Painting Rocks – Best Supplies for Painting and Decorating Rocks
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Painting rocks is easier than it looks and it’s also quite addicting once you get started. It can be difficult to figure out the best supplies and techniques so I thought I’d create a guide based on my experience.
For years I sold my painted stones on Etsy, but now I prefer to share what I’ve learned so that others can enjoy painting rocks as much as I do. This post has a lot of great ways to get started painting rocks. You’ll also want to check out my Rock Art Handbook that’s available on Amazon with over 30 tutorials for painting rocks.
The Best Rock Painting Supplies (affiliate links are provided for your convenience)
1. Rocks-The number one question I get is “where can I find smooth rocks.”
Here are a few different places to find flat rocks, but first take a little walk around the neighborhood, you may by surprised what you find. Avoid buying rocks that have a wax film over them to make them shiny. This makes it difficult for paint or markers to adhere to the rock.
- Amazon has some great rocks for painting:
- Landscaping supply stores, stone yards and stone depots often sell river rock rock in bulk. Make sure to bring a bucket!!
- Home Depot and Lowes garden centers will often have smooth river rocks in the garden section.
- Stores such as Michaels Craft Stores, Walmart and The Dollar Store often have smaller rocks available.
2. Paint – The best craft paint to use on rocks is acrylic paint.
See my recommendation below for my favorite brand of acrylics.
- Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paint – Love this thick paint that’s very vibrant
- Mont Marte Acrylic Paint
- ARTEZA Acrylic Paint – this is a great option for a variety of colors.
- Artecho Acrylic Paint
- Folk Art Multi-Purpose Acrylic Paints are another favorite. I love the bright colors and thick consistency. The paint goes on smooth.
3. Paint Brushes – The key to painting details on your rocks is small brush sizes.
Below are some of my paintbrushes for rock painting . You don’t need to spend a fortune on your brushes, the most important factor is keeping the brush size small.
- I love this set of brushes. Even though they say they are for watercolors, I’ve found they are the best brushes for painting rocks with acrylic paint. I also usually have several 000 size brushes always on hand for fine details.
- In expensive paint brushes work great too fording full coverage and basic designs to your rocks.
4. Paint Markers and Paint Pens for Rock Painting
Another great option for painting on rocks, especially if you struggle with acrylic paint are paint pens and markers.
- My absolutely favorite brand of paint markers are Posca Paint pens with extra fine pen tips. These water-based paint markers also come in natural pastel colors as well. They are shown in the pic above.
- Another great paint pen option are Tooli-Art Acrylic paint pens shown below for the Halloween rocks. They come in both extra-fine and medium tip.
- I also really love these paint markers by Artistro. The fine tips make them wonderful for detailed drawings like mandalas and other fine line doodles.
If you want to doodle on your rocks using regular markers these Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are my favorite. Shown in the pic below. You can see all the different ways I use them in this post. You will need to paint a white acrylic base on your stones if you are using these markers.
Black Pens for Outlining
For creating black outline around finished designs, I love these Micron Pens and these Faber-Castell pens. I like having a variety of sizes for different thicknesses. You just need to be sure the paint is completely dry before using the pen or else you risk ruining the tip of your pen with paint.
White Gel Pens
These white gel pens are great for fine details and designs on painted rocks.
5. Fun Rock Painting Supplies for Kids
Chalk marker are such a great option for rocks, especially when crafting with kids. Here is great option Chalk Markers. NOTE: For the chalk markers you will most likely need to paint a white acrylic base on your stone first, unless your rock is already a light color.
These chalk crayons are another great option when doing rock crafts with kids. You can use them to draw directly onto the rock. See the pic above for reference.
6. Sealant for Painted Rocks
When it comes to sealing rocks I prefer to keep the matte natural look of the rock as I usually don’t cover the rock completely with paint. I mostly use this favorite spray sealer by Design Masters. This spray sealant will work no matter what you use to decorate rocks. And it will not smear your design as sometimes other sealants might. If you want a glass-like glossy finish, you will love this gloss spray sealant option! Be sure to spray in a well-ventilated area.
