In cities and suburbs across America, enthusiasts are finding inspiration and motivation from perfect strangers. Rock painting has been around since prehistoric times but has only been popular for the last five or six years.
Rocking the World: How a Craft Became a Craze!
Hiding and finding painted rocks has become a great pastime, and social media is instrumental in spreading the word. Here’s the skinny on this fun hobby, we’ll show you how the rock hiding phenomenon got started as well as how to start painting rocks at home!
In 2015, life coach and mother of three Megan Murphy started the Kindness Rocks Project in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The aim was to spread happiness and encouragement. Her brightly painted rocks bear messages of hope and goodwill and are placed in public areas to surprise and inspire the finders.
Keep the treasures you find, or rehide, it’s entirely up to you! There are no rules regarding what to do if you find a painted rock. Finders, keepers. You can trade them or give them away. Most artists agree that once the masterpiece is “set free” it’s up for grabs.
Not everyone enjoys painting, but most of us enjoy seeking and finding. There are no limits to the items that can be decorated and shared. Some artists in our city make jewelry, ornaments, key chains, and more.
We have trading posts and fairy gardens and giving trees where supplies like paints, brushes, or pens, including the ever-sought after blank rocks, are freely shared. This is about more than just rocks!
How to Find Rocks for Painting
Rocks can be found pretty much anywhere you look while walking or hiking or just going about the business of everyday life. River rocks are usually the best for painting because they are smooth and symmetrical.
Any shape will work, and just about any size. Most are around 2 or 3 inches in diameter but can be much smaller. Rocks are gathered in the spring and summer and then decorated during long winters.
Landscaping rocks and stones can be purchased at plant nurseries and home improvement stores, often for just 5 dollars per bucket. Not surprisingly, smooth rocks for painting are available online, too!
With free shipping, you will pay about a dollar each, so this method may not be for everyone, although it would be great for those who don’t drive or are home-bound but still want to join in on the rock art fun.
How to Get Started Painting Rocks
You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy painting rocks. A little creativity and imagination will go a long way. It’s a great family activity and children especially enjoy the whole process. Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt?
Best Paint for Rocks
Supplies need not break the bank. Many painters use water-based acrylic paint, available at department stores and hobby shops for about fifty cents a bottle, and little brushes, ranging from a few dollars for a set to several dollars each. Details and text can be added with fine-tipped paint pens.
The best paint pens for rocks are those that are acrylic paint markers made specifically for painting stone, ceramic, glass, or wood. The extra fine tip makes it easier to add super fine details without color bleed.
Ordinary items around the house can also be used; cotton swabs and toothpicks make it easy to add small dots or tiny lines to your design.
Waterproof Painted Rocks
Since your rocks are likely to be left outdoors, either in the garden, to enhance your landscaping, or to hide for others to find, it’s imperative that you properly protect it from the elements!
To protect the finished product, once your design dries completely, apply a clear UV-resistant outdoor sealer. Applying a decent sealer will prevent fading and peeling and keep the rocks shiny, as well as protect from rain, snow, or hail.
Sealants are available as spray on or brush on products. The choice is entirely up to you, but the spray sealant is easier and less time consuming to apply. Aerosol cans of clear acrylic sealer care readily available at hardware stores or big box stores, such as Walmart for under five dollars, on average.
How to Paint Rocks
- Once you have some blanks, wash and rinse to remove any dirt or dust, rinse well and let them dry. This can be done outside in nice weather.
- A base coat of any color, but preferably something neutral, is usually applied first. While not required, a base coat will help your design stand out and last longer than painting on bare stone.
- Apply paint and allow it to dry between coats and when changing colors. Several designs can be worked on simultaneously, so while one is drying you can start on the next one.
- Bright colors and a simple message look best.
- The back of the rock is where you’ll put instructions (“Keep or rehide”) and the name of the group and where to post on Facebook.
Usually, you are asked to take a picture of where you found it. Some artists print this information out and glue it to the back.
