Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to Prepare Rocks and Stones for Painting

Cleaning is the first thing I do to prepare my rocks for painting. 

  • Use a little dish detergent and water
  • Scrub the rocks to remove dirt
  • Rinse well
  • Allow the stones and rocks to dry completely
  • CLEANING TIPS: 
    • I like to do several stones at one time in a bucket
    • Dirt from the stones may clog the pipes, so be sure to dispose of the cleaning water in a suitable place
    • To sanitize the stones after washing and rinsing, I add a little bleach to a bucket of clean water, then rinse well 

Many rocks need just a good cleaning and no other preparation for painting.
 
Priming will make your project go much easier for certain types of rock and stones. 

Candidates for priming: 
  • Smooth stones
  • Dark-colored rocks and stones
  • Rough and/or pitted rocks or bricks

SMOOTH STONES 

I purchased these landscaping stones in the garden department of a big box store. 
 

They are a great shape for rock painting, but the smooth surface makes it difficult for paint to adhere properly. Without priming the rocks first, my design and hard work can peel right off. 

To prime these stones (after they've been cleaned and dried), I just apply 1 or 2 coats of white (or light colored) acrylic or craft paint. 


The light primer not only helps subsequent paint layers adhere but also brightens subsequent colors.


Instead of white acrylic paint you can also use white glue (e.g., Elmer's) as a primer if you're not concerned about bright colors.


DARK-COLORED STONES 

A coat or two of white or light-colored paint applied to dark stones helps brighten subsequent paint colors as illustrated below.

Painted Rock Ladybug Color Counters


PITTED OR ROUGH STONES OR BRICKS

There are several ways to prime pitted or rough stones.

Acrylic paint can be used to fill the pits (if they aren't numerous or deep) by dabbing the paint into any little crevasses or holes. 


Landscaping bricks, edgers and pavers are very rough. I like to brush on a product called KILZ to prime them before painting.
 


Sometimes, I smooth wood filler over a rock's holes and cracks to fill them before applying a primer and/or painting. 


To protect and seal my rocks once they are painted, I brush on Delta Ceramcoat Satin Exterior/Interior Varnish. 
 

These are the supplies and methods I prefer for painted rocks preparation and protection.

82 comments:

  1. Thanks for commenting, Cindy M. I'm glad you found the information helpful.

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  2. Does spray paint work very well to mass prime/paint a bunch of stones?

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    1. That's a good question. I've never used spray paint but it would sure be a time saver. You may want to try it on a few stones first to make sure 1) it adheres to the stone and 2) that subsequent acrylic paint adheres to the "primed" stone. (You wouldn't want to use spray paint with a glossy or enamel finish.) I would try this item from Krylon. http://www.krylon.com/products/colormaster-primer/
      Let me know if it works.

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    2. Very good information for people like me ... a beginner. Thank you.

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    3. You're so welcome, Ruth. Thanks for letting me know you find the info helpful.

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    4. Love your work. You are very talented. Just starting but in rock search I find too small or too large. Michael's and Home Depot. ???

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    5. Thank you so much for the compliment, Joette.
      It can be difficult to find good painting rocks in certain areas. If you find it necessary to purchase them, stay away from the polished stones, e.g., those at Michael's (the paint won't adhere well.)
      I have purchased stones from Home Depot and been very happy with them. (Here's a link to my blog post about them: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2014/06/where-can-i-find-rocks-for-painting.html
      Amazon.com sells stones (search for beach pebbles).
      If you're in the U.S., the post office has a flat rate shipping service and you could enlist a friend to ship you some rocks from their area.

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    6. I'm trying to paint a rock. I'm just starting the colors. Normally I write on them, then seal them with an acrylic coating. The paint doesn't cover! Do I need to use a primer first?

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    7. It sounds like you do need a primer, Holly. You can use white acrylic paint as your primer. It will give the colors something to adhere to and also make the colors brighter. Here are some primer guideline, if your rock is a darker color a primer definitely helps. If you're painting a light-colored rock, a primer is not as important. If your rock is super smooth, a primer will help paint adhere better to the rock.

