Paint Pouring Rock Guide for Beginners

Updated on July 25, 2020
vocalcoach profile image

I'm hooked on this! Paint pouring can be done on canvas or on rocks. This easy, fun project makes a one-of-a-kind gift for others to enjoy.

The marbling method or paint pouring. This is the marbling effect using acrylic paints.
The marbling method or paint pouring. This is the marbling effect using acrylic paints. | Source

What Is Paint Pouring?

Acrylic paint pouring is an abstract art form that consists of pouring different colors of paint over rocks, canvas, or even wood. Since I use rocks, I will be teaching you the "dirty pour," which is layering different colors into a cup.

Paint pouring should be freeing and effortless. If you happen to make mistakes, you can always scrape the paint off and start again. I have done this and it's no big deal! The best part of paint pouring is you never know what you're going to get and the finished product turns out to be unique and beautiful.

Painting on a smooth non-porous surface is easier than a rough, pitted rock.
Painting on a smooth non-porous surface is easier than a rough, pitted rock. | Source

Supplies You'll Need for Your Rock Pour

  • Clean, smooth rocks. Home Depot offers these for $8 and it's a decent-sized bag. If you live near a river you're in luck! Always make sure it's legal to remove rocks. I wash mine with Dawn detergent and use a small scrub brush, then rinse and allow to dry.
  • Disposable baking pan and wire grill. I found my grill for a quarter at a second-hand store.
  • Wax paper for lining the baking pan to catch the paint drippings.
  • Small bathroom cups found at the Dollar Store.
  • Ice cream sticks are also at the Dollar Store.
  • A variety of acrylic paint. I use two different brands: Apple Barrel and Deco Art, available at Walmart or through Amazon.
  • Liquid gesso is an acrylic undercoat. It provides a light "tooth" for acrylic paint and is non-toxic.
  • A medium to mix with the paint. You'll want this for a smoother pour. Floetral is my choice for a pouring medium.
  • Paintbrushes. I like to have available a variety of sizes, which I find at Walmart.
  • A base for the rock. You can use anything from wide bottle caps to an upside-down egg carton. It just needs to be big enough to hold your rock above the surface area for paint runoff.
  • If you prefer to lacquer the finished dried rock, I like using Kryon.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You'll want a good supply of small plastic bathroom-size cups. Pour one paint color per cup.Prime with liquid gesso. Mix a medium with the paints for a smooth flow for pouring. Floetral is my choice for a pouring medium.My favorite brand of acrylic paint, Apple Barrel brand, is inexpensive and available in a wide array of colors.Make your painted rock shine. Be sure to shake the container a few times before applying the gloss finish.
You'll want a good supply of small plastic bathroom-size cups. Pour one paint color per cup.
You'll want a good supply of small plastic bathroom-size cups. Pour one paint color per cup. | Source
Prime with liquid gesso.
Prime with liquid gesso. | Source
Mix a medium with the paints for a smooth flow for pouring. Floetral is my choice for a pouring medium.
Mix a medium with the paints for a smooth flow for pouring. Floetral is my choice for a pouring medium. | Source
My favorite brand of acrylic paint, Apple Barrel brand, is inexpensive and available in a wide array of colors.
My favorite brand of acrylic paint, Apple Barrel brand, is inexpensive and available in a wide array of colors. | Source
Make your painted rock shine. Be sure to shake the container a few times before applying the gloss finish.
Make your painted rock shine. Be sure to shake the container a few times before applying the gloss finish. | Source

Step 1: Prime a Rock

Begin by priming a clean, smooth rock with gesso. Let it dry and apply another coat for adhesion. Allow to dry for a good 24 hours.

Step 2: Mix Paint With a Medium

Decide how many paint colors you want for your rock. I use white and pastel for the colors that go between the different layers of paint. These are called buffer colors. Select as many colors as you like. I have experimented with as few as 2 colors and as many as 8. This is where the fun begins.

Pour each color in its own cup and mix in the pouring medium using a craft stick. You'll only want to mix in enough medium to thin out the acrylic paint for pouring. You don't want it too thick, just enough for it to flow over the rock.

Basic Paint Pouring Recipe for Beginners

  1. Select paint colors that "pop" for a nice contrast.
  2. Mix 1 part acrylic paint (for example, 2 ounces) to 1 part medium (for example, 2 ounces of a medium) along with a little water (for example, about a tsp.).
  3. Stir well.
  4. Lift your stirring stick up to check. The paint should run off the stick like honey.

