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Tips and Tools for Drawing on Rocks

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The pictures of my rock doodles are some of my most popular pictures on my Instagram page. The first question I get asked is where do I find such smooth rocks? I’m lucky enough to live near a beach filled with them, but if you’re having trouble finding your own, I see some places below where you can buy rocks online! (This post contains affiliate links for convenience)

ROCKS – Amazon has some great rocks for painting:


For clean, white designs, my favorite pen to use is this uni-ball signo gel pen.

For bright, detailed designs, I love the Moonlight Series gelly roll pens by Sakura America. Be sure the gelly roll pens you purchase are the bold point. The tip is actually quite small. I’ve tried the fine point tips and the ink doesn’t flow as well.
These gelly roll pens not only look beautiful directly on the rock, but they are also work great if you first paint a black acrylic base.
Tips and Supplies for Doodling on Rocks
For a smooth, paint-like effect, I use extra-fine point posca paint pens. These pens also work great on wood and other surfaces.


 Another great paint marker option are these extra fine point paint markers by ArtistroPaint Markers for Rocks

I’m also a huge fan of TOOLI-ART paint pens and have both the extra fine set and medium point set.

For younger children, I really like these neon liquid chalk pens by OOLY. You can also use them on glass, chalkboards and other surfaces. The chunky tip makes drawing designs and letters easy for kids.


When it comes to sealing your finished doodle rocks, you can either seal with a glossy or matte finish. For a glossy glass like finish, I love this gloss spray sealant.  If you prefer a more matte finish, my favorite sealant is this matte clear finish. I almost always use a spray sealant when using markers or pens on rocks so that the designs don’t get smeared (I’ve learned from personal experience).


I’m excited to announce that you can now order my latest book, The Rock Art Handbook on Amazon. It has over 30 different rock art tutorials featuring dot painting, marbling, embellishments, decoupaging and much more. In the book I go in-depth on different art supplies that you can use on rocks and provide a ton of tutorials to get your creativity flowing.

Rock Art Handbook - The best supplies and tutorials for decorating rocks

For more fun ideas for decorating rocks check out my other rock posts:

Best Suoplies for Painting on Rocks

4 Creative Rock Decorating Ideas

Galaxy Painted Rocks  

Remember, there’s no wrong way to doodle on rocks. If you’re unsure of what you want to do for your design, sketch it out on paper first. But really, the best way to create fun, unique designs is to just start drawing.

If you get a chance, head over to my Instagram page or Facebook page and let me know what you think about the guide. Next in the works is a guide for painting on rocks. I’ll announce it on my Instagram page when it’s finished.

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  1. I love these! Thanks so much for sharing. Can these be on display outside after sealed? Thanks so much!

    1. So glad you like them! As long as you make sure to seal them they should be okay to display outside! Definitely use a spray sealant.

    2. When I sealed mine with mod podge the gel pen smeared. Do you know if the spray will make the gel pen smear too?

      1. The spray that I posted about is by far my favorite and I’ve had no problems with smearing. Mod Podge really only works well if you’re using acrylic paint only on the rocks!

        1. If you live in a damp/wet area, modge podge will dissolve. I’ve found that Rustoleum works great if you use acrylic paint. I prefer to use Patio Paint because it doesn’t require a sealer.

          1. Great suggestions! I only use mod podge on rocks that stay inside. It’s still a great option for people who want a non-toxic option, especially for rocks handled by little ones :). But only on rocks that have acrylic paint! I’ll have to try rustoleum.

      2. I use polyurethane spray. You can find it in any crafts store. Spray your finished rock outside, and spray in a back and forth motion from 6″ away from the rock. It takes about 8 – 10 minutes to completely dry in case you want to spray all sides of your rock.

    3. I paint rocks with enamel acrylic , then bake them in the oven for 20 minutes @ 350. This process works better than sealant for me. I also bake painted jars the same way.

  2. Sweet! Thank you so much for your suggestions. I am fortunate to live near a beach as well, and I have some smooth rocks laying around. I’ve seen the pictures of painted rocks and always wondered how it was done. Now I know, thanks to you and the links you provided 🙂

    1. Yay!! So glad you found some inspiration. I’m working on more rock posts with tips on painting as well as using other art materials on them so stay tuned :).

