11 Best Places to Find Perfect Rocks for Painting

Flat rocks for painting are the first of the painted rock supplies needed to get started making your own designs. You can find smooth stones, buy rocks to paint, or you can even make them yourself! These little canvases are ideal for painting colorful designs, limited only by your imagination.

A mix of animal-painted and unpainted flat stones.
Learn the best places to find smooth stones for rock painting.

Since I’ve been painting rocks for years, I’ve needed oodles of them. I’ve tried river rocks from plenty of places and found some specialty stones I really love to use. Let’s take a look at all 11 great places to get rocks for painting.

Short on time? I get it. If you need a choice right away, you’ll find a large variety of flat rocks for painting on Etsy. Keep reading to find more options for local, online, or free stones.

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Finding Free Rocks to Paint

Getting your flat stones for free is always a great option if available to you. Find free rocks in these first 3 places.

Of course, you always want to follow environmental best practices when collecting stones. If you are looking for a lot of stones, I always recommend being earth-friendly and buying rocks to paint rather than collecting them outside.

  1. Homes of family or friends.  Look to see what kinds of stones are available in yards or gardens of people you know, and ask if they have any spares you can use.
  2. Outdoors.  Finding rocks outdoors is free*. If you have a public river or beach nearby, or are out on a neighborhood walk, you can find some fun flat stones in different sizes. You can even spackle and sand bumpier rocks to fill in the divots and make them smooth.

    *Just make sure it’s legal to collect them in your location, or your free rocks may cost you big bucks in the form of a hefty fine.
  3. Local Groups.  Check your local neighborhood or “Buy Nothing” groups to see if anyone has smooth landscaping or craft stones they no longer need from other projects.

Video: Where to Find Rocks to Paint

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Visual learner? See this guide as a Get Rocks to Paint video by clicking the photo or caption link.

Where to Buy Flat Rocks for Crafts

Why would I need to buy stones to paint?

Sure, some of us live in places that we can pop outside and find a few rocks to paint. But lots of us don’t have that option. And what about specialty rocks? Perfectly round stones?

I definitely can’t snag all my rocks from my home landscaping, so I’ve needed to find some outside sources. Let’s take a look at these great places to buy rocks for painting.

Hand holding a slice of river rock used for making painted rock art. More white and speckled rock slices in background.

This post may contain affiliate links. I could earn a small commission from purchases at no cost to you.

Where to buy flat rocks locally:

Buying locally avoids waiting for rocks to arrive, and lets you begin painting right away. It’s also a great way to support local businesses.

  1. Landscape Supply Store. One of my favorite places to get smooth river rocks for painting is the landscape supply store. It’s where I get most of the rocks I paint, and the best option for getting big rocks without having to pay huge shipping costs.

    These stores sell river rocks in bulk, and usually sort by size. One of the benefits of buying rocks from landscaping stores is that they usually charge by weight, so you’re also only paying for rocks you like.

    Bring a bucket or plastic bin (and some gardening gloves, the piles can be dirty) and ask if you can choose your own.

    You can find some interesting colored and textured rocks by looking through the piles. Then let the pretty, natural stone texture show through by skipping the base coat.
Smooth rocks, paint jars, and fishbowl with paintbrushes in water. Rock painting scene with teal fabric background.
  1. Craft Stores. Independent or big box craft stores also sell specific smooth stones for painting and other crafts. These stones are usually on the smaller side, but they can be good for finding specific colors of rock or small pebbles.

    These crafting stones usually sold in small mesh bags. While easily accessible, the craft store isn’t the most cost effective of the choices.
  1. Home Improvement Stores. You can also buy Mexican Beach Pebbles or mixed rocks to paint in large bags at home improvement stores in the garden section. They’re fairly convenient, because you can pick up a bag when you’re at at Lowes or Home Depot for something else.

    They may be less visually interesting than the naturally speckled ones, but they can be dressed up with a pretty painted base coat. This is a great way to start painting immediately, since you don’t have to wait for shipping.

    Slate pieces can also be purchased at home improvement stores and make great bases for larger rock art designs.

    Rock tip: Don’t discount the stones that aren’t perfect flat ovals, they can be used for rock painting too.  I turned this triangle stone into a snarky shark painted rock. It would also have made a cute slice of pizza.
Hands holding a triangle shaped rock, with other rocks in background on white table.
  1. Dollar and Discount Stores. Many of these stores carry small bags of stones in their craft sections. Beware of rocks with a wax coating though, because your paint won’t stick. You’d have to spend time removing the coating by baking or boiling your stones before you can paint.

