Have you ever seen cute little painted rocks in your travels? From healing stones, to refrigerator magnets to paper weights to table-top or shelf decorations, these painted rocks serve a purpose and have become more popular in recent years.
You may have thought it must be tricky or difficult to paint rocks and have always wondered how they do it. I know I did!
This post will help you learn how to paint on rocks, and it’s not as hard as you think. I will address painting on small rocks only.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
What is Rock Painting
Simply put, rock painting refers to painting designs, messages or pictures on rock or stone surfaces.
Many designs have been seen on rocks sold at craft fairs and practically anywhere. Here’s one from my Etsy Shop.
It’s a super fun pastime for kids and adults alike and doesn’t require a ton of materials. And designs can range from simple to very intricate. You’re the artist so you can paint whatever you want.
And moms and dads, you’re gonna love this, it’s not very messy either! 🙂
- Smaller rocks or stones (no bigger than a paper weight)
- acrylic paints or markers
- brushes (if you use paint)
- container of water to rinse brushes
- paper plate for a palette
- acrylic sealer
Type and Size of Rock
You will want a size ranging from smaller to larger rocks. For me, I enjoy painting small and like to complete my rock in a
To that end, I choose rocks in sizes ranging from refrigerator magnets to paper weights. In fact, those are exactly the uses of painted rocks I sell—refrigerator magnets and paper weights. (Here is my Etsy page with my refrigerator magnets you can check out.)
If you enjoy the “worry stones”, then I would choose smaller stones that easily fit into your pocket.
You really can paint on just about any type of rock, smooth or rough. However, smoother rocks are easier to paint on—especially if you are using acrylic markers.
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Where to Get Your Rocks
Unless you live on a beach or lakefront, you’ll need to purchase rocks for painting. Some I checked out were not a great value, only offering a smaller number of pieces.
But then I came across Lifetop rocks. They are a super great value with 120 pieces of varying sizes for the same price others offered with only 12 or 24 pieces.
Furthermore, these rocks’ surfaces are smooth and flat, making painting on them a delight. Check out Lifetop rocks here.
Type of Paint Needed
In full disclosure, I was a newbie at rock painting just a year ago. I got the idea to paint rocks by just having seen them around. This gave me the inspiration to explore rock painting.
Through an internet search, I learned that acrylic paint was fine to use on rocks and did a search on Amazon. I liked the idea of the markers, so I bought myself a set of acrylic markers that were made for painting rocks.
My first set was Asani Paint Pens Acrylic Markers (Click here to check out). They were great for me just starting out and had enough quantity—12 colors in the set—to get creative with. In addition, they are the size of a pen and with a fine point, allowing for fine lines and details.
However, I painted so many rocks that I soon needed more markers and colors. And at times, I needed a broader point.
Therefore, I went with Emooqi Paint Marker Pens in the 24 pack.
They really gave me more versatility with color but also easier coverage with the larger tip. Click here to check out Emooqi acrylic marker pens.
After a while, the markers just weren’t enough as my creativity expanded. I branched out into adding acrylic paint from a bottle as well. Painting with a brush allows me to more efficiently cover larger background areas or to grab a color I don’t have in the marker sets.
It works just as well as the markers, if not better sometimes as you can obviously apply the paint more thickly and don’t have to paint as many layers, saving time and effort.
I recommend one specifically made for rocks, such as Caliart’s Acrylic Paint Set, Click here. The paints are artist quality but are perfectly fine for beginners, too.
These water-based paints are non-toxic, apply smoothly, and dry very quickly so your wait time is at a minimum. In addition, the paints are highly-pigmented producing rich color and do not fade over time.
By the way, you do not need a fancy palette to mix your paints on. A simple paper plate will do just fine, and frequently, that is what I use.
Technically you can use any brush for acrylic painting. However, synthetic brushes are best and more durable for acrylic paints. Further, they can sit in water without damage, unlike their natural hair counterpart.
