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Decorative Painted Garden Rocks

Updated on December 9, 2015

I paint rocks.

I don’t paint those adorable and sometimes very realistic looking animals that make people go “WOW! I thought that was REAL for a moment, there!”

I paint abstracts, scenery and flowers. Daisies and roses are my favorite flowers to paint. Not only are these fairly simple, one can use one's imagination to create a different kind of daisy.

I was on a landscape craze for a couple of years, during which I painted dozens of ocean and beach scenes. I've painted dragons, symbols, birds and insects...

I call my line of insects Peace Bugs. Every bug has at least one peace sign on it.


Peace Bugs by Karla Whitmore

Karla Whitmore 2012
Karla Whitmore 2012
Karla Whitmore 2012
Karla Whitmore 2012
Karla Whitmore 2012
Karla Whitmore 2012

I've managed to pile up a fair amount of finished creations in my home. I have considered selling them. I’m just not really good at setting up as a vendor and doing the shows. Besides, these don’t fit in any particular category. Some would look good in a garden, while others are best displayed on a shelf or used as decorative doorstops.

The smaller ones may sell online, but when it comes to the bigger rocks, shipping would cost much more than the rock itself and there aren’t enough to justify spending money on the marketing. I have sold a few on consignments.

I have moved back to Tucson and I had to leave most of my beloved rocks behind, but I have been managing to fill our home just enough to irritate my husband. ;-)

My sister asked me if I ever felt bad about not making money off of my rocks. After all, with all the time I spend on them, I should get SOMETHING in return. The truth is that I do get something out of it. I love to create.

I never work off pictures. Everything I paint comes out of my mind’s eye, which explains the unidentifiable flowers and the bejeweled fungi, but I don't have a particular type, other than my bugs.

I paint rocks because it is easier than not painting, and in all, I’ve probably put in two or three hundred dollars for the paints, brushes and sealer. That isn’t bad for the amount of hours, well, years that I’ve put into this enjoyable hobby.

I only use rocks that I find in nature and never take from other people’s property. It was easy to find rocks in Michigan. My mom’s house is made of stone and so there are several stone piles out back. It’s like a “canvas” smorgasbord.

I’m not claiming to be an artist and I am certainly not a photographer (see my photos), but there are some things people do just because they enjoy doing it. That would include me and my decorative garden rocks.


More Rocks and More Rocks...

The funny thing about painting on stones is watching people react to them.

Some fall in love with my flowery rocks while others think those are “boring”. Some will go on about my abstracts as though I’m some kind of genius (if they do represent anything, it is the mood I’m in when I paint). I overheard one person complain that a five year old could have done as good a job and I’ve gotten other comments that I should be selling them. People think what they think, but in truth, I don’t paint for other people. I paint whatever comes to mind.

Yes, whether or not people like my rocks matters to me. I hope most people like them, but I paint because I enjoy the activity.

I have managed to fill up the shelves, corners and even the coffee table in the living room before having to start storing them in my bedroom. Now, most of them are on my patio.

One summer, I spent many, many hours sitting at the outside table, brush in hand , eyes squinting just a bit, and tongue peeking out from my lips. I placed most of them in and among the flowers in my mother’s flower bed.

Fifteen of those that were in my mother’s flower beds are now missing. They vanished into thin air at some point. Somebody must have really liked those rocks.


Painting Your Own Stones

Painting on rocks can be be enjoyable from start to finish because they are inexpensive to make, fun to create, and easy to display.

You don’t have to be particularly talented to paint and when you paint on rocks, you have a special advantage over using a canvas: You can wash it all off with soap and water if you don’t like what you’ve done, provided you have not already sealed it with polyurethane.



What You Need


  • A package of paint brushes ranging from the teeny-tiny detail brush to 2 inch wide
  • Acrylic paints – You can buy the craft acrylic paints for much cheaper than the paints in the tubes and these go much further. Buy all the primary colors, plus brown, silver, gold and shades of other colors. Of course you will be mixing some colors, but there are certain hues that are just easier to buy. I have over 20 colors in my “paint box” and two containers of every primary color.
  • A 24 to 48 ounce container filled ¾ full of water
  • A palette – I use Styrofoam or cardboard egg cartons
  • Plastic wrap for placing over your palette
  • A chalk pencil (optional – for sketching out your design)
  • A rock – The perfect rock for making a garden stone is smooth on all sides and round, or perfectly flat on one side. However, I have used rocks with varying shapes and formations. Sometimes you can use the bumps and grooves as part of the scene.
  • A can of polyurethane sealer
  • A well-ventilated area for sealing your rocks - I like to paint outside whenever possible, but a room with plenty of open windows will do just fine
  • Lots of newspaper
  • A flat surface
  • A comfortable place to sit

Now Paint!

Start by washing the rock with soap and water and drying it with paper towels. If you have chosen a rock that has has a rough surface, use a scrubber to get the dirt and grime out of the pores.

Once you have decided what it is you would like to paint, you can either sketch it out with a chalk pencil or just start painting.

