Making a stepping stone

Create Your Own Stepping Stones

Capture special memories by making your own stepping stones for the garden. If you’re a parent, this is an easy and fun project to work on with your kids. It’s a step in the right direction to personalizing your yard.

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What You Need

  • Forming container
  • Sand
  • Marbles, rocks, seashells (optional)
  • Fast-drying cement mix
  • Disposable gloves (optional)

Step 1: Form the Stepping Stone

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Create the form using a container. You can use any kind of container with any kind of shape and size for your stepping stones. Pour a thin layer of slightly damp sand at the bottom of the container.

Step 2: Create a Design

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This is where you can let your creativity out. Add in marbles, rocks that you collected with your kids, or maybe some seashells from your last vacation. You can also use big leaves or flowers, and they’ll peel right off the stepping stone, leaving a really beautiful impression—kind of like a fossil!

Step 3: Pour Cement

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Prepare your cement according to the package directions, and pour the cement directly over a good layer of sand. If desired, protect your hands with disposable gloves while working with the wet cement mixture. Fill it up to the rim, and level it off. Let drying mold cure for 2 or 3 days. After drying, the stepping stones pop right out of the container, and can go into your garden.

Making your own DIY concrete stepping stones is a way to create functional art for the floor of your garden. Stepping stones are necessary for being able to move throughout the garden without disrupting the soil, but they also create focal points and structure, and add a little bit of personality! Learn how to use concrete to make six different kinds of DIY stepping stones for your garden pathways.

The Best Concrete to Make Stepping Stones

Not all concrete is created equal. Some concrete has large chunks of gravel to give it extra strength when creating large slabs, frames, or sidewalks. Unless your pavers are meant to be quite large, it’s best to choose a finer concrete mix that doesn’t contain large gravel pieces. The concrete you want is usually sold as “repair concrete.” This finer textured concrete will give you a smooth look and takes decorative imprints much better.

How to Mix Concrete

When you purchase dry concrete it will have instructions for mixing it on the package. You can find ready-made concrete in home improvement stores in smaller batches. Ready-made concrete is good for repair jobs or doing just a few stepping stones, but it’s much more expensive. If you want to make a larger number of concrete projects, then mixing your own is the way to go. You don’t have to use the whole bag at once. You can mix up as much concrete as you need for your project and store the rest in a dry area indefinitely.

Materials

  • Repair concrete
  • Large bucket or wheelbarrow
  • Old trowel for mixing repair concrete or
  • Concrete mixer
  • Water
  • Safety glasses, gloves, dust mask

Make it!

Get started by collecting your materials. You’ll want to use a large bucket or a wheelbarrow to mix your concrete in. A trowel makes a good mixing tool, but you can also get a special concrete mixer. The items you choose to use when making concrete will take a lot of wear and tear and may never be completely clean of the concrete residue, so choose items that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also, keep in mind that concrete is corrosive and so it’s best to use proper safety protection when mixing. Safety goggles will protect your eyes from splashes, gloves will protect the skin on your hands, and a dust mask will protect your lungs. Safety first!

To mix your own concrete, measure out some of the dry powder in your bucket or wheelbarrow. Add water as per the instructions on the bag of concrete. I like to add a little less than the instructions suggest, then mix the concrete and adjust the consistency by adding more water for a looser mix, and more concrete powder for a dryer mix.

If you are pouring concrete into molds, the mix should be looser so that it pours and settles into the form. In most stepping stone projects, however, you’ll want the concrete mix to be the consistency of wet sand. It should hold together in your hands well but not crumble or spill.

DIY Concrete Stepping Stones

Now on to the projects! Here are a bunch of concrete stepping stone ideas to get you started. Follow the links for detailed instruction how to make each type of cement stepping stone.

1. Round Stone Mosaic Stepping Stones

These round stepping stones can be made with any mosaic pattern you can think of. I made them with numbers to become a hopscotch path in my backyard play garden. See How to Make Hopscotch Stepping Stones.

2. Square Leaf Print Stepping Stones

These stones can be made from the contents of your recycling bin! Choose plastic tubs or even pizza boxes for cement molds and make square stepping stones following these instructions: How to Make Leaf Imprint Stepping Stones.

3. Round Leaf Print Stepping Stones

Follow the instructions for making the Hopscotch Stepping Stones but use the Leaf-Imprint Stepping Stones to decorate them.

4. Monogrammed Stepping Stones

My crafty friend, Kimberly, came up with the idea to make these Monogrammed Stepping Stones when we were crafting together one day. Simply get a foam letter and oil it well, press into the form, and voila!

5. Store-Bought Stepping Stone Molds

If you have something specific in mind, you can probably find a stepping stone mold that is pre-made and ready for concrete. From sand dollars to butterflies to Celtic designs and even a , there is sure to be one to fit your garden. Just remember that you can only make one at a time with each mold. If you are making only one stepping stone, this is a quick and easy way to go. If you plan to make a whole pathway, it could be a more expensive or lengthy task.

