Painted rocks

Intermediate - Half a day - Complete


Painted rocks  Fun for kids: painted rocks

Painted rocks can provide a fun way to preserve river rocks brought home from a favorite trip. It is also a fantastic hobby that has become extremely popular, and it gives great results too. You don't need to have had painting lessons, nor to be a professional artist to enjoy painting rocks. You just need to find rocks of all shapes and sizes, just make sure that they are shaped well and smooth enough to be decorated. 

  • Brushes
  • Palette
  • Smooth, clean rock
  • Acrylic paint, or outdoor craft paint
  • Clear finishing spray varnish

How to Paint a River Rock

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Prepare to paint the rocks

  • Clean your river rock, making sure that no dirt is attached to it and that it is not flaking off in any place. 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.
  • 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.)
  • Make sure you have a palette to mix paint on. If you don't, you can use an old plate, wax paper, or foil folded around a piece of cardboard.

Paint the rocks

  • Use acrylic paint brushes, semi stiff. Get several sizes to use for larger areas, then details can be painted with a smaller brush. Some prefer to use flat brushes to paint bigger areas, switching to a pointed brush for finishing touches.
  • Begin by painting large areas in. 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.
  • 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.


  • Acrylic paint does not wash out of clothing well. Wear a paint shirt, apron or old clothing you don't care about. Wash a spot immediately and you may be able to get it out.

  • 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. Not as permanent but OK for indoor use.

  • Some places have laws about disturbing nature. Also, it doesn't show great respect to the ecosystem to partially or completely destroy it. Make sure the rock you choose won't impact any living thing (plant or animal).

Sources and Citations


Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Paint a River Rock. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

  • Use a palette knife or craft stick to mix paint.
  • A palette can be made out of an old plate, wax paper, or by folding aluminum foil around a piece of cardboard (as mentioned above.)
  • 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 in it.
  • In brief: find any rocks or large stones from any source. Clean them and decorate them. Use Acrylic paint, sign your name and date, and allow them to dry.
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