A Step-by-Step Guide for Painting Rocks (with pictures!)

I know I normally post about education or writing or editing. However, this is not about that.

If you haven’t heard about the painted rock phenomenon sweeping the country, you must’ve been living under, well, a rock (bad pun intended). You may be new to the movement, or you may have been doing this awhile. Either way, there are a variety of tips and tricks we can share with each other regarding our own processes. Have an idea to share? Leave a comment for everyone to check out!

This is how we do things at our house:

Step 1: Find some rocks.

Rocks can be found just about anywhere; take a look around outside. However, if you want guaranteed smooth, decent-sized stones for easier painting, you might want to head to Lowe’s or Home Depot for beach pebbles or river rocks. Other options include heading to your local rock and gravel supplier for the best deals. You can even check your neighborhood Dollar Tree, Walmart, or craft shop in the floral decor section.

The pictured rocks below are from Lowe’s and cost about $9 for .25 cubic feet. Each stone ranges from half an inch (.5) to about four (4) inches in size.


The rocks below are from Dollar Tree and cost $1 for a small bag. There are three bags pictured in a Ziploc freezer bag. The rocks pictured have already been cleaned. There is a dark, waxy coating on the decoration rocks from Dollar Tree. I’ve found the best way to remove this film is by boiling the rocks at least twice in clean water.


Step 2: Prepare your rocks.

If you have the white beach pebbles from Lowe’s (like mine pictured above), or anything similar from outside or another store, soak them in hot water for at least five (5) minutes. Sometimes I let them soak longer because I don’t really keep track of the time, or I get busy doing something else. The idea is to be able to get as much dirt off as possible. The longer you soak, the easier it will be. To remove any dirt stuck to the rock, rub them in your hands or swish them around the water they are sitting in.

Here’s a picture of my Lowe’s rocks soaking in the kitchen sink.


Once the rocks have been thoroughly cleaned, they need to dry. Next to the sink, I lay out the rocks on a doubled-up beach towel. If you want to dry them quickly, you can also place them in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but I’ve never felt the need to do this. They tend to dry fast if they’ve been sitting in hot water. I typically wash the rocks before bedtime, so I let them dry overnight.


Step 3: Gather the materials you will need for your project.

This is where the fun starts to take shape: it’s time to gather your supplies! We use acrylic paints, paintbrushes, paint pens, Modge Podge, clear spray sealant (indoor/outdoor), and all kinds of other things. I’ve witnessed others in the community using stickers and glitter, too. I personally don’t want to potentially cause a litter situation, so I don’t let the kids use stickers or anything that could fall off the rock; we stick to the paint. For this rock, I decided to use the paint pens I found on Amazon.


Step 4: Grab the perfect rock and paint away.

I found a rock that had the shape and size I was looking for. I painted a simple image and a motivational quote I like to try to live by: “Live Simply” (and I love being barefoot). Easy! Two colors and I was done. This is where your own creativity and imagination take control. You don’t need a guide for that part!


But just in case you need some inspiration, I recommend checking out your area’s Facebook page. I’ve found heaps of ideas on Pinterest and Google Images, as well. You can even think about the things you enjoy (coffee, books, sports, cartoons, etc.) and make a list of the possibilities for future reference.

Step 5: Tag your rock.

This is one of the most important pieces (outside of painting the rock). You have to “tag” your rock! For example, I’m part of a group called “Tampa Rocks” on Facebook. There are new groups popping up all over the place; find the one nearest you by searching “rocks” on Facebook. Some in my area include: “USF Rocks” and “East Pasco Rocks.”

All you do is put your group’s name on the back of your rock. This can be in the form of a hashtag or website or just a note. Some people print out stickers to glue and seal to the rock. I’ve even see people put “keep or hide” as part of their tag. I like to keep it simple and write: “Tampa Rocks on FB.” Sometimes I include a smiley face for the fun of it.


Essentially, we hide rocks so that others may find them, right? Well, we like to know where we should post them when we find them! There’s a joy in seeing others find one of our rocks and post that it made their day or something cool like that. It’s spreading kindness, joy, inspiration, motivation, etc. It’s a great feeling!

Step 6: Seal your rock.

In order for your rock to stay looking good, it must be sealed. This protects the paint from the elements. There are a lot of different ways we can go about doing this. I’m slightly obsessive-compulsive, so I go a little above and beyond the call of sealer duty. I always Modge Podge the painting and tag first, as shown below.




Then I seal the painted rock with an indoor/outdoor spray. I will generally put on two coats. Always make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area away from anything the sealant may damage. For example, I spray in my front yard away from the cars and the house.

At the moment, I have Krylon’s ColorMaster in clear. It’s indoor/outdoor and costs around $4 at Walmart. I recently picked up a ceramic sealant from Michael’s that I will try once I run out of the Krylon.



And it’s ready!


Step 7: Hide your rock so that others may seek it!

This part is the most fun. We never hide our rocks in national, state, or county parks as these locations have a “leave no trace” policy. Take nothing and leave nothing, period. However, we do find it enjoyable to “rock” parks where children play and may find one of our creations. We often leave the painted rocks in places where there is heavy foot traffic, too. For instance, today we “rocked” the walkway leading up to Michael’s while on a craft supply run.


Now, we wait for someone to find the rock and post a photo to our “Tampa Rocks” Facebook group! This doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay. Sometimes we even announce where we’ve hidden rocks so that others may go out and play the game with us.

Bonus idea:

One other thing I do when I’m bored but lack inspiration is rock prep. For example, I may not know what I want to paint on the rocks, but I put a coat or two of white acrylic paint on one side, then tag the other side. This way I have the darker rocks ready to go for my kids to paint on a rainy day. This stash is definitely going to come in handy with Hurricane Irma headed our way!


That’s all I have at the moment. Be creative and spread some joy, you never know when you might make someone’s day! While you’re out hiding your own rocks, make sure you keep your eyes open. You never know what you may stumble upon.

If you have any other tips, tricks, or ideas, please leave them in the comments!

#kindnessrocks #paintedrocks #tamparocks


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