You can read more about other supplies I love for painting rocks in this post about doodling on rocks and this post about creative ways to decorate rocks.
Rock Painting Tips
Prepping Rocks for Rock Painting
Before you get started painting rocks you’re probably wondering if you need to do something to your rocks first to prep them. For the thousands of rocks that I’ve painted I simply wash the rocks outside with a house and let them dry and I’ve never had any problems with decorating them using the supplies I prefer.
- Start with a base coat using white acrylic paint that either covers the area you’ll be painting or the entire rock. Having this white base coat underneath acts as a primer for the rock and helps brighten the other paint colors.
- Paint the basic design using the main colors.
- Go back and add more details and design with additional colors.
- Outline the finished design with a fine black pen for enhanced detail.
- Use a sealer to protect you finished design.
Easy Rock Painting Ideas
Here are some fun and easy rock painting ideas that are great for beginners to try.
People Painted Rocks
Have fun coming up with with different painted rock people. Get creative with their clothing, facial expressions and accessories. Using multiple rocks makes the project even more fun. You can even create your own family portrait.
Ladybugs are a great and simple rock painting idea for kids and adults. You can make your ladybugs different colors or even different themes.
Alphabet Painted Rocks
Who doesn’t love a colorful alphabet project. Paint your own alphabet rocks and then use the letters to spell out messaged for friends and family. You can glue the rocks down on a piece of wood or canvas to make a special gift.
If you want to put a smile on someone’s face you can make your own kindness rocks. Pick inspiring words or phrases and add them to your rocks. If you’re looking to order some kindness rocks check out the Rainbow Rock Project on Etsy!
Holiday Painted Rock Ideas
Holiday Painted Rock Ideas
You can create decorative rocks for all of the holidays! Check out these rock painting posts for inspiration.
- Fall Painted Rock
- Halloween Painted Rocks
- Zombie Painted Rocks
- Dia de Los Muertos Painted Rocks
- Thanksgiving Painted Rocks
- Christmas Painted Rocks
- Valentine’s Day Rock Painting
- St. Patrick’s Day Rock Painting Ideas
- Easter Rock Painting Ideas
Rock Painting Book
Looking for more rock art inspiration? Check out my book, The Rock Art Handbook! It has over 30 different rock art tutorials featuring dot painting, marbling, embellishments, decoupaging and much more. In the book I go in-depth on different art supplies that you can use on rocks and provide a ton of tutorials to get your creativity flowing.
Are you ready to start painting rocks? Make sure you check out all of my other rocks posts for more ideas. Also I’d love to see what you’re creating. Come find my on Facebook or Instagram and share your beautiful creations.
I like to wash my rocks in my dishwasher. They come out clean, sanitize, and dry ready for painting.
Dirt washes off of rocks and settles in pipes if you wash your rocks in the sink or dishwasher.
I actually wash mine outside with a hose. But such a good point. I adjusted the post to make it clear so no one ruins their pipes :).
oh darn I didnt think of that… ty ty!!! gotta have hubby clean my trap area!!
I do also wash mine in the dishwasher.
I just wash mine outside with a hose so I don’t worry about dirt or anything clogging up the drain.
Sadly I don’t have a working hose. Stands to reason I wouldn’t have a dishwasher! How do I get the rocks I find in the yard clean before I paint them?
You could soak them in a bucket of water or dump water over the top 🙂
I would think if you rinse them with a hose first, washing them in the dishwasher would be OK. Then again. I am not a plumber
The hose for me cleans the rocks plenty! I don’t think I’d risk the dishwasher. Just not worth it.
I am going to share this to my Rock group – NSW Friendly Rocks on Facebook. I can’t wait to try some of these ideas out! Not sure if we can get hold of the Martha Stewart paints here is Australia, but I will go on the hunt this week. Thanks for posting, Samantha.
So glad you found some inspiration! Hopefully you’ll find the paints. I’m sure if you can’t you’ll find something else that works. You just do t want anything too thin.
