How to Paint Ladybug Rocks
A Craft for Children and Beginners Alike
Making ladybug rocks is a great project to add a little color to your garden or potted plants. They make nice gifts for just about anyone as well. You don't need much to get started, and if you're a crafty individual, you'll probably have most of the materials laying around your home.
Let's Get Our Rock Painting Supplies Together
There are only a few things that you'll need to get on your way to painting your very own ladybug rocks. See a bulleted list with detailed descriptions below.
- Water Jar or Brush Basin
- Paintbrushes and Pencils
- Rocks and Stones
- Spray Bottle (Optional)
Water Jar or Brush Basin
You will need a brush basin. You can also use an old pint jar, just be sure not to leave your brushes standing in it all day. If you leave your brushes standing on their bristles, it will give them a permanent kink. If you are going to be painting often, you might want to pick up a brush basin that has ridges and a brush rest to efficiently clean and soak your brushes.
Paintbrushes and Pencils
You will only need two paintbrushes: a fine liner or detail brush (I use a #2 liner) and a small synthetic flat brush. I used a #10 craft brush, but you can use a smaller one, especially if your stones are really small. You should use a bigger brush for bigger rocks to finish painting faster. You will also need the eraser side of a pencil to embellish your ladybug with dots.
If your ladybugs will live indoors, any acrylic craft paint will work fine. However, if you are going to put them outside or in bright sunlight, you will want to use either Folk Art's Outdoor Paint or Deco Art's Patio Paint. Both of these brands are specially made for outdoor use. They contain UV inhibitors and sealers to minimize fading and weathering.
For painting traditional-looking ladybugs, you will only need four colors:
Of course, you can always use orange, hot pink, magenta, or any other color that you like to create a truly unique ladybug.
You will need something to put your paint on. An old china or plastic plate will work if you wash it off when you are finished. Any bit of plastic you want to recycle from the kitchen, like the lid to the cottage cheese container, will work too. If at any point the paint dries hard, just put fresh paint on top and keep going.
How to Save Paint for Later
If you want to save your paint for later, you could put your palette in a plastic airtight container or a Ziploc bag with a wet paper towel to keep the paint wet for several days.
Rocks and Stones
You can make your ladybugs any size you want. I usually use a variety of rock sizes. Small, oval stones are great but slightly different shapes work just fine. You can usually find small, smooth stones along the banks of a river or creek. You can also buy them at some garden and landscaping centers.
Note: Wash your rocks well and let them dry before starting the project.
Spray Bottle (Optional)
If you live where the air is very dry, a small spray bottle that will give a fine mist comes in handy during long painting sessions. Just lightly mist the paint occasionally to keep it from drying out too quickly.
DIY Ladybug Rocks in 6 Easy Steps
- Outline the head with a pencil.
- Apply the first coat: yellow.
- Apply the second coat: red.
- Add the head and wing details.
- Embellish the rock with black spots.
- Give that bug a personality.
1. Outline the Head With a Pencil
If you do not have a dedicated work surface, use some newspaper or a plastic tablecloth to protect your furniture. Wear old clothes, a painting smock, or an apron, so you don't get paint on your good clothes. Once dry, acrylic paint is hard to get out of most anything.
With your pencil, draw an oval at one end of your rock. Go from the bottom of the stone all the way across the top and back to the bottom on the other side. This will be your ladybug's head. On the top side of the rock, the oval should be about one-third the length of your stone.
2. Apply the First Coat: Yellow
Pour a small amount of bright yellow paint onto your plate. Using your small flat brush, coat the two-thirds of your rock that is the ladybug's body. You don't have to paint the bottom, but do make sure you paint around the sides so that no unpainted area shows when it is sitting naturally. Don't worry about getting a super even coat of yellow paint. This coat is only meant to help the red coat pop. If you don't have yellow, you can use white.
Note: This first coat of paint won't go on as smooth as the next one.
