Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Make Stones Stand Upright and Expand Your Rock Painting Possibilities


Problem: Many of my rock painting projects, especially nativity scene figures, require upright stones which are difficult to find. 


Solution: Add wood filler to the stone's bottom to make a base.

How I Make Unpainted Rocks Stand Upright

Supplies Needed:
  • rocks (clean and dry)
  • newspaper to protect your work surface
  • stainable/paintable wood filler (found at hardware stores, Walmart)
  • disposable rubber gloves
  • wax paper for testing wood filler base 
  • egg carton (or something similar for drying the wood filler)
  • medium sand paper
  • white acrylic paint

Wood filler is a putty-like product available in tubes or tubs. Having worked with both, I like the tub better. It is important you use the paintable version. (If you want to experiment first, go ahead and get the tube which will be cheaper.)

Be sure to protect your work surface with newspaper. I also use wax paper to minimize the wood filler sticking to the newspaper. This is a messy project. Disposable gloves are very useful when working with wood filler.

Step 1

Choose a stone you'd like to stand upright and look at it from all angles to see if there is a semi-flat area you can mold wood filler onto so it will form a flat base.

You can add just a bit of wood filler or pile it on - whichever achieves the most stable base for the rock.

Alternatively, if you have a rounded stone, choose which side you'd like to use for a stable base.

Step 2

Wearing disposable gloves, start applying wood filler to the bottom of your stone, smoothing with your finger as you go.

You want to build up the bottom and smooth the edges so they blend nicely into the stone. (Slightly wetting your finger helps the final smoothing and blending process.)

To test the stone's ability to stand upright, I sit it on wax paper for just a second. Because the stone is heavier than the wet wood filler, if left standing too long the wood filler loses its shape and starts spreading.

Step 3

Place the stone(s) with the wet, wood filler base upside down in an egg carton or something similar so the shape is retained while drying. It will take 2-8 hours for the wood filler to dry.


Step 4

Once the wood filler has dried, use medium sandpaper to lightly sand where the wood filler meets the stone to get as smooth a surface as possible. The goal is for the wood filler to be a part of the stone. Now is the time to also sand off any wood filler accidentally applied to other areas of the stone.

Step 5

Apply white or other acrylic paint color of your choosing to the stones to cover the wood filler and prepare the surface for painting.  Note how some of my stones are smoother than others where the wood filler has been applied.

  • A Popsicle stick works well for spreading the wood filler onto the rock.
  • So upright rocks are available when I need them, I like to add a wood filler base to many stones at one time rather than one here and there.
  • You can use wood filler to repair chipped or dented stones
  • If you plan to paint a bird on your upright stone, create a nest with the wood filler (since you're adding it anyway) and use a sharp tool to etch the twigs, leaves, etc.
  • If you want the rock to stand without using wood filler, grind the base just a little with an electrical grinder. (Thanks Suzi Chua for these last three tips.)

* * *

I painted these nativity scene figures using stones which were stabilized on the bottom with wood filler.


  1. Thanks for the hints and tips. Can't wait to try my hand at rock painting.

    1. I'm glad to hear you appreciate the rock painting tips and tricks I share, BrendaLea. Be forewarned - once you start painting rocks, you might not be able to stop. :-)

  2. Thank you very much, this is what i needed before starting the rock painting. Very useful tips. Thanks.

    1. You're so welcome, Hicham. I'm so glad you found the information useful. Welcome to the wonderful world of rock painting.

  3. They are outstanding! thank you so much for the tutorials

    1. You're so very welcome, Gail. Thanks for letting me know you find the tutorials helpful.

  4. Just found your site, I am just looking into rock painting. I am completely hooked, even drooling, and will read every page! Thanks for all the info, I can't wait to begin my nativity scene for my sister!

    1. Welcome to the fun world of rock painting and my blog. I'm happy to share my painted rock tips and experiences with you and others. Your sister will be thrilled with the nativity scene you're painting for her.

  5. This is an awesome site! Check out the FB page "901 rocks!" 2 women started painting and hiding rocks around the city of Memphis and started the FB page leaving clues as to where to find. Now its spread to several thousand members. My son found his first few yesterday and now we are attempting to paint our own. Great family time creating and finding! Wish us luck as I am NOT artistic!! Great blog!!

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Jenna. Painting rocks and hiding them has become quite popular and fun. I'll definitely check out the "901 rocks" page on FB. I think it's great you and your son can share this hobby. And you don't have to be artistic to paint a rock! :-) Happy rock painting to you both.

  6. hi Cindy, Ive been painting rocks for awhile and Im addicted, can't wait to start trying the bases. But I have one questions, I leave my rocks outside, so is this filler waterproof?

    1. Hi. I have never used the wood filler on rocks left outdoors so I can't give you a good answer to your question. My suggestion would be to test the wood filler on one outdoor rock to see how waterproof it really is.

  7. Hi Cindy, I love painting rocks / stones for quite a while, but they were always the ones laying down. I bought some Wood Filler the other day but when I put it on the rocks and stand them to dry, the filler slides down the sides. The filler just won't hold a surface where I put it. I only use a little bit of water on my finger to smooth it out, but then I have peaks that stick out everywhere. What am I doing wrong? The more filler I put on the more it slides ...
    Thanks, Yvette

    1. Hi mtnchild. I'm sorry to hear you're having difficulty with the wood filler. I have never experienced the wood filler sliding but the problem could be the stones are too slippery or smooth for the wood filler to adhere. You might try base coating the stones with acrylic paint first (allowing it to thoroughly dry) so the wood filler has something to adhere to. As for the peaks that stick out everywhere, once the wood filler dries you can use sand paper to smooth them out.

    2. Thank you Cindy. I will try painting Gesso on the bottom of the rocks before using the putty/filler. Gesso is good for "tooth". I purchased my rock from a Home Improvement center in the landscaping section, and yes they are pretty smooth to begin with. I'll try the Gesso and will let you know. Thanks again for your answer. Yvette

    3. You're welcome, Yvette. And I'd love to hear how the Gesso works for you.