If you don’t like what you have done, it is easy to wash off the chalk or paint using warm water, soap, and a rough cloth. You can even paint over it after you have used a sealant. Just be prepared to use at least two coats of paint to cover the original paint and then reseal it.

You do not have to finish it all in one sitting. You can take a break whenever you like and come back to it as you choose. Be sure to rinse your brushes well, pour out the paint-saturated water and refill your container with clean water. Don’t forget to cover your palette with plastic wrap and carefully seal it around the edges. This keeps your paint from drying out too quickly.

Once you are satisfied with your creation, place the rock on a flat surface covered with newspaper. Shake the can of polyurethane ten to fifteen times and spray evenly in a back and forth motion, keeping the nozzle 8 to 12 inches from your rock. This keeps it from concentrating too much in one area.

Leave it to dry for an hour or so and then spray it one more time.

If you do not want to use polyurethane spray, you can also use a mod podge sealer. I like to paint two coats of sealer on my rocks with the second coat going on half an hour or so after the first. Yes, it dries that fast :)

If you are going to display your painted rock outside, bring it in the house when the temperatures drop. As your rock gets cold, it will contract and the paint will chip. While one winter may not be enough to cause chipping, continuous exposure over a a couple of years will cause the paint to chip.

If you live in an area where the sun shines the majority of the day, make sure your rock is in the shade. The sun can fade the color.

If needed, you can dust your rock with a dry towel or carefully wipe it with a damp towel.

If You Don't Know What to Paint...

Buy books on how to paint. Many of these focus on particular things such as flowers, animals, insects or landscapes.

Work from a picture, a model or your own imagination.

If you are planning to put your rock in a garden bed, flowers, butterflies, birds and inscriptions are nice.

Of course, you don’t have to put it in a garden. You can use rocks for paper weights, doorstops, or use them to decorate as you would with nick-knacks. In this case, the possibilities for what you put on your rocks is endless.

I have painted many ocean landscapes, dragons, abstracts and desert scenes. If you are especially talented (I’m not), you may even want to paint a portrait.

Not ready to try your hand at "free" design? Stencils are an option.


Fast Food Fun

Warning:

Painting rocks may become addictive. I have personally painted dozens of rocks that vary in sizes from “itsy-bitsy” to the “I can’t believe you lifted that thing!” size. I have also been known to paint for hours on end and have five or six finished rocks sitting all around me at the end of the day.

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    • profile image

      Janel granberg 15 months ago

      I love your rocks.I too paint rocks and Im addicted for sure . lol

      I have many simular to yours.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 17 months ago from Michigan

      Great hub filled with helpful tips for painting rocks. My grandkids painted rocks this past summer and placed them in with the other rocks in my garden.

      I love them! You gave me a tip, in this hub, that will help my little painted rocks keep their good looks and last longer - polyurethane sprayed over the top of them. I'm so gonna do this.

      Thanks for sharing - your pictures are great!

      Mekenzie

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 2 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      These are great! Look fantastic in the garden or anywhere really.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Outstanding...who would have thought a rock could be turned into the spectacular works of art? Not that I do not think many rocks are lovely in their own right, but these are definitely remarkable. Voted up, pinned, and shared!!!

      The best I have ever done at decorating a rock is painting one blue, attaching two googly eyes, and a tiny red yarn tail . I would set it on the desk of a child who misbehaved and tell them it was there to help with their work. They loved it.

      Thanks for sharing. Angels are on the way ps

    • SEO IT! profile image
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      Karla Whitmore 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks for the input, Lori. I am going to add that in and try it for myself.

    • SEO IT! profile image
      Author

      Karla Whitmore 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks :)

    • profile image

      lori 3 years ago

      actually you do not have to bring your rocks in in the winter 2 or3 coats of mod podge they will never fade or chip

    • nancymaggielee profile image

      nancymaggielee 4 years ago

      You do really nice work!

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      Karla Whitmore 4 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thank you! You are going to love it!

    • lj gonya profile image

      lj gonya 4 years ago

      Trust me, a five year old could not create these works of art! These are fantastic, and I cried when you said you were leaving them behind. I have done a lot of painting, and guess who's going to be going out and finding a rock today. It won't be as beautiful as yours, but it will be fun!

    • sdaisytx profile image

      sdaisytx 5 years ago from Bedford, DFW, Texas

      Your rocks bring a smile! They are all so beautiful, and I'm especially drawn to the ones across the top of the last slide-show pic. The feel of the landscapes is so peaceful and the details are amazing! Thank you for sharing your work!

    • jamiesweeney profile image

      jamiesweeney 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Very nice design. Thanks for sharing.

    • andrebreynolds profile image

      andrebreynolds 5 years ago

      You really have the talent, SEO IT. Great hub.

    • michelleonly3 profile image

      michelleonly3 5 years ago from Gardnerville, Nv

      Your art rocks! Sorry I had to say it but I think it's s wonderful art form ! These would make great paperweights, or I can see using them as trail heads when you are hiking (can you imagine how fun that would be) voted up!