6. Large Leaf Cast Stepping Stones

Forget the form, you can just pick a big leaf from your garden and mound concrete on it! Okay, there is a bit more to it than that. Read all about How to Cast Large Leaves as Stepping Stones.

More Awesome Weekend Projects

  • How to Make Concrete Planters
  • Make a Wine Box Herb Garden Fit for a Connoisseur
  • Pallet Planter Ideas that Stylishly Bring Upcycling to Your Garden
  • Metal Stamped Plant Tags from Hardware Store Finds
  • Build a Bug Hotel
  • Doggy John: How to Build a Flushable Dog Run
  • Quirky Concrete and Hypertufa Planters

Stepping stones in a garden can create a path, walkway or patio, or simply point the way on a visual trail through your garden. They make a great DIY project year round, and most can be easily done on a covered craft table or in a corner of the garage. This is a great project to get creative with and allow your personality, or the personality of your garden shine through. Here are our favorite DIY stepping stone projects, complete with instructions for creating your own.

DIY Garden Stepping Stones

Basic Stepping Stone Recipe

  • Portland Cement
  • Water
  • Mold
  • Release Agent (We use Pam)
  • Decorative elements
  1. Mix Portland cement with water a little at a time until it it as thick as oatmeal.
  2. You can use almost anything as a mold, as long as it’s smooth and can release the stone once it’s cured. I like disposable plastic containers, because the stone will pop right out like ice cubes from a tray. You could line boxes with plastic wrap, use cake pans or even line nursery flats for large stones. Then spray the molds with Pam so they will release when set.
  3. Pour concrete into mold. Allow to set an hour or so to thicken, then add any decorative elements into the surface of the stepping stone. Push in gently. Allow to set overnight in the mold, then turn out and allow to cure 1-3 weeks.
  4. Trick we learned: if you are making a large stepping stone, or one that has a lot of detail and therefore not as thick, place a piece of chicken wire into the mold after you have poured or applied half the concrete. Then apply the rest of the concrete over the wire. This will strengthen your stones so they are less likely to crack.
  5. As you see in the photos below, partially burying the stones into gravel or soil will help protect the more delicate edges from breaking.
  6. Follow the individual tutorials below for their takes on a DIY stepping stone!

DIY Stepping Stone Tutorials

From Tanya at ‘Lovely Greens‘, make these sea glass DIY garden stepping stones! Her tutorial is easy to follow, and she even gives you tips on where to find the sea glass.

This next DIY project is from Haeley at ‘Design Improvised‘. Love the colors in her stenciled garden stepping stones!

This garden stepping stone tutorial comes from ‘The Mizelle Group‘ and uses a rubber doormat to create the wonderful textured pattern in the stepping stone that you see here.

Next is one of our favorites – from ‘Garden Therapy‘, this DIY stepping stone tutorial takes you through using a leaf to create these garden stones that are more like natural art!

Also from Stephanie at ‘Garden Therapy‘ are these hopscotch DIY stepping stones that are so whimsical. What a great way to get kids (big & little!0 to spend time in the garden!

Love these paw print DIY stepping stones from ‘Instructables‘! How fun are these! Complete step by step directions.

‘Fine Gardening‘ provides a good post on creating pebble mosaic DIY stepping stones here. You can also use this technique to make larger areas of patio or pathway. I’m fascinated by this art form using only natural elements!

And this one by artist ‘Jeffery Bale‘. He also has a full tutorial on how to make this mosaic garden stepping stone.

If you want a simpler project, try these stones created by ‘Madigan Made‘, using just concrete and recycled plastic trays!

More Stepping Stone Ideas

Want to take the easy route and just order your stepping stones? Check out these ideas, or search for more options from ‘Wayfair‘!

This Butterflies Stepping Stone looks pretty cool to us. Love the contrasting black and gold. These stepping stones are made with 50% recycled rubber.

“The Fossil Fern” is a timeless stepping stone design, and has great reviews calling this “substantial” and “very realistic”!

The “Flower Power” stepping stone also has great reviews, and will last for years!

Let us know which of these DIY Garden Stepping Stone projects you plan to try! We think you will also love our post on DIY Garden Walkways & Paths! And check out our post on DIY Stunning Planter Box Ideas For Your Patio over on our sister site, OhMeOhMy!

Note : This post has been freshened with updated projects.

Image Credits: Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery, Lovely Greens, Design Improvised, nancymizelle, Garden Therapy, Garden Therapy, Instructables, Fine Gardening, Jeffery Bale, Madigan Made

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Overview: Creative pebble stepping stones

Finished stepping stone

Making DIY stepping stones begins with setting attractive stones in a bed of dry mortar.

Alice Medley loves to create works of art from the pebbles she collects. And she was generous enough to invite us into her garage workshop to show us how to make these beautiful pebble mosaic stepping-stones. She uses a “dry-set” technique that makes it easy to change or adjust the pattern as you go without having to dig the stones out of wet mortar. Get some ideas on how to building a stone path from these tips.

