How to get started with rock painting

Whether you’re brand new to the fun activity of painting rocks or have already painted a few, we share tips and highlight some of our favorite techniques and rock painting supplies.

Just getting started with rock painting?

Make it simple and just paint a rock a single color and maybe paint a heart or smiley face. This will give you an idea how the process works (painting on rocks is a bit different than painting on paper or canvas). You’ll get  used to how much paint to apply to your brushes and how different brushes can give you different results. Our paint supplies checklist takes the guesswork out of what to get!

Choosing the right brush

Having the right brush will help you achieve the results you’re looking for and make the task of painting rocks more enjoyable. We like this set because it includes 50 paint brushes in a variety of bristle widths and styles.

Priming the rock
If you’re just trying to paint the rock a single color, choose a brush with a wider bristle. This will allow you to cover the rock with paint without taking too many trips to the paint jar! Use smooth strokes to apply the paint in an even layer.

➡️TIP: Sometimes colors like yellow, orange and pink need a second coat of paint. Don’t try to glob the paint to avoid painting a second coat. Just apply a light coat and after it dries, apply another. If you know you’ll be priming your rock with one of those above-mentioned colors, you can also first paint your rock white or black. This will help those other colors go on in a single coat.

Choosing the right paint
We’ve tried several types of paint and your best bet will be acrylic paint. That said, be creative and experiment. If you’ve tried a different kind of paint, share in the comments below – rock painters enjoy learning from other rock painters what’s worked well!

We like acrylic paint for these reasons:

  • It’s pretty simple to find in any craft store, big box department store or online.
  • It dries quickly and is fairly inexpensive, which means you can experiment with an array of colors.
  • It’s safe, water-based and non toxic. Clean-up is a breeze – just use some soap and water.

This 18-piece acrylic paint kit includes every color!

Drawing on rocks with paint pens
Sometimes you want to write words on your rocks, or have more precision than paint & a brush will provide. That’s where paint pens come into the picture. They’re simple to use and allow for a greater level of detail.

We LOVE these Posca paint pen markers! They have several different tips, depending on what you’re trying to do with your rocks.

For extreme detail, try these Posca fine point paint pen markers.

For slightly thicker detail, the medium point paint pens work nicely (especially if your rock doesn’t have a smooth surface and you’re trying to work within the grooves and pits of the rock).

Applying a label
Of course, you can simply hand write on the back of your rock. But, if you’re worried about a rock finder not being able to read your handwriting, you can create an easy-to-read label. Many rock painters adhere a label to the back of their rocks. This label might include the name of their local rock painting group on Facebook, a hashtag or if they’re tracking their rocks with, will include an ID (get an ID so you  can see on a map where a rock has traveled and get a notification when a rock has been found).

To adhere a label, a decoupage medium like Modge Podge works really well. Modge Podge is basically a glue, but unless you’re using the product specifically marked for outdoors*, you won’t want to make that your final finish – it’s water-based and after your rock gets wet for the first time, they’ll start to bubble up and become a gluey mess.

*We’ve tried the outdoor Modge Podge and while it does seem to hold up well to outdoor elements, we found that it took a while (a few weeks!) for it to fully cure (this also depends on the humidity in your area). If your rock isn’t fully cured, the label can pull off if the rock gets stuck to another surface or if the rock gets wet, the shiny finish can start looking milky white. Our advice is to stick with regular Modge Podge to apply a label, then seal your rock with a brush-on acrylic varnish.

Sealing your rocks
Before you set your rock outside, you’ll want to first seal it. This will protect what you’ve just painted and help the bright colors last as long as possible. Think about the extreme conditions (weather and other) your rock may be exposed to – rain, snow, changes in temperature and maybe even rattling around in a suitcase if your rock travels.

We prefer the brushable varnish because it’s friendlier on the environment. This varnish works well because it can be used indoors, it cleans up easily and doesn’t have the strong fumes a spray varnish will have.  The key to using this product is to apply thin coats of varnish to your rock. It can get a little sticky and trying to apply a thicker coat vs several thinner coats will only leave your rock tacky-feeling vs smooth and shiny.

Have rock painting tips? Share below! ⬇️

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