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How To Hand Paint Rock Buildings

Updated on March 4, 2015

Decorating Common Rocks

It may be considered kitsch or it may be art, but in either case, painted rocks are a bit of fantasy for your garden or for your curio cabinet. With the rising cost of canvas, rocks provide an appropriate substrate to express talent and whimsy for the aspiring or seasoned artist in everyone.

Rocks are plentiful, usually free for the taking and come in any number of shapes and sizes. Allowing your mind to wander, imagine and picture what could be hidden in a plain old rock is an exercise that is both pleasant and enjoyable.

Abandoned building in Modena, UT.
Abandoned building in Modena, UT.

Choosing Your Rocks

It's good to have an image of some interesting buildings in mind as you walk or hike in your area. Many interesting shapes of rock can be found along railroad tracks, stream beds or old quarries. Fancy rocks can be purchased at your local garden center. If you ask, they may even give you a rock or two.

Foraged for or gifted to you, be sure to wash your rocks! Use the garden hose and some liquid soap on an old sponge or scrub brush and get into all the nooks and crannies of your rocks. You should hesitate washing your rocks in the kitchen sink or bathtub as they have a remarkable tendency to chip porcelain and dent stainless steel. How I know this is not important to this discussion.

Keep a range of sizes in mind if you're going to display the rocks in a grouping or singly. A variety of buildings portrayed as an old-time Main Street, or a vintage neighborhood is a logical and pleasing arrangement for your creations and you would want your buildings to be of similar scale.

Another idea is to use a theme for your creation, such as the haunted house in this article that playfully depicts a book from the Cat Who series written by Lillian Jackson Braun.

Buildings aren't the only thing that can be depicted in rock art. Finding a smooth river rock could be turned into a resting cat or zany turtle with a bit of bright acrylic paint

You will want your rock to stand stably once its decorated, but if it does 'rock' a bit, you can build up the bottom with a small amount of wood filler. Once dry and painted, the filler will appear like a part of the rock itself. Filler can also be used for small details such as steps or chimneys and to fill minor defects in the rock. Your imagination is key to making it a fun project.

The B.J. Lund & Company building pictured is a depiction of an actual structure whose picture was found on the internet and is in Modena, Utah. The rock was chosen specifically for this project as there is something notable and memorable about abandoned buildings from long ago.

I have hesitated further mention concerning the Modena rock. At this time, I'm positive it is a weird coincidence and will tell something about it. A few days after completing this particular piece, I did a Google search on the B. J. Lund Company out of curiosity. Being a very old company, not much was available except for a recent obituary. A fellow had died who had been employed by the company some years before. His passing coincided with the time I was completing the Modena rock. I suppose this aside doesn't really belong in this Lens, but I thought someone might find it interesting.

Lived In Look

Small details such as this tilted garbage can lid can add realism to your painted rock. This is the back of the abandoned building in Modena, UT.

Haunted House
Haunted House

Whimsical rendering inspired by, "The Cat Who Talked To Ghosts"

 

The Cat Who Series on Amazon

The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts
The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts

This story was the inspiration for the painted rock house above. Most of the "Cat Who" books are available in audio books performed by George Guidall. He makes the books come alive in his delightful rendition.

 
The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare
The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare

For the one who just can't get enough of Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum.

 
Bookstore
Bookstore

Outlining the Structure

Use a white acrylic undercoat and large, 1 inch wide brush to cover the entire rock and let it dry before laying out your buildings features.

Using some kind of straight-edge or ruler, you will measure and outline your windows and doors keeping them lined up in a logical placement. Having the windows line up much as they would in a real world building, lends a more pleasing look to your finished rock.

Use a fine-tip pencil to outline the features of your building. The pencil lead is easily erased or simply covered in the final paint job. For a bold look and to offset and highlight your doors and windows, use a very fine line black paint marker available from any art supply store. This will look like the wood molding around the real thing, adding a further touch of playful realism to your creation.

Detail of Barn
Detail of Barn

Choosing Your Paints and Brushes

Acrylic paints are the easiest to use for this type of project. They are available in small tubes ready to use from your nearby craft store and can be cleaned up with soap and water. Consider what you may have in the basement or garage too. Ceiling paint will make a fine undercoat, and maybe you have a bit of house paint from your own home left over. This would come in very handy if you happen to find a rock that resembles your house.

