The paint pen for rock painting you HAVE to try!
Paint pens for rock painting have become a popular rock painting supply because they are easy to use, portable (paint rocks while waiting at the doctor's office!) and they come in a variety of tips.
Sometimes you want to write words on your rocks, or seek greater precision than paint & a brush will provide. Or, maybe you don't want to break out all of the paints and brushes and want to simply draw on your rocks. That’s where paint pens come into the picture. They’re simple to use and allow for a greater level of detail.
We tried several brands of paint pens to find the best tool for the job with the goal of fine detail rock painting (for example, outlining a drawing or writing words).
These were our results (psst, scroll down for the clear winner!)
Craftsmart paint pens
We've tried all sorts of paint pens. We first started with the Craftsmart paint pens from Michael's primarily because they were easy to find, inexpensive (about $8 for 12 pens) and we just wanted to see how paint pens worked in general.
The pens work fine if you have a larger surface and are seeking medium-thick lines. But, you'll be sorely disappointed if you're going for that precision detail and purchase these pens thinking you'll get that.
Our primary disappointment with these pens is the misleading label of "fine line" on the packaging. There was no way we were going to be able to get ultra fine lines using these pens.
"Fine line" isn't very fine
For a paint pen labeled "fine line", we found the tips to be quite thick. They'd be okay for drawing on rocks, but if you're seeking nice outlines or truly fine details, we don't recommend these Craftsmart paint pens.
With caps securely tightened, regular use of these pens were okay, though time to time when you depress the nub, a blob of paint would pour out. We'd recommend these pens if you're new to rock painting and want to get used to the feel of drawing with a paint pen.
For the purpose of rock painting and achieving fine details, we rate these pens 2/10 stars.
Sharpie ultra fine point markers have always been great markers for all sorts of crafts. They come in every color imaginable with a variety of tips, are easy to find in stores and are relatively inexpensive (especially when you land one of those 50% coupons at some big box craft stores).
When it comes to actually drawing on the rocks, we found there's a bit of art (pun intended!) to getting these to achieve nice results. First, the rock must be primed. Using a Sharpie marker on a "raw" stone sometimes resulted in the marker bleeding into the rock (remember, rocks are porous) or the marker tip "scratching" against the rock's surface. Smooth river rocks did yield better results if you want to just draw on the natural rock. Adding a base coat of paint to the rock made it easier to just break out the Sharpies and start drawing designs.
We were most excited to try the Sharpies labeled "ultra fine point" and were pleasantly surprised when we took the cap off the marker and it was indeed a very fine tipped marker. However, if your rocks do not have a completely smooth surface, the tip does tend to snag. It only took a few times of that happening before the very fine tip started to fray, resulting in double lines (essentially ruining the pen). 😞
Everything was going great, until ...
The performance of these Sharpies was pretty great ... until it was time to add a final sealer to the rocks. As soon as we sprayed an acrylic clear spray onto the rocks, the marker bled! It was SO disappointing! We tried a different sealer, a brush-on, and the marker still bled. Note, both times, we allowed the rocks to dry at least 24 hours.
After more experimenting, we found two methods worked to prevent the marker from bleeding:
Method 1: after letting the rock dry for at least 24 hours, when it came time to spray a sealer, we sprayed from a distance (about 12 inches/30 centimeters away) and did several, light coats, letting fully dry in between.
Method 2: after letting the rock dry for at least 24 hours, we applied a thin coat of Mod Podge and let fully dry. Then, we applied an acrylic gloss varnish (both spray and brush-on yielded good results, meaning the marker didn't bleed).
For the purpose of rock painting and achieving fine details, we rate these pens 8/10 stars. However, due to the unexpected results of having the marker smear when it was time to apply a sealer, we rate these pens 6/10.
Posca paint pens
Perhaps you've seen painted rocks on Pinterest or elsewhere and have thought to yourself "how did they do that?" Nice, crisp lines and a clean outline to a drawing. Posca. Posca paint pens. That's how!
Because Posca paint pens are a bit more expensive than other paint pens (like the ones mentioned above), we only tried two varieties — the fine point and the medium point. We're so thrilled with the results of these two varieties that we will definitely be trying the ultra fine tip (which we hear is comparable in tip size to the Sharpie we mention above). That said, in our experience, we have found the Posca pens to be well worth the investment. We're going on one solid year of using these pens on a regular basis and they're still going strong!
For extreme detail, try these Posca fine point paint pen markers. Here are some examples using the fine point tip, labeled 1M (meaning, the drawn line is about 1 millimeter wide).
Look at those fine details and outlines!
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