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How to Paint Rocks

Updated on October 4, 2016
theraggededge profile image

I've been 'creating' since I was a child. Painting rocks is just one of my hobbies, which include watercolor painting, sewing & crochet.

The first cat rock I ever painted. He looks a tad irritable!
The first cat rock I ever painted. He looks a tad irritable! | Source

Why Paint Rocks & Pebbles?

Why not? Turning rocks into 3-dimensional art is lots of fun and can be very rewarding. Small children love to transform pebbles into bugs and imaginary monsters. More advanced artists are able to produce the most wonderful life-like animals that look very realistic.

Painted rocks make great gifts, especially if you develop the skill to create a good likeness of a pet. Alternatively, you can paint houses, flowers, snakes or insects. Ladybugs are perfect subjects for painting on rocks and make a lovely project for children.

You don't need too many supplies to paint rocks either - read on to see just how easy and fun it is to paint stones, rocks and pebbles.

Rock Cottage
Rock Cottage | Source

What Kind of Rocks Are Suitable for Painting?

It depends what you have in mind to paint. I find that animals are better on smooth oval pebbles but angular, rougher rocks are good for houses and cottages. Small pebbles are best for young children to paint. You can find rocks at the beach, in a river and even in your yard. Give them a good scrub to get rid of any algae and dirt.

Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls.
Pebbles that have broken in half are perfect for owls. | Source

What Materials Do I Need to Paint Rocks?

  • A selection of clean rocks.
  • An HB pencil.
  • Acrylic paint in a range of colors – craft or hobby paint is fine, you don't need anything too expensive.
  • Brushes – nothing fancy, but you will need some fine ones if you intend painting fur and whiskers. Synthetic is best.
  • Wood filler – optional. Useful for filling holes and cracks, and also for modelling chimneys and other architectural features.
  • A plate - to rest the rock on while you paint. It's easy to turn the rock without touching it.
  • Spray sealer or varnish.
  • It's also a good idea to have some reference photos of your subject.

Under Painting

Under painting Labrador Retriever's coat
Under painting Labrador Retriever's coat | Source
Another Labrador-in-progress
Another Labrador-in-progress | Source
Finished doggy
Finished doggy | Source

Painting a Rock Animal

Step One. Draw a pencil outline of your subject on to the rock. This part is crucial, so if you are painting an animal; ensure the features all line up correctly. If you look at the dog on the right, you can see I have not done it quite correctly - his tongue is not lined up with his nose. If you are uncertain, it is possible to trace over the outline of the animal's features with a soft pencil and then transfer directly onto the stone by burnishing it with the pencil or a hard edge.

Step Two. When you are happy with your pencil drawing, use a round brush and black paint to go over the pencil lines.These black lines will also form the basis of shadows.

Step Three. Animals with fur or feathers need an all-over undercoating, so, for example, a dark golden Labrador will need a deep orangey-brown undercoat but a lighter dog will need a lighter undercoat.

Tip: Make sure each layer of paint is dry before adding the next.

Step Four. Paint the eyes so that the rock immediately gets some 'character'. It then becomes more animal than rock, if you see what I mean? If it's a cat or a dog with upright ears, use pale pink to paint the inside of the ears and the tongue.

Step Five. Take a flat brush, preferably one that has had some use and is a bit worn. Begin adding fur to the face, making sure to follow the direction that the fur is growing in. See Painting Fur in Acrylics.

Step Six. Deepen the shadows under the ears and at the side of the face. Paint the details on the nose and mouth.

Step Seven. Continue to add detail until you are satisfied, finish off by adding whiskers and ear hair with a fine brush.

Step Eight. Take the pet rock outside and spray it with a coat of polyurethane or other suitable sealant. When dry turn it over and do the underside. Allow to dry. Repeat the process several times

Click the link to see a detailed step-by-step tutorial on How to Paint Stones: Cat Portrait. I have included some more resources at the end of the page to help you.

Detailed tutorial for painting a cat on rock.
Detailed tutorial for painting a cat on rock. | Source

Recommended Reading

Rock Painting Fun for Everyone!
Rock Painting Fun for Everyone!

Lin Wellford is the rock painting expert - in her books she shows the process from choosing ideal stones and pebbles and beginning simple painting right up to complex projects. Recommended for children and adults.

 

Getting Past the Awkward Stage

When painting animals, you'll find that there is a point after undercoating and prior to adding details when the rock looks pretty horrible. Features are blurred and it's difficult to see how it will ever look like a real cat, hedgehog or whatever. Don't give up, continue to work on the face with a fine brush and suddenly you'll see a real animal looking at you. That's the reason I do the eyes first.


