How to Paint Rocks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rock Painting Resources
- How to Paint Stones: Cat Portrait
Paint a rock cat, step-by-step - detailed description and over 30 photos.
- Rock Painting Tutorials.
Rock Painting lessons.
- Home - Hand Painted River Rocks by Elvira Garcia
Display of hand painted river rocks made by mexican artist Elvira García.
- SuzyBug.com - How It Is Done
- Lin Wellford's Rock Painting
Art of Rock Painting has a step-by-step bunny tutorial as well as a gallery and tips.
© 2012 Bev