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Rock Painting Ideas to Unlock Your Creativity and Make the World a Happier Place

The next time you’re feeling creative, why not pick up a rock and transform it into something beautiful and inspirational? While rock painting technically dates back to prehistoric times, it’s gained new momentum in an age of social media (#rockart) in which folks can show off their creations. And there’s a movement afoot to use rock art to help make a stranger’s day. From beautifully painted quotes and pictures to unique designs, rock art is easy for anyone to do And unlike many crafty habits, it’s extremely affordable! We asked rock artists for their best rock painting ideas. Read on to learn how to get started, the tools you’ll need and how to share your artistic creations with others.

Why try rock painting?

This activity is a great way to unleash your artistic side — and you can use it to cheer up others. Even more good news? “You don’t need expensive and fancy materials to paint on pebbles,” says Denise Scicluna, author of Rock Art!. “It’s a fun and simple way to get creative, to use your imagination and to also make art with others if you wish — friends, family, children.”  

Inspirational rock art idea
@pocketpebbledesigns/Instagram

Plus, unlike a large blank art canvas or a piece of paper, the smaller surface of a rock can be less intimidating for most people. “On a rock the artwork doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful,” shares Sam Sarles, author of Rock Art Handbook. “Sometimes the simplest designs stand out the most.”

How to find the best rocks for painting

The first step to making great art: Choosing the right stones for your rock collection! The pros say you’ll want to look for rocks that are smooth, nonporous and flat on at least one side. This will make creating your design a whole lot easier.

“The color of the rock really doesn’t matter, as you can create on all colored surfaces,” explains Sarles. “Some designs might look great with part of the rock showing and other designs might actually cover the entire rock surface with color and artwork.”

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A simple walk at your local park or by a body of water is a fantastic way to find rocks — plus research shows that the exercise can get your creative juices flowing!

Don’t see any options available by you ? You can buy a small bag of landscaping rocks,” says Adrianne Surian, author of Rock Painting for Beginners. “Anything that says ‘river rock’ is likely to have a lot of pieces that are smooth and flat.” Find them in crafts stores or buy on Amazon for as little as $13.49 for 25 rocks

Easy rock painting ideas for beginners

Inspirational painted rock
@jw_painted_rocks/Instagram

Once you have your rocks, it’s time to start thinking about what art you’d like to create. Thankfully, the possibilities are endless! “Flowers, leaves, sunshine and rainbows can be simple for beginners and are beautiful to paint,” says Surian.

“Some of my favorite rock designs are abstract designs or colorful patterns,” says Sarles. I think it’s important to find what makes your own heart smile and then work from there.”

Rock painting ideas: Rock with You Rock painted on it
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You may also find that you like writing down short quotes or affirmations on your rock that brighten your day! (Click through to our sister site for 62 inspirational quotes to make you smile.)

Artsy rock painting ideas

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Just like there are no limits to your rock art design options, you can experiment with a wide variety of mediums, as well. Experts say acrylic paints or paint pens are the way to go if you go the painting route, but you may want to prime the rock surface first!

“If you’re using acrylic paints that are a bit on the thin side, I recommend first prepping your rock with a layer of white spray paint and primer,” says Sarles. “With a prepped layer underneath, your acrylic paints will be even more vibrant.”

Inspirational rock art
@sandio.art/Instagram

Also smart: Consider finishing with a layer of liquid or spray varnish (Buy on Amazon, $13.39 for a bottle) once the paint has dried.

 “Adding varnish protects the layers of paint and makes your painted design shine,” says Scicluna. Plus, it can help keep your design looking pristine even in the elements if you place your rock outside.

If painting isn’t your thing, you can still create rock art with other mediums like temporary tattoos, rub-on transfers or decoupage, says Surian. Or consider watercolors, oil pastels, nail polish and puffy paint! You can even try using stencils! Follow Rock Painting 101 on Instagram for more fun ideas.

Rock painting ideas to share the love

Inspirational rock painting idea
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If you don’t plan to keep your works of art for yourself, consider making someone else smile by painting kind words or uplifting pictures on your rock collection and leaving the stones for others to find. “It’s a way for people to connect with one another and let them know they’re not alone,” says Megan Murphy, founder of The Kindness Rocks Project. “Someone’s going to find the rock, and it’s going to brighten their day.”

Inspirational rock art
@hfoxworth_artist/Instagram

Once your painted rock is finished to your liking and completely dry, simply leave it in a park, community garden or other public spot. For inspiration or to find a rock-painting group near you, visit The Kindness Rocks Project or search for groups on Facebook where you can share photos of your rocks and leave hints for others to find them.

A whole group of inspirational rock art ideas
Courtesy of The Kindness Rock Project

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.


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