How To Make Fake Rocks
Learning how to make fake rocks is something that almost anyone can do. Starting small and practicing the techniques used for artificial rock construction will help
you to develop the confidence and skills you need to take on more challenging projects like poolside waterfalls, large landscaping rocks, faux stone garden statues or
perhaps even a life sized grotto over top of your hot tub! This may sound like a lofty goal, and it is to a certain degree, but artificial rock construction is just a
construction process and if you follow the right steps, in the right order, you should arrive at a successful result.
If you want to make artificial rocks you will need to develop a working knowledge of concrete applications. You do not need to be able to trowel large flat sections
of concrete by hand, but you will need to understand concrete mixes, ingredients (admixtures) that can modify the properties of concrete. A good starting point for
learning the basics of concrete, concrete mixes, terminology and fundamental properties of working with concrete can be found in the Concrete
101 article. Assuming you have, or are willing to learn, some basic concrete skills, then making fake rocks is something you will be able to do.
If you want to see some examples of the types of things that you can build using this artificial rock process you can check out these Easter Island Moai Head Sculptures that I make using recycled styrofoam hot tub covers.
What Can You Make With Artificial Rock?
There are so many things that you can make using this process that are both functional and decorative. The first project that you should try would be to make a simple
landscaping rock or address marker for your property. It is hard to go wrong with a landscaping rock and this will give you an easy platform with which to practice
your rock sculpting skills as well as your painting techniques.
Landscaping Rocks - A landscaping rock is easy since you can use styrofoam as a base for the rock. In larger, more permanent structures the cost of styrofoam
will be prohibitive and a styrofoam core would be replaced by a re-bar armature and thicker, self supporting concrete. If your fake rock has a solid styrofoam core then
the concrete layer does not need to be very thick (3/4" to 1" thick is ample) as the concrete is supported by the foam. Without a solid and supporting styrofoam form
the concrete would need to be thicker so support its own weight as well as any structural weight that is placed on it. Hollow artificial rocks made with re-bar
armatures are usually 1.5" to 4" in thickness depending on the application.
Fireplace Mantles - An artificial rock fireplace mantle is a slightly more advanced but extremely interesting artificial rock project that you could try. To
make an artificial rock mantle / fireplace cover you would simply build a styrofoam core on a flat piece of plywood. The plywood should be 3/4" to 1" in thickness to
prevent from sagging under the weight of the wet concrete you will apply. After sculpting and curing the mantle for two weeks you can carefully flip it over and
remove all of the foam. You do not want any foam left in as this would be dangerous and a potential fire hazard. Your mantle should have a minimum concrete thickness
of 3/4" and have a flat surface where the cover will sit on the floor. You can use construction adhesive to attach the cover to the wall surrounding the fireplace.
There are a few technical elements that would need to come together for an amateur rock maker to build one of these but the costs of making one are so low that even if
you had to make it twice it would only cost about $50 in materials!
Garden Statues - "Dum Dum want some gum gum?" Sure, I knew you did. If you want a giant, life sized moai head statue adorning your property and warding off
evil spirits, presumably, then good luck finding one of these in a hardware store. Even if you did find one at Home Depot it is going to be made from plastic...and
you can tell by looking at it.
Building large garden statues and sculptures from artificial rock is one of the most interesting projects you can take on. These would be constructed using a solid
styrofoam core wrapped in a reinforcing steel armature. At 1/2" thickness, the concrete applied over the foam and steel will provide a durable finished product that
can easily bear its own weight. If you want the statue to be strong enough to handle the occasional rambunctious child to climb on then you should make the concrete
3/4" to 1" in thickness just to be safe. Since this project would require some vertical concrete application it would be harder to make a garden statue than a
landscaping rock, but still a very reasonable beginner project for you to try.
Outdoor Kitchens - If you want to make an awesome and impressive poolside kitchen / BBQ platform then artificial rock would be the perfect medium for this. Too
large for a styrofoam core, and needing to be structurally strong enough to be load bearing, you would want to build something like this using a re-bar armature and
concrete at minimum 1.5" thick. Since the entire structure would be made from non combustible materials (steel, and concrete) there is no concern for a fire hazard.
You could even inset stainless steel features such as doors, drawers and a refrigerator as well if you are serious about making a unique and interesting outdoor
entertaining area. Given the scope of this project it would be well suited to those with some construction experience or those hard-headed and stubborn enough to
refuse to back down from a challenge!
