Using craft/dollar store rocks for rock painting

Dollar stores and craft stores often sell a bag of river stones — usually about a dozen stones in a netted bag. You spot these stones, all smooth and shiny, and see the price tag and think "I've hit the jackpot!"

These stones can be nice for painting, but take note, they require a bit of prep work before you start painting. The stones often have a waxy coating. If this coating isn't first removed, any paint you add will end up flaking off (as seen in the photo below).

Using craft store rocks for painting

How to remove the waxy coating

The waxy coating on these stones can be removed with some hot water, a disposable rag (or, paper towels) and a little elbow grease. It's also helpful if you have a disposable bowl (an old take-out container works great).

  • Soak the stones in a bowl of hot water. The water doesn't need to be boiling (and, shouldn't be), but a temperature you could reach in and grab a stone to wipe it clean. The hot water helps to break down the waxy coating.
  • Remove a stone and wipe it down with a paper towel or an old rag.

That's it! Now, your stones are ready to either be primed with paint or drawn on with paint pens (we like the Posca extra fine point paint pens).

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How NOT to remove the waxy coating

⚠️ There are some "tips" online about how others have cleaned these dollar store/craft store stones. We do not recommend these methods as they can be harmful (to you or your stuff).

  • Do not boil the stones. Stones can be porous and when boiled in water, the stones could explode. Steam can build pressure in the rock, causing either shards of rock to break away, or the entire rock to explode.
  • Do not put the stones in your dishwasher. The waxy coating will come loose and end up as residue in your dishwasher, potentially coating dishes you later add with that waxy coating.

Have you tried craft store stones?

⬇️ Share below how you've prepped these stones or any other tips that will help other rock painters use these craft store stones.


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  1. Pingback: GoRock.com painted rocks artist profile | Nyle Sunderland

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