Rock painting is such a fun art activity for both adults and kids of all ages. Learn how to make your own DIY rainbow painted rocks in this easy step by step tutorial!
One of the best things about rock painting is that you really can't mess it up. Making and creating, especially if doing this project with young children is all about enjoying the process.
Painting rocks is a great weekend activity. If you are studying weather with your kids, making rocks with rainbow designs is a fun way to incorporate art into a weather unit study.
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Making rainbows is also a great activity to do with young children who are learning their colors and the color wheel.
We often think of rainbows during the spring and summer months, but you can make these any time of year.
What better way to cheer up a dreary winter day than with some brightly colored rainbows!
- Rocks: either collected from outside or purchased. Make sure to wash and dry rocks before applying any paint.
- Acrylic Paint: matte or satin finish will both stick to surfaces like rocks. I used matte acrylic paint, but any sheen acrylic paint will work.
- Small Paint Brushes: the small size lets you paint all of the different rainbow bands. I love these brushes especially since they do not shed.
- Plastic Paint Tray: helps keep each color separate. A disposable plate can also be used if you don't have a tray on hand.
- Clear Sealer: protects the paint from coming off the rocks. I used Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Coat. Another great option is the gloss top coat from Rusto-Oleum.
- Q-Tips: optional, but you can use these to make dots or cloud designs
- Piece of Cardboard: use as a painting surface and when applying the spray sealer
- Jar with Water and a Rag: a place to wash and dry paint brushes during and after the activity
- Blow-dryer: optional, but speeds up the drying process
I personally, love heading outside and collecting rocks. However, that is not always an option. Rocks can be purchased online or at the store.
Any type of rock will due, but using ones that have a smooth surface make painting easier.
However, if you really want to do this project and all you have are rough rocks, give it a go anyway!
Kids especially love making DIY garden art. Rainbows painted on rocks left outside make wonderful decor for the garden.
You can even paint a collection of rainbows on one large rock you find outside. Remember with art, the possibilities are endless!
Painting Rainbow Designs
Single rainbows, double rainbows, rainbows with clouds, and even a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end can all be painted on your rocks!
If you are looking for ideas, these rainbow coloring pages, can provide you with some inspiration. They are also fun to color in while waiting for your paint to dry!
For this tutorial, I made single rainbows, double rainbows, and rainbow with clouds.
I was able to make all of these designs using regular acrylic paint and a small paint brush. Acrylic paint pens are another great choice as well.
Step by Step Guide
Before beginning, wash and dry your rocks. Even rocks purchased at the store can have debris or a waxy coating.
Washing them first will help make the paint stick to their surface.
Next, add paint to a painting tray or plate.
Once you decide on your design you can start painting. If you are making a reastic rainbow you will want to stick with ROY G BIV.
Red is the outer most color, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and finally violet for the smallest band.
For my rocks, I skipped indigo and went straight from blue to violet. You can do whatever works for you.
You can either start with the outermost band which is red, or the smallest band which is violet.
Painting the Rainbow
When making the different bands on the rainbow, apply one color at a time. Then wash your brush or wipe off the paint in between uses.
To keep the colors from mixing, I tried leaving a very small space between each color when making the bands.
If some of the paint mixes, its not a huge deal, after all in real life the colors of a rainbow slowly blend into one another.
Adding Clouds and Other Details
After making the rainbow design, let the paint dry before adding anything to the end of the rainbow. A blow dryer or a sunny spot can speed up the process.
If you are not worried about some of the paint mixing together, you can simply start painting these designs right away.
I left a space at the end of the rainbow to allow me to add a cloud.
When painting rocks with little ones, they will want to make their creations all in one sitting. Remember, young children love making rock art and the joy is in the process!
- Clouds at the end of one side of the rainbow or clouds on both ends
- Raindrops or a Sun
- A pot of gold is a cute way to turn these into St. Patrick's Day themed rocks
- Star Designs painted all around the rainbow
- Inspirational words or text
If doing this project with kids, let them get creative. I find they often come up with the best ideas all on their own.
Young children including toddlers can do this craft project all the way up to teenagers. A fun way to make a craft as a family or in a group with kids of different ages.