The amazon link for both sets of Martha Stewart paints says unavailable. Are they available other places?
You can also find the paints at Michaels, Hobby Lobby and other craft stores :).
Just on line and search for it. You should be able to order it online but really any paint will do. good luck. I would love to see your website. I am in Texas and my rock club is
belton rocks.com and with the space or you can search for Belton TX rock club
You can order Martha Stewart paint from Amazon!
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Do the posca pens come in a set or do you have to buy them individually?
Did you check the links in the post? I have those same exact sets in regular and pastel colors. Are you looking for a larger set?
I love your painted rocks. I am going to paint alot of rocks soon, I never done this before so I will practice to make it look better. What if I make mistake, how can I remove some paint at some spots and not start all over again? Thanks for great tips!
Don’t worry about mistakes. I always tell this to my son as well. You can always turn a mistake into something beautiful. Maybe practice your design first on paper and then try it on the rock. There’s really no way to remove the paint, but if you don’t like the rock you can always search for more :).
I have found that if you use a q tip and water as soon as it happens, you can pretty successfully get the paint off. Also, if its being stubborn, I will dab a touch of nail polish remover on a q tip. That works too. When I decide to scratch a whole rock…sandpaper is my friend.
Is there a store that I can purchase the pin paints from, becides the net?
I’ve only seen the posca pens online and from what I’ve seen Amazon definitely has the best pricing. They are from Japan.
We are having our whole school
Paint rocks for a project. With 800 kids painting, can you use tempera paint and then apply a waterproof sealant?
I tried tempura paint at my son’s preschool for a project and honestly it doesn’t cover very well on it’s own. Can you paint the rocks with white acrylic first or even spray paint them white before you give them to the kids? The white base will help the tempura show up better!
I found outdoor mod podge. I’m giving that a try for mine at Michaels.
You’ll have to let me know how you like it!
You gave me so many different ideas! Thank you..I’m painting rocks for soveniors to take with one for a 100+ Celebration of life party on August 13. I hope I can get that many done. Thanks again. I seen many simple and fastly done but pretty…I got all my rocks at the Dollar store and they are flat and BLACK! Shiny too. I have a spray can of Rust-Oleum 2 times ultra cover. Will this seal my rocks so the paint stays on them.. Would you agree? Please help!!!
Hi Kathy! So glad you’ve found some inspiration. Would love to see a finished pic of your rocks when you’re done. I don’t usually use Rust-Oleum, I use a different sealant but I heard it works well. Test one rock out first before you spray all of them 🙂
Just a heads up on the rocks from the dollar stores… namely Dollar Tree. You might do a test and see if your paints cover. Because most of them are covered with a waxy coating. Very deceiving because you can’t scratch it off, and they are called “Polished”, and they are sorta are, but decor rocks have that finish- at least at the Dollar Tree. They are still a great source for rocks, I’m still working on my batch. 😀 Knowing that- I was able to put a little effort into them- I soaked them in hot water and Dawn and a little baking soda, maybe 30 minutes. Very little elbow grease I was able to use a green scrubby to get the last of the wax out of any divots or rough spots – I would NOT dump the water down the drain since it’s waxy. But I was a little surprised the rocks were not actually black. :/ I bought them because I liked the size and shapes (relatively small, mostly smooth and flat-ish) So for that- knowing what to expect it was mostly worth it . The coating might not cause an issue with the paint itself, but probably when you seal it, if you choose to do so. I went this route because I was new to rocks and felt it was a good option to see if it was worth the hobby. (it was)
Hi I’m knew to painting rocks.
I’m A elderly lady , that always needs A Hobbie
And something different to try.
So what I need now ,is to get my supplies.
You have given very good instructions.
Thank you, for sharing!
BIG THANK YOU!!! I used to tole paint with my sister but when she passed away I lost inspiration. I picked up paint brushes again for the ‘kindness rock’ project & your rocks have been a huge inspiration! I just ordered the pens to try. Thank you again!
