(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 29, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

Stepping stones are a purely functional item in most gardens, serving simply as a place to set one’s feet that can offer at least somewhat of a guarantee of being flat, even and secure. Since I have a relative who put her foot in the grass and promptly sank into a nasty hole, breaking her ankle in three places, I think stepping stones have a wonderful function!

Gardens, however, often become expressions of their owner’s personality, and as such, the lowly stepping stone has evolved in many different ways. Any decent garden center will now offer not just the plain and straightforward round or circular ones, but will also give you the option of stones that have a decorative function. ImageStones in the shape of sand dollars are popular in our seaside community, I have seen stones that mimic cross sections of a tree trunk, or some that have pictures of birds, blooms and butterflies, or celestial bodies on them. They can be shaped like leaves, hearts, flowers or snowflakes, or carry inspiring messages such as ‘Welcome, friends’, ‘Bless this home’ or even ‘Turn back!’.

Lately there has been a trend for making your own stepping stones. This can range all the way from buying a complete do-it-yourself kit with all materials included, Imageto expressing yourself in a whimsical, artful design. Many people will first attempt this in order to have a memento, for instance of hand- and footprints of a small child, or paw prints of a beloved pet. Mosaics are popular, as are stones inlaid with pebbles in a particular design, and moulds can be purchased that are reusable many times and will give you an easy way of making stones that have at least some individuality.

From reading the ‘Hypertufa and Concrete’ forum here on Dave’s I quickly realized that there are a number of very talented artists working in this medium. Some of these folks have given me permission to use their images, and have shared their techniques. I will briefly go into some of the work involved, and suggest that you explore the forum if you should be tempted to pursue this

A few brief hints as to the different techniques

The simplest stone: Image

This is about as hard as making a cake from a mix!

Take a mold (this can be something simple like an aluminum pie pan), mix up your choice of concrete, mortar or stucco mix, grease the mold to make releasing the stone easy when it has hardened and pour the mix into the mold, shaking slightly to remove any air bubbles. You can add color to your stones by adding iron oxide pigments to the pre-poured concrete or by applying concrete paints to the dried mold. While the concrete is still wet, use beads, pieces of glass or stone etc. to decorate, or make the hand- or footprint into the concrete. Let dry and turn out… you’re done!!

Leaf-shaped stones using real leaves:Image

DG members Antoinette Hague (below) and Nadine Milburn (above) gave me permission to use their pictures of these beautiful leaf-shaped stones. They lay the wet concrete on top of a leaf and let it dry; Nadine mentioned how she uses wet sand around the edges to give an uneven texture to the sides of the finished stone.


Mosaic stones

(These technique tips from garden*goddess*mosaics on Ebay Guides)

These are generally made using the ‘indirect method’ whereby you create a mosaic design in a mold, and then pour the concrete on top of this. ImageThis can be advantageous if you want a smooth or very flat surface on the face of your stepping stone. First lay out the design on top of sticky contact paper (mirror-image), then carefully place the sheet with the tiles into a mold; gently so as not to disturb the design pour in the concrete and let set. Then invert so your mosaic will be on top. It’s best to start out with a simple design at first.


The ‘direct method’ starts with a simple stone, and the mosaic is then created on top of that, the pieces being attached to the stone with glue or silicone. This will give a more uneven surface but it’s easier to see what you are doing.

Carving in sandstone

This picture by DG member Bstodd of her beautiful stone with ‘praying hands’ speaks for itself. She says she used a dremel with a diamond bit to carve the outlineImage

Painted stones

It is easy with concrete stain or acrylic paint (not as durable) to paint a design, either on an existing stone or one that you make yourself. Here is one that I picked up at a yard sale a while ago that has become an interesting focal point in my garden. Image

That, and seeing the wonderful work being done by some of the members of the Hypertufa and Concrete forum, has inspired me to give this a try; I hope it has done the same for you. I think I’ll lurk for a while first, though!!

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