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How To Create Beautiful Painted Stones

How To Create Beautiful Painted Stones main article image
Posted on April 20, 2021 by Ellen Woolf

You may have seen them on Pinterest or Instagram, or even spotted them around your own neighbourhood – painted stones are growing in popularity, and for good reason. These colourful stones are often made with the sole intention of leaving them around town and making a stranger smile. Plus, this craft trend can be just as fun for grown-ups as it is for kids! There is so much variety in the world of painted stones and what you can do with them. They might be decorated with a cute, simple image, some positive words, or even a full-blown miniature work of art!

Whatever your age or skill level, this article will give you all the tips and tricks you need to create your own beautiful painted stones with designs that will last, even outdoors.

painted-stone-cherry-blossom painted-stone-owl

Collecting the stones

You can, of course, buy stone painting kits or craft-ready stones from a shop, but you may prefer the adventure and exercise of going out into nature to find your own – plus, they’re free that way! Though, if you do decide to do this, there are a few things you will need to be mindful of. First, you need to make sure you do not take any stones from private property (your neighbour’s gravel driveway might be very tempting, but those are not your stones to take!) or any stones that have clearly been placed for decorative or practical purposes by someone else. Second, respect the land and do not take more than you need, especially from any one area. A good rule of thumb is to not take more than a handful of stones from any one spot. If you’re visiting a park or nature reserve, check the rules for that specific location because taking any natural objects – yes, even rocks! – may be prohibited.


The best stones to look for are ones with a big smooth surface on at least one side, and ideally at least an inch or two in size. If you live near a beach, river, or lake, these are great places to find smooth stones. If not, you can still find some good ones in parks or just walking around your local neighbourhood. You might want to take a washable bag with you to carry your stones in, because they will likely be covered in dirt.

Preparing your rocks for painting

Once you’ve gathered all your materials, you may be keen to get painting straight away! But if you’ve collected your own rocks and stones from nature, you need to prep them first. You will need to wash them thoroughly with soap and water, and leave them to dry completely (ideally by a window so the sun will dry them out faster). If you want to, you can also wipe them with rubbing alcohol after this process, but you don’t need to.

Deciding what to paint

Choosing what to paint on your stones depends on what you want to use them for – are you going to leave them around town as a nice surprise for people to find? Do you want to give them as gifts? Will they serve a functional purpose, such as labelling the different plants in your garden or on your windowsill? Narrowing down the purpose of your stones like this will help you decide what to paint.

Alternatively, you can let the stone speak to you and tell you what it wants to be! Is the shape of your rock crying out to be a wiggly inchworm or the pointed head of a fox? Perhaps it is a dormouse curled up in hibernation or a flower just ready to bloom!


It’s worth noting that you can’t get too attached to stones that you will be leaving around your neighbourhood. There is a very real possibility that someone will pocket your painted stone and take it home, perhaps even the very same day you put it out. If that does happen, just try to enjoy the fact that your art made someone so happy they wanted to keep it!

If you’re painting a stone or set of stones as a gift, have a think about the likes and interests of the person you are making them for. Do they love going to the beach? Are they obsessed with books? What is their favourite movie? Asking these sorts of questions is sure to give you some inspiration for what to paint for them.


A rather common trend in stone painting is dotted mandalas – you can get dotting tools online (often used in nail art) that will help you create a perfect, clean circle with your paint, in varying sizes. You may want to practice on paper first, especially if you’ve never made a mandala or used a dotting tool before.

You could paint a set of stones all with images on the same theme, a collection of positive messages, or even a series of short poems! The stones are your tiny canvases and you can turn them into whatever you want them to be. You can literally use them to create teeny-tiny detailed paintings! Your designs can be as simple or complex as you would like.


Make sure that the space you are painting in is well-lit so that you can clearly see what you are doing without straining your eyes. Protect any surfaces by covering them with newspaper or other scrap paper.


The best type of paint to use for stones is acrylic paint. If the background of your design is going to be one solid colour all over, you will usually need to apply around three coats, leaving enough time to dry in between. This is quickest and easiest if you use a wide brush or a sponge brush. Once you have your base colour done and dried, you can start painting your design.

Tip: For mandala designs, you may find it helpful to lightly draw a mandala grid (there is a lot of info online about how to use these) with a pencil before getting in there with the paints. The same goes for pretty much any design after your background has dried – you may find it helpful to sketch it lightly with pencil first.

You can use fine tip brushes for painting small designs, or you can use paint pens like Posca pens – or a combination of both. Just take your time and go carefully, because working on such a small scale makes mistakes very easy to spot.

Making it last

One thing that can be easy to forget is making sure your design will last! This step is particularly important if you are planning to put your painted stones outside where they will be exposed to the elements.

Once you are happy with your design, leave it for a day or two to fully dry. Then, you can apply a coat of varnish over the paint. Check the instructions on the label, as some varnishes recommend that you wait at least 72 hours for the paint to dry before applying. You can get matte or glossy varnishes, and you can get them in a spray or liquid form (the former should always be used outside or in a VERY well-ventilated space and never by children, and the latter is to be applied with a brush like your paints). You can choose based on your preferences, but I would not recommend a spray matte varnish, as this can discolour your design. Once your coat of varnish is dry, your design will stay vibrant and colourful for a very long time, even outside!

And there you have it – everything you need to know to create quality, long-lasting painted stones. The only limit is your imagination! If this post has raised any questions or given you any ideas, feel free to post them in the comments below!

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R Phelps

February 15, 2022

beautiful and very knowledgeable

A beautiful keepsake! :)

Ellen Woolf's profile picture
Ellen Woolf

April 21, 2021


Thank you! They definitely make a nice, meaningful gift (that doesn't take up too much space!) x

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