Aww, I’m so happy that you’ve found your inspiration again. And I’m so sorry for your loss. I have a feeling that the beauty of your sister will live through your art. xo
What about sharpie pens? Do those work well on rocks?
I don’t use them often but yes they work. Just be sure to seal them first with mod podge and then use a spray sealant. If you don’t use mod podge and then you try to spray them the ink will run.
Thanks for the great post on painting rocks. Haven’t painted any rocks in decades and looking forward to painting some!
BTW, when I was about 19, I bought some blue engine paint for my 1969 Mustang. I sprayed a few smooth round rocks with the left over paint. Forty years later, those rocks are still blue!
I meant to add that the rocks have been outside the entire time…tough paint!
Yay! Glad you found some inspiration and that’s amazing about the rocks that have stayed colorful for so long. Have fun painting 🙂
Can you use puff paint like the stuff for t shirts?
Try it! It might take awhile to dry though. Another option might be fabric 3-dimensional paint.
What do you set the rocks on to dry after spraying with clear sealer. Mine are sticking to everything.
I usually spray them on cardboard. It might be your sealant. What are you using? The one I like isn’t very sticky. I wait at least a day to spray the reverse side and I always find a clean piece of the card board to spray on again.
I’m not very artistic and I will like to sell some rocks to raise money for our nonprofit organization that raise awareness for veterans suffering from PTSD and MST. Can I used transfer stickers or tatoos or small stencils.
You sure can! Temporary tattoos work wonderfully! You’ll still want to seal them with a spray sealant. And stencils are great too!
Is there a “safe” paint and marker for painti g alphabet rocks that a toddler will play with? I’m so confused with so much research I’ve done!
When my son was little I used Martha Stewart paint directly on the rock and I just brushed on a very light layer of Mod Podge over the top once it was dry. A lot of people don’t like mod podge because it doesn’t hold up well outside but if you are only using it inside and with children I think it’s the best option because it’s non-toxic. The rocks I made him 6 years ago still look beautiful.
Can you sand rocks to smooth them some
I’ve actually never tried.
I got a lovely bag of white cobbles from a builders merchants here in the UK. They are powdery to start with, but after washing and drying they are perfect for painting.
Wonderful!! Would love to see what you create. You can share a pic on Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/colormadehappy
I am having hard time with yellows and oranges covering the rock. Any brand cover in one coat?
Yellow and oranges are the hardest. If you are using them to cover the entire rock, I suggest using a spray primer first. I like Krylon flat white. It’s much easier to paint the light colors over white.
Can you use stamps on flat rocks? I carve my own stamps and would love to use them.
I would also love to sell some of my finished rocks to help me pay my medical bills. ☺
You absolutely can! Maybe try stamping with acrylic paint to start. And check out Etsy for selling your finished designs. I used to sell lots of rocks on there.
Rock novice, poor eyesight & shaky hands. Not good with the art work but I’ve read a lot of good tips. Discovered rock art through my local f group Bucks Rocks. Hoping to move on from Relocation Specialist to Artist.
I seen a cute idea just using stick figures. Should I just use a fine point pen or markers ???
Paint markers would be the way to go!
A project for the physically challenged is to paint the rock a solid or mix of colors, When dry add a symbol, I.e. chinese,
A second project is to mix colors on a plate, (foam works well) them when you like the pattern dip the rock in and pick up carefully,
I love all these great tips and ideas. I’m planning something for my friend’s 60th birthday to follow up on a rock I gave her for her 40th that was engraved with “at least you’re not as old as this rock”. Your suggestions for supplies is perfect and just what I was looking for. Thank you for sharing!
Too cute! Love that idea for your friend.
I want to thank you for taking the time to show others how to have fun while creating beautiful, fun art pieces with rocks! I bought a rock kit to start, and I had a difficult time getting the paint to stick. I was disappointed, as I wanted to do something light and fun with my daughter; hoping it could be an ongoing activity. I came looking for help on the internet, and found your wonderful post immediately! I don’t even have to look for any more instruction! You’ve brightened my day with color, and offered me the silver lining with a smile, after a dark, cold week! Thank you, and God bless you, in Jesus’ name! Nature is the best art!