Suggested Color Combos for Paint Pouring

Vibrant color
Dark Color
2nd Vibrant (or Metallic) Color
Additional Color
Turquoise
Navy
White
Burgundy
Pink
Gold
White
Another shade of pink
Green
Gold
White
Yellow
Navy blue
White
Gold
Speck of red
Purple
Gold
White
Pink
Aqua blue
Copper
White
Gold
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Layering colors of paint.Include a bright color as you layer the paint.
Layering colors of paint.
Layering colors of paint. | Source
Include a bright color as you layer the paint.
Include a bright color as you layer the paint. | Source

Step 3: Prepare the Dirty Pour

Using a larger cup, start pouring the paint into small amounts, creating a layering effect with all the colors. Once all the paint is emptied in the “pour” cup, the magic begins!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here, I'm layering four colors and two buffer colors. DO DOT MIX the layered paint.With the dirty pour layerd its now ready for the paint pouring.onto the rock.
Here, I'm layering four colors and two buffer colors. DO DOT MIX the layered paint.
Here, I'm layering four colors and two buffer colors. DO DOT MIX the layered paint. | Source
With the dirty pour layerd its now ready for the paint pouring.onto the rock.
With the dirty pour layerd its now ready for the paint pouring.onto the rock. | Source

Step 4: Begin Pouring the Paint Over the Rock

Now the excitement begins. This is the beginning of your creation and it will be a one-of-a kind piece of art. Be sure you have your pan and grill ready to set your completed rocks on as you pour the paint.

Begin pouring the dirty pour from the large cup over the rock slowly, in any desired direction to cover the entire rock. I like to experiment with circles, a zigzag or two, swirls, and stripes.

To spread the paint, gently tilt the rock in different directions but don't go overboard.
To spread the paint, gently tilt the rock in different directions but don't go overboard. | Source

Step 5: Apply a Crystal Clear Gloss

Allow the rocks to dry overnight. If you prefer a high gloss, give them a light spray using short bursts and let them dry another 24 hours.

Safety Note: Spray the rocks outside where there is plenty of ventilation and wear a mask to prevent inhaling the fumes. Another thing to be aware of is insects, especially those that fly. They can get stuck in the gloss, causing damage or death to the insect.

The finished art rock. It only took a few minutes to complete this project.
The finished art rock. It only took a few minutes to complete this project. | Source

How I Turned a Negative Time Into a Positive Experience With Pour Painting

I had never painted anything in my life, except for trim on the house. And rocks were the last thing on my mind to paint. But sometimes life has a way of introducing us to a new path—a different direction so to speak. And two years ago this is exactly what happened.

A huge forest fire broke out here in our mountains, and my dog and I were evacuated. I had no place to go. Every hotel was filled with other evacuees and I was turned down by a "friend" because of my dog. But luckily a beautiful family came to my rescue and opened their hearts and home to us for three weeks. During this time, Libby invited me to paint river rocks with her, and I've been hooked ever since.

Flex Your Creative Muscle

With social distancing being the new normal, most of us are stuck at home and running out of things to do. It doesn't have to be this way. Use this extra time to flex your creative muscles and learn how to turn plain rocks into a unique, beautiful work of art while creating a positive outlet.

Rock painting provides a peaceful outlet. The author gives a "thumbs up" during the Covid-19 crisis as she uses this time to discover creativity.
Rock painting provides a peaceful outlet. The author gives a "thumbs up" during the Covid-19 crisis as she uses this time to discover creativity. | Source

© 2020 Audrey Hunt

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    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      10 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Nithya

      I do hope you give this a try. It's so much fun and easy to do. Glad you like the look of my rocks.

      Thanks so much.

      Sp Greaney

      How nice to read your comments. And your idea of using painted rocks for a paperweight is great!

      Thank you

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 

      10 days ago from Ireland

      This is such a brilliant idea. Your designs came out really good. Great idea for paper weights.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      10 days ago from Dubai

      The rocks look amazing with vibrant colors. I would definitely love to do this, thank you for sharing this beautiful art form.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      13 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Rajan

      I find Rock art to be therapeutic. It brings me peace as well as a feeling of fulfillment.

      Thanks so much for your kind comments. I'm glad you liked this tutorial.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      13 days ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      These rocks have literally come to life. Great creative idea. Thanks for the How-to!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      13 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Chris

      Rock art is keeping me sane these days. For the first time in my very long life, I'm feeling a little on the lonely side. I'm sure plenty of others experience the same with our world turned upside down.

      Thanks so much for being here.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      2 weeks ago from Traverse City, MI

      This looks fun. Thanks for the complete guide for how to do it.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hina Moin

      Thank you for your very kind comments. I'm glad you like my art. Be safe now.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Genna

      This is so much fun. I'm not a pro at rock painting - especially the pouring method as the paint does all the work. I think you would enjoy this. It's a creative way to spend some time and so relaxing.