Rock Furniture - Artificial rock outdoor furniture, tables, benches and stools are all great fake rock projects. The skill level needed to make any of these
will depend on the complexity of your design. A rectangle table for example would be fairly easy to do with a solid foam core. As the design complexity increases so
does the skill level needed to make it. If you have the ability to weld or do minor steel fabrication of any kind you will be far less limited in terms of design.
There is no replacement for vision, trial and error when it comes to designing and building outdoor furniture with artificial rocks. The material itself is ideal for
the application however the technical skill needed to make something like this would be on the higher end. If you think that you could build a muskoka style chair
using wood, if you had some instructions to follow, then it is entirely possible that you could design and build artificial rock furniture as well.
Plant Pots - You can make any number of different styles of plant pots and garden planters using artificial rock. If you are a plant lover you already know
that getting unique and interesting planter pots can be a challenge. Most hardware stores all carry the same few designs shipped in from overseas and plastic is the
primary material used to make them. Artificial rock plant pots are much higher quality and visually more interesting, plus they are relatively easy to build and would
make a great beginner level fake rock project. You can even mix the large garden statue project with a garden planter and build a larger than life chia pet for your
yard! To build a garden planter like this would would use the same techniques as the garden statues and incorporate a plastic plant pot directly into the styrofoam
forms. If drainage is important for your application you can run a small tube from the bottom of the planter pot out the back of the statue.
Is It Hard To Make Fake Rocks?
If you are interested in the possibilities of these projects but are skeptical of your ability to make any of these items just remember that working with concrete is a
learned skill. It will take practice and more than likely a few of your first projects will end up in the trash as opposed to your yard. Fortunately, other than the
time you need to invest, there is very little cost associated with making fake rocks so you can build like crazy even on a very modest materials budget. In fact most
of the materials that you need for things like this can, and should, be sourced second hand and from recycled hardware stores.
Basically artificial rock is just a decorative concrete finish. If you have some fundamental concrete skills, or are willing to learn, the artificial rock process will allow you to transform boring old concrete into something extremely uncommon and interesting
Since artificial rock sculpting is an art form in addition to a construction process the quality of the finished product will have everything to do with the quality of
the artist sculpting it. Those with a greater degree of sculpting and drawing skill will likely produce higher quality, more lifelike rock creations however it is
important to note that just about anyone can make realistic looking rocks. The reality is that concrete and stone have very similar overall properties. By adjusting
the texture, shape and color of concrete you can produce a result that is extremely similar to the tactile feel, color and shape of real rocks. The major advantage of
artificial rocks versus real stone is that concrete is such a versatile building medium. Concrete is extremely strong, durable and long lasting as well as being
suitable for structural building.
Fake Rock Texture Skins
Artificial rock is essentially three dimensional stamped concrete. Just as a stamped concrete pool deck or driveway would have a texture imprint so does artificial
rock except that the texture skins you would use are much smaller and thinner than what a stamped concrete contractor would use. Typically stamped concrete texture
skins are very large, very heavy and very expensive and are designed only for use on flat work. Artificial rock construction requires a much thinner, and more
flexible texture skin to allow you to conform to the contours of your concrete.
Granite Texture Stamp
This granite concrete texture stamp is ideal for almost any artificial rock project. The aggressive texture produces the most realistic rock appearance as well as
being the most forgiving to use for people new to making artificial rocks. These stamps measure approximately 10" in circumference and are made by Steve specifically for entry level enthusiasts to use for making artificial rocks. If you would like to buy this texture skin from Steve they are $40 each or a set of 3 for $99.
Slate Texture Stamp
This slate concrete texture stamp is more subtle than the granite texture which results in a smoother finished texture. These stamps measure approximately 10" in
circumference and are made by Steve specifically for entry level enthusiasts to use for making artificial rocks. If you would like to buy this texture skin from
Steve they are $40 each or a set of 3 for $99.
Cracked Granite Texture Stamp
This cracked granite concrete texture stamp will assist you with adding more pronounced rock cracks and fissures. By reversing the stamp you can avoid the visual detraction of a repeating pattern. These stamps measure approximately 10" in circumference and are made by Steve specifically for entry level enthusiasts to use for making artificial rocks. If you would like to buy this texture skin from Steve they are $40 each or a set of 3 for $99.
Texture Mat Set Of 3
If you love the idea of making artificial rocks and want to have multiple texture skins to choose from for stamping your concrete this set would be a great value.
