Painting a river rock is a great way to practice your painting skills, and a fun way to preserve a rock that you have brought home from vacation. Rock painting is also a popular hobby that seems to fascinate everyone.
You do not have to take lessons, or be a professional artist to enjoy painting rocks. The only thing you really need to start this nature craft is some rocks, of different shapes and sizes, that are shaped well enough to be decorated.
You could try painting an animal, if the rock you have chosen seems to suggest an animal to you. Or you could even paint the rock as a house, or paint on a landscape of several houses. As a rock painting artist, you are only limited by your own imagination and creativity.
See our article on Painting Ladybug Rocks if you like the two painted ladybugs shown here, or read Jen Longshaw’s article on Rock Painting to learn how she paints rock creatures like the mouse, above, and the donkey, shown below.
Things You’ll Need
- Smooth clean rock
- Acrylic paint, or outdoor craft paint
- Paint brushes
- Clear finishing spray varnish
What You Do
1. Clean your river rock, making sure that it’s not dirty or flaking in any areas. An old toothbrush is a great cleaning tool. After it is completely dry, lightly sketch the design you plan to paint on the surface. Use a light pencil as it may show through under lighter paint. You may want to practice your design on paper first.
2. Assemble your paints. Use acrylic paints from a tube, such as Liquitex, or a paint made for outdoor use such as Plaid paint. (It has a bird house shape on the top to indicate that the paint is outdoor safe).
3. Use an old plate, wax paper, or foil folded around a piece of cardboard as an artist’s palette to mix your paints.
4. Use acrylic paint brushes, semi stiff. Get several sizes to use for larger areas, then details can be painted with a smaller brush. Some people prefer to use flat brushes to paint bigger areas, switching to a pointed brush for finishing touches.
5. Begin by painting in the large areas. A common problem is wanting to start on the fun little stuff and then having to paint around it. Remember: big to little. When large areas are finished, let them dry before trying to paint next to or on top of them.
6. Paint smaller areas and add finishing touches. Layer colors or add texture. You can also do this with Sharpie or other permanent markers. When the rock has had at least a day to dry, spray it with a clear urethane finish. Do this outdoors or in a well ventilated area so you do not breathe the vapors. This should be done by an adult or older child under adult supervision.
- Use a palette knife or craft stick to mix paint.
- Brushes need to be washed well with soap and water when you are finished. While painting do not store brush in water, as that damages the tip. Rinse and lay flat on table.
- Do not allow brush to dry with paint on it.
- River rocks have many different shapes. They have become a canvas for artist’s to draw and paint on, and they make beautiful gifts. These can range from pet rocks to ornate artistic creations.
- Remember to sign your name and the date of your work on the bottom of the rock.
— Acrylic paint does not wash out of clothing well. Wear a paint shirt, apron or old clothing and wash any paint spots out before it dries.
— Some colors of tube paint may not be suitable for young children to handle. Always look to see if there is a health label on the tube.
— If you plan to do this project with very young children use tempera paint and spray varnish yourself or paint with polymer medium. This won’t be as permanent but is okay for indoor use.
Sources and Citations