  3. Love this! I love doing things like this! I want to follow you on the rest of your information on painting rocks!!!

    1. So glad you found some inspiration! Keep in touch on my Instagram page. I’d love to see what you create.

    1. Not when I’m just doodling on them. I only prime them if I’m using an art supply that won’t show up on the rock by itself.

  4. This is great info and I love seeing the pics of the actual pens you use. Thank you. I’ve recently become aware of people who paint rocks and ‘hide’ them in parks etc for children to find – my granddaughters found 2! They were so excited I’d like to paint rocks with them and then go and hide them.
    Check out the fb group ‘Whangarei Rocks’ for our local group here in New Zealand.
    I’m wondering if the paint on sealant/varnish I got will smudge the paint! Is this why you use a spray on one? I also think I’ll try sealing with PVA glue which I think is like mod podge.
    Do you wash the rocks and prep the surface by painting it white first to make brighter colours?
    I love the white designs on the natural rocks ❤

    1. My son loves painting rocks and hiding them too for people to find! I use the spray sealant when using the supplies mentioned in the post because I’ve found other sealants like mod podge smear the markers. If you are just using acrylic paint, mod podge will work and not smear the paint. Also I just rinse the sand off the rocks before I draw on them. But sometimes I don’t wash them and the colors are still great!

  5. Our 2-5 grade kids will make these for vacation bible school. We can give them as I’m thinking of you gifts to seniors. What a fun, new idea idea. Thanks!!!

  6. Hi, I am a 68 yr old stone paint fanatic. I love it so much because of the million different things you can paint on them, and for every age group. My grand kids have started already as well and are only 8,9,10 yr olds.
    I use a gloss clear finish with UV filter so the colours won’t fade so quickly.
    Especially for outdoor use, like in between the succulents and other garden plants. I have learned that you have to be absolutely sure the paint is dry before using a varnish. I’m not so impressies with ModPodge as it smears too much. For langer areas I use acrylic paint and use Posca pens for the details. It’s cheaper that way as your pens last longer.

    1. Such great tips! I do a lot of painting with acrylic as well. Love that you have passed on your stone painting love to your grandkids. They are sure lucky to have such a crafty grandma.

  7. I just moved to ms. From fl. Where i lived there was only limestone. Now i find all these rocks on the roads , everywhere. I am not artistic and have never rrally thought about painting rocks, but now i really want ti, and i want to be able to use the rocks natural appearance somewhat.i just really dont no where to start. I need a starters step by please explain guide to get started.i have bought some cheap markers to see if i have the patience. Really want to do this..priming the rock is where i am now..thanks, pam

    1. Hi Pam! It’s hard to find the right pens for rocks. If you get the markers I used in the post I think you’ll find the process super easy. All you have to do is start drawing. No priming required. The inks are bright enough that you don’t need to prime the rocks first! I’m in the process of creating a few more blog posts all about creating on rocks so keep checking back or follow along on Instagram!

  8. I have wanted to paint on rocks for years. (I am now 80) I just didn’t know where to start (what paints, etc) RA has caused me to slow down on painting crafts but I just love it too much to quit. Thanks so much for all your information. I have painted on wood and made dozens of wooden crafts to sell at our Church Bazaars in the last 20 years, but do want to try “rocks”.
    I hope I can find the rocks as where I live in NC there aren’t any of the right kind.
    Thanks again! Kay

    1. If you have trouble finding rocks, check out your local garden center! They usually have river rock that you could use, just don’t get the glossy kind. Happy crafting!

  9. This is amazing! I run a recovery home and wanted to do a cool garden project with the girls about recovery! What a great liw cost project. Cant wait to get startef

  10. Sam,
    I think is your name! You do beautiful work!! you are so creative, and so talented!! Thanks for bringing the light of happiness, and all your tips!
    Keep up your great work!!

  11. Years ago I painted rocks and was obsessed with them. I thought I was the only rock nut. Now I find myself wanting to get back into it. Thanks for all the good information and the tips.

    1. YAY! So glad you’re inspired to get obsessed about rocks again ;). I love all kinds of crafts but I always find my way back to rocks. They are my favorite palette!

  12. My kids and I paint and doodle on rocks and hide them throughout the community. Santee Rocks! is our local FB group where we post pic of finds and re-hide. My kids have found over 20 rocks this summer! So cool….

