Want to learn how to start rock painting but have no idea where to begin?
I’ve got you covered!
Rock painting is one of the easiest crafts and hobbies to start (even if you have no prior painting experience). It’s also a versatile craft that can not only be done by all ages but enjoyed by all ages (a rare find). Kids, teens, adults, and seniors can all enjoy painting rocks!
For this tutorial, I painted my rocks alongside my school-aged kids.
As a mom, it was nice to partake and find my own creative expression in an activity that kids find as much joy in too!
In the following in-depth tutorial, I’ll leave no stone unturned ! I kid you not!
I’ll cover the basics including how to clean your rocks, what paint to use on rocks, 15+ ideas both for adults and for kids, and finally how to seal your rocks so that they are weatherproof ( so you can add them to your garden, hide in your neighborhood, etc..)
Once you’re done reading this, you’ll know what tools you’ll need and also get some fun ideas to start your rock paining hobby!
Lets get started!
How do you prepare rocks for painting?
A common question people have when starting out is how to clean and prepare rocks for painting.
To make sure your paint adheres properly to the rock you want to make sure it is free of dirt and oils.
Then lay them flat to dry on some newspaper.
Tips to find the perfect rock
Here are some quick tips on how to find rocks for rock painting:
- Look for rocks that are smooth- they will be easier to paint
- Nifty shapes or shapes that inspire you with an idea (I.e. a rock that looks like a mountain, heart, etc..)
- Look for bigger sized rocks for quotes and words.
- River rock (rocks that wash up on the shores of a river) are a great option as they are naturally smooth
- If you don’t have access to rocks, check out your local Dollarstore decor section, they usually have smooth decorative pebbles.
Rock Painting Supplies
The beauty with rock painting is you need very few supplies. All you generally need is paint and a paintbrush!
However, with the recent huge popularity in rock painting, some art brands have created paint supplies specifically made for rock painting. I’ll list the most popular ones that rock painting connoisseurs use, as well as some cheaper options.
Rock Painting Pens
Rock painting pens are pens that have paint loaded in them , which allows for more precision on smaller projects such as rocks! These are some popular paint pens which are also safe for kids to use.
It’s also a less messy option than paints. No setup and no cleanup of brushes, palettes are required. Just grab your paint pens and start doodling, designing, and painting away.
Best Paints for Rock Painting
If you don’t want to invest in paint pens, or you want more diverse color/pigment options, there is another alternative. Simple craft paints!
You might be wondering what kind of paint do you use on rocks?
Any acrylic (water-based) craft paint will work for rock painting. The acrylic paint you use for painting on canvas (think Paint-Night paints) will do – no need to get any special formulations for rocks/pebbles!
For the projects below, my family and I used a mix of Dollarstore acrylic craft paints and my favorite Liquitex paints from a set.
I find the higher quality paints like Liquitex, provide better color and coverage with fewer layers needed. This is because higher quality paints have more pigment in them (hence them costing a bit more). The cheaper brands will work too, you just might not get as vibrant colors or many layers will be needed to get the effect you want.
Acrylic paints are water based, but once they are dry they are resistant to water (unlike watercolour paint that reactivate once water touches it).
So you might be thinking now: does acrylic paint wash off rocks?
No, it does not wash off. The paint adheres to the porous rocks and then once the paint is dry, it turns into a plastic-like hard consistency. If the paint is still wet then, you can wash it off with some water and soap.
This is great news for rock painters! But remember the same applies to other materials like your clothes. Once the paint is dry, then it is a huge pain in the butt to remove- so make sure you don’t wear your fave shirt while working with acrylics!
On that note, if you plan to keep your rocks inside, then you won’t even need to seal them since the paint doesn’t wash off.
But if you plan to keep them in your garden or around your neighborhood as kindness rocks, then you should probably seal them after the paint is dry, to make sure it’s weatherproof.
I’ll go into detail about how to seal your rocks further down.
Rock Painting Paintbrushes + Tools
If you are using acrylic paints to paint your rocks, then any synthetic small sized paintbrushes will work. You probably want to have a variety in size, I.e. one larger paintbrush to cover a rocks surface or to paint the background, and medium and finer tip brushes to paint on small details.
This brush set is inexpensive and has a variety of sizes that would work well for rock painting.
If you want to get some very fine detailing brushes (think mandala art, writing quotes, words, etc.) then a brush set like this would be your best bet.
If you’re exclusively painting Mandala’s, then there are some innovative new tools you can buy to help get those tiny perfect dots without too much stress.
I have personally tried to create tiny uniform dots with my paintbrushes on rocks and I found it a bit challenging. I think tools like the ones below would really help and make the process more enjoyable.
Here’s a Mandala rock painting toolset on Amazon.
Rock Painting Kit
If you want an all in one kit, that includes rocks, waterproof paint, paintbrushes, and sticker transfers then you can look online for some inexpensive ones like this one. The kits also include instructions on how to hide rocks and even provides them with code kids can add to the backside of their rocks to track them. Nifty!