These stamps measure approximately 10" in circumference and are made by Steve specifically for entry level enthusiasts to use for making artificial rocks. If you
would like to buy this texture skin set from Steve they are all 3 for $99.
These texture skins are all hand made by Steve from an extremely high quality two part polyurethane mold making rubber. This rubber is specifically designed for
concrete casting purposes and each mat will last for thousands upon thousands of concrete impressions (provided you wash it after every use). In theory you can use a
texture skin as-is however the skin can sometimes stick to the concrete and pull the concrete away with it as you lift the mat. In order to improve your ability to
texture stamp concrete you should consider picking up a concrete release agent.
Liquid concrete release agent is sprayed over your concrete work and onto the texture mat directly. This product has no color and will not leave a residual on your
finished concrete. Applied from a simple spray bottle using a liquid concrete release agent will stop your texture skin from sticking to the concrete which will
result in the cleanest, best possible texture impressions.
How To Paint Artificial Rocks
So much of the quality of your fake rocks will depend on the coloring process that you use. There are quite a few ways that you can add color to concrete and each
will have advantages and disadvantages.
Integral concrete color can be added directly into the mix which will give a uniform solid color. There
are very limited color options for integral color and integral colored concrete is not ideal for making realistic looking artificial rocks due to the uniform nature of the coloring. You can however use integral colors if you want a stronger base color with which to paint over.
Concrete acid stain is another very common method to color concrete applications. A mild acid
product that has been tinted with pigments will burn the top 1/4" layer of concrete and create a permanent colored effect. Concrete acid stains are very
difficult to work with and there are many factors that will affect the finished look and quality of the color. Acid stains are not ideal for first time users and the
permanent nature of the coloring is somewhat of a gamble since if you do not like the final coloring you will have very little recourse to change it.
Water based paints The best method for painting artificial rocks is to simply use water based latex paints that have been watered down and applied through a sprayer. You can use regular
spray bottles or you can use a more expensive pressurized sprayer for slightly better control over your misting layers.
The advantage of using watered down latex paint for painting fake rocks is that it is very forgiving to people learning the skill, requires very little upfront cost to
get started, and produces an incredibly realistic finished coloring. You can use almost any water based paint, though a flat paint would be the most desirable, so be
sure to check hardware stores for mis-tints that are reduced in price. Hardware stores that specialize in second hand materials are ideal for sourcing paints at since
most of these types of stores will have a huge selection for you to choose from - and usually for very cheap.
Painting artificial rocks with this method you will need a few complementary colors that are a little on the lighter side. If you want to do a gray rock for example
you would need two or three gray colors. Tan and brown colored rocks are another very common color combination that will produce extremely realistic results. Once
you have the basics of this painting process under your belt you can start to experiment with less common color combinations or use contrasting colors in your base
layers to mimic natural mineral deposits such as iron or other metals. To the uninitiated these color patterns may look like an arbitrary application of color however
to get realistic looking colors like these you would need to follow a specific chronological process. The process is unique for each color however a loose protocol to
follow would be:
1) Contrasting accent color like red
2) Heavy application of light base color
3) Medium application of slightly darker base color
4) Very light application of highlighting color (often cream / off white)
5) Very light misting application of black
This artificial rock painting process can also be done over other surfaces to add an amazing, realistic faux stone finishes. When painted over something flat and
boring like drywall the wall will take on a deep and textured appearance for literally only a few dollars.
In this next example this barn board siding was worn and textured heavily. By adding in tape lines to act as "mortar joints" and then painting using this artificial
rock painting technique the finished results are absolutely amazing. The heavy texture of the wood adds to the stone effect and even in person most people think this
is an actual stone finish on the building. This entire effect was created for less than $20 worth of second hand paint and a single roll of painting tape. If you are
looking for maximum visual effect for minimal budget you can not do a lot better than this!
There are so many color combinations you can try following this basic artificial rock painting format of misting layers of paint. This is one of my favorite things in
that a creative person is essentially unlimited with their options. Trial and error will produce the best results and it certainly takes some practice to refine your
misting technique. Once you are more well versed with basic rock color combinations you can begin to experiment with more interesting and more colorful paints.
Artificial Rock Concrete Sealers
In order to protect the paint you will need to apply a concrete sealer over the concrete once the paint has completely dried. There are
a lot of different
kinds of concrete sealer and most of them will work to some degree of success. Any concrete sealer that you use will need to be water based in order to be compatible
with the paint layers. If the sealer that you are considering "cleans with soap and water" then this is an indication of a water based sealer. If the concrete sealer
you are looking at requires turpentine or mineral spirits to clean up then this is not the right stuff.