    1. I want to do this! How should I go about it? Should I create a Facebook page and paint the link on the bottom of the rock for those who find them?

  13. Absolutely, positively tickled pink with all the painted rock options other than “dotting” (which is cool too). I primed a few large rocks with ModPodge, they look great, however, can I doodle on them with Pigma Micron pens? If so, should I Elmers it before spray sealing it? – You have the BEST rock painting site, Bless You!

    1. You know what, I’ve never primed my rocks. I just draw straight on them. It’s definitely worth a try. You’ll have to let me know how it goes.

  14. Hi Sam! Thank you for your inspiring creativity. I follow you on Instagram and I love all your projects. Question, I bought the exact same Sakura jelly roll pens and the white Uniball Signo gel pens, but can’t get them to flow nicely to draw on rocks, it almost looks like I used s dried up pen where it’s just scratched on. I’ve tried drawing with them on paper, no problems, any tips?
    Also, being in Florida, it’s hard to find the black smooth rocks, but Lowe’s sells them by the bag. You can’t get about 20 rocks that are about 2-3 inches in width for people who can’t find rocks locally. Thanks as always!!?

    1. Hi Carol! It might be that your rocks are just too porous so the pens keep getting stuck in the small holes. Another thing you could try is covering the app ock with an acrylic paint base first. Let is dry completely overnight and then try the pens over the top. It will create a smoother surface.

      1. Yes, it’s definitely not a smooth flow, I’ll give that a try with a base paint of acrylic paint. You think if I sprayed with matte sealant, drew on then then sprayed with sealant again, that would work? Hmmm

  15. Our small town of 4000 has ‘Butler Rocks’ on Facebook. You paint rocks, post pictures of where you have hid them.

    When found you post a picture of your big find. And re- hide. Or replace it with a new one.

    It’s like hiding Easter Eggs.

    1. That’s so great! My friend created a group that’s very similar in our town! So wonderful to spread kindness and smiles.

  16. Thank you so MUCH! I am certain I would have tried every WRONG product out there. Now, thanks to your generosity, I can purchase the correct items and not waste money on items that would have washed off, smeared all over, never dried – you name it, I’ve purchased stuff in the past that do it all!! Now if I only had 1/2 of your talent!

  17. i am new artist, who want something to make for my home pls. advice me which pens are good on particle wood (black) surface to draw mandala, paisley kind of art. i am not at all good with brush so pls help me.my email address is [email protected]

  18. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of supplies and procedure, Sam! Much appreciated. Your rocks are gorgeous!

  19. Thank you so much for all this great information. I’m just getting started with rock painting and was wondering which fine point pens to use. I have some paint pens, but they aren’t as thin as these. Had no idea gel pens would work. I have some ink joy pens, do you know if those will also work like the ones you have here? Definitely will be purchasing those, love the vibrant colors.

    1. Hi Brenda! For paint pens I’ve only used the extra fine posca paint pens that I’ve listed in this post. If you’re looking for regular markers, check out the pens I post about here https://colormadehappy.com/2017/06/rock-painting-supplies-creative-rock-ideas/. I absolutely love them over a white background. And for gel pens, you could try the ones you have. They probably won’t work directly on the rock, but they might work over a white acrylic background. Hope this helps!

  20. im new ti this and found all your information so helpful. Cant wait to give this a try. thanks for all the input.

        1. Amy- so sorry just seeing this now.If you google it, there are some videos and tutorials on how to get gel pens to start working again if they stop. It’s usually that the ink gets clogged.

  21. HI everyone. Just reading all the helpful comments and looking forward to getting started. I have just joined Taranaki rocks in NZ. Check it out on Facebook. My granddaughter and I are going to have so much fun. Thanks everyone and Enjoy. I think it will become totally addictive. ?

  22. Hi Sam, you have inspired me to try something I have wanted to try for a long time, as I have always loved rocks!

    But rather than drawing designs, I want to write short messages on the rocks. Which technique and which products are best for this, as far as paint, pens, and sealant?


    1. Hi Susan – the extra fine post paint pens would be perfect for writing messages. Same with the white gel pens I wrote about. :). I’m excited for you to get started.