Where Should I Keep My Painted Rocks?

Painted rocks look lovely nestling in the garden. I have cats, kittens and cottages in mine. It's a good idea to keep them somewhere sheltered through the winter. I noticed that one or two of mine require a little touching-up and resealing after all the rain we've had this year.

I have seen people put their rock animals in baskets and on pillows indoors – some are so realistic. My mother keeps her little pebble kitten by her fireplace.

Does My Painted Stone Need Sealing?

If you intend to keep your painted rock indoors, then there's no need to seal it, however, I would anyway to protect it from knocks. For painted rocks that are for the garden, then, yes, several coats of sealant according to the manufacturer's directions will help preserve your rock.

Kitten
Kitten | Source

© 2012 Bev

A new hobby for you, perhaps?

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    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 6 months ago from Wales

      Thanks, Lyn! And you could do just as well with a bit of practice :)

    • LiveMusicLoverLyn profile image

      Lyn 6 months ago from England

      I collect rocks as memento's of vacations and such like, those photo's of your work are stunning, I could never do that so well! Beautiful.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 6 months ago from Wales

      So do I, alocsin :)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 months ago from Orange County, CA

      I like how the primary material for this craft is free and can be found anywhere.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 10 months ago from Wales

      Merci, Jean. x

    • profile image

      JEAN 10 months ago

      Absolument beau , superbes associations de couleurs , quel talent merveilleux !

    • Margaridab profile image

      Margarida Borges 10 months ago from Lyon, France

      I've already picked some ideas on the net, because they were gorgeous, but I never tried them.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 10 months ago from Wales

      Thank you, Margaridab. Yes, give it a try - it's fun. Start with ladybugs and bees. There are lots of ideas how to paint rocks on the internet.

    • Margaridab profile image

      Margarida Borges 10 months ago from Lyon, France

      I love the ideas and I also could try some of them. It was the first hub of yours that I visit and it it's also important for me the way you structure your content and photos. Thanks

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 11 months ago from Wales

      Thanks, Nora. Yes, do give it a try - it's fun.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 11 months ago from California

      I have seen rocks painted but never with animals and the detail you put into it. Great article. Must try rock painting. Thanks for great share.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 17 months ago from Wales

      Thank you! I really want to do more of these.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 17 months ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Very nice! I really like the owl and the cats painted on rocks. Thanks for sharing some tips for rock painting, along with a list of basic art items needed for doing this hobby.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 18 months ago from Wales

      Thank you, Diana. I haven't done any of these for ages - maybe I should start again in the spring.

    • Diana Abrahamson profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 18 months ago from t Francis Bay

      Love the cat painted on the rock..such a unique way to express your art!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thanks for your kind words and up-voting, Kristen, I intend on painting some more very soon. I'd like to sell them at a local craft fair.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Sounds pretty cool and interestingly fun, Bev. Thanks for sharing this awesome hub. Voted up!

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thank you very much, Nadine. Your kind words are appreciated.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What a delightful article on this creative craft. Great photos to see your step for step instructions. Well done.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Hi cheapstuff, they were actually three different rocks/labs - I always forget to take photos at the right time!

    • cheapstuff profile image

      cheapstuff 3 years ago from California

      Love the hub, I especially love the picture of the rock transformed into a lab. Seeing the process like that makes it come to life even more!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, SweetiePie :)

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 3 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Love the rock that is painted to look like a cat.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      My pleasure, Elvira. Thanks for visiting :)

    • profile image

      Elvira Garcia 3 years ago

      Very nice article! and thanks for mentioning my work .

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Glad to inspire, HermeticDestiny. Have fun with your rock!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Exactly, nothing to lose! Start simple with a ladybug or something. Be prepared for it to look pretty horrible. Then try something else. Your rock-painting skills will increase exponentially!

    • HermeticDestiny profile image

      Jennifer 3 years ago from Queens New York

      Omg! I just picked up a rock today by the shore and was going to paint it...Now I have some ideas Great work thank you :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I really like this hub. This is definitely a craft that I intend to try. Although I do not fancy myself a painter, your instructions make me feel brave enough to try. The risks seem minimal. After all, it's a rock. Voted up and more.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, ignugent17. Thanks for taking the time to view it.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 3 years ago

      Interesting hub and it is very creative. :-)

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      [curtsies] Thank you :)

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Very impressive!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      No reason not to give it a go, Diana. You should follow those urges :D Thanks x

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from London

      I've seen painted stones and rocks before, and now you've given me the urge to put my acrylic paints to good use, and paint some myself - thanks!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Get to itwildove5, you'll enjoy it, I'm sure. Don't let the first attempt put you off -- after you get the feel for it, you can clean off the first rock (soak in water) and you'll find the second one is much better. Thank you!

