Would you like to create painted rocks for your garden? These rock painting ideas show the best materials to use to paint designs on rocks and stones and use them as outdoor garden art. Find out what paint to use and get crafty!
I’ll show you everything you need to get started plus a gallery of ideas including cats, owls, frogs, raccoon, deer, ladybugs, daisies, and more. There are also more tips on stone painting here.
Getting Started with Rock Painting
Last summer I was on a local garden tour (what’s new?) and met the wonderful artist who painted the rocks you see here and she kindly gave permission to photograph her work. While talent always helps, the good news is, there are a number of rock painting tutorial books available that will walk you through every step of the process and there’s a number of projects that a complete beginner can do (and like).
If you think about it, the biggest challenge is probably to find rocks in the right shapes. It’s probably much easier to get the rocks first and decide what you’re painting on them based on their shapes.
I’ll show you the products on Amazon via my affiliate account but you should be able to get the supplies locally and find the books at your public library.
NATURE TIP: While it’s fine to place painted rocks in your garden, never leave them in the wild.
Let nature be itself—undisturbed by human stuff— and enjoy your creations in your own backyard.
Rocks and Stones
Any size will do but (of course), the larger the rock, the more paint you’ll need. Fine details tend to be easier to master on larger surfaces as well.
Look for fairly smooth surfaces, but not polished stones—you need some roughness for the paints to adhere.
Also, let the shape of the rock guide your design choices: is it a cat curled up sleeping or a tall bouquet of flowers?
More Ideas for Kids
35 Playful & Practical Garden Ideas for Kids
Sow, grow, garden art & crafts, and outdoor imaginary play.
Rock Painting Supplies
You might want to hold off choosing colors until you have some rocks and know what projects you want to do.
Or get dozens of colors so you’re all set.
You will also need paint brushes in various sizes, and the usual protective and cleanup supplies including an apron, soap and water for cleanup, pencil, and Sharpies (for outlining details).
An undercoat of (I use primer for wall painting) will make it easier to see pencil lines, plus, the patio paints may appear brighter with this white base coat. It’s up to you, the artist. You may like how the paints look when applied directly to the rock surface and not need a lot of pencil guidelines.
Also, you may want to apply a few protective coats of outdoor polyurethane when your project is painted and fully dry.
Stone Painting Instructions
Some of these books were published before patio paints were available, but the actually painting instructions are still very good.
Garden art painting books by Lin Wellford are quite popular so you may have luck finding them at your local library.
- Painted Garden Art by Lin Wellford
- Painting Houses, Collages and Towns on Rocks by Lin Wellford
- RockArts: 21 Rock Painting ideas for Kids by Lin Wellford
- The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks by Lin Wellford
- Painting Flowers on Rocks by Lin Wellford
- Painting Pets on Rocks by Lin Wellford
Steps for Painting Rocks
1Clean (wash and dry) the rock
2Rough up the surface with sandpaper if needed.
3Apply primer (optional) and allow to dry thoroughly.
4Draw design with pencil.
5Apply patio paints.
Allow to dry between adjacent colors. You can use a hair dryer to speed up drying. Use Sharpies or fine-tipped paint markers to add outlines and details.
6Protect the surface.
Add several coats of protective outdoor polyurethane when completely dry.
Easy Beginner Project
These ladybugs are super simple to paint and one of the most popular of all of the painted rocks you see here.
If you use fairly small stones, you can use magnets to hang the ladybugs up.
Related: How to Paint Strawberry Rocks
Painted Rock Idea Gallery
Paint what you love! Some people like to follow instructions precisely, step by step, others get an idea and run with it. Just have fun with it and follow your muse.
This cat is a great choice for this shape of rock:
This pot of daisies is one of my personal favorites:
Another perfect choice for the shape of rock—a doe curled up, ready to snooze.
25 Garden Art Projects & Ideas
by Melissa J. Will
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This frog is quite charming and comes with a matching lily pad (fun idea):
Butterfly & Owl
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I would love to have this one displayed on a fence post, the same way we see them in this area in the winter months.
This one is painted in a different style. Really lovely!
Patio paints have very good coverage and a little goes a long way. I painted these birdhouses using the same paints and I couldn’t believe how much I could paint with the small bottles.
Another great project idea is to paint the rocks to look like houses in a village.
Love birds? See this tutorial: The Art of Stone Painting Birds.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How to Paint Rocks (Garden Art)
- Clean (wash and dry) the rock.
- Rough up the surface with sandpaper if needed for better paint adhesion.
- Apply primer (optional) and allow to dry thoroughly.
- Draw design with pencil.
- Apply patio paints.
- Add details and outlines with Sharpie marker.
- Apply several coats of exterior polyurethane for protection.