Go on a Painted Rock Hunt

Have you heard about the painted rock craze yet? It’s a nationwide scavenger hunt meant to promote kindness and encourage art, creativity, and community spirit. From western Washington to the Florida panhandle, rock painting groups are brightening the days of strangers, one colorful rock at a time.

I was first introduced to hiding and seeking painted rocks through a Collinsville PTA member who was looking for a simple art project she could do at home with her two daughters. That’s how she discovered The Painted Rocks Project: Glen Carbon, a Facebook group that’s gaining local followers in the Glen Carbon/Edwardsville/Maryville area. With the mission of spreading “love and light,” the group of nearly 1,000 members hides painted rocks all around the area.

The idea is a simple one: Gather a few supplies (flat, paintable rocks, acrylic paint, sealer, paint brushes) and then decorate your rock, getting as creative as you like. Some folks include instructions on the bottom of their rock that let the finder know which Facebook group to post a photo to once it’s been found. Popular hiding spots include city sidewalks, park benches, playgrounds, ATMs, grocery stores and gas pumps.

What’s the appeal? Group members cite the joy of spending creative time with family and friends, giving back to the community, and spending time in nature. There’s also the appeal of a good, old-fashion treasure hunt. Families are walking streets, scouring local parks, and searching trails and playgrounds.

Intrigued with the idea, I did a quick internet search and found a rock painting group right in our own community. So the kids and I set out last Saturday afternoon in search of our first hidden treasure. I had no idea that the vibrantly painted rock we found would have such a joyful effect on us. Truth be told, I was disappointed that I wasn’t the one to find it. After all, I was the one looking high and low—scanning the sidewalk, the park benches, and the playground. Just when we were about to give up the hunt, my daughter shouted out a loud, “YES!!!” followed by a massive fist pump as she laid eyes on our first prize.

Sometimes the world gives us a small sign of encouragement, right when we need it the most. That’s the idea behind the rock painting movement. It’s about sparking joy and happiness in people’s everyday lives. It certainly felt that way when my daughter found our first treasure. The excitement and look of joy on her face meant as much to me as it did to her.

How to Paint Your Own Rocks

There are lots of “How-To” tutorials on YouTube, but the basic process is:

  1. Clean: Paint won’t stick to dirty rocks, so wash your rocks in warm water and soap. You might want to scrub it with an old toothbrush to make sure all debris is removed.
  2. Sand: If there are any light bumps or grit on your rock, you can smooth it using sandpaper.
  3. Paint: Use acrylic paint for best results. Adding a white base layer before painting the color you want makes it pop. Let each layer of paint dry before applying the next layer.
  4. Detail: Adding text with markers is easier than painting words. Through trial and error, I have found that Posca Markers work best for rock painting.
  5. Seal: This is one of the most important steps to rock painting. All that creative work that you put into your stone would be wasted with any type of moisture. You want a seal that won’t curdle if the stones are subject to weather, such as Krylon Clear Coat Spray. Two thin coats works best.
  6. Dry

Ideas on Where to Leave Rocks

  • Playgrounds
  • Nook of a tree
  • Farmer’s market
  • Veteran hospital
  • Nursing home
  • On top of a neighbor’s mailbox
  • Motivation rocks would complement any fitness center parking lot, YMCA or locker room
  • One person left a hot dog rock painting on a grill at a sports store
  • A corn cob rock was found in the frozen section of the grocery store

Where NOT to Leave Rocks

  • Lawns or anywhere that a mower can run over it
  • Leaving rocks in state or national parks is not allowed
  • Anywhere that a person has to climb to get the rock
  • In the middle of pathways where people can trip on them
  • Businesses that don’t give you permission before “hiding” them there
  • Anyone’s private property

Find Where Community Rocks

Many who hide rocks like to post clues on Facebook, some in hopes that finders will share their joy of their successful hunt. To find clues and share success, look up these rock groups or search for groups in your area, as new ones are popping up every week.

Chicago area:

Peoria:

Decatur:

Springfield:

Effingham:

Southern Illinois area:

Don’t be surprised if you become a little addicted to finding and painting rocks.

Have you joined a rock group? We’d love to hear about your adventures!