The Silver Lining at angelaslittleattic.com
What lovely feedback. Thank you. Hope you have some fun enjoying this activity with your daughter.
Do the rocks have to be completely dry for the sealant? I run a children’s department and thought about painting rocks, but I know kids will want to take them home when they’re done. Any suggestions for speed drying, or sealing while wet? Thanks.
Yes they should be completely dry before sealing but acrylic paint drys very quickly as long as they don’t overload the rock with it!
How long does the sealant take to dry? I am thinking of making about 50 with a group, prepainting some and having the participants put on their on touches with markers. If they are sprayed with sealant when they are done, would they be dry enough in 30 minutes to transport in a plastic container?
So sorry just seeing this now. What you could do is seal just the top so they can be transported. I would leave a lid off the container as the sealant fumes might be too much.
I have 7painted rocks by an artist. They are beautiful, a very thin rock and a pin was put on the back to wear it. Sample of one is a cottage, with flowers around and a window box filled with flowers. She had brushes with 1 and 2 bristles in them, worked under a magnifying glass. These I see you do are adorable. Wish I was artistic. Loved your whole page of help and ideas. Thank you for sharing it.
So glad you’ve found some inspiration. I truly believe everyone is an artist. Designs don’t have to be complicated to be beautiful. Just paint something that makes you happy 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your talent and not keeping your knowledge a secret ?. I have the supplies, now I just need to make time to start!!
YAY! Can’t wait to see what you create! Also I have a book coming out this summer with a ton of NEW ways to create on rocks along with 30+ tutorials.
I am so impressed with the craft work. I work for a public library and I want to help kids make some galaxy rocks for a craft. I don’t have a large budget so I’m going to have to buy some of the items myself. Would it work if I substituted the Martha Stewart black matte paint for spray paint? That way I can get a larger number of rocks painted and ready for the craft with less $ and in a larger quantity. I want to try to follow the rest of your instructions as close as possible. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!
So sorry…just seeing this now! Yes!! Black Spry paint is a great way to cover a bunch of rocks at once. I actually like to use Krylon Black paint+primer spray. It’s a primer and paint in one. I like that it goes on matte.
Thank you so much for recommending the matt spray sealant by Design Masters. I used matt Mod Podge and sure enough over time the stones I used Micron pens on have badly faded. So disappointing on very detailed pieces. I just ordered the spray sealant. Thank you again!
I live on the Moray Firth in Scotland where smooth beach stones
are plentyful. After watching your article I cannot wait to give it
a try. THANKS !!!!
I am having problems with my painted rock smearing when I seal them. I am using good products. How long should rocks sit before sealing?
What are you using to seal them? If you’re using a brush on sealant it won’t work with most markers even if you wait. I typically use spray sealants. Also it’s important to not get too close to the rock when you spray them. You should only lightly fog them.
Hello – all I have is Crayola washable paint (as we’re in n apartment with no outdoor space!). Do you think this would work?
You could try it, but you would need the rock to be painted white with acrylic paint first otherwise that paint won’t show up well.
Hi, I was just wondering if anyone knows if this-Design Master® Clear Finish, Matte is the same as the one that is recommended above..I found it at Michaels, it has the same number on the can as this one “169” but the can looks completely different. Here is a link to the page I don’t know if a link will work on here but ill try anyway.
Im sorry its such a long link 🙁 but ty in advance for any replies
It’s the same one!! 🙂
some great ideas here, Indeed like to share with my group NWRocks based out of WA and OR
Wonderful! Glad you found some inspiration to share 🙂
Thank you for providing such great information on rock painting. I am going to try this as an art project for my grandsons.
Do you still need to apply sealant to Posca paint pens to preserve rock designs for outdoors?
Yes,you should still use a sealant if placing them outside.