    Some painters have reported success with coating these waxy rocks with gesso (an artists’ primer) instead of melting off the wax, but I haven’t tried this method myself.

Where to Buy Flat Rocks for Painting Online

For the ultimate convenience, order rocks from the comfort of your home on your own schedule. Plus, get some lovely choices found around the world.

  1. Etsy. For specialty rocks like Santorini Stones, a gorgeous, sparkly, white marble from Greece, or River rock slices with perfect level surfaces, there are many independent rock sellers with Etsy shops.

    I don’t have the option to find these on my own, so I have purchased them for specific projects. These specialty stones are super-fun to try, plus they’re shipped directly to my doorstep. Win!
Hands holding large white Santorini Stone for painting.
  1. Big Online Stores. Yes, Amazon and similar online giants also carry river rocks for painting, often with free shipping. This is a very convenient way to buy medium sized smooth rocks, but they do tend to cost more per piece than from independent sellers. These are most often plain gray in color.
  2. Facebook. Sometimes you can find independent sellers or individuals getting rid of extra supplies they no longer want on Marketplace or in rock painting Facebook groups. This can be a great place to find a bargain or make a trade.

How to Make Rocks from Cement

Make my own rocks? Whaaaaat?

Yes, you can make your own rocks to paint!

  1. Make Artificial Stones. It’s as easy as a mix and a silicone rock mold. The biggest upside to making your own rocks is that you are in control of the size and shape of the finished stones.

    Make rocks that are perfect circles for mandala painting, more naturally shaped stones, or even spheres for other designs.

    Grab a mold in the size and shape you like, (or even replicate your favorite stone using molding putty to make a custom mold) and some gypsum plaster or quick-set concrete from the home improvement store. Then follow this easy tutorial for making your own rocks from Happy Dotting Company.
Hand holding a yellow sunbeam painted rock over a white silicone rock mold.

FAQ about Finding Rocks for Painting 

What rocks are best for painting?

The best rocks for painting are smooth and flat (or slightly domed,) which makes painting easier and gives a prettier finished product. . But working with imperfections in a specific rock can make for a fun design.

The ideal size, shape, and color will depend on what you want to paint. In addition to round and oval rocks, try offsetting odd shaped stones with a word or signature to balance the design.

Can I take stones from anywhere to paint at home?

Definitely not! Collection from an area, including national parks and state parks, may be prohibited for a variety of reasons. They may be essential to the ecosystem or in preventing erosion, or part of private or protected lands.

Always check regulations before collecting rocks to paint. If taking rocks from an area is permitted, it’s best to collect only a few in each place to protect the habitat.

How should I prepare my rocks for painting?

First, give the front and back of the rock a good washing with water and a scrub brush or old toothbrush to remove any dirt. Dry completely on a towel, flipping to make sure both sides are dry completely. You can speed up the drying process by placing clean rocks in the sun or in front of a fan.

Do I need to seal or prime rocks before painting them?

Need is a strong word. It isn’t necessary. If you want to jump right in, you can paint straight onto rocks.

But since rocks are porous, many people prefer to seal them first. Sealing with a spray sealant or paint-on clear coat keeps paint from soaking in or blurring, and can fill tiny indentations in the stone to make it smoother.

Giving the stone a few coats of solid color bright or white paint as a base coat can accomplish the same purpose without the sealer. I like to seal or prime a lot of rocks in one big batch to save time later.

Can I drill a hole in my stone to make a necklace?

Sure! Oval or drop-shaped stones are great for this. It’s a good idea to make the hole first, so your beautiful design is placed properly. These make great gifts.

I’m a beginner. What else do I need to paint these rocks?

You can start with only the very basics, like a few thin paint brushes and bottled acrylic craft paint. Add in a spray sealer if you want to place your decorated rocks outdoors.

As you gain experience, you can go all-in and add more fun supplies. I have a post all about my favorite rock painting pens and markers you can check out for more options!

Do you have any ideas for me to paint on my new stones?

Of course! You can find all my rock painting ideas in one handy place. Have fun!

What is your favorite type of stone to paint on? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy painting on your new pretty stones!

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A mix of animal painted and unpainted flat stones. White text on blue background at bottom reads "Where to Find Rocks for Painting."
Two images of river rocks, one with painted rocks on top. Text between photos reads "11 Places to find perfect rocks to paint."

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