How to Make Painted Rock Plant Markers

Updated on March 29, 2017

Painted Stone Garden Markers

Painted stone garden markers for the vegetable garden.
Painted stone garden markers for the vegetable garden. | Source

How to Make Custom Painted Stone Garden Markers

A good friend who lives on the other end of the coast is anxiously awaiting Spring planting time. I, on the other hand, have already worked my soil, and have lettuces, kale, and tomatoes in the ground and growing. Since I'm done with most of my heavy work, I thought I'd make my friend some garden markers - an early Spring surprise while she waits for the real Spring to arrive.

I have an abundance of stones in my yard. The rains this year brought even more up to the surface of the soil, so I decided to make painted stone markers. I'd had success in the past using DecoArt Patio Paint on outdoor pottery, so I thought it would be a natural to use it on stone. For colors, I had in mind an "Easter egg" look - bright, cheerful colors. I chose Tuscan Red, Blue Jay, Citrus Green, Deep Buttercup, Sprout Green, and Pumpkin Orange.

Materials Needed

DecoArt Patio Paints are readily available at many craft stores, and in a good range of colors.
DecoArt Patio Paints are readily available at many craft stores, and in a good range of colors. | Source

Materials Needed

To paint your rocks, you'll need the following supplies:

  • Clean, palm-sized stones
  • DecoArt Patio Paints (Outdoor paint)
  • DecoArt DuraClear Gloss Varnish (Indoor/outdoor)
  • Paint Markers (Black, and other colors if desired)
  • Flat paintbrush (about 1/2" synthetic or foam)
  • Paint palette or small plastic cups
  • Gesso (optional)
  • Dawn dish soap (optional, if your stones are dirty or greasy)

Priming the Stones

I gessoed the tops of my stones, which helps the color to go on more evenly. It also helps to make light colors, like yellow, more visible on the stones.
I gessoed the tops of my stones, which helps the color to go on more evenly. It also helps to make light colors, like yellow, more visible on the stones. | Source

Painting the Stones

Plan to do two coats of paint onto each stone's face. This will increase opacity and will help the marker last longer outside.
Plan to do two coats of paint onto each stone's face. This will increase opacity and will help the marker last longer outside. | Source

Step by Step Instructions

Once you have your supplies gathered, you're ready to begin.

1. Make sure your rocks are clean and dry. If needed, wash them with a little Dawn detergent. Dawn is a very mild degreaser, and will leave your stones squeaky clean. Rinse stones well and allow to dry completely in the sun.

2. You'll be painting only the "top", or front side, of each stone, in other words, you don't need to paint the "bottom", or underside, of the stone where they will rest on the soil. I recommend painting a primer or gesso coat onto the tops of each stone, but this is optional. If you do use gesso, allow it to dry completely before painting over it with color. Paint two coats of color paint, allowing each coat to dry well before doing the second coat.

3. With a black paint marker, write the names of your plants onto each stone. For my set, I wrote "Lovage", "Garlic", "Onion", "Pumpkin", "Soybeans", "Asparagus", "Mint", and "Artichoke". Don't worry if you don't have perfect handwriting.

4. If desired, add some flourishes or designs to each stone using paint markers. For example, I drew asparagus tops onto my Asparagus stone. If you can't draw, try a simple flourish or scribble.

5. Allow your painted stones to dry overnight.

6. The next day, apply two coats of DuraClear Gloss Varnish to each stone. You will want to paint the entire stone with varnish. Varnish the bottom (backside) of the stones first, then, when dry, varnish the top. Varnish helps to seal the painted stones from water damage and will help them to last longer. Allow stones to dry for at least 24 hours.

7. Set your stone garden markers in your garden and enjoy!

Handlettering on Stones

Try adding some details to your stones. For example, on my Artichoke stone, I added light green "artichoke" leaves. The Pumpkin stone has a "pumpkin" stem on top with some ribbing at the top and bottom of the stone.
Try adding some details to your stones. For example, on my Artichoke stone, I added light green "artichoke" leaves. The Pumpkin stone has a "pumpkin" stem on top with some ribbing at the top and bottom of the stone. | Source

A Simple Flourish

A scribble flourish is an easy way to add interest to your painted garden marker.  I added a scribble flourish to the Mint marker.
A scribble flourish is an easy way to add interest to your painted garden marker. I added a scribble flourish to the Mint marker. | Source

Hand Lettering Tips

Using a paint marker is much easier than trying to hand-letter with a brush. I used Molotow paint markers, but you can use any good quality marker. Just be sure that it is a paint marker, not an ink marker. DecoColor acrylic paint markers are also very good, and are available at many craft supply stores.

Practice writing your plant names a few times before committing to writing on stone. A bit of practice will give you confidence, and confidence will show in your lettering. Block printing is easiest, but if you'd like to try something with a little flourish, I've included my hand-lettered alphabet here.

Simple Hand Lettering

Practice some simple hand lettering. As you can see, it does not need to be perfect. It will still look nice on your plant markers!
Practice some simple hand lettering. As you can see, it does not need to be perfect. It will still look nice on your plant markers! | Source
Practice writing the names of your plants on paper first. It will give you confidence, and it will help you gauge how much room you'll need to fit everything onto your rock.
Practice writing the names of your plants on paper first. It will give you confidence, and it will help you gauge how much room you'll need to fit everything onto your rock. | Source

Final Thoughts

It isn't easy to find "Lovage" plant markers at the garden center, but if you paint it yourself, you can have a marker for any plant you can think of. The bright pops of color offer a bit of whimsy to the garden, and, if you get tired of them, the stones can easily be painted over and repurposed. Expect your painted stone plant markers to last a season or two, maybe even longer if you take them up after the season is done and store them in your shed or garage.

I'm off to mail a box of rocks to my friend up North. I hope she enjoys her new plant markers as much as I enjoyed making them!

Completed Stone Plant Markers

Soybean and Asparagus plant markers. I painted little asparagus shoots emerging from the lower edge of the stone's face. I didn't know what a soybean looks like, so I drew a flourish instead.
Soybean and Asparagus plant markers. I painted little asparagus shoots emerging from the lower edge of the stone's face. I didn't know what a soybean looks like, so I drew a flourish instead. | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      15 months ago from America's Finest City

      Lynsey, Acrylic paints like Liquitex and Golden brands will work! They are just a bit more expensive than DecoArts Patio Paints. If you already have acrylics, just check the tubes to be sure they are the non-toxic colors. Also, check the lightfastness rating to see how they will work outside. For example, I wouldn't use cadmium colors because they are not lightfast and they may be carcinogenic. If you make some garden markers, let me know how they turn out!

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 

      15 months ago from Glasgow

      These are gorgeous. I never knew patio paints existed- thats another thing I need to invest in. I have been painting some outside decorations with plain acrylic paint and sealing with an outdoor sealer- hopefully the finish will be similar!

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      16 months ago from America's Finest City

      Let me know how your plant markers turn out! Thanks for reading my hub!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      These are beautiful and so creative! I loved your idea and I am going to follow your instructions to make my terrace garden more exciting.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      16 months ago from America's Finest City

      Heidi, Thanks for checking out my hub!

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      16 months ago from America's Finest City

      Delores, If you make some, please let me know how they came out!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      16 months ago from Chicago Area

      How cute! Sturdier that those stick plant markers, too.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      16 months ago from East Coast, United States

      I love these, they are so pretty. My flower garden gets one or two new perennials every year but by the next year, not only have I forgotten what I planted, but where I put the things I do remember. This has gone on for a long time, nothing to do with advancing stupidity. These painted stones would work so well!

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