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DIY: How to Paint Flagstone Floors

Artist, blogger, freelance writer. Experiences include art, DIY, gardening, storm-spotting, caregiving, farming, reading, and kid wranglin'.

Painted plywood flooring turned faux flagstone.

Painted plywood flooring turned faux flagstone.

Painting Your Own Stone Floor

Do you dream of having beautiful stone floors in your home? Having a stone floor is like having a patio indoors—cool, natural, and relaxing. But if you're like me, a real stone floor may not be in your budget, or maybe you just don't want to start a project that big.

Don't worry! You can still bring the outdoors inside with just a few simple supplies and a little time. If you are still a little hesitant, consider the benefits of the stone look in your home:

  • Stone looks clean
  • Neutral colors match any décor
  • Stone is classic
  • A hand-painted floor is something interesting that your friends don't have.

Okay, that last reason might not be the best reason, but you get the idea. So, are you ready for a stone floor?

Choose the Right Place for Faux Stone Floors

This is a low-traffic, no-scuff area of my home. For areas where there is more foot traffic or furniture is moved often, it might be better to use more durable paints made just for floors.

Before You Make the Decision to Paint Your Floor

I opted to paint a stone floor because the previous owners removed several floorboards and replaced them with plywood. I saved the main part of the hardwood floors and refinished them, but we still had a glaringly ugly strip of plywood at one end of the room.

We searched for salvaged boards that would have matched what was already in place, but no luck. Therefore, I decided to just create a stone area.

If you are NOT painting plywood, then this tutorial will have to be tweaked. Stone can be easily painted onto concrete floors, but hardwood or laminate floors would most likely have to be covered in plywood or other thin wood before beginning.

I started out with this strip of plywood floor.

I started out with this strip of plywood floor.

Materials You Will Need

Unlike my brick fireplace project, I didn't have all the materials laying around for this project. Chances are that you won't either, so get ready to go shopping!

  • Base paint (It's up to you to calculate your square footage. I used about 1/2 a gallon of grey exterior latex paint for a 4 ft x 12 ft area.)
  • Sand (I used sifted play sand. You can also buy special paint for mixing with paint.)
  • Old brush for base paint
  • Metal and plastic scrapers
  • Selection of craft paints or latex paints
  • Sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Cheap craft paint brushes
  • Paint tray
  • Varnish

Note: I mixed a lot of my own shades of brown and grey using bottles of Apple Barrel craft paint.

Mixing my own sandpaint

Mixing my own sandpaint

Painting with the sandpaint. Use an old brush!

Painting with the sandpaint. Use an old brush!

Step 1: Mixing and Applying the Base Paint

Since I do not have concrete floors, I decided to experiment with sand paint. This gives the stones a realistic texture, while disguising the (obvious) texture of the plywood.

First I cleaned the floor. Then I mixed my paint and sand in a large bucket. I didn't measure very accurately here. I just kept mixing sand in until I got the consistency I needed to cover my plywood. It is totally up to you how much texture you want.

I painted the first coat on with a brush. It dries fast, so work in sections, and don't dawdle. For the second "coat", I poured the rest of my paint onto the floor and used a large plastic scraper to smooth it down.

Don't really smooth it down. Smooth it level or even, but use the scraper to create "cuts" and gouges in the paint. You want some texture to work with later.

After the floor dries, it will look pretty darn good without the rocks painted on. It's perfectly okay to stop here.

If you still want to go "all the way", get your metal scraper ready. You will need to chip off any sand globs.

Scrape up any globs of sand. These can wear down later and mess up your awesome paint job.

Scrape up any globs of sand. These can wear down later and mess up your awesome paint job.

Draw your stone pattern with sidewalk chalk.

Draw your stone pattern with sidewalk chalk.

Step 2: Fun Part! Drawing Your Stones

Once the floor is dried, it's time to draw the outline for your stones. I looked at a LOT of photos of flagstone patios and floors before doing this.

Just use a plain piece of sidewalk chalk in your favorite color. I used white because that's what I could find. Don't worry about the chalk lines. They will disappear as you work.

The easiest way to draw the stones is to start in the middle and work towards all the sides. Since this is my entryway, I drew one large stone in front of the door and worked from there.

Pay attention to your shapes. You want them to look real. Not too rounded and "cartoonish", not too angular and perfect. If you mess up (which you won't, I'm positive!) you can just wipe the chalk lines away with a moist paper towel.

Keep the spacing between the stones even, but not perfect.

Keep the spacing between the stones even, but not perfect.

Painting a base coat on one stone using diluted khaki.

Painting a base coat on one stone using diluted khaki.

Step 3: Painting Your Faux Flagstones

You may be thinking now that the floor looks pretty awesome with just the chalk lines. Indeed, if you painted those lines in you would have a lovely grey stone floor.

But I needed a variety of brown and darker grey. So on to painting.

Just like with my fireplace, I started mixing up colors in a plastic paint tray. I used two trays. One for straight paint, and one for diluted paint.

