Using craft store rocks

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).

First remove the waxy coating so your painted design doesn’t flake off

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.

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.

How to prep the surface to paint

Now that your stones have been cleaned, you can either use paint pens to draw or add a base coat of paint. Acrylic paint works fine. We’ve also heard from others that a quick spray of a spray paint provides a nice surface for painting. We generally try to avoid spray paints (brush-on paint is friendlier for our environment), but have heard this works well.

How to seal the stone

Once you’re finished painting, seal the stone so it’s ready for any weather it may endure as it journeys after you place it to be found.

We like this brush-on sealant because it’s waterproof, it doesn’t yellow the finished painting, it dries quickly and can be used indoors (no smelly fumes from spray sealant).

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Other options for stones

We realize not everyone is fortunate enough to just have stones laying around in their backyard, ready for painting. Here are ideas where you can find perfect stones for painting!

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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