You should have a couple different sized brush available. A broad one for larger areas and one or two smaller ones for detail work. They don't have to be fancy. A chip brush will work for the larger one and maybe one tapered artist brush.

Paint also comes in very fine tip markers that are great for fine detail work, such as the door molding or brick mortar.

Saloon
Saloon

Painting Your Building

It is usually best to start painting from the inside out. ie. paint the trim and the molding, then fill in the body of the building. This helps to even out any overlaps and straighten the lines of the windows, door molding and lentils. Paint the main color of your sign at this point too if you're making a commercial store building.

Pick a color that might be used in an actual full-size building, but brighten it up a bit. The blue millinery shop in this article was finished around Christmas time and has colored lights outlining the windows, much like you might see on Main Street, USA.

Keep adding the details, using window dressings, furniture inside the windows, open or closed signs etc. If you add too much or make a mistake, let it dry and paint over it! It's only paint and remember, this is for fun! Let your imagination flow. Consider dry brushing some tans to show aging to 'weather' your creation.

If your roof is flat, consider a dark gray or black to simulate the old time tar roofs. Shingles on a sloped roof are added one by one and just like real shingles are installed, start at the bottom and proceed to the roof peak, overlapping for that layered look as on a real roof.

Paint your chimney all one color such as red, then using a fine brush or marker, paint in the mortar lines, bringing out each brick.

Millenery in Winter
Millenery in Winter

Finishing Touches

Pick up your fine tip marker again at this point to sign and date your finished piece. You may never know how far this little building might be passed down through the generations.

Use a good outdoor polyurethane to finish and protect your final project once you have leaned back and admired it for awhile. Since you've used such pretty, bright colors, consider one of the water based polyurethanes that dry crystal clear rather than the oil based product that will add an amber touch to the art. It is much easier to clean your brushes also.

Once dry, your little building is ready to display in your garden, on your curio shelf or it makes a great door-stop too!

Great Books on Amazon

Painting Houses, Cottages and Towns on Rocks
Painting Houses, Cottages and Towns on Rocks

This book introduced me to rock painting and is thoroughly enjoyable. The author takes you in more detail through the rock selection, layout and painting of the rocks and scenes.

 
The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks
The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks

Using smooth river rock, the author shows how to depict cute, lovable animals in repose.

 

Have You Painted A Rock Lately? - Let Us Know!

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    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 4 years ago

      @LluviaDeArte: This is a great project for kids. It helps give them the concept of dimension and relationship of one part of a building to another.

      Have fun with it!

    • LluviaDeArte profile image

      LluviaDeArte 4 years ago

      Now I certainly will. i think this is a great project to do with your children. I always go on walks and we find the dandiest rocks. Now we know what to do. Thank you for the great lens. Super Creative!

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 5 years ago

      @CraftyGardener: Wow! That's great! Wish we could see them.

      Are you happy with the results? Where are you going to display them?

    • profile image

      CraftyGardener 6 years ago

      I just finished painting 4 rock houses yesterday.

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 6 years ago

      @hysongdesigns: Great article! Thanks for the comments.

    • hysongdesigns profile image

      hysongdesigns 6 years ago

      I paint rocks all the time! I've even written a lens about Artists that Paint on Stone. ;-)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 6 years ago

      @WildFacesGallery: Oh, and Mona, Thank you for the 'like'.

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 6 years ago

      @WildFacesGallery: Thank you.

      Just went out and found some new rocks that are begging for decoration.

      Will post later.

      Thanks again.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      Never have. Yours are quite charming though. I very much enjoyed your lens. :)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 6 years ago

      @ohcaroline: That's great ohcaroline! I bet there's something desiring your painting skills in Florida. Sea shells? Limestone?

      Thanks for dropping by!

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      I haven't done any in a couple of years. It's hard to find good painting rocks in Florida. I did paint rocks when I lived in the mountains. They were plentiful there.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      These are great! Of course being hopeless at painting I'll not be painting any rocks myself, but maybe I'll encourage someone else ...

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 7 years ago from Croatia

      You are one of Fresh Squid March 2010 graduates! Come by and answer few questions to show the way to those who will follow! Wish you many, many more great lenses!

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @callinsky lm: I think you'll enjoy it immensely! It would be great if you post some of them when you do.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Denny

    • callinsky lm profile image

      callinsky lm 7 years ago

      Man. That is the coolest thing ever. We will definitely be doing some rock painting this summer.

