5 Steps to Get Started with Rock Painting

My current obsession during the COVID-19 Pandemic is rock painting. It has served me well in so many aspects of health and wellness. Each week, my sister, a couple of friends, and I have gathered through video conference to have Paint Parties. It is so much fun to gather and create together.

During this time, I have been sharing pictures of my creations and am getting a lot of questions about supplies and how to get started. So I put together some of the keys that I have been sharing with others as they join in the fun. 

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

There are many blogs and sites that give you all the choices that you can use to paint rocks. These are the supplies that I currently use. When I find ones that I like, I tend to stick with that. My focus is on painting rocks, not on testing a whole bunch of different kinds of paints and sealants. The painting part is what I enjoy. 

Step 2: Gather and Prep Your Rocks

I walk between 4 and 6 miles a day and hike on the weekends, so I am always looking for rocks now. I look for smooth ones in any shape. We are fortunate locally to have a fantastic nursery that has the best river rock selection for painting. I am fond of these cool broken rocks that sit up. My sister found a cool design with LOVE stylized on it and I can’t get enough of painting it. 

When you get your rocks, wash them. I don’t do anything fancy. Just take the water hose outside and rinse them off to remove the dirt. 

Paint a base coat on them. Some people put a base coat of Mod Podge. I use a flat, black primer because I think the paint adheres to it better. I have used gloss and it is a shiny base coat, but my dots slid off of it. Let me know if you get a gloss base coat to work for you and how you did it. 

For the base coat, I prefer to spray paint them. I mentioned that I walk alot, so I have a set of rocks right outside my back door and whenever I go out, I can easily paint rocks there. A couple of my rock-painting buddies enjoy the process of brushing on the paint. Bottom line is whatever you prefer and enjoy, do that. There is not right or wrong way. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something else. It is all about learning. 

Step 3: Practice with Your Painting Tools

First, let’s talk about the paint. The Apple Barrel or Folk Art paint is really great for painting rocks. I prefer to mix my colors in the 6-pan palettes. Most of what I paint has all the colors in it and I like to have a lighter shade of each color ready to go. My friend, Suzi, prefers to shake the bottle and remove the lid and then work from the paint that is there. 

Honestly, both styles work. I offer options to you so that you have a starting place to explore. You can see in the pictures below of how I store my palettes in between painting sessions, so that the paint doesn’t dry out. 

My main technique is using dot making tools. The two shapes I use are ones that are flat on the end (acrylic rods, dowel rods, drill bits) or those that have a rounded tip (nail dotting tools, styluses, or ball point pens). The three techniques I mainly use are the “Dip Dot Dip Dot”, “Walk the Dots”, or “Dip and Drag”.  

Here are examples of these three types. Notice that the intricacies that you can build within the design come from layering and using different size tools. I use a paint pen for my lettering and sometimes go over it with additional paint applied with the dotting tools.

Dip N Dot

To get nice, round dots, it is important to dip your tool between each dot. 

Carefully, only get paint on the flat surface of your tool if it is flat…not on the sides. When you create your dot, let the paint do the work for you. Don’t press the tool all the way to the surface of the rock.

Walk the Dots

Using a tool with a rounded tip, like a stylus or a cheap ball point pen, load paint onto the tool and then tap the paint onto the rock in a series of 4 or 5 times. Each dot will be a bit smaller as some of the paint is removed on each dot. This is one of my favorite techniques! 

Dip N Drag

Using a tool with a rounded tip, load the paint onto the tool. Place the tip on your rock (keep the tool in contact with the rock) and then drag the tool. You can bend the “swoosh” or make them straight. Each mark will get smaller as the paint leaves the tool and moves to the rock. This one takes practice and is sooooo satisfying when you master it.

Step 4: Create Your Mini-Masterpieces

Start with a low expectation rock. If you are a beginner and you pick the best-looking of the prepared rocks and set it in your mind that you want to paint a beautiful ladybug, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Begin in the learning zone. When we learn a new skill or practice a new technique, in the beginning we are not very good. We suck. Lean into that and keep going. The key is to not get attached to your first rock. Or your second rock. The key is to paint about 20 rocks. You will improve with each one and then you will be better with your tools and understand how the paint flows. You will ROCK! (You see what I did there, right?)

I work on about 10 rocks at a time so that I can let some dry as I begin others. Then you are able to go back and add layers to your creations. That’s were the interesting parts begin to emerge. 

Here is the Pinterest board for our Paint Party Showcase so you can see our work and our inspiration. 

Mandala + Layers

This is a close up of one of my first attempts. Be patient as you learn to create the mandala shape. 

The only way to improve is to paint a lot of these. One of the things that helped me was to slow down and look at where I was placing my dots. 

So, find a pic online and study it carefully and then try to copy it. That will build a foundation for your own style.

Words + Borders

Y’all know I love drawing letters and words! 

This year, I have fallen in love with a black background with white and bright colors on it. So many of my rocks have this as the color scheme. 

You can use a piece of chalk to draw your letter first and then go over it with an acrylic paint marker. These bring me so much joy as I create them and also when I see pics posted online when people find them!!!

Flower Pots

This makes a cute present for your gardening friends! I painted the flower pot and then also created a special rock for each person in the family and gave it as a birthday gift. 

The painting around a large pot is a bit tricky, so practice on a smaller one before you jump up to a 14″ one 🙂

The base is the flat black sprayed on before adding the dots and clear coat.

Step 5: Share Them with Others

This step for me was the one that brought me the most joy during this time of physical distancing and immense change. I began dropping these off at places around my neighborhood and sharing pictures of what I was doing. A friend told me about a Facebook group where people in my town share pictures of what they create and people can also post a picture when they find a rock. 

This is so powerful to be able to share kindness, compassion, and love in a tangible way into the world. 

I love these painted rocks so much and thought everyone else would to. Well, I want to let you know that it is illegal to hide them in state or national parks. There are certain parts of our town that are also off-limits and if they find the rocks hidden there, they throw them away. 

My sister ships hers to friends near and far as a way to share love and kindness during this time of staying home. She gets back the cutest pictures and stories of how people are using their rocks. 

So think about how you can use your time and talents to create a bright sparkle in the world. If you create and post some only, tag me @superdoodlegirl so that I can see it.