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  3. Thanks for your helpful techniques. Can't wait to try painting.

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    1. I'm glad you find my tips helpful. Painted rocks are very forgiving. If you don't like what you paint, cover the stone with one color of paint and start over. Have fun.

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  4. Apreciable Cindy, gracias por tus consejos para la preparación de las rocas para pintarlas. Tus rocas son muy bonitas.

    Saludos

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    1. De nada, Julian. Me alegra que hayas encontrado los consejos útiles y les agradezco mucho por complementando mis piedras pintadas.

      (You're welcome, Julian. I'm glad you found the tips helpful and thank you very much for complimenting my painted rocks.)

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  5. Great tips :) I plan on getting a few rocks ready for the kids to paint this weekend. Happy Mothers Day.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and wishing me Happy Mothers Day. I'm glad you found these tips helpful; painting rocks will be a wonderful Mother's Day project. Enjoy your special day with the kids.

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  6. Hello, I was looking to ask what kind of paint do you find that works the best. There are just so many brands, is acrylic better ?

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    1. Bella, the quick answer is yes, acrylic is better. It dries fast and is easy to clean up.
      I use both acrylic and craft paint acrylic in the 2 oz. bottles. I have no preference for a brand and choose the paint based on the color I like or want. (Note: The craft paint acrylic is a little thinner than the acrylic and more coats may be needed.) For painted rocks displayed outdoors, I use Anita's Yard & Garden Outdoor Paint. Deco Art also makes a version called "patio paint."

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    2. Hi I use match pots from any DIY store great choice of colours plus cheap!love your tips Cindy thanx Lindsey

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    3. Thanks for another great tip, Lindsey. I'm happy to hear you find my tips helpful.

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  7. What is the best way to preserve your painted rock that is going to be exposed to the weather (all seasons, including winter)

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    1. Terry, for my outdoor rocks I use several coats of Mod Podge Outdoor, followed by several coats of Delta Ceramcoat Exterior/Interior Varnish. The Mod Podge gets "tacky" in humidity and is the reason I apply the Delta Ceramcoat over it. I've heard some people use sealers meant for boats but I've never tried them. I have some rocks that have been outdoors for years in all seasons and the painted rock has been fine and some others have had the paint flake off. I'd suggest checking an outdoor painted rock every year and apply another coat of sealer if you think it needs it. You can read more about my experience with sealers on this blog post: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-seal-and-protect-painted-rocks.html

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  8. Thanks for all of your ideas. Great help.

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    1. You're so very welcome, Bonnie. I'm glad the info is helpful to you and thanks for commenting.

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  9. I am addicted to painting rocks. Found some great ones on Home Depot online with ship to store option and no shipping charge. A very large bag of smooth, flat, medium size Mexican River Flat Stones around $10.

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    1. As you can see, College Street Cottage, I'm addicted to rock painting also. I've purchased rocks at Home Depot too! Shipped to store free, $10 bag, but mine were the white Caribbean beach pebbles. I'll have to give the Mexican River Flat stones a try one of these days. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. Do the white pebbles have a wax type finish on them? If so, how to you prepare them for painting. I know the polished rocks scratch. I would think even with primer the paint still would not adhere well?

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    3. Nancy, the white Caribbean beach pebbles are not polished but they do have a chalky coating. I just wash them in dish soap and water and let them dry completely. The acrylic paint adheres very well to these white pebbles from Home Depot.

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    4. I am curious could I do some decoupage using Modge Podge over the rocks once primed? I want to add Punched out paper shapes like flowers and four leaf clovers for pocket good luck charms.I want to also use tissue paper as well, Would sealing them with Modge Podge work with sealing the art on the rocks? For larger rocks I want to make them into paperweights or just decoration for desks.

