6 Tips for Collecting Rocks to Make Pigment

Did you know you could turn colorful rocks into pigment, and watercolor paint? Yes! You can definitely turn rocks into pigments. But  there are a few things to remember before filling your pants pockets until your pants drop.

Preamble: Harvest in a sustainable fashion

Whenever we forage for anything, we must take care to limit our impact.

Rocks are non renewable resources, and when we take them, they won’t grow back. Take only what you need. And in any case, you don’t need that much for making a decent amount of pigment and paint.


1. Make sure you have permission to collect rocks

If you are in your backyard or a friend’s, this might not be an issue.

But depending where you go for a walk, it might not be allowed to forage for anything. National Parks for example in many countries do not permit foraging.

Make sure you know where you are, whose land it is you’re on and if you are allowed to pick up stuff and take it with you.

2. Go look for rocks just after the rain

When rocks are wet, the colors they hold are more visible. Going for a walk after a rain shower is a perfect moment to spot them.

3. River banks hold amazing rocks

A lot of river banks are quite fun for finding beautiful rocks. And….. they are often wet!

Hand holding a wet rock covered in iron
Dry rock covered in iron on white surface

4. Test your rocks for color

When you find a beautiful rock, test it on a hard rock to see if it leaves a trace of color. If not, leave it behind in the field. It is not an earth pigment and it will be very hard to crush and grind the rock by hand. The rock also does not have a lot of color potential.

Wet gray slate rock with traces of pigment on it
Wet gray slate rock with traces of pigment on it

5. Bring plastic bags and a small notebook

Bring a bag to store your rocks in. This way you will not have your pockets filled with rocks and dirt. And yes, bags are better than containers… a couple of loose rocks in a container on a walk can be a potentially annoying situation!

If you enjoy keeping a record of where you found the rocks you pick up, bring along a little notebook to document place and date, or pieces of paper to slip into the plastic bag along with your rock.

6. Natural does not always mean harmless

Everything found in nature can be natural, it does not necessarily mean it is harmless. There are a few minerals for example that are toxic. Do not lick the rocks.

And wash your hands after handling rocks taken from outside, who knows who might have peed there! 😉

And finally, if you look for rocks in the city, make sure you are not on a contaminated land.

Here you have them.

Enjoy your hunt for the perfect colors, and show me your finds on Instagram.

If you want to find out more about turning rocks into pigments and the, make your own watercolor paint, you might be interested in the the class I am currently filming From Rock to Watercolor Paint.

Sign up here to the wait list to get notified when it launches.

Piece of rock covered in iron held between index finger and thumb
Glass vial with iron pigment

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