For painting rocks? I recommend synthetic—they work just fine. (I would not use hog hair brushes for rock painting, though. They just don’t work very well on rocks.)
You will certainly want a variety of sizes and shapes for your brushes. My personal favorite is the round brush—it is so versatile. I have them myself in a variety of sizes: 3-14 in the Grumbacher brand. And I love the beautiful results on rocks!
If you enjoy and/or desire to have a mixture of brush types, e.g. roud, flat, filbert, fan, etc., I found this set to have just about every kind you’ll need: Benicci Paint Brush Set.
This comes in a set of 12, works with different mediums (if you ever want to try oil or watercolor), is durable and won’t shed. Furthermore—you’re gonna love this—it and has a money-back guarantee at a super affordable price, too! Click here to check out the Benicci Brush Set.
You will definitely want to apply a good sealer to your rocks to lock in your show-stopping designs! I know some recommend Mod Podge. If you love Mod-Podge, click on this link: Mod Podge offers both matte and gloss finish.
I haven’t personally tried Mod Podge for rocks and instead use a spray finish. I have both gloss and matte sprays. The brand I use is Aleen’s Acrylic Sealer and have used both the Matte and Gloss Spray. Both spray on smoothly with no issues and will nicely protect your artwork. Check out Aleen’s here.
You will want to spray your rocks in a well-ventilated area because, not gonna lie—this is a downside—it’s fumey.
I actually spray outdoors—being careful to note which way the wind’s blowing, of course! I don’t know about you, but I cannot stand the thought of breathing that stuff in. UGH!
Wanna laugh? I actually hold my breath, spray and quickly run back indoors before taking another breath 🙂
In summary, though, I still like this sealer. It really covers well and protects my work. (I can always catch my breath after I run inside lol!)
Steps for Painting the Rocks
The actual painting of the rocks is a very simple process. Here I have broken it down for you into four easy steps.
1. Creating the Design
Whatever design you would like to paint on the rocks, I recommend working out the details on paper first. Better to erase and redraw on paper to get it the way you’d like first, am I right?
You can even use colored pencils on paper to work out your color palette to be sure you like your choices.
2. Draw on Your Rock.
Once you’re happy, you can then draw it on your rock in ordinary pencil. If you need to erase on the rock, you still can, though.
Get all your colors and away you go! Begin with your first layer (either in marker or paint). With marker, you will only be able to layer to mix colors.
However, with paint, you can mix colors on your palette or on the rock. With either marker or paint, be sure to let the layers dry in between.
Acrylics do dry very fast so wait time won’t be long.
For great coverage, you will want to do many layers as the rock does tend to soak up the pigment.
When you are satisfied with your design and it is completely dry, you can spray it.
To spray it, (I do it outside as I mentioned earlier), you will want to spray in a sweeping motion back and forth left to right, starting off the rock and ending off the rock. Probably three sweeps is all you need.
Let dry for 10-15 minutes in between. Aleen’s dries very fast but I still wait it out anyway. Then repeat the spraying two additional times.
If you’re brushing on your sealer, make sure your design is completely dry—I would let dry overnight—then brush on the sealer. I learned the hard way that you can ruin your design as the sealing brush may pull your design if it’s not dry!
Depending how thickly you applied it, you may or may not want additional layers. You can decide on that.
And that’s all there is to it!
Hopefully, I’ve taken away the mystery about how to paint on rocks. It really is actually fairly simple, and it’s a fun and creative endeavor for beginners to professional artists. Furthermore, it’s a nice break from painting on traditional surfaces such as paper or canvas, for a change.
In addition, painted rocks are very popular right now as well. Why don’t you give it a try and let us know how you did? I welcome any and all comments, and your email will never be shared.
Note: As I mentioned previously, I have an Etsy shop with many rocks I’ve done if you’d like to take a look either for inspiration or for the perfect gift (even if it’s for yourself!)
Thanks for reading.
Have an artful day!