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    5. Yes, PoliticalAnimal, you can decoupage over the rocks. Here's my blog post about how I decoupaged pieces of a pretty napkin onto rocks: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2013/04/how-to-mod-podge-napkin-onto-rocks.html

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  10. Great advice and interesting tips-thanks!

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  11. Great post - thank you for the information. Can't wait to try this for the first time!

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    1. You're so welcome, Carly. If you're like me, once you start painting rocks you won't stop!

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    2. Omg I am so addicted and find stone very therapeutic my partner is getting fed up mind you with stones everywhere lol any tips on selling??lindsey

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    3. Rock painting can become very addicting, Lindsey. I have rocks, both painted and unpainted, all over my house also. As for selling, I started off selling to family and friends and then jumped into online sales. I haven't done craft fairs, but they're certainly an option. Pricing is the most difficult aspect and it's something you'll have to experiment with.

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  12. I have seen so many rocks painted to look like houses which got me really interested in painting rocks. I love all your information and it is very helpful. I need to go and get the Delta Ceramcoat varnish, outdoor Modge Podge. I just hope summer doesn't get a way before I get it done. I am also a big rubber stamper, make cards etc.
    Diana from WI

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    1. Thanks for letting me know you love my information and find it helpful. I'm glad to hear you've been inspired to give rock painting a try; don't hesitate to ask any questions along the way. As a rubber stamper and card maker, you may even discover designs and ideas that can also work well on rocks. Have a fun summer, Diana!

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  13. Love all your inspiring info. I'm surrounded by rocks where I live on an island in N.ontario. Dying to try this! Which are the best acrylic paints to get started?

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    1. Boni - Thanks for letting me know you appreciate all the info I share.
      If you're just starting to paint rocks, I'd suggest an inexpensive white acrylic paint (or crafter's acrylic which is slightly thinned with water.) You would use this white to prime your rocks so the colorful acrylics look brighter and adhere better.
      I use various brands of acrylic/crafter's acrylic and don't have a favorite. Some of the brands I've used are: DecoArt, Apple Barrel, Folk Art, Americana, and Anita's. I buy my paint based on the color I'm looking for rather than a specific brand.
      In a nutshell, I'd say start with inexpensive acrylics and see how they work for you.

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  14. Thank you so much for the detailed information!! Had no idea the rocks should be primed first. My question is about brushes...do you use anything other than brushes, for example, toothpicks for very small dots? Great information. Thanks very much!! (using anonymous profile b/c I don't know the others. :/ ) Debra

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    1. I'm glad you found this rock painting information helpful, Debra. For dots, I use a stylus set I purchased at Hobby Lobby. You can also make your own dotting tool with a pencil and straight pin. This blog post shows you how I made and used my own dotting tool: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2012/12/sweet-simple-gifts-no-fat-rock-candies.html

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  15. Thanks for the great tips - I am going to try painting rocks tomorrow since I'm on vacation and it's going to rain. I gathered some nice rocks in a nearby brook. :-)

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    1. You're welcome, Marcia. Rock painting is a great rainy day craft. And, you'll have some nice souvenirs to bring home. :-)

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  16. SO helpful. You are very detailed in and I DID try the Sharpie's first (trying to cut corners for a church group) as you are most aware...TOTALLY did not show up and SMEARED when sprayed with the clear acrylic spray paint. SO I can attest to the need for the paint. Heading back out to the store now to get it. No shortcuts to good art. lol Thank you for your details in al the areas of this process. VERY helpful. Luckily I live in Wyoming and our rivers and old river beds create these rocks. Most of us have them in our backyards so that was the EASY part. Thank you for letting me know about the priming also. Great tips and I will be back to explore your site some more. Thank you!

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    1. Dani, I'm sorry to hear your rock creations were ruined when you used the Sharpies. I wrote another blog post about a set of art pens which didn't smear as much with the spray-on sealer. Here is the link: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2014/04/how-to-paint-zentangle-patterns-on.html (Several thin coats of sealer work best.)

