How to Paint Pour Rocks & Stones

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Paint pouring, in which paint is mixed and poured onto a surface like a canvas, has become one of the most popular art techniques for beginners and professionals alike. One creative adaption of this technique is to paint pour on rocks and stones. It's a lot less intimidating than using a canvas, and the results are spectacular. You can use different colors depending on the occasion. As our example shows, an ocean color palette of blues and tans creates patterns that resemble waves and sandy beaches. The painted rocks make a beautiful display indoors or out.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Things You'll Need

  • Large stones

  • 9 by 11-inch aluminum trays

  • 12-inch wood skewers

  • Newspapers or plastic tarp

  • Floetrol paint additive

  • Acrylic paint

  • Plastic cups

  • Popsicle craft sticks

  • Silicone oil

  • Straw

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 1: Wash the Rocks

Choose rocks or stones that are large (at least 3 inches wide), flat and smooth. Wash them with soap and water to remove dirt and sediment.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 2: Make a Pouring Rack

Insert the pointy end of wood skewers into a 9 by 11-inch aluminum roasting pan about a half inch apart.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Extend the skewers to the other side of the pan to create a platform for the rocks.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 3: Cover Your Work Surface

Paint pouring is very messy, so cover your work surface with newspapers or plastic tarp. Ideally, work on a tabletop rather than the floor. It's easier on your back, and you don't have to worry as much about pets or children running through the mess.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 4: Mix the Paint

To make the paint pourable, you need to mix it with a paint pouring medium. Floetrol paint additive is an ideal pouring medium that costs a lot less than what some brands officially name "paint pouring medium." Mix one part pouring medium with one part paint in a plastic cup. To help measure accurately, use a scale if you have one. However, measurements don't need to be exact.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

After adding an equal amount of acrylic paint, mix it together with a popsicle stick. The consistency should be very fluid, like a melted milkshake.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

You can also add a little water if the paint mixture is still too thick.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 5: Add Silicone Oil

Silicone oil creates the amoebalike "cells" that form in the paint after it is poured. Add a few squirts to some of your paint colors for a more marbleized look.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 6: Prime the Rocks

Before pouring paint on the rocks, apply a coat of white (or any other color) paint to them. This base coat results in a more even pour.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 7: Pour the Paint

There are many techniques for paint pouring. We'll show two of the most basic pours. The first technique is the straight pour, in which you pour paint directly from the individual mixing cups onto the rock. You can pour the paint in stripes as shown or in any configuration you wish.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Once the paint is poured, tilt the pan to move the paint around, forming interesting patterns. You can also use a straw to blow on the paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

A second way to pour paint is the "dirty pour" technique. With this method, pour the various paint colors one by one into another cup so the colors are stacked.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Pour the paint on the rock and let the colors mingle. Dirty pours create very dramatic patterns.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 8: Let the Paint Dry

Keep the rocks on the racks and let the paint dry for a full 48 hours. Do not be tempted to touch the paint before then even if it looks dry.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

You may be wondering what to do with the bottom of the rocks. You can paint them once the top is dry, but I like leaving them as is because it's great to see what the rock looks like underneath all that paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

For a bonus art material, peel off the dried paint from the bottom of the aluminum pan. These paint skins can be reused on future paint or collage projects.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Paint pouring turns these rocks into works of art. Their marbled patterns make them look like exotic dinosaur eggs or geodes.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

They can also look like sandy beach shorelines, which is perfect for creating miniature vignettes.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

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