      Sty safe, my friend. Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      Hina Moin 

      2 weeks ago

      Your work and your words are very inspiring.

      May You stay safe and do more art.Ameen

      Hina

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Linda

      I'm still quite surprised with how much I enjoy this new hobby. It's especially fulfilling during this isolated time. Thanks, so much

      Ruby

      How lucky you are! It appears that rock painting is exactly what you should try. You tube offers a wide selection of videos...some good and others are just plain boring. So, have fun, my friend and stay healthy.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Thank you for taking the time to read about paint pouring for rocks. This hobby is becoming very popular and is relaxing for the mind. I'm glad to see you here.

      Please stay safe and blessings to you

      Shauna

      Thanks. I haven't displayed them at all yet. Some of the local artisan shops are interested and I may look into this. Many of the rocks I paint end up hidden for others to find and hopefully they brighten up someones day.

      Be safe, my friend.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi FlourishAnyway

      How lucky you are to have a river close by! Here's a link to painting on wood which might help you with the bench project.https://youtu.be/7kM58H_5KFM Let me know if you try it and how it works out.

      Thanks

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Peggy

      Thanks so much for pinning my article to your craft board. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this and I'm working on another article about different ways to use these rocks after they are painted.

      Take care and stay healthy.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Linda

      Thanks for the suggestion on how to use these painted rocks. I will start on this right away. I appreciate your idea. Kool!

      Stay safe, my friend.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Bill,

      When stressful thoughts begin to take up space, in my otherwise positive mind, I grab my paints and let the creative process begin. Thanks, my friend, for your visit.

      Love ya

      Audrey

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      2 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I just loved this. The marbling effect with using acrylics in your photos is beautiful! I've never heard of paint pouring before. Thanks so much for the step-by-step guide. I can't wait to try this. Hope you are staying well and safe, Audrey. :-)

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Linsey

      I like your idea of hiding the rocks along the beach, I do this in our local mountains. Eac rock has a message printed on one side. Let me know how it goes and thanks.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Eric

      So, your boy paints rocks. Awesome! I think he will enjoy this technique. Thanks, Eric and stay well.

      Pamela

      How sweet of the little girl to paint a rock for you. Rock painting has been growing since the lockdown. I've been doing this for over a year and never tire of it. So relaxing.

      Thank you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

      The rocks, when finished are beautiful! I have all the paint and containers. The woman we bought the house from painted rocks and she left a supply in the storage room. I now, have nil excuse for not taking up this hobby, and I have the time with this lockdown. Thanks for all the pictures and instructions. Take care and keep on wearing that mask. ( I loved your picture )

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The rocks look beautiful, Audrey! Paint pouring sounds like a very enjoyable hobby. Thank you for sharing the instructions.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Audrey, your rocks are gorgeous! Where do you display them?

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Audrey paint pouring sounds delicate and you explained so well. A hobby that many won't find interesting as I do and takes for a walk as well. Beautiful ideas and from one of my best writers.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      I absolutely love this! I may have to go down near the river and collect a few. What a terrific hobby. I wish I could figure out how to do this to my garden bench.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      This article is excellent! I was waiting to see how you accomplished doing this rock painting by pouring the paints over them. I cannot wait to give this a try! I'll be pinning this to my crafts board.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, what an imaginative and creative hobby, and it sounds like the most expensive part is the paint. The rocks (if you're lucky) are free and the other supplies can be picked up at the Dollar Tree or garage sales. Now, please give us some ideas for how to use these. I'm interested.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      That's kind of cool, actually. I fear I would make one hell of a mess, but I like the end results. Cool pastime, my friend.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      This is really a great hobby. The rocks you painted are so pretty. The little girl across the street gave me a rock after I had been sick. I think she may have pained it in school. I guess painting rocks must be a new hobby for many people. I would enjoy this and I appreciate you very detailed instructions.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful and fun and very doable. You sure wrote this well. I have 5 birthday rocks painted by my boy. This will be a fun next step up. Thanks.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Hart 

      3 weeks ago from Lanarkshire

      This looks so good! These would be amazing hidden on a beach for people to find! I may have to go rock hunting this weekend. Thank you for sharing.

    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      3 weeks ago from Maryland, United States of America

      This looks amazing.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      John

      You are so lucky to have rocks available to you. I wish I were your neighbor. I hope you try the paint pouring. It's addicting. Let me know how your rocks turn out if you decide to try this.

      Thanks, John

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a very interesting art form. We have rocks galore in our garden that clean up really well so I may give this a try. Thank you for sharing, Audrey.

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