      I'm glad you find my tips helpful. It's always nice to know they're appreciated. You're one of the fortunate ones who can easily find rocks to paint. Rock on!

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  17. MIL GRACIAS POR TUS CONSEJOS, SOY DE GUATEMALA, comenzare esta gran aventura, espeor encontrar aquí los productos o alguno que se parezca, GOD BLES YOU.

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    1. You are welcome, Maria. I hope you find the advice helpful with your rock painting adventure. God bless you also.

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    2. Very helpful, Cindy! Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share. Appreciate it!

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    3. Thanks for letting me know you appreciate my rock painting tips, Sunshine Glo. Happy rock painting.

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  18. Your rocks are beautiful!
    I would like to paint on rocks in their natural state. If I prime them first, I would have to paint the whole rock,loosing its natural beauty. I tried once and gave up because I had to keep starting over. I could not get the edges/lines and details straight. I was using the smallest brush I could find. My friend said to try a short stiff brush. Well, I'm going to try painting again. Any advice?
    Thank you,
    Hope

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    1. Thank you for the compliment, Hope.
      You can definitely paint rocks in their natural state without priming them. Just make sure the rock isn't too smooth or slick otherwise the paint won't adhere properly. Painting details takes practice and the right brush is very important. You would think a small, short brush would work but I've found a script liner (long and thin) gives the best results for detail painting. Nail art brushes are another good alternative.
      Here are 2 blog posts I wrote about brushes which you may find helpful: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2014/06/3-of-my-favorite-rock-painting-brushes.html AND http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2015/09/nail-art-brushes-great-set-of-tools-for.html
      Don't give up; just keep practicing and experimenting and you'll create beautiful painted stones.

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  19. Your Art Work is Beautiful! You have inspired me.
    Mahalo from Maui!!
    Jeannie

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    1. Jeannie, thank you for your compliments. You'll have many beautiful rock subjects to paint with Maui as your inspiration too.

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  20. Dear great Cindy T. You have a big heart! Sharing with all of us everything you know about rocks art. I am so addicted now to stones painting, at 73, started 4 month ago, first time I saw some painted rocks and fell madly in love with this art.Made some mistakes, learnt more, andnow collecting the stones everywhere. Thanks to your jenerosity, I will make less mistakes.I love preparing gifts with those painted rocks. I don"t intend to sell, Just love to give them away to people I love.Thank you again, I intend to read everything you have written and will visit your site much more. All the very best,you are a wonderful artist , Netia

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    1. Welcome to the wonderful world of rock painting, Netia. I'm happy to share what I learn and it seems I'm constantly learning new things regarding painted rocks. Like you, I fell in love with the hobby once I painted my first stone. Many times, I'm glad to have painted rocks on hand to give as gifts. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Your compliments have warmed my heart.

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    2. Dear Cindy I appriciate it that you took the trouble to comment my mail to you.You are very kind.
      I also wanted to tell you that about a month ago I used as a coating on my colored small stones, lacquered nails and dryer, and the result was excellent . Maybe in a year or so,something will change but as for now, everything seems to be fine. All the very best, Netia

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    3. You just gave me an idea, Netia. I'm going to try clear nail polish/top coat as a sealer over artist pen on a rock to see how it works. I'm sending my best to you also.

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  21. Hi Cindy, I'm doing a project with upper elementary students and they would like to write inspirational words/phrases on one side and their names on the other (gift for their teacher). I know you primarily use acrylic paint. Would it be possible to use sharpies or some other more pointed instrument so the finished product is a readable as they want it to be?

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    1. Greetings. Your project sounds like a wonderful idea for the teacher. It IS possible to use Sharpies and other art pens on rocks. The problem occurs when you apply a sealer to protect the art. Many of the sealers may cause the pens to bleed and ruin the words/design. Thin coats of a spray-on sealer generally work best but I recently had a problem with the can dripping and blurring my design. Another alternative sealer (especially if the stones are on the small side) is clear top coat for fingernails. I've tested this and the design shouldn't blur but I'm not sure how durable this alternate sealer will be and you may want to test it first with the type of pen your students are using.