    • wildove5 profile image

      wildove5 4 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

      I am so going to try this! I collect rocks and shells and this is a great idea for displaying them!!! thank you!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      It is soothing, isn't it? There is something very relaxing in bringing the animal out of the rock :) Thanks so much, MarleneB.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Very good! I really appreciate the tip about doing the eyes fairly soon in the process. I just started painting rocks and find it quite soothing. My neighbor paints cat faces, so I wanted to learn how to do that. Thank you for your wonderful instructions and tips.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, and absolutely - they can be as complicated or as simple as you like - there are lots of free resources and ideas on the web.

    • lorddraven2000 profile image

      Sam Little 4 years ago from Wheelwright KY

      These are amazing! I love the creativity here. This might be a good project for me to try at the library I run. Thanks for posting.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, Michelle. Acrylic paint is best. If you go wrong, just soak the rock in a bucket of water overnight and the paint will lift off easily. Have fun!

    • profile image

      Michelle 4 years ago

      Wow! You can really paint. At first I tried painting rocks with nail polish, but the smell was toxic. I better run to the art store to get some paint now! Great photos and directions, by the way ;)

    • By Lori profile image

      By Lori 4 years ago from USA

      Very cute and well done -

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thanks DRG, but don't try mailing them unless they are very small!

    • DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

      Felix J Hernandez 4 years ago from All over the USA

      Awesome. Those rocks are selling and are low investment ideas for resale. TY for the lesson.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Go to it, Audrey!

    • Audrey Baker profile image

      Audrey Baker 4 years ago from Arizona

      Very fascinating. Where I live, rocks are everywhere... waiting to be painted.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thanks so much, idigwebsites! There are many more 'rock artists' who have so much more skill than me.

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      Wow! These works are really amazing, never imagined before that a rock can be used as a "canvas"! Voted up and awesome and two more. :)

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I couldn't ask for more! Thanks for stopping by.

    • CanvasArtShop profile image

      CanvasArtShop 5 years ago

      Love these, really brightened up my afternoon!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I hope you do, Lovelovemeloveme. Glad you feel inspired to give it a go.

    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

      Lovelovemeloveme 5 years ago from Cindee's Land

      Very interesting. Ive never heard of this but all of a sudden now I want to give this a try.

    • profile image

      xovial 5 years ago

      nyce post. keep it up

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks so much, Karine. I bet you could do it easily. My first one or two were pretty horrible but you soon get the hang of it. There are lots of online resources and step-by-steps that will help. It's definitely easier to paint on a rock than on a flat surface - the rock dictates the shape of the animal.

    • Karine Gordineer profile image

      Karine Gordineer 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hi "theraggededge" love this hub! So creative, inspirational and easy to follow....I'm not much of a painter but you make me feel like I might be able to do this! Thanks for such a fun piece!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I only do them for fun too. Some have been given away (how many rock cats do I need anyway?) some get soaked in a bucket of water and repainted. Thanks for stopping by Carol x

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I can see why this article is so popular. It not on is totally charming but inspires people to get their paints out and try this different surface for painting. I am a struggling painter (I paint just for my own enjoyment). Great thumbs up article. I am a new writer on hubpages. Take a look when you get a chance. Thanks again for the great article.

    • photostudiosupply profile image

      photostudiosupply 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

      This is really nice. I like it. Its such an amazing and different activity to show your imaginative ideas. Very creative work.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Barbara Kay, Angela Brummer and tlmcgaa70 - your comments are delicious! Thanks so much for your support.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 5 years ago from south dakota, usa

      absolutely incredible art work. of all the things i have tried i never thought of PAINTING rocks. but now i will give it a shot as soon as i find the perfect rock, tho i may have to order one online lol, we only have clay chunks out here. thanks for the great hub, i am sharing, bookmarking and voting up and across.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is really cool! I will share this on tweeter, pin it, and google+.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      My sister use to paint these and sell them at craft fairs. Sadly, Kathy is gone now, but thanks for the memory.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks. Very nice to meet a fellow rock painting enthusiast!