There 3 things you need to know before start painting, if you used sand paint as a base:

  • The sand paint is very porous. It takes some work to get full coverage.
  • Grey sand paint eats your colors. It may take two or three layers of paint to get the right shade on your stones.
  • The grey base can be used to create natural shadowing.

Okay. Technically, you are supposed to layer your shades from darkest to lightest. But this didn't work. I had to wash each rock with a light solution of the color I needed it to be. (meaning, if I wanted a brown rock, I diluted a lightened shade of brown and base-painted the rock.)

Grey still showed through, which was okay, since this added to the natural appearance of flagstone. (Oklahoma flagstone is a mostly brown and grey mottled.)

Then I broke another cardinal rule of Art, and used two sponge brushes--one with a light color, one with a dark color, and built up the shades the rock at the same time, working back and forth between the two colors.

I also used a paint brush to get thicker coverage in some parts.

There is really no good way to explain how to apply the paints. Since each stone was made to look unique, it was a matter of painting, then waiting to see what it would look like when dry.

Some stones I washed over in a very diluted grey or brown to slightly change their hue. Others I sponged with lighter paint to create the illusion of raised areas.

Paint palette with brown, tan, black, white, yellow, and grey.

Paint palette with brown, tan, black, white, yellow, and grey.

Blending colors with a baby wipe or a paper towel.

Blending colors with a baby wipe or a paper towel.

Sponging darker tones over lighter color to create interesting pattern.

Sponging darker tones over lighter color to create interesting pattern.

Step 4: Using Your Base Paint Texture and Covering Chalk Lines

When you are painting your stones, pay attention to the texture of your base paint (the sand paint). Where there are depressions, use a slightly darker paint to enhance the 3D illusion.

When you paint the edges, go slightly over your chalk lines. The chalk will disappear into the paint. You can work with the shapes you find in the stone to create some jagged edges. Real stone, if it isn't cut and smoothed by humans, rarely has completely straight sides all the way around.

If you decide to make a stone larger or smaller than the original chalkline, just wipe the chalk away and work out to wherever you want your stone to be. As you paint, you will get a feel for how you want each stone to be shaped, and how close you want to be to its neighbors.

I sponged a slightly (very slightly!) darker wash (diluted paint, again) around the sides of the stones to help "raise them from the floor. Try this on one stone. If you don't like the effect, then paint over it while you still have all your supplies on hand.

For Darker Stones

For the stones that are darker brown or "slate" colored, I skipped the light base coat. For brown stones I used the darkest brown I had (burnt umber) darkened with a little black.

Again, I layered coats of diluted paint to keep the stone feeling natural. Using straight dark colors makes it look pasted on.

For black rocks, I started with a very dark grey that I mixed myself by experimenting with black and white until I was satisfied. (There are no rules here. Play with your colors until you find colors you adore.)

On some stones, the grey base paint showed through enough to create the lighter highlights. When that didn't happen, I diluted a small amount of tan (for brown rocks) or white (for grey/black rocks) and dry sponged this over the tops. When you do this, go against any marks that you may have left when cutting the sand paint with your scraper.

Now blend, blend, dab, dab with a damp paper towel or wipe!

A "slate" colored flagstone

A "slate" colored flagstone

Final Tips

  • To create the "tiger stripe" effect on some rocks (see photos), wash lighter shades over darker stones. Use one brush stroke and follow the direction of the texture created by the sand paint.
  • Use a bit of sea sponge to "speckle" some of the stones in a few places. You can use light or dark paint.
  • BLEND! I can't say this enough. By gently blending areas where two colors meet, your result will be a lot more realistic.

How to Paint Realistic Stone Details

Okay, so by now, all of your stones are painted in, and the floor is starting to look good. Almost done! Now you need to do some detail work.

3 Things We Will Be Doing Now:

  • Adding texture to the stones
  • Edging the stones
  • Creating shadows in the "grout"

1. Textures

I know, it seems all I've done is make texture since the beginning. But texture is very important here. You probably know each of your stones personally by now. If you get down and look even closer at them, you will see gouges, bumps, cuts, and other marks.

If you read my faux brick how-to, then you know what comes next. Its time to accentuate all those blemishes. You will need to dilute (I love diluted paint, by the way, could you tell?) some paint. Dark brown for all the brown rocks, lighter brown for whitish or tan rocks, and black for dark grey rocks.

Pull out a smallish craft paint brush, and start dabbing darker paint into all the crevices. Blend it outwards so that the darkest paint is in the "shadow" area and the lighter shade is farther out onto the rock. Think of each bump as a small cliff. You are painting a shadow under that cliff.

Now poke some darker paint into any holes, crannies, cuts, or gouges. dab away any paint that gets on the surface around these areas.

2. Edges

You can skip adding edges to your stones. Shadowing the grout will be enough. But I wanted a slightly harder edge.