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  22. Thank you for posting these tips. I seal my stones with a thin layer of glitter glue. It gives them a little sparkle. It doesn't smear Sharpie designs.

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    1. You're welcome, Smile go. I appreciate your tip about glitter glue. I've never tried using it as a sealer and I'd especially like to try it with the Sharpies.

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  23. Thank you for your tips ......here from Portugal

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    1. You're so welcome, Jungle Jane from Portugal. I'm happy to share what I have learned during my rock painting adventure.

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  24. Love your Blog... The kilz primer, there is the oil base and the latex, I would think to use the latex, what's your opinion? Thank you

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    1. Lynn - Thanks for letting me know you love the blog. The Kilz I use is water-based (I like the easy clean up.) I would say the latex would be better than the oil base.

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  25. Hi Cindy, thank you for sharing lots of rock art techniques. I am a beginner and have taken notes from your very informative site. I live near Thames, New Zealand and there are now a few Rock Clubs for children popping around the country on Facebook. Someone has posted to prime rocks using PVA glue. Works well with the few that I have tried on. The paint stuck on nicely. Leah

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    1. I'm happy to hear my rock painting info has been helpful to you. Thanks for the tip about using white glue as a primer. I'll have to give it a try and update this post.

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  26. If you use glue or mod podge before spraying the sealer, let it dry for a few hrs, then spray, Sharpes won't run.

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  27. Hi Cindy! I am new to rock painting, and I have been scouring your blog for tips. Very helpful! I have a question regarding pens. I bought Sharpie Paint pens, but I'm wondering if I should go ahead and get the Posca pens. Here's what I'm running into: while I'm writing a long word, the paint starts to get too thin, and I have to stop and "pump" the marker on a piece of paper to get the paint to flow again. And then I usually get a big blob on the rock when I get back to it. :( Are the Posca markers more continuous than this? Do they keep writing like like a typical marker-on-paper, or do they require pumping to get the flow as well? It's very frustrating - and then when I try to go back over the word where the paint got too thin, the newly primed marker grabs some of the paint and I get a bald spot on the rock. Boo!! Do you have any suggestions? What am I doing wrong? Do the Posca markers do this? Thank you for pointing me in the right direction! ~ Anna in TX

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    1. Hello. I'm happy to hear you find my tips helpful but sorry you're having difficulty with paint pens. I use the paint pens for detail work and have never tried to write a long word. The Posca pens do have a "bead" inside and must be shaken so I'm worried you would have the same problem with them. (By the way, you're not doing anything wrong. It's the nature of the beast.) Since Posca pens can be pricey, my suggestion would be to purchase just 1 Posca pen and see how it works for you. Another suggestion would be to make sure your rocks are very smooth. Some rock artists use dip pens and ink but I haven't used these myself. I wish I could be more helpful. Here's my blog post about pens in case you haven't seen it: http://paintingrocks.blogspot.com/2013/06/rock-painting-tip-use-paint-pens.html

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  28. Thanks, I just started painting rocks myself. This was very helpful, I love the part about filling the holes with wood filler, what a great idea!

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    1. You're so welcome, Chris T. I'm happy to hear you find the information helpful. Happy rock painting.

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  29. I like your blog a lot. Its informative and full of information. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you and you're welcome, Airless Spray.

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  30. Can we use oil colors for painting rocks?

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    1. I have not used oil colors on rocks, however, I imagine it's possible if you "gesso" the stone first. Give it a try and let me know if it works.

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  31. Thank you for the tips I am about to embark on rock painting...
    Pat UK

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    1. You're so very welcome, Pat. Welcome to the fun world of rock painting!

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  32. Thank you for the tips on priming and preparing. You answered many questions I have and saved me time and supplies.

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    1. You're so very welcome, Shauna. I'm glad your questions were answered. Happy rock painting!

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