    • rutley profile image

      rutley 5 years ago from South Jersey

      Love painting rocks.......I have done many to look like food. A hamburger w/cheese and lettuce....I call it my FAT FREE BURGER. Cake slices, cookies, cucumber slices, hot dog on bun and so on. Gave some to the kids teachers a while back for paperweight gifts. Oh and an old lady bent over slipper that was dirty pink....forgot about that one. Nice hub!

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, Green Art! Much appreciated :-)

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 5 years ago

      Wow, what a fun hub! Your rock paintings are beautiful and your explanations on how to do them are very clear. Voted up and awesome!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks, nmdonders, naimishika and dobo700. It's a fun and rewarding hobby.

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 5 years ago from Australia

      Very cool, must say it is something I would have never thought of.

    • naimishika profile image

      Venugopaal 5 years ago from India

      great hub. I love to do painting on rocks. I do follow

    • nmdonders profile image

      nmdonders 5 years ago

      Such a neat idea to do this. Very different from painting a sheet of paper or canvas that you hang on the wall. Cute and unique.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I like 'playing art', xanzacow, I wouldn't call myself an artist. These painted rocks are kind of easy compared to painting on a flat surface. Thanks for the visit, vote and comment!

    • xanzacow profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from North Myrtle Beach, SC

      Voted up, interesting and awesome. You are obviously an artist. I probably could never do this, but I will give it a try....

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Great comments, villandro, BritInTexas, Glimmer Twin Fan and GoodLady - you are all inspiring me to do more :-)

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I like this hub and would like to make a link to it in the Hub I'm writing at the moment, so thanks.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      These are really cool! Great project for this summer! Voted up!

    • BritInTexas profile image

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thank you so much for sharing this! It had never even occurred to me to do something like this before, and I've been looking for a hobby - and possibly even something I could sell at yard sales, flea markets, etc. Brilliant article, greatly informative.

    • profile image

      Leandro Villagran 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Really nice and artistic. thanks for sharing

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, hardcov and Island Girlie.

    • Island Girlie profile image

      Island Girlie 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Really interesting. My son loves art, he loves to draw and paint. This is a cool idea for him to try. Thanks for sharing!

    • hardcov profile image

      hardcov 5 years ago from Vienna, Austria

      This is cool, thanks for sharing! My gf will love it! :)

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks, jeanniedoe - you should try it, you might surprise yourself. It's very relaxing.

    • jeanniedoe profile image

      jeanniedoe 5 years ago from Princeton, New Jersey, USA

      Wow those rocks looks so nice. I wish I have a talent like it and paint that good too. I really appreciate that kind of painting.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you - fun is what it's about! My first one was awful, I have to tell you :-)

    • Ronna Pennington profile image

      Ronna Pennington 5 years ago from Arkansas

      You're good! Mine won't look as artistic as yours, but it will be a fun project! Thanks for the idea.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Many thanks, jennzie. :-)

    • jennzie profile image

      jennzie 5 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

      Those look so good! Unfortunately I'm not very artistically gifted, so they probably wouldn't turn out half as nice as yours.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you!

      @Vespawoolf - it's not so difficult. The first few times are not so good and then suddenly you get the hang of it. Painting a 3d animal on a 3d object is much easier than trying to reproduce it on paper.

      @techygran - if you can paint fairy houses, you can do these. Kids like doing ladybugs and bumblebees - have a search on Google images for inspiration.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Wonderful hub on a garden art I hadn't considered but that really tucks in nicely with what I've been pinning re fairy houses etc. -- my grandkids would love this too! Pinning this for sure!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, what a fascinating concept! I'm afraid my rock art wouldn't look near as talented as yours. : ) Voted up and shared.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you... and I love your name!

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      Ginger Ruffles 5 years ago

      Wow, awesome hub!

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I hope you do! Many thanks for sharing the rock-love :-)

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 5 years ago

      Hey, this is great work! Love your painted rocks! I'm saving this hub for future reference and I'll definitely give this hobby a try. Voted up all over and shared :)

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you tobey100 x

    • tobey100 profile image

      tobey100 5 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

      Incredible. Great hub, voted up!

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks JayeWisdom and Purple Perl. Yes, my children have painted some too. My daughter wrapped up a little mouse she'd done to give to a friend today. They are really great projects for kids.

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 5 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Beautiful! This is new to me. I know of inscriptions on rock, but this is so creative. Thanks for sharing.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I have some adorable rock art--one my younger son gave me when he was a child and the others painted by my great-grandchildren. They take up little space, but are charming. I smile every time I see them.