How To Paint Rocks

How To Paint Rocks with GIMP or Photoshop

  • Software: GIMP, Photoshop or other raster graphics editor
  • Hardware: Graphic Tablet like ones from Wacom is recommended
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Subject: Rocks

Painting rocks is something similar to what you would do with any other painting process – like painting trees. The process is roughly the same – get the form, assume light source, and render them.

While painting rocks, there is one advantage that you usually have. You do not need to worry much about the form. Unless you are painting architectural or mood influencing rock forms, you can get away with any form you draw. But the rest of it, you need to work on to make them believable.

How To Paint Rocks - Background

Just start out by painting dark gray block out of the overall shape of the rocks. You do not need to worry much about form and shape.

How To Paint Rocks - Base Color Blocking

Next, put in some outlines for each rock.

How To Paint Rock - Outline

Choose a darker gray to draw the outline. Mark the volume out with thinner and fainter lines – have the outlines of each rock thicker.

Choose three to four tones of gray lighter than the base color blocking you did earlier.

How To Paint Rocks - Flat shades

Take large brush and roughly mark out the darkest to lightest area out – assuming a light source. For this illustration, I assumed it to be on the left top.

Take a smaller brush and add more gradients and indentations. Go crazy over the details you add because there is nothing to go wrong here.

How To Paint Rocks - Shading Finer Details

Just remember the light source. If the face of the rock is facing away from the rock – it will be dark, else it will be light colored.

Next – just a few details. Take a near black color and draw the dark shadows in the cracks. Not all over, but those places where you actually want to depict more depth.

How To Paint Rocks - Highlights and shadows

Take a small brush and go over few edges on the light source facing faces with a near white color to draw those lines of reflection.

And that is it. You would rarely be using this to draw rocks as themselves – usually, you would want to complement them along with other stuff in the background of some composition. Keep practicing painting rocks – and that will help you improve your rendering skills. Once you are confident with one light source, start working with two light sources. Keep experimenting and keep practicing.

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  1. ryanlerch’s avatar

    Yet another awesome tutorial, with an awesome finished product…



  2. Steve’s avatar

    The tutorial is good and simple to follow. However users might want to be more delicate with their color palettes. It’s always in the best interest to take into account the background contrasts on the rocks.


  3. Vyoma’s avatar

    Hmmm Steve. That is something I did not notice. Now that you spoke about it – I did choose a color that was contrasting.

    Thanks for pointing that out. :)


  4. sajjad’s avatar

    hi, its great. thanks for teaching people.



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