This complete beginner guide on how to paint stones shares everything you need to get started including the right art materials, painting tips, design ideas, and step-by-step tutorials.
Keep them as treasures or join in one of the sharing groups popping up around the world.
For more ideas also see 12 Stepping Stone and Garden Path Ideas.
How to Paint Stones
This craft is suitable for both kids and adults.
The secret to keeping it fun is this:
Creating art on stones and rocks is not much different than painting paper, canvas, or walls. The supplies are the same—just the surface is different—but that’s what can be challenging.
Small stones and uneven surfaces are not the easiest to paint, especially if you want fine details.
If you’re new to this, start with a good size rock or a nice, flat stone. Pick a simple design and get a feel for how the paints and markers work. Then move on to smaller stones if you like.
If you’ll be keeping your painted stones outdoors, they will need a protective coat. There’s more on this in the supplies section.
If you’re looking for some fun ideas, there are groups popping up around the world where people hide painted stones for others to find. It’s the same idea as Book Crossing, but for art.
Others like to exchange painted stones like charms or friendship tokens. You’ll find more in the sharing section.
1Art Supplies & Materials
If you want clear, bold colors, you should prime your stones first.
I use the same primer (white) made for wall painting. Outdoor primer is best, because it’s tougher, but just use what you have.
Primer makes the paint really stick and you won’t need as many layers of paint to achieve nice strong colors.
But, if you like more muted colors or the look of natural stone, don’t prime, just leave it as is. Your art, your way.
SHOPPING TIP: You can save on art supplies by deciding your design/color palette first so you just get what you need.
Basic Supply List
These are the art supplies I use for stone painting.
- Latex primer for wall painting | indoor or outdoor | provides a good base coat.
- Fine sandpaper (optional).
- Good quality artist’s paint brushes in a variety of sizes from 0 to 3.
- Acrylic craft paints or patio craft paints.
- Pencil to first draw your design on the stone.
- Paint pens
- Acrylic inks and fineliner pens for outlining details.
- Craft clothes: stuff you don’t mind getting paint on.
- Soapy water for washing brushes, rag, dish for paints.
- Acrylic varnish with UV protection (matte, liquid or spray form) or outdoor polyurethane will protect your finished work of art.
Is acrylic paint waterproof?
It is water-resistant, meaning it can get rained on without damage, but do not submerge it in water. Left to soak, the paint will gradually loosen and come off.
TIP: If it’s important that your painted stones are long-lasting and the colors do not run, do a test first. Some brands of paints and markers may bleed or run when they come in contact with other art materials or the varnish.
- One key to creating really sweet painted stones is to let the shape of the stone to dictate what the design will be. When I saw the stone pictured above, it was very clearly (to me) a sleeping woman.
- If you’re new to hand-painting art or painting with kids, choose larger stones/rocks for your first project.
- Keep in mind that it is illegal in some areas to remove anything from the landscape including stones.
1 Wash and dry stones.
2 Sand surface if needed/desired with sandpaper.
3 Prime surface if needed/desired. Allow to dry thoroughly (see product label).
4 Sketch/plan design on paper first, planning your paint steps.
Generally, backgrounds are done first, and layers of paint are added one at a time, allowing paint to dry thoroughly between layers.
Finer work comes last: fine-tipped markers and paint pens are usually best for this.
5 Pencil your design onto stone.
TIP: Use a rolled-up towel to support your drawing/painting hand.
6 Start painting. Fill in large areas of color first and allow everything to dry thoroughly before adding additional layers.
TIP: Use a hairdryer to speed up paint drying.
7 If you goof up, let it dry, then prime over it and start again.
8 When your design is done, protect your stone with an acrylic varnish that includes UV protection to prevent the colors from fading, or a product like polyurethane.
Another option is clear nail polish, although it will wear off faster than the other products when exposed to the elements and is not cost-effective for anything larger than a pebble.
More Ideas for Kids
35 Playful & Practical Garden Ideas for Kids
Sow, grow, garden art & crafts, and outdoor imaginary play.
4Watch Hand-Painting TV
I included a variety of videos in this playlist showing a range of design possibilities.You will see kid’s creations, mandalas, and other creations.
5Tutorials & Design Ideas
Empress of Dirt
- DIY Garden Art Painted Rocks| Paint animals and flowers on rocks
- The Art of Stone Painting| Owl painting tutorial
- The Art of Stone Painting| Bird painting tutorial
- How to Paint Strawberry Rocks | Good beginner project
Around the Web
- Animals in the palm of your hand | Japanese artist Akie Nakata (known simply as Akie) turns found stones and rocks into adorable animal paintings you can hold in the palm of your hand. These are masterful!
- Stone Painting Craze Rocking All Over the World | Doncaster Free Press
The Art of Stone Painting by F. Sehnaz Bac is a good resource guide and the creations are beautiful. It includes step-by-step tutorials for creating several of the designs shown on the cover.
Stone Painting for Kids has more playful designs.
If you want to paint animals, houses, flowers, and more, the older books by Lin Wellford are very helpful and your local library may have copies.
7Sharing Painted Stones
There are many of these painted pebble/stone/rock sharing groups around the world. Try googling for your area to find a local one, or start your own.
The idea is that you create a painted stone you wish to ‘release into the world’. A tracking url (web address) is added to the back. You leave it in a public place like a park bench. When someone finds it, they can visit the url and share their treasure. And perhaps pass it along the same way.
It is never, however, recommended to leave painted stones in any nature areas, which would be the same as leaving any other human-made items (not good).
8Frequently Asked Questions
1How do you prepare rocks for painting?
- The first step is to wash the rocks in soapy water and allow them to dry thoroughly. The art materials will not adhere properly if the rocks are even slightly damp.
- Next, if you want a smoother surface, you can use sandpaper to smooth the rock.
- Then, primer can be added—the same primer used for preparing walls for painting. Starting with a white base coat of primer will enhance your paint colors, but it is optional.
- A coat of acrylic paint can also provide a good starting surface.
2What kind of paint do you use on rocks?
- Any acrylic paint will work. My top pick is patio paints for crafting due to their tough finish. You can see other recommended products here.
- Finer details are created with markers and paint pens.
- Acrylic wall paints also work and are much less expensive for covering larger areas.
3What do you use to seal painted rocks?
- An acrylic varnish that includes UV protection is recommended. Or, you can use any outdoor polyurethane product that dries clear and does not yellow.
4What is the best glue to attach stone to stone?
- I always use GE II Silicone Sealant as an outdoor glue for things like this. Depending on how you are joining the stones, you may need to rig up supports to hold the stones in place until the bond is formed. Don’t expect it to suspend heavy rocks, but it definitely works for attaching one stone to another.
Now go paint some stones!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