    • profile image

      marellen 5 years ago

      Those are so adorable. I live in an area full of river rock and started painting scenes on rocks years ago. Isn't it amazing what we can do? Great hub

    • BlogLady profile image

      Sandra Cobb 6 years ago from Arizona

      What a great hub! I've been wanting to try this myself, and now that you've inspired me, I think I will! I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Fluffy77 profile image

      Fluffy77 6 years ago from Enterprise, OR

      Love this! This sounds like something I would want to do, great tips and advise for making one of these adorable gardens, thank you.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Great hub in every way! I see walls the way you see rocks...a blank canvas. :) The dangers of putting garden art in one's yard can leave one wondering...

      Thanks for sharing your ideas in this hub. Hope to see more of your work soon!

    • Scarlett My Dear profile image

      Scarlett My Dear 6 years ago from Missouri

      LOVE your Peace Rocks! Copyright that name!

      I've painted rocks with my kids since they were old enough to lift a paintbrush. My favorites when they were little were my Duck Rocks. I found three smooth rocks small enough to fit inside the palm of a child's hand, one larger rock and then painted a mama duck and three fuzzy, yellow babies. We placed them in the yard beneath the blackberry bush along with our Toad House. (;

      We've also painted rocks of all sizes to use as garden markers around our veggies. Amazing Asparagus... Glorious Green beans... Super Sweet Strawberry Patch, etc. Made a few with the kids hand prints and added quotes, as well.

      What a wonderfully fun talent you have! Rock On!

      ~Scarlett

    • Jaynie2000 profile image

      Jaynie2000 6 years ago

      Nice work. I think my kids would love to get into this. I'll have to share your hubs with them. Thanks!

    • PassinItAlong profile image

      PassinItAlong 6 years ago

      I like the idea of this, I just might give it a try. Thanks for the hub

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      Karla Whitmore 6 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks for the positive feedback and links :)

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 6 years ago from West Kootenays

      These painted rocks are wonderful! I linked to this Hub in one of my craft articles and Stumbled it.

    • Art 4 Life profile image

      Art 4 Life 6 years ago from in the middle of nowhere....

      Your rocks are beautiful!! You are very talented! I am glad I found your hubs~

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I really like your peace rocks :) Very creative and fun, and I bet its really fun to see people's reactions. Thanks for sharing, Ocean

    • K J Page profile image

      K J Page 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      What a spirit lift!! To open the door, walk in the yard and see beauty in the rocks!!!

    • profile image

      Amy 6 years ago

      These are beautiful, nothing is more creative to me than doing what you feel. I went out looking for garden rocks today and couldn't find any......now with your ideas I think I will try my hand at creating my own. Keep doing what you do, they are wonderful.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Very, very nice. I'd like to do this. I hope I can some time! Thank you!

    • lender3212000 profile image

      lender3212000 7 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

      Looks like a great project to enjoy with the kids!

    • IvaIlieva profile image

      IvaIlieva 7 years ago

      Hi, I really enjoyed the hub, I decided to try it too!Thanks for the good idea! :-)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hiya, these are wonderful. I love the bugs! the eyes made me laugh. you should sell them, I am sure people would buy them. I collect stones and small rocks, and I remember my brother made a painted rock years ago, and he used it for a door stop, for at least 20 years! I think you should try craft shops near you. just ask the owner if you can have a corner to sell, and give them a small percentage if they sell. I love them, and I am sure other people will too. You say you don't know how to sell them, I always say, if you can't figure out a solution to a problem, instead of going for the obvious, go around it! in other words think outside the box. Try the craft shop, or another like it. great stuff. cheers nell

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      SEO IT! I'm one of the people who like to paint the animals on rocks :-)

      I like your designs very much and can understand your addiction to this wonderful craft.

      Now you have a new fan, that would be me :-)

    • callmefoxxy profile image

      callmefoxxy 7 years ago

      That's a great way to personalize rocks in your garden, and a great conversation piece too. Thanks...

      callmefoxxy, my pen is a mighty sword.

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 7 years ago from hub

      I love painting rocks, it is such a great family project. Fun!

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      Karla Whitmore 7 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      :) Thanks everybody! Miztahcool - LOL - good one!

    • miztahcool profile image

      miztahcool 7 years ago

      SEO IT! rocks.

    • profile image

      pete379exh 7 years ago from Lake City, Mi

      I always thought your rocks were beautiful!!! You are a very creative individual, whether its rocks writing or something else...it must be in the genes!!!!

    • cajunrooster profile image

      John David LeCoq 7 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      I am taking a drawing class and hope to move on to painting in due time. This is a great idea and one I will surely use in my garden. Thanks for the ideas and also a very great hub.

    • kowality profile image

      kowality 7 years ago from Everywhere

      These remind me of painting Easter Eggs. Happy Easter. This is a very good hub with great ideas. Thank You

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      Oh, but I do think you have to have talent! Your pictures show me that you do have it, and what a nice way to spend your time. Too bad you have to leave them behind now. Thanks for the article and the photos.

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      Karla Whitmore 7 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Hello - Thanks for the nice comment :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      This is a wonderful hub with great ideas. These samples look beautiful and surely very decorative wherever you put them. Thank you so much for giving this oppoertunity.

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