Getting Started
Beautiful smooth flat rocks are ideal for rock painting! Many people buy from landscaping facilities, and often have to “fill in the pits” with a product to make them smooth enough for painting. I find that to be a lot of work and prefer to purchase rocks that just need to be cleaned and then are ready to go!
Rocks need to be washed before you start priming/painting. When I’ve purchased rocks from landscaping facilities in the past I’ve had to hose them off outside because they are so dirty and often caked in mud. A stiff brush is also needed to get rid of the dirt. I’ve read that some people even put their rocks in the dishwasher! I do not recommend that as it may cause damage to the machine! I have also heard of people boiling their rocks to clean them as sometimes “decorative” rocks can have a waxy coating on them that needs to be completely removed. Using basalt rocks is much easier as they just need a simple rinse in water. Rocks need to be completely dry before you start painting. I always wash several at a time, and leave them on an old towel to dry.

I like to “prime” my rocks before I start painting them. I find that the colors are brighter and more consistent when you apply a base coat first. I use Sharpie water based pens for intricate areas, and they are available in all sizes. I use the extra fine, fine and medium tips the most.

For larger areas I prime my rocks with a white gesso acrylic. Make sure to paint on smoothly and evenly, let the paint completely dry before starting to paint the rock with colored paints. This makes such a difference to the finished design as it makes the colors really “pop”.

Pro Tip:

I have made the mistake of buying bags of river rocks from Lowe’s/Home depot in the past. The down side to doing that is the bags are full of odd shapes and sizes and very few of the ideal flat smooth rocks that are perfect for rock painting. I have HUNDREDS of rocks leftover that I cannot use because they are not smooth enough. Now that I have found BasaltCanvas I get the right size and shape every time! There are variations of course, but these rocks are by far the best available.

I tend to prime a few rocks at a time, because I usually have a “production line” of rocks going at any one time. I work on a few rocks at a time in each stage of the process. When I want a solid back ground I paint the whole rock with the gesso product.
Example- When I want to paint something intricate directly onto the rock, rather than having a solid back ground. I “map out” my design first using the sharpie pens.
These (below) are some rocks I painted when I first started out a couple of years ago. I painted straight onto the rock and did not use a priming sharpie pen first. I still like the designs, but if I was working on these today, knowing what I know now, I would use a primer first. If you zoom in close you can see that the color is not consistent and is a little blotchy. Priming first is much better!
Now onto color!!
There are many size tips available….
I prefer to “draw” rather than paint with a brush as I feel like I get more precise result. I have used many different brands of paint “pens” in the past and by far the Posca pens are the best in my opinion. I have found other brands to “bleed” when you seal the rocks, so I tend to stick with these now because I really like how bright and consistent the colors are.

  • 8m – larger flat tip, good for covering larger areas.
  • 5m – “bullet” shaped tip, also good for covering slightly larger areas.
  • 3m – narrower tip, good for reaching smaller spaces
  • 1m – extra fine tip, essential for outlining and narrow areas.
Of course it’s going to take a while to build up your supply of pens. You really don’t have to buy every single color and every single size tip when you first start – even though it’s tempting to do so!

These pens can only be purchased on Amazon, as most art supply stores do not carry them. I recommend purchasing the 1m and 3m sets initially and maybe a couple of extra black and white pens Individually. Some sellers on amazon bundle their pen sets, and you can often get a better deal if you buy more. They are quite expensive, but they last a long time and are definitely worth the investment, especially if you plan on really taking up rock painting as a hobby!

Many other types of Posca pens are also available, for example glitter and metallic.  And these are amazing to use during the holidays if you want to draw Christmas tree ornaments or have another special project in mind. However you don’t need to buy these when you are first starting out.
You may prefer to paint on your rocks rather than using pens, and that’s totally fine, there is no right or wrong way to do this! I would recommend buying acrylic paints and a decent selection of brushes of various sizes.

Supplies continued
Some people like to use the process of “decoupage” on their rocks, which means you can layer torn pieces of paper/napkins onto the rock and seal with Mod Podge.  It’s rather like the process of papier-mache. You can also use mod podge to glue on stickers or vinyl shapes as they stick very firmly and it dries clear and hard. Mod Podge is NOT water proof so you absolutely need to seal your rock in addition to this process.

Spray the rock with a clear acrylic coating to preserve your artwork, I have found Rust-oleum to work very well as it doesn’t chip and is very hard wearing once completely dry. Make sure your artwork is completely dry before using a sealer, and use in a well ventilated area preferably outside.

Important- make sure to cover the surface before you start spraying! Follow the directions on the sealer can! Hold the can about a foot away from the rock, and spray one thin layer, then after it dries you can add a second thin layer. If you stand too close or put on a thick layer, your paint may run or the sealer might drip. Take your time during this process. It’s very tempting to spray too much or too quickly in between coats, your patience at this stage will definitely serve you well!

In addition to all these “basic” supplies, you may also like to buy stencils if you need help drawing outlines.
You might also like to buy scrap booking paper if you’d like to try decoupage at some point. Examples will be available in future tutorials.
A variety of stickers and vinyl letters might also be a fun to purchase as you collect your supplies. Examples with be available in future tutorials.

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