How to Paint on Rocks for Outdoors
If you are planning to keep your rocks outside, then you might be wondering how to waterproof painted rocks ?
Whether you’re painting rocks for your garden or around your neighborhood for the kindness rock project (see below), you will want to seal your painted design with an appropriate sealer or clear coat. This will make sure your design doesn’t fade and can resist moisture.
I’ll give you some options (and hacks) below on which sealers work the best.
How do you seal painted rocks?
If you are keeping your rocks indoors, you don’ need to seal them. But if you want to put your gorgeous rock creations on display outside, then sealing them would ensure that the paint doesn’t chip, yellow/ fade (with the sun’s bleaching qualities), and is resistant to the elements.
There are many options you can use to seal your rocks. Below I’ll go over a few.
You can use the same type of clear coat artists use to protect their paintings agains UV and moisture. This Krylon Clear Coating Aerosol can be used to coat your rocks and it dries in minutes!
Another option (if you’re like me, you have this stuff in your craft drawers and can’t find enough uses for it!) is Modge Podge! There is Modge Podge Outdoors sealer (made specifically for outdoors) and also a Modge Podge Dishwasher safe sealer. Either would work to seal your rocks for the outdoors.
Paint Sealing Hack
Another option is more of a hack. If you know me, you know that I love to find nifty ways to get a project done- both to save money and to reuse what we have at home! And most of us probably have this item in our bathroom drawers right now!
What is it?
Clear nail polish! Yup, you use it to seal your painted nails- so why not use it to seal your painted rocks?!?
I wanted to test it out, so I used it a few of my rocks below and it works brilliantly! Plus it made the colors pop even more with a glossy sheen.
Clear nail polish as a sealer wins my check of approval!
Just a warning, if you’re painting huge rocks or many of them you’re gonna need a lot of clear nail polish. But if you only one or two smaller pieces you need to coat, this is a great little hack!
Kindness Rock Project
What is the Kindness Rock Project?
The Kindness Rock Projects’ idea is fun and simple. Paint some rocks, any design will do- whether its a bright design, a quote, a kind word, etc. Then you hide them around your neighborhood (or anywhere really), usually in plain sight though so people can actually find them.
Those who find the rocks can stop and enjoy and some even take pictures/selfies and post it on their local Facebook groups with a hint of where the rock is located, so that others in the area can go on a scavenger hunt to find them!
You can read more about it here.
While some people like to share on social media this part is optional of course, the basic premise is creating a kinder world.
This project inspired my family to paint some rocks and place them around our neighborhood. It was a positive and enjoyable activity for the kids (and adults) to do while stuck indoors this Spring. And it empowered us to feel like we were potentially putting a smile on someone’s face.
Rock Painting Ideas – Things to Paint on Rocks
The ideas below were from my first attempt at rock painting. I got many of these ideas from searching on Pinterest and adapted them a bit with the colors I had on hand.
Hope these ideas further inspire you.
There is a mix of some simple and easy designs- suited for kids and teens along with some medium-easy designs suited for teens and adults. I’m also including some fun & easy kid-friendly rock painting ideas that my daughter painted along with me.
Many of the rocks I painted below are inspirational ideas that include uplifting quotes, sayings, words, and thoughts. I find these especially helpful during challenging times to be used in the kindness rock projects.
One of the most popular ideas many people do is painting a gorgeous monarch butterfly on their rocks. Check out this how to paint a butterfly tutorial to learn how!
Here are some more ideas:
1. Painted Lavender Flowers on a Rock
Love flowers? And want something surprisingly easy to paint? Paint some relaxing and soothing purple lavender flowers using basic paints and q-tips! Check out my full lavender flower tutorial on how to make this easy design!
2. Hope Rock
Another easy rock painting idea that’s also inspirational – is to use a simple word, like “Hope” and paint it along with a bright polka dot background. I used turquoise paint for the background and used q-tips to dab on the yellow polkadots. The “Hope” word was painted on with black paint. And finally sealed with clear nail polish!
3. Hang in There Quote
If you’re a macrame-hanging, indoor-plant enthusiast (yes, join the club!), you’re gonna love this punny but inspiring design. I squealed with delight when I found this design on Pinterest!
To paint it, I used white acrylic craft paint for the background and traced my plant hanging basket with a pencil then outlined it with black paint and filled in the leaves with green acrylic paint.
I wrote “Hand in there” with black acrylic paint and a fine-tipped paintbrush.
4. Faith Can Move Mountains Rock Design
Another inspirational rock painting idea!
This design was one of my favorites. I found this perfect mountain-shaped rock and knew I wanted to paint a mountain-inspired rock with it! Found some inspiration and ideas on Pinterest and was excited to transform my rock!
To paint this rock, I used black paint mixed in with some white to make a charcoal grey color for the background of the mountain. I painted the snow with white. The daisy flowers were made by dabbing my white and yellow paint with the back of my paintbrush to make perfect little circles (you can also use a q-tip).
a light sky blue (white mixed with a tiny amount of blue), was used to paint on the “Faith can move Mountains” quote.