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @Mihaela Vrban: You are kidding me right??? Wow! Thank you everybody, so much! I am very, very surprised and happy.

      Denny

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 7 years ago from Croatia

      This lens won 3rd place in Fresh Squid contest for March 2010!!! Congrats! :))) Badge will arrive by mail!

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @strayspay: The canvases are all around us! Thank you for your comment.

      Denny

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @roadroamer: I am so pleased that you like them. Thanks!

      Denny

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @Shades-of-truth: Well, you should try. :)

      Thank you for the compliment.

      Denny

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 7 years ago from USA

      Never did - intentionally, anyway! Verrrry nice, and ditto on the thumbs up!

    • profile image

      roadroamer 7 years ago

      Wow, these are really interesting! I haven't painted a rock lately, but in the meantime, I might just admire these ones.

    • strayspay profile image

      strayspay 7 years ago

      Lovely lens and seems like such fun to paint rocks! Makes me want to run out and look for native canvases.

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 7 years ago

      Your very talented and innovative. Thumbs up from me! =)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @BarbRad: Hi Barb,

      Pass the word on the fun. I bet you'll decide to give it a try some day and be pleasantly surprised how fun it is.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Denny

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @myraggededge: Thanks for the comment! When my wife and I learned about the concept, we thought it very innovative and fun. And it is!

      Denny

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @Charlino99: I love it! Rock on! Thanks for your comments!

      Denny

    • Yosemite LM profile image
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      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you very much for the nice compliment. Now, shouldn't you pick up that rock in your garden that you've been eyeing and turn it into a keepsake?

      Much appreciated Beth.

      Denny

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Yep.... this is my kind of thing. You have my vote!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Never even thought of painting rocks, but I know people talented enough to do this. I'm not one of them. But if I were, you've taught me what I'd need to know. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have never painted a rock, but I'm glad you did. Great instructions and display. Blessed by this SquidAngel.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 7 years ago from USA

      This kind of art is right up my alley. Totally cool. Rock on, fellow Squid!

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @poptastic: Thank you very much for your kind comments. I hope to update it soon with yet some more rocks of a different nature.

      I'm so happy you enjoyed it.

      Denny

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      No, I haven't as a matter of fact but I used to when I was younger. My works weren't nearly as fantastic as yours though, these painted rocks are beautiful! You explained the art of rock painting very well too. Really enjoyed my stay here *blessed by an angel*

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @Richard-H: Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the rocks.

      Denny

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 7 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      My wife used to do rock painting may years ago. Maybe I should get her back to doing some. Really creative and I enjoyed seeing your work.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      @Yosemite LM: Denny- I never make more than one of anything, then give them away. I haven't done any crafts in a couple years...but I liked this idea, easier than painting gourds and bones (Indian Art). I will remember about using the wood filler sparingly, thanks :)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @KathyMcGraw2: Thanks Kathy,

      At first it seems kind of goofy doesn't it? Sitting down and painting a rock???

      The wood filler should be used sparingly but certainly comes in handy for leveling the rock and for adding like a little stoop or something. Mostly the cock-eyed angle the rock sets at makes it a bit charming and noticeable.

      Would love to see your rock creations.

      Denny

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      I would say you did a very fine job of explaining how to paint rocks. Creativity comes in many forms and I too have painted rocks in the past. Didn't know about the wood filler, great tip. Blessed by an Angel :)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @indigoj: Thanks!

      I think it's great that this gave you the inspiration to give it a go again! I hope you will you share your creations.

      Denny

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I love rock painting although haven't done it in a while. I might just have another go! Well presented lens with useful advice.

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: Thank you very much. Now, go out and find some rocks! :)

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @DeborahLynne: Thank you for your comment. I can't take credit for the idea, but I am responsible for the rocks pictured here.

      Thanks again.

    • profile image

      DeborahLynne 7 years ago

      I have never seen anything like this before. What a neat idea! Very creative the way your imagination helped to mold each of the rocks into incredibly picturesque buildings.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      What an interesting form of art. Wonderful explanation about how to hand paint rock buildings. 5*

    • Yosemite LM profile image
      Author

      Yosemite LM 7 years ago

      @justholidays: Well, thank you for those kind words. You Could indeed have them on your shelf, just dig in, have fun and do some. :)

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Great job here! And so this is your second lens... Wow! Love all those handpainted buildings and would like to have all of them on a shelf in my office!

      Blessed by a SquidAngel for the great job!

      Dom.