There is no easy way to do this. I got down on my hands and knees with a tiny paintbrush and painted an incredibly thin line of dark brown or dark grey around each stone. Make the line thicker in some places, and skip some sections to make the shadowing look more realistic. A solid black line all around your stone will make it look like a cartoon.

3. Shadows

For this part, you will need a small bowl. You are going to mix a grey that is SLIGHTLY darker than the grout color. You will need to test this on a small section first. When the paint dries, it should be just darker. Not too much darker, not too faint. This, too, should be diluted to make a nice wash.

Once you get a grey that satisfies you, proceed to wash a thin line around each rock, brushing outwards from the stone. Use light, feathery strokes. This makes the stones pop up.

Lets recap for a minute. The stones were painted using a darker paint nearest the edges, to represent a degree of beveling. Then a thin shadow line was painted to create a crisp edge. And lastly, the grout was painted to look like the stones were standing slightly about the base coat.

That should pretty much take care of your stones. But do take a day away from them before moving on to the varnish. Look at them frequently to make sure you are happy with each one. If's easy to repaint! (Much easier than replacing a real stone!)

Detail shot

Detail shot

More detail

More detail

Examples of detail work

Examples of detail work

Top view of stones

Top view of stones

Side view of same stone, showing how shadowing appears to raise it from the flat surface.

Side view of same stone, showing how shadowing appears to raise it from the flat surface.

Step 5: Protect Your "Stone" Floor With Varnish

If you are really happy with your floor, then it's time to move on the final step. Clean the floor well, making sure to get up fuzz, hair, grit and anything else you don't want permanently glued to your floor.

I used two coats of Min-Wax polyurethane simply because that is what I had leftover from finishing the rest of the floor. It dries really fast and has a nice gleam.

Please, please read the instructions on any varnish you choose. And always use ventilation. If you are doing a whole floor, you might want to ask friends and neighbors to NOT visit until the varnish is cured.

Our floor literally sucked up the first coat of varnish. So don't be surprised if this happens to you too. However, the next coat adhered beautifully and created just enough shine without looking plastic.

Finished faux painted flagstone floor.

Finished faux painted flagstone floor.

Enjoy Your Indoor Patio!

Now that you have a fabulous stone floor, why not dress it up with some live houseplants and maybe some wooden accent pieces?

If you like the idea of doing a stone floor, but don't want to "go all the way" you could section off a semicircular area in front of a door, around a fireplace, or under a large window? This is a nice way of adding some stone without having to paint too much area.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to make what I call "fake realistic rocks". If you have any questions, or if I didn't make something clear, please ask me in the comments and I will try to explain it better!

Faux Stone Wall

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Jayme Kinsey


Ashi on February 08, 2017:

@Jayme Kinsey,

Wow, this is amazing. I must try this in my house too :)

Thank you so much for sharing :)

Bless you.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on September 19, 2014:

Sharkye11, I'm tempted to tell a friend in Kansas that her mother (R.I.P) has been reincarnated in OK! The mother also flag-stoned the narrow entry hall of her townhouse as well as the floor of the galley kitchen connected to it. If memory serves, though, she included dark green and dark maroonish stones to add more color. The "stones" were already a decade old when I visited in the mid-2000s but looked every bit as fresh (and real!) as when she'd done them. As a matter of fact, her stones held up much better than the rectangular piece of faux flagstone linoleum inside the front door of the apartment I was renting. Her last "big" DYI project was turning the sink and tub in the upstairs bathroom into dark green, veined marble. Alas, the "marble" didn't hold up as well as well as the "flagstones" downstairs and had begun chipping off after only a year.

I applaud your fortitude and attention to detail! I've been known to apply the same to projects of my own - rebuilding the arm of a French Provincial chair with wood putty, for example - but never anything as large as part of a floor!

Upped and shared!

Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on September 09, 2014:

@flourishAnyway. Thank you. I enjoy my artsy projects, and always try to do my best on them. I've always wanted to try stone, so I was really excited about this! :)

Barbara Badder from USA on September 08, 2014:

This might work on my laundry room floor. The room is finished in the basement, but the floor isn't finished. I'll need to refer to this and see if my husband likes the idea too. It sure would be easier since in the room behind the furnace and stuff is in the way and it would be impossible to put any other flooring down back there.

Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on September 08, 2014:

@Pawpawwrites--Thank you! I had to think fast for a solution, but I love the way it turned out.

@FantasticVoyages--It wasn't too bad. I think that section only took about 36 hours of actual work. It would be a lot more for a whole floor, but its easy to just work in sections.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 08, 2014:

You are incredibly creative in the ways you spruce up your residence. I like how you took the time to go for "imperfect" (as in nature) and to ensure detail with texture and shading.

Fantastic Voyages from Texas on September 08, 2014:

I like this idea, but it certainly seems like a lot of work! I see plans for my concrete floor hallway in the works!

Jim from Kansas on September 08, 2014:

That is a pretty neat idea. I never would have thought of doing that.