People have been painting rocks since the beginning of time. That’s because we can always use new ways to spread joy. During the height of covid, I started painting rocks and randomly left them around my neighborhood. I haven’t stopped since.
So I guess the point is, painting rocks is fun. Art distracts me. And funny rock painting is a great, great distraction! Plus it makes people happy!
After I took a walk to the beach last week, I noticed that many of the rocks looked like noses. We decided to make faces. Making these colorful rocks was fun, but the best part was moving them around to make faces. Along the way, we decided to test out different paint pens to create these painted rocks.
What is the Best Paint for Rocks?
I have always used Sharpie oil-based pens, but we tried out the water-based acrylic Chalkola markers and the results were incredible. If you’re making rocks with kids it’s a great idea to use acrylic paint pens. They are MUCH easier to work with than using a brush. For small details, a paint brush is not the easiest way to go, so I recommend permanent paint pen markers with a fine tip or a nail dotting tool.
I have tried painting rocks using different methods and there are many ways to do it successfully. My typical method is to first paint the rock with white paint using a brush and then use paint pens for the details. You can also spray paint the base layer.
Personally, I love the CHALKOLA MARKERS but I am sure that there are many great paint pens out there. Posca markers are always great, too! I tested a few different kinds and compared their efficacy. You can check it out here.
What paint is good for painting rocks?
First and foremost, acrylic paint works the best! Once the rock is dry, paint the entire surface with white acrylic paint. Think of this as priming your canvas. If you’re starting out with a white rock, you can skip this step.
Once the white paint is dry, it is time to pull out all of the bright colors. This is such a fun activity to do with kids at any age. But remember, acrylic paint stains – so use smocks accordingly!
I get the most control by using acrylic paint pens. Along the way, I decided to test out different paint pens on the rocks. These were my favorite brands:
*I do not like the deco brands – they leak and they’re hard to work with. Plus, they smell!
Can you use Sharpies on rocks?
I have always used sharpie oil based pens, but we tried out the water based acrylic chalkola markers and the results were much better than the sharpies for this project because of the paint drying time. Since oil paint takes too long, acrylic is best. Similarly, regular sharpies cannot handle the texture of the rock for too long. They will definitely work, but the markers will surely take a beating.
Are paint brushes or markers best for rock painting?
The markers easily glided along the surface of the rock and if you’re making rocks with kids, using paint pens are MUCH easier! Using a paintbrush for small details is not the easiest way to go, instead I recommend permanent paint pen markers. Basically, paint pens need to be used with care. Regardless, too much pressing or pushing and they’ll leak all over. If that happens, don’t worry! You can still make it work! Here’s how to do it:
Sealing Painted Rocks
If you want your painted rocks to last, you’ll want to seal them before putting them outside. I have tried a few methods and they both seem to work. I recommend using Mod Podge outdoor sealer (they will not stay sealed forever, but they will stay sealed for a fairly good amount of time (perhaps a year or so). If you want a stronger sealant, you’ll want to use an acrylic spray. You can find these at any art supply store or hardware store. Be sure to seal the rocks outside or in a well ventilated space.
How to Make Hand Painted Rocks
I have been painting rocks for years and I have found this method to work very well! First, you will want to find a good rock. Smooth rocks are the easiest for adding details. Flat rocks are the absolute best and the perfect place to find these is near a river or a lake. A great way to find the perfect rock is to head to the beach! Take them to your house and clean them using soap and water.
Once the rock is dry, paint the entire surface with white paint. Think of this as priming your canvas. If you’re starting out with a white rock, you can skip this step. Once the white paint is dry, it is time to pull out all of the bright colors. This is so much fun to do with kids of all ages and a wonderful way to spend time with the whole family. But remember acrylic paint stains! This is why I get the most control by using acrylic paint pens. I love the chalkola brand, but I’m sure there are lots of great options out there!
Along the way, I decided to test out different paint pens on the rocks. I have always used Sharpie oil-based pens, but we tried out the water-based acrylic chalkola markers and the results were incredible — much better than the Sharpies for this project because of the paint drying time.
The markers easily glided along the surface of the rock and if you’re making rocks with kids, using paint pens are MUCH easier! Using a paintbrush for small details is not the easiest way to go, so I recommend permanent paint pen markers. Just remember, paint pens need to be used with care. Too much pressing or pushing and they’ll leak all over. If that happens, don’t worry! You can still make it work! Here’s how to use them:
How do you get paint pens to work?
GENTLY SHAKE THE MARKERS
PUSH DOWN ON PAPER UNTIL THE INK FLOWS DOWN
DRAW YOUR ROCK DESIGNS (FOR ROCK IDEAS, SEE BELOW)
ADD MORE LAYERS
Easy peasy, right?
The possibilities are endless when it comes to rock designs. An easy way to decide which way to paint is to brainstorm a list of potential designs. If you need a little inspiration here are 25 fun ideas to get you started:
Fish Rock – this website seems to have some wonderful rock art ideas for painting fish.
Rock Faces – I made these rocks and decided it could be fun to have interchangeable rock face parts (eyes, ears, nose, etc). I was inspired mostly by the shape of the rocks and so many of them looked like noses to me! Check them out here.
Holiday Rocks (Christmas rocks, Easter rocks, Halloween rocks, Valentine’s Day rocks) – need a last minute gift idea? The possiblities are absolutely endless.I love the idea of making peeps. Check out these Easter rocks and this is a creative way to show someone you care.
Kindness rocks (put inspirational messages, quotes or special notes on your rocks). These make people SO happy! I am telling you…you do not need to spend a ton of money to make people feel special.
Funny and witty rocks – these crack me up and make other people laugh, too. I particularly love this rock design. These are some of the funniest rocks I have ever seen! I love them so much!
Fruit and Vegetable Rocks – these disappeared the fastest when I sprinkled them around the neighborhood. Again, I revolved my designs around the shape of the rock.
Food and dry goods rocks: these are insane! I am obsessed! Also, check these out!
Animal rocks – I love turtles and love this simple rock design. You can also try your hand at owl rocks with googly eyes, dog rocks, cat rocks, little bird rocks, or pet rocks. This is a fun way to let your imagination run wild.
Whichever designs you decide to use, just make sure you’re prepared with supplies and a smock or old shirt. And…do NOT use tempera paint. This kind of paint won’t last outdoors and your works of art will vanish.
Affiliate disclaimer: Although I stand by all of the products I use, I can receive a small commission from any products purchased via my affiliate links.