  23. I found a Rust-Oleum crystal clear enamel Spray for a protective spray. I have not tried it yet. Wondering if you have any experience with it ?

  24. Just found this post from a link by Dollar Store Crafts on Facebook. Loving the colourful rocks. I clicked the link for the matte spray and it was for a lime coloured spray paint! Have you got the correct link please?

  25. I am really excited about starting this project. I plan on using it for fundraising and can’t wait to try it out. I want just wanted to know what you would suggest for outlining rock drawings in gold. Thank you for all of your advice.

    1. I just found a gold marker I love. It’s called liquid gold and it’s by DecoColor. It’s a paint pen.

  26. Thank you so much for this post! I’m planning to paint rocks with my middle school class and wanted to ask if you’ve had success with sharpies? We have a ton of them already and hoping to Lee costs down 😉 I suppose we would still want to seal them if so? Thanks again for sharing your talents!!!

    1. I often have my son use sharpies on rocks. The only problem is that even with a sealant sharpies won’t last outside. If they are kept inside, no problem! You don’t have to seal but if you want to, I like the rust-o-leum triple thick spray. You just want to lightly coat the rock and don’t spray to close. Many other sealants actually make the sharpies smear, but I’ve had success with the Rust-o-leum one.

  27. I live in a Coaster bus so as I collect rocks I pop them into a lidded bucket with a little dish liquid & an old rag & cover with water. As I’m driving it cleans my rocks. Just need a rinse & dry. Why this way? Because most of the rocks I collect have red dirt stuck to them. ?

  28. I bought the moonlight gelly roll pens and I can’t get them to show up on rocks. They look great on paper but the rocks seem to be too smooth to mark or something. Any ideas how to get them to work?

    1. It might be the smooth surface. Do your rocks have a wax coating? Try spraying a primer on the rock first. I like the Krylon flat paint/primer spray.

  29. Hi Sam,

    I’m interested in having our school paint rocks to be kept outside. My idea is that each student paints their rock one solid color and then on top of the solid color, they write a word that is meaningful to them.
    Originally, I thought sharpies would be the easiest for them to write their word with, but after reading some of your comments, it does not seem that way.
    What would you suggest we use to for both (painted one color and writing a word on top)?


    1. Hi Lynne! What a fun project. Since you want your rocks to be kept outside, I would not use Sharpies as they will fade. Definitely use acrylic paint for the base color. For the words, why don’t you have the children for write them in pencil and then paint them with acrylic paint using small paint brushes. Small Watercolor work great! The key is to use acrylic paint as it will last the longest outside!

  30. Hi love your drawn on rocks! I am doing an outdoor rock project with the 5th graders at my school. I want to have them draw on them, but was a bit concerned if the pens would hold up to MN winters? If I spray them with the varnish you recommend would it be helpful to dip or brush something on as well when they are dry? I just want them to last as long as possible. Thanks so much:) Katie

    1. Hi Katie – If you plan on keeping them outside I highly recommend using acrylic paint. It will last much longer than anytime of pen. You’ll definitely want a spray sealant. Sometimes I use a yacht varnish for outdoor rocks. This is the one that I use http://amzn.to/2DmfHZZ it also comes in a gloss finish http://amzn.to/2FNdlsw (off link)

    2. Hi Katie – If you plan on keeping them outside I highly recommend using acrylic paint. It will last much longer than anytime of pen. You’ll definitely want a spray sealant. Sometimes I use a yacht varnish for outdoor rocks. This is the one that I use http://amzn.to/2DmfHZZ it also comes in a gloss finish http://amzn.to/2FNdlsw (aff link)

  31. I’m so frustrated. I have the Uniball white pen that you recommend. I have flat rocks from the beaches in southern Maine. Washed and dried, no prep material on them. I CANNOT write on them without writing over and over and over and it being super scratchy and pretty much unreadable. Any suggestions?

    1. That is so strange. I don’t have problems with mine. One thing you could do is paint an acrylic background. Black looks great or you could do a dark color. The smoothness will help with the ink flow. Also, keep a scratch piece of paper next to you. I always get my pen flowing on paper first. Did you purchase just one white pen? I wonder if that one is just faulty.

  32. I love this site! I’m just starting out painting on rocks after years of painting on wood. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

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