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A Guide to Painting A Spirit Rock

Birthdays are BIG in our house. I like to make a huge deal out of my kids', husband's and dog's birthdays. And I like to have a gargantuan deal made of mine!

One of my favorite ways to celebrate my kids' birthdays is by painting the spirit rock at their elementary school. The spirit rock is "rented out" by the PTA as an easy fundraiser. The PTA earns $10, the kid feels special for the day, and the painter (me!) enjoys a creative project.

I've painted the spirit rock fives times over the past couple of years and have learned a lot since my first time around. I'll share what I've learned with you.


I ask my kids what they'd like painted on the rock. My youngest has asked for Godzilla three years running. My oldest opts for video game characters.

I'll find an image online that is just a simple outline of the design. Print it out and bring it with you. I emphasize the print it out part because you don't want to be looking at a reference pic on your phone with messy hands. And you will most definitely get messy!


  • Spray paint (minimum of 2 cans)

  • Spray paint nozzle depressor

  • Acrylic craft paints (minimum of 2 tubes)

  • Foam brushes

  • Smaller detail brushes

  • Paper plates

  • Bottled water

  • Paper towels

  • Trash bag

  • Ziploc bag

  • Folding step stool

  • Hand sanitizer or hand wipes

I buy the most affordable paint I can find since my painting will only exist on the rock for 24 hours. Why spend more on something so temporary? Also, I'm just plain cheap.

I learned the hard way that a spray paint nozzle depressor is a must. When I painted my first rock, my whole hand cramped up and went numb from pressing the nozzles so much. This item is the black plastic thing with a trigger. You'll want one.

I also buy cheap brushes that I can just throw away afterwards. Paper plates work well as palettes for the paint. The folding step stool will make for a comfortable seat while you create your masterpiece!

The Process

1. Set up your supplies within reach of your step stool seat.

2. Cover up the last kid's birthday design. (This is the hard part! I always feel bad obliterating someone else's art.)

Hint: Save yourself some time, effort and paint by using elements of the last design if you can. For example, I used some of the lime green background and the "8" from Maeve's bday rock and covered up the other elements with yellow spray paint.

3. Make a rough outline of your design with either spray paint or acrylic paint with a brush. Spray is faster; brush gives you more control. The choice is yours. Before using spray paint, read the instructions on the can re: shaking it up, holding it a number of inches away from the object, etc. Follow those instructions!

4. Fill in the details.

  • Use the paper plate to hold and mix your colors.

  • Rinse off your brush with the bottled water between colors.

  • Keep paper towels nearby for spills and messy hands.

  • Let each layer dry before applying the next one.

5. Add finishing touches.

  • Add depth to your painting by using a variety of shades and shadowing.

  • Use contrasting colors to make your design pop.

  • Incorporate some metallic or pearlescent paint to make it even more special.

Artiste at work

6. Clean up

  • Throw the soiled items into the trash bag and toss out.

  • If you plan to salvage the brushes, store them in the Ziploc bag after rinsing them off. Clean them more thoroughly once you're home.

  • Clean off your hands as best as you can with sanitizer or wipes. You'll have to do a better scrub at home with running water and soap.

  • Save your leftover paints for next year's spirit rock.

The Unveiling

After I finish painting a spirit rock, I'll run home and grab the birthday kid and head back to the school for the unveiling. My kids love seeing their vision come to life on the rock. We'll take some photos for this birthday book and I'll drive them to school the next day so they can see the rock again before it's painted over that afternoon.

The Godzilla I painted is a far cry from the reference pic (as pointed out to me by the birthday boy) but we were both mostly happy with how it turned out.

Spirit rocks are fleeting and messy but worth it for sure!

Final Thoughts

A few more tips:

  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses!

  • Spray paint can run so work from the top of the rock down or you may find streaks where you don't want them.

  • Acrylic paint is easier to control as it does not run as easily but is more time consuming to apply.

  • Consider wearing gloves if you want to preserve a manicure.

  • Watch your mouth. I'm prone to swearing loudly when I screw up - and I screw up a lot while painting - so I try to keep in mind that I'm at an elementary school.

  • Be easy on yourself. It doesn't matter if you create something basic or a masterpiece. Your kiddo is going to love their spirit rock because it was done by YOU.

Through the Years


Top left | Minecraft: spray paint only

Top right | Godzilla DJing: spray & acrylic paints

Bottom left | Among Us: spray & acrylic paints

Bottom right | Godzilla w/ Cityscape: spray paint only


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