Most bottled craft acrylics will have just the right creamy consistency. You should not have to thin the paint. If you are using tube acrylics and they are very thick, you might have to thin them with a little water or acrylic painting medium.
Tips for Success
- Don't aim for perfection: In the photo above, the ladybug on the right is upside down with its head towards the camera. As you can see, I'm not that neat about this coat of paint and I rarely paint the bottoms of my rocks.
- The pencil line is meant as a guide: Don't stress about your pencil line; just paint right up to it or slightly over it. You can even things out when you paint the head black.
- Take Care of Your Brushes: If you are using a water basin with a brush rest, you can just put your brush there while this coat of paint dries. If using a jar, you should wash your brush so it's not standing in the jar on its bristles for a long time. Always keep your brush in water when you are not painting. If the paint dries up in the bristles, it will ruin your brush.
- Don't (accidentally) dilute the paint: Wipe the excess water out of the bristles when you are ready to paint again so you don't dilute the paint.
3. Apply the Second Coat: Red
How long it takes for the paint to dry depends on a lot of factors, such as how thick you painted, how much water is in the paint, the brand of paint, and how dry the air is. When the yellow paint is dry, go over the same area with your red paint. Since I paint a lot of ladybugs for sale, I do vary the colors a little. For instance, in the photo above, I used (from left to right) red, magenta, and orange with a little magenta mixed in.
4. Add the Head and Wing Details
When the red paint has dried, paint your ladybug's head black. This is your opportunity to refine the shape of the head. Once you have finished, it's time to paint a line down your ladybug rock's back to emulate where its wings divide.
How to Paint Fine Lines
When painting fine lines, set your pinky finger down on your work surface to support your hand and only allow the tips of your bristles to touch the surface. Keep your brush straight up and down and move your whole hand while drawing your line. This will help you keep it straight. You might want to practice on paper a little first.
Steps to the Perfect Pair of Wings
- First, dip your liner brush in water and go to the edge of your puddle of black paint.
- With a circular motion, start drawing some paint out of the puddle and mixing it with the water in your brush. You will probably have to go and get more water several times. You want to make a little puddle of paint that is inky or just a little thicker than water.
- When it seems to have the right consistency, stroke the brush through the paint and draw it out to the side while you roll the brush handle between your fingers. This helps draw the bristles down to a fine point.
5. Embellish the Rock With Black Spots
When the black paint has dried, it's time to put the spots on your ladybug's back. I usually use an odd number like 3 or 5 on each side depending on how big the stone is. To start dotting:
- Take a new pencil and dip the eraser straight down into the black paint and dot your dots. You will probably need to dip it again between each dot to keep them all the same size.
- Be sure to wash the paint off the brush handle or eraser when you are done.
Note: When making a really tiny ladybug, use the end of a small paintbrush handle to make really small spots.
6. Give That Bug a Personality
When the black spots are dry, dip your eraser into white paint and give your ladybug two eyes.
I use the end of a brush handle to add a small black dot to the eyes. Where you position the eyes will help give your ladybug an expression. Use your liner brush and thin out some of your white paint like you did the black and give your ladybug some more personality. I often add eyebrows, a mouth, and maybe some long eyelashes. With the batch pictured, I gave one a handlebar mustache. I try to make each one unique.
The Book That Started It All!
Lin Wellford's book, "Painting Animals on Rocks," was a book that I first found at the library. This is the book that kicked off my fascination with rock painting. Lin gives simple and easy-to-understand instructions for each project with extra photographs of similar animals to inspire you. If you like painting ladybugs, I think you will also enjoy painting other animals on stone, and Lin's book will certainly help you along.
Thanks for reading, and I hope your finished product came out just as you envisioned. Let me know if there is another rock painting tutorial you would like!
Questions & Answers
How do I paint houses, gardens, and/or landscaping on rocks?
Check your local library or Amazon for rock painting books by Lin Wellford. She gives very simple and easy to follow instructions for all of those subjects.Helpful 11