- If you have used a permanent marker or glued on a picture or text, you should give it a coat of Modge Podge, a decoupage medium to prevent smearing.
You can also use a mixture of homemade modge podge. Just brush it on like you would Modge Podge. Let dry overnight before finishing with a clear coat.
How and Where to Hide Painted Rocks
You have the option of just hiding your rocks for the fun of knowing someone’s day will be brightened by finding your little gems. On your daily walks, or while running errands look for a hidden spot to “drop” your rocks.
Street corners, bus stops, or lamp posts are good examples of places to hide them. Some other fun places include schoolyards, playgrounds, and “Little Free Libraries” where children are sure to go.
If you prefer a little more recognition, join a Rock Group in your area. (Search for your city’s name plus keywords “Rock Painting”) They can be found in almost every city and state in America, and many foreign countries. Tag your group when you post a picture of the rock you plan to hide; include a few hints if you wish.
Many cities have small trading posts and rock gardens hosted by fellow artists where everyone is welcome to “take one and leave one” or donate blank rocks, trinkets, and surprises of all kinds. Pendants, earrings, and key chains are some ideas of items besides just rocks that are placed in these areas.
They are especially popular during snowy winters when it is hard to get out and look for rocks in the wild. Based on the honor system, folks rarely take advantage of the generosity of the host and in most cases, the suggestions are followed. (Suggestions like “don’t be mean and take all the rocks!”)
Rock Hiding Cautions: Take Heed!
- Not everyone is thrilled to have rocks hidden around their place of employment. Hospitals and clinics sometimes forbid this activity due to patient safety. Sadly, larger rocks could become a weapon in the hands of distraught family members or even patients, themselves.
- You may need to ask permission from the store owners. Some shopping centers and malls will dispose of decorated rocks that are left in their parking lots and storefronts because of company policy.
- You should avoid gluing small items like buttons or googly eyes to your finished product. These can pose a choking hazard for small children or wildlife.
Try to keep your materials environmentally friendly.
- Political statements are generally avoided. The goal is to spread kindness and inspiration, not incite anger and discord. All themes and subjects should be family-friendly as children are quite often the finders. Other no-nos are advertising, x-rated humor, and adult subjects.
Rock Painting Ideas- What to Paint?
So you are all set to paint and suddenly run out of ideas. Keep it simple. Some popular themes are fruits, vegetables, and food items like pizza or hamburgers. Candy, like M&ms, is fairly easy for even beginners. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. You can just use a single color with a brief message, joke, pun, or happy face.
Bible verses and religious messages, holiday sentiments, and encouraging words can be a welcome discovery to those who may be struggling. Ladybugs, simple flowers and whimsical animals, fish, reptiles, and the ever-popular dinosaurs are fun for the little ones.
The very artistic create scenes of nature, mountains or seashores, oceans and rivers. The shape of the rock will often suggest what to paint on it. Does it look like a pickle? Or a cartoon character? Using your imagination the possibilities are endless.
Some generous people share supplies, such as brushes, paints, and pens. Little starter kits, including a few rocks, are sometimes given to children. Tiny rocks are made into pendants, bracelets, and key chains.
Small porcelain tiles provide a shiny, slick surface for some pretty flowers or a motivational message. They are available online and at home improvement stores. The same stores sell small wooden circles that can be decorated for the holidays or made into ornaments.
Rocks can be painted as a memorial to loved ones that have passed or a beloved pet. Garden rocks can add a little color to your flower beds. Small berry replicas placed in the strawberry beds will discourage birds from pecking at your fruit.
Painted rocks can be made into garden markers, for plantings such as peas, beans, or tomatoes. Use bright colors and add a cute face to perk things up while you wait for your seedlings to grow. They make great gifts or party favors, name tags, or placards that won’t blow your budget for bridal and baby showers.
You certainly don’t have to give away all of your favorites, whether you painted them yourself, traded, or found them. Decorate your yard, garden, or porch. Put them on a shelf or in a pretty glass bowl on your desk to enjoy all year. Let them inspire and encourage you every day.