In the world of water based concrete sealers there are still many options to choose from. The biggest defining factor is whether the sealer is an integral sealer or a
Surface sealants are just like they sound to be - a protective surface layer. This type of sealer is not ideal for sealing artificial rock as it will tend to
wear off easily from one year to the next. Surface sealers also have a low UV resistance which can lead to yellowing of the sealer itself which is not ideal. Surface
sealers also will give a very glossy finished effect so if you want the most shine possible you can use a surface sealer that you reapply yearly.
Integral sealants do not form a layer of surface protection but instead are absorbed into the concrete directly. This is the ideal form of concrete sealer for
artificial rocks as it is not overly glossy, will not yellow under UV exposure, and has an extremely long lasting effect. In theory you should reapply this sealer
every two to three years however it is so effective that for many artificial rock projects you will only ever need to apply the sealer once. A single application of
an integral sealant is often enough for artificial rocks to live outdoors, year round, in all weather climates without ever fading or losing their color. Many people
feel that the natural weathered look the finish takes on after years of outdoor exposure help the rock to look even more realistic. This acrylic penetrating concrete
sealer is water based but acrylic sealers can be water or oil based so be sure to only use water based sealants over your water based paints.
Fake Rock Instructional DVD
If you are like me then you find all this fake rock stuff incredibly interesting! I was completely sold the first time I saw a pool waterfall made from artificial
rock. Since then I have spent over 15 years practicing and refining my techniques as well as experimenting with new and different artificial rock themed creations. I
am sure that I learned more from my failures over the years than my successes. The artificial rocks and colors that you see on this page are a result of thousands of
hours in the workshop experimenting combined with real world artificial rock contracting for projects large and small. If you are interested in learning how to make
fake rocks yourself I have something that you might be interested in.
Over ten years ago I wrote an e-book tutorial on how to make artificial rocks, which has since sold tens of thousands of copies around the world. While I am certainly not the best rock sculptor around, by any means, my refined techniques and painting process will produce some of the most consistent and successful artificial rock results anywhere. If you want to learn how to do this for
yourself then I can fast track the learning process for you immensely. I am currently developing an instructional DVD series which is available for beta testing:
These two DVD series are available in their current unedited form - a total of almost 8 hours of artificial rock construction information for how to build a fake rock
as well as how to make an artificial rock garden statue
Eventually these will be edited down to much shorter duration and will be available for sale for $99 for each set. If you want to learn how to make fake rocks right
now you can access these long-form unedited copies for $29 each or both DVD sets for $49. This is a huge savings off the regular retail price and includes
hours of extra footage and instruction that will not be in the final DVD's. If you would like, I am interested in feedback on how well you were able to learn
these techniques from the DVD's as well as pictures and videos of the things that you make with this information.
Please note - These DVD's are unmastered and produced by Steve personally. They will not be winning any Academy Awards despite the gritty, heartfelt performance
by Steve throughout. If you are not satisfied with the DVD's simply contact Steve to arrange a complete refund of your purchase.
How To Make Fake Rocks
The "How To Make Fake Rocks" DVD set is two DVD's in length and begins with no prior knowledge of how to make fake rocks. The tutorial covers every step of the
process in order to build an artificial boulder including forms, steel armatures, concrete mixes for artificial rocks, sculpting, texturing, painting and sealing.
Follow along as Steve builds an artificial rock from beginning to end explaining in detail every step of the process.
How To Make A Fake Rock Garden Statue
The "How To Make A Fake Rock Garden Statue" DVD set is two DVD's in length and covers all aspects of how to build an artificial rock garden statue. While functional
as a stand alone tutorial, the information in this DVD set is designed to complement the information covered in the first DVD set. In this series you will learn how to
build forms for a garden statue, apply a steel mesh unique to the garden statue process, mix and apply an extremely strong modified mortar concrete, concrete sculpting
tips, texture imprinting as well as multiple examples of artificial rock painting formulas.
Both DVD Sets For Only $49:
100% Money Back Guarantee - If you are not happy contact Steve for a full refund
If you would like to see more examples of garden statues made from fake rock then you can take a look at the ones that I have made using this process on my Easter Island Statues page. These are only one idea and if you are a creative or artistic person there is no limit to the cool and interesting things you can make with this fun and unique process.