5. Inhale Courage, Exhale Fear Rock Quote
Use your rock as a blank canvas for your favorite inspiring quote or mantra! You can use it as a daily reminder of what vibe you want to feel.
I found this quote “inhale courage, exhale fear”, so important to remind ourselves, especially during times where anxiety might get the better of us.
To paint this rock I painted the background with yellow. The quote was written with a black paint pen, and the flower vine was painted using a q-tip dipped in some purple and red paints. The q-tips make it easy to create small dots (for the flower petals and center).
6. Today I will Shine Rock Art Quote
This design is very easy to create. The sun is among the very first forms we draw as children, so I think we all inherently enjoy(and find it easy) to draw the sun, even as adults.
There is something very inspiring, energetic, and powerful about the sun. Pair it with a powerful quote and you got yourself an easy motivational rock and daily reminder.
Inspirational rocks rock!
7. Easy Painted Rock Rainbow
Rainbows are always a joy to paint and color. Pair it with a happy cloud and this rock painting would make even Bob Ross proud! Found this idea on Pinterest and was inspired to recreate this happy piece!
8. Easy Rock Painting ideas for Kids
My 8 year old was super excited to paint rocks. She has seen friendship and kindness rocks being used in her classroom, so she couldn’t wait to make her own batch to spread around our neighbourhood!
She went with the inspirational theme and added words of kindness and positivity to hers. Her fave was the rainbow “Be you” rock.
She used simple acrylic craft paints, a paintbrush, and used a black paint pen to write her words on at the end.
9. Nurse/Doctor/Essential Workers Thank You Rocks #1
We wanted a way to say thank you to all our healthcare and essential heros, and thought painting rocks and placing them in our neighborhood was a way we could show our gratitude.
This design is super easy to paint. Paint the background white. I then traced the design on with a pencil until I was happy with it. Then I use a fine-tipped paintbrush to paint on the heart/stethoscope, and the words.
10. Nurse/Doctor/Essential Workers Thank You Rocks #2
Here is another thank you design for nurses/doctors and medical workers.
I used a blue which I mixed in with some white to make the medical “scrub” color. I used a fine-tipped paintbrush and then painted on the details and words.
11. Nurse/Doctor/Essential Workers Thank You Rocks #3
I found a rock that looked face shaped and I thought I could use it to paint a doctor/nurse/medical worker as a part of my medical worker thank you series.
As above, I used a fine tipped brush to paint on the design. I made the pink cheeks perfectly round by using a simple Q-tip (it works amazing at creating uniform round shapes)
What can you do with your painted finished rocks?
If you are looking for ideas on what to do with your painted rocks or your kids painted rocks after they are done, here are some tips and ideas to get you started:
- Hide them around your community as a part of the Kindness Rock Project (see above for details)
- Add them to your garden for a splash of color
- Add them to your seasonal decor
- Gift them as a birthday, mothers day, fathers day, Christmas presents
- Frame them in a shadow box
- Create magnets out of them
- Use them as desk decor or a paperweight
- Sell your rocks online (adults)
- Fundraiser idea
- Kids sell rocks alongside a lemonade stand (kids)
- Classroom craft project
- Rainy day craft at home
- Smooth Rock
- Acrylic craft paint (or paint pens) colors: Red, white, black, yellow, green, blue, purple, silver
- medium and fine-tipped paintbrush
- Wash and dry your rock before painting (see article above for instructions)
- Paint the cloud first with white paint then fill it in.
- Next using your medium paintbrush paint the top of your rainbow with red paint, followed by orange (just mix some yellow with the red to get a nice orange)
- Follow up the orange with yellow, green, blue and purple beams
- Use your fine-tipped brush to paint on the cloud face using black paint. Use silver paint to outline the cloud . To paint the pink cheeks use a Q-tip into your pink color (pink color= white+tiny amount of red)
- Finally, using your fine-tipped paintbrush or paint pens to draw on the letters for your favorite quote
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SC Johnson 623181 Q-Tip Cotton Swab, Standard, White (Pack of 500)
Soucolor Acrylic Paint Brushes Set, 20Pcs Artist Paintbrushes Paint Brushes for Acrylic Oil Watercolor, Body Face Painting, Rock Painting Kit, Fine Detail Miniature, Beginner/Kids Arts Crafts Supplies
Acrylic Paint Pens for Rocks Painting, Ceramic, Glass, Wood, Fabric, Canvas, Mugs, DIY Craft Making Supplies, Scrapbooking Craft, Card Making. Acrylic Paint Marker Pens Set of 12 Colors
Liquitex BASICS 24 Tube Acrylic Paint Set, 22ml
Hope you enjoyed this rock painting 101 post, and have fun finding and painting your very own rock!
Here are some more pictures of the painted rocks above for you to enjoy: