This Empty Nesters Guide to Rock Painting Text over photo of painted rocks Eiffel towers, cactus, watermelon, flower, rainbow
Crafts, Family Fun

Empty Nester’s Guide to Beginning Rock Painting – Instructions, Tips, and Supply List


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Ever want to try rock painting? It’s as addicting as it is relaxing, and with some of us having more time at home, now is the perfect time to learn.

Not that there’s much learning involved; there is no bad way to express yourself while painting rocks. I do have a few tips to share, a few products to have on hand, and a few ideas to keep in mind.

Note I am NOT an artist; I am very much a copycat when it comes to rock painting. I see things on Pinterest (check out the rocks I’ve pinned), and then usually take those ideas and run with it. That’s the extent of my creativity, so what I’m saying is, you don’t need to be artistic to do this…you just need to enjoy it!

Before we even begin, my biggest tip is: if you are doing this with kids, or you are an impatient person, prime/paint a base coat on as many rocks as you have available, and have them ready to paint. If you try to paint the base coat and design in the same sitting you will have a mess, and that will frustrate you and especially the kids. I may or may not have done this plenty of times in the past.

Before we start let me mention there is rock “painting” and rock “drawing with paint pens”, so if paining is not your thing, you can use paint pens on a plain rock, then seal it, and come up with beautiful rocks.

So the first thing you’ll need is to pick out a place to create.

Where to Paint

My Rock Painting Work Station

You can paint rocks anywhere you have room…on the kitchen table or counter – anywhere you can find.  However I recommend you find a designated area so that you can let your rocks dry and come back to them, adding more and more detail.

If you don’t have room for a designated space, remember you need drying time after the base coat, after the painting, and through the sealing process. So maybe find a place not in a busy area to paint a base coat, then move them to the table or counter, and have a way to carry them (maybe shoeboxes) outside to spray sealer on them and let them dry.


Any smooth river rock will do, but the lighter colored one’s are way easier to cover in lighter colored paint. Pick them up as you find them; imagining what you can make them into…a strawberry? a heart? an alien? Those are some of the rocks I’ve painted.

You can also go to your local landscaping center and buy rocks.

Or, you can purchase rocks on Amazon when in a bind. They are smooth and a nice round shape, and no searching! Plus you can stay right where you are.

Wash Them Up
Scrub those rocks down and let them dry completely. I use a scrub small nail scrub brush. If you’re in a hurry, you can put them in your oven on 250 degrees to dry them. Be careful taking them out; they’re hot!

To Prime or Not to Prime  
Some rocks have a bumpier surface. I like to prime those with some Mod Podge. However, I find if I prime my rock first with either Mod Podge or a spray primer, my paint seems to go on nicer. Play with it; you’ll find what you like. Sometimes you’re just in a hurry to paint a rock.

If you want a solid color background on your rock make sure to paint a few coats of your background color with time to dry in between. You can buy larger containers of black, white, etc. in order to have an ample amount of paint.

If you want no background, you can paint right on your clean rock or on top of a base primer.

Note the pic below showing my rocks at different stages. Some are ready to paint a design. Some need another coat. Note the two shiny rocks with no paint, they are covered with Mod Podge first.

Rocks with Base coat of pink, green, black plain


What to Paint
Sometime’s this is the hardest step. With so many options, what do you paint? I keep a Pinterest Board. I’m constantly adding cute rock paining ideas to it. Feel free to follow my board and my Pinterest, and create a board for yourself for reference.

Now Time to Paint
Grab a cup of water and an old towel or some napkins and let’s get started. Acrylic paints, paint pens, and sharpies are the best for rock paining. Any brand of acrylic paints will do for this.  After I know what I want to paint, I squirt a little on a paper plate or in container.

I have all kinds of containers to hold my paint…I use washed out dog food containers, liquid medicine cups, or anything I can reuse.

Now get a brush and paint away. Make sure to let colors dry in between coats and colors…I know, I sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize it enough.

Sometimes I have several rocks at different stages of completion all over my rock painting table. This way I go back to it and paint the next color.

Note the strawberry waiting to be finished. Patience is a virtue.

rock painting strawberry unfinished
This Strawberry Still Needs Seeds and a Stem

Don’t Forget to Sign Your Name or Affix a Label and SEAL IT!
Sign your name and date your rock. You can sign with paint or use a sharpie. Sharpie’s are great to add finishing touches or sign your name, but you need to cover with Mod Podge and then spray seal or else it will run!

Some people like to hide their rocks and put a little paper on the back with instructions. They affix this to the back with Mod Podge then seal it with a spray sealer.

Make sure to use a Spray Paint Sealer to seal your rocks – make sure to do both sides – drying in between, of course.

Spray Sealer – Any brand will do

Give Away or Hide
This part is the most fun. People are so happy to get their rocks from you, or to find them around your town.

Painted Rocks pink heart family egg flowers Eiffel Tower beach peach bee kind
Some of my “Masterpieces”


You are going to find this craft very addicting, and relaxing, I’m sure.

After you get the hang of it, you can totally take it to the next level. Check out Mandala Rock Painting. Wow!

Tips and Tricks

If you have a rock that the paint isn’t covering. Let it dry. Then add some Mod Podge to just that area. Let dry. Repaint.  See Pics

Problem With Base Coat






After Mod Podge Repair






If you don’t let your top coat dry and it rains, your alien might lose his face LOL. See pic below.

Alien Painted Rock with face peeled off
Poor guy

Well that’s it. I hope you are excited and ready to get started rock painting. Check out the links to supplies below. If anything is not available try another brand – a lot is sold out right now so I tried to list items in stock. Happy Painting! 


Click here for Printable Supply List

Rocks and Prep



Paint Pens

Paint Brushes

Marker’s (different than paint pens)

Dotting Tools – Crochet Tips Work too

Last Steps


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