If you live in an area that has any running creek or river beds you can pick up more than you could ever need in all types of neat colors shapes and sizes. They are cheap to buy at landscaping and garden centers though!! Happy painting !!!
Mazzie on June 02, 2013:
I would like to try this Creative Art as I recover from my Operation which will be later in the year. Im just curious as to how to preserve the paint on the stones if they go outside..
Joyful4u on May 25, 2013:
Dawn, The only place that I have found them is at the beach. Micheal's has some, but they are expensive. I had someone to bring me a bunch back from the beach. They were FREE!!! :)
ahtesham on May 23, 2013:
I like it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Dawn on May 15, 2013:
Does anyone know where I can purchase the smooth unfinished grey river stones??
All I ever find are the polished multicolor ones around here :(
PURPLECANDY (author) from ANYWHERE on May 02, 2013:
Mod Podge! It is a glue/sealer you can get at any Craft store...not too expensive! You can buy either matt or shiny version...there is also a glitter version!
Joyful4u on May 02, 2013:
Love! I have done this with the children in my class. Question.....how are some of the rocks painted so shiny? Thanks!!! :)
Ms Louise on April 15, 2013:
These are amazing. I love to create things with my kids. I think I will try this next!
Crystal Tatum from Georgia on April 05, 2013:
This is so awesome! I really wan to try this. I'm not much of an artist, but this looks like so much fun. Love the foot stone and the penguins. Voting up, awesome and sharing this one!
RTalloni on April 04, 2013:
Thanks for this neat look at painting rocks/stones with all of the fun examples. They make me want to paint tonight!
Athlyn Green from West Kootenays on April 04, 2013:
Wonderful Hub. I've often wanted to try this, as rock makes an interesting surface to work with.
KerryAnita from Satellite Beach, Florida on April 04, 2013:
Wow! these are awesome and beautiful! You are a talented artist! You've inspired me to try rock painting!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 04, 2013:
Your stone paintings are simply awesome. Very creative, thanks for sharing. Voted awesome. Shared and pinned.
Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on March 31, 2013:
Lovely! I really enjoy painting on rocks. I usually carry a sharpie pen in my purse too so that I can doodle on small stones when I am bored. Enjoyed the pics!
preweb from UK on March 17, 2013:
I enjoyed looking at all the pics, great idea...i loved the penguins rocks most.
PURPLECANDY (author) from ANYWHERE on September 25, 2012:
Thanks, I enjoyed collecting all the pictures....so many great ideas!
TheHoleStory from Parsons, West Virginia on September 24, 2012:
This is a great hub, and I love all of those beautifully painted rock photographs that you've included in this hub. The painted foot rock is the best photo of all. But most of all the title itself really rocks!!!!
PURPLECANDY (author) from ANYWHERE on September 21, 2012:
Yea, that foot rock is cool. the first time I saw it, I did a double-take.