Of course, adult supervision is required if doing this activity with kids. You will also want to protect surfaces and clothing as acrylic paint can stain surfaces.
Tips for Sealing Rocks
The final step is to spray both sides of your rocks with a protective sealer. This step is very important as unprotected rocks with weather over time if left outside.
- Use a Waterproof Product
This layer will make sure your painted designs last for years to come. If placing rocks outside, always use a water proof sealer.
Many people prefer a high gloss or gloss sealer, but many products also come in a matte finish.
- Wait Before Sealing
It is best to wait at least 12 hours (or overnight) before sealing your rocks. You want to make sure the paint has had time to cure.
- Seal Bottom and Top
To seal the rocks, take them outside and apply 2-3 coats of sealer to the bottom of the rocks first.
Allow each coat to dry before apply another.
Once completely dry, flip the rocks over and repeat that same process to coat the top and sides of the rocks.
- Apply Thin Coats
Resist the urge to apply one heavy coat, the best way to apply a top coat is to spray on several thin layers.
Always follow the directions on the can of spray sealer, but in general it takes at least one hour for a coat to dry before you can apply another layer.
- Protect Your Surfaces
In order to protect the grass or other outside surface from getting sprayed, I like to place my painted rocks on a scrap piece of cardboard while I spray them.
As long as you give the bottoms of the rocks enough time to fully dry, I have never had my rocks stick to the cardboard.
- Shady Spot vs Full Sun
It is actually better to spray your rocks in a shady location. Sometimes the sun can be too hot and cause the sealer to become sticky.
Keeping them in the shade lets the product harden on its own. This will give you the best finish.
How to Use Painted Rocks
There are so many wonderful ways to use your finished rock creations! Give them away as gifts, place them in the garden, or even use them as hands-on learning manipulatives.
As long as you have properly sealed your rocks, you can place them outside. I like tucking them away in the garden.
Kids can then have a scavenger hunt to search for their rock creations. If your community allows rocks to be placed in public places including parks, you can leave a few for others to find.
What better way to cheer up a stranger's day than to stumble across a rainbow painted rock!
Additional Rock Painting Tutorials
Looking for more rock painting inspiration? Make sure to check out our other rock painting posts.
- Acrylic Paint
- Gloss Sealer
- Jar with Water
- Rag or Paper Towels
- Piece of Cardboard
- Apron or Smock
- Small Paint Brushes
- Paint Tray or Disposable Plate
- Q-Tips (Optional)
- Hair Dryer (Optional)
- Wash and dry rocks
- Single rainbow: start with either the outer most band which is red or the inner most band which is purple.
- Then make an arch using your paint brush for each of the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Wash and dry brush in between colors.
- Double Rainbow: make two rainbow arches using the colors of the rainbow (ROY G BIV). I left a small space between the two rainbows.
- Rainbow with a Cloud: paint all of the colors of the rainbow in order on your rock, but leave room at the end of the rock for a cloud.
- To make the cloud simply dip your paint brush or q-tip into white paint. Then using circular motions, make a cloud shape.
- For a pot of gold, paint a single rainbow on the rock, but leave a space at the end of the rock for a pot of gold.
- Using black paint and a paint brush, make a semi- circle for the pot. Your pot will have a circular bottom, but a flat top.
- Then using a q-tip or your paint brush, add yellow dots right above the top of the pot.
- Allow rocks to dry over night or for 12 hours before sealing.
- Always follow directions on the spray sealer and work in a well ventilated area preferably outside.
- To seal, lay rocks upside down on a piece of cardboard outside in a shady spot.
- Apply 2-3 thin coats. Allow each coat to dry in between applications.
- Once completely dry, flip over rocks and spray the sides and top with 2-3 coats of sealer. Allow product to dry in between coats.
*Adult supervision is required for all parts of the project.* Acrylic paint can stain surfaces and clothing.
A blow dryer can be used to speed up the drying process.
Always follow the directions on the can of spray sealer. If properly sealed, rocks can be left outside. In cold climates, rocks can be stored indoors during the winter months.
If leaving rocks indoors sealing them is optional, but the paint may wear off over time without a protective top coat.
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