Painting on Concrete

Margaret Riley inspiration


By Margaret Riley




Painting on concrete is pretty easy to do. I painted 3,500 concrete stepping stones in a 3-year span during my career in this industry, and still paint on one now and then. There are concrete borders that are great to create/paint on, plus concrete statues. In a future issue, we will be having a concrete item for you to paint from artist Diane Kellogg. You won’t want to miss it! Painting a concrete stone or border is a great gift item. I have painted stepping stones for wedding/anniversary gifts and as memory stones for the passing of someone. I’ve painted small stones for burial sites of pets. One customer wanted an 18” stepping stone painted for the death of her horse, which was buried in her backyard!


First of all, you must wash your concrete surface. I use Dawn dishwashing detergent and water…just like you would mix for washing dishes in your sink. Use a sponge or an old piece of cloth. You don’t have to scrub unless it is really soiled. It is mainly to remove any of nature’s elements adhering to the surface. Set the concrete item in the sun to dry, which will take 4-5 hours. I just put it in the sun shining through a window.


You don’t have to basecoat concrete, but if the concrete is very porous (with lots of pock indentations), paint on Gesso or an outdoor paint (both Plaid and DecoArt manufacture an outdoor paint that works great!). Take a sponge and dip into a puddle of paint. Tapping your sponge up and down over the concrete surface will give you a good solid background plus helps fill in slightly some of those pock indentations. Sometimes I use 2-3 colors to give a more marbled background. But if you are going to do a pattern over it, don’t worry about multiple colors.


Next, trace your pattern onto the surface. This can be tricky if the concrete is not real smooth. Just trace slowly with your pen or stylus. Once the design is traced on, follow the instructions to paint your concrete piece. Or create your own masterpiece! You don’t have to be detailed on a design as people are standing up and looking down on your creation. They won’t be down on their hands and knees checking out the finished project! I highly recommend an outdoor paint to paint on concrete. Allow time for multiple coats to dry.


Some companies state that sealing is not necessary. But I do put an outdoor acrylic varnish over my painted design (do NOT use polyurethane as it WILL yellow in time). Follow directions or use your own discretion. Most outdoor acrylic paints have a UV protection added to them. Some people use acrylic paints and put on an acrylic outdoor varnish (about 3 coats). And they have had great luck, too. But shade is the recommended spot for them. Living in hot tropical Florida, the sun doesn’t hurt my painted concrete items.


All those years I painted on concrete, I had 99% survive the weather (rain, hail, sleet, snow, rain, heat, etc.). If you live in frigid weather, put the concrete item up for the season. But I’ve left mine out all year, too. Just enjoy what you create!


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  • Margaret Riley on

    Those that read the blog….thank you! Ruth and I met many years ago and bonded as artist friends. You can do that on the internet, too and establish a painting pen pal. I have friends from all over the world that keep in touch with me through their keyboard. Perhaps you’ll see one of our contributing artists and start emails with them. With being able to talk to each other these days via FaceTime or other face-to-face communications, you can show each other your work and share techniques by actually doing it on screen. See you at the Vegas show next year, Ruth Green!

  • Ruth Green on

    Margaret, It was so nice to read this article and see your stepping stone. This is how I met you, at 1 of your classes in Ft. Wayne! We have been good friends since! I have not tried painting on the border stones, but looks like fun. I love your pattern! Great article!

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