In addition to showing you how to make these DIY stepping-stones, we’ve included plans for an ingenious reusable wooden mold that Alice purchased from a North Woods carpenter. The initial investment for this project—about $50—gets you the plywood, a bag of mortar, pigment and muriatic acid. It’s enough material to make about seven or eight DIY stepping-stones. After that, each one will cost you less than a dollar.

Meet the Expert: Alice Medley

Alice started out using more traditional mosaic materials like tile and glass for her outdoor art projects. Then she discovered she could marry her love of stones with her love of mosaics. Alice learned this dry-mortar technique from Laura Stone, a stone mosaic artist from Minnesota. Alice has also created 4-ft.-diameter, built-in-place pad for her backyard fire kettle using the same technique and is waiting to see how it holds up through harsh Minnesota winters.

Step 1: Start by collecting the stones

Stone collection

Some of Alice’s vast collection of rocks.

Alice collects her stones on the north shore of Lake Superior. You’ll find similar stones in most parts of the country. Look for them in river and creek beds or along lakeshores. Wherever you find them, make sure you have permission and that it’s legal to collect them. Another possible source is your local landscape supplier or wherever landscaping stone is sold.

Alice likes to sort them by color. She’s got buckets and cans full of red, gray, white, brown and speckled stones. Keeping them sorted makes it a lot easier for her to find the right one as she creates a pattern.

Step 2: Build the stepping stone mold

Photo 1: Assemble the cement stepping stones mold

This plywood mold goes together quickly and comes apart easily after the mortar hardens. And you can use these cement stepping stones molds again and again.

A small sheet of 3/4-in. plywood and some 1-1/4-in. screws are all you’ll need to build the mold. Cut out the pieces according to the Cutting List. Figure A shows how the parts go together. When you’re done, brush linseed or vegetable oil on the mold to protect it from moisture.

Figure A: Stepping-Stone Mold

This mold designed for 12-in. x 12-in. stepping stones is made from 3/4-in. plywood.

You can download Figure A and enlarge it in “Additional Information” below. Also find a complete Cutting List in “Additional Information” below.

Step 3: How to make the stepping stone

Photo 2: Spread dry mortar in the form

Fill the plastic-lined form to about 3/4 in. from the top edge with dry Type S mortar. Level it with your gloved hand. It doesn’t have to be perfectly flat.

Photo 3: Arrange stones in a pattern

The only rule is to keep the stones close together so they touch and stand up and are not laid flat.

Photo 4: Tamp the stones level to the tops

Lay a board across the stones and pound on it with a rubber mallet to embed the stones in the dry mortar and set the tops level with each other.

Photos 2 – 4 show the assembly steps. Alice likes to add a little brown pigment to the dry Type S mortar mix to give the DIY stepping- stones a mellower look. You’ll find cement pigments and Type S mortar at home centers and masonry suppliers. Or you can cheat like Alice does and just mix in a little colored ceramic tile grout. Make sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your skin from the mortar, which can cause skin burns.

You don’t have to plan your pattern ahead of time. Alice says she has a design in mind and just starts arranging the stones. It’s easier to start along the edges or in a corner and work toward the center, though. You’ll have less fitting to do as you fill in the last few stones. Keep the stones close together and oriented with the long axis up and down. While it’s tempting, Alice cautions against laying a stone flat. She says it doesn’t look as good as you think it will and is more likely to pop out later. When you’re done tamping the stones into the dry mortar, inspect the space between the stones to see if there are spots that require more mortar. They should be buried at least halfway. Fill sparse areas with more mortar. Dust any dry mortar off the stones with a small brush.

Step 4: Wet the mortar

Photo 5: Sprinkle the stone

Adjust your spray wand or sprayer to the finest spray setting and sprinkle water over the completed stepping-stone to wet the mortar.

Photo 6: Tap on the form

Tap on the form with the mallet to remove air and help the water penetrate. Continue sprinkling and tapping until is seems like no more water will be absorbed by the mortar.

The trickiest part of the process is wetting the mortar (photo 5). We can’t tell you exactly how much water to add, but it’s better to sprinkle on several small doses than to get impatient and risk adding too much. Alice says the key is to alternate between wetting the top and tapping on the mold with the rubber mallet until it seems like not all of the water is being absorbed and bubbles quit appearing (photo 6). Expect to spend about 45 minutes sprinkling and tapping. When the mortar is thoroughly dampened, set the completed stepping-stone in a shady spot and cover it with a damp cloth and plastic. Wait at least 48 hours before removing the mold.

Step 5: Remove the mold

Photo 7: Pull off the mold

Allow the stepping-stone to harden and cure for at least two days. Then carefully flip it over and remove the mold. Clean it with water and then acid if needed.

After you remove the mold from the stepping-stone (photo 7), brush the stone off to remove any loose mortar and rinse it with clear water. If, after drying, the embedded stones have a film of mortar on them, clean it off with muriatic acid diluted according to the instructions on the container. Remember, always add acid to water, not the other way around, and wear rubber gloves and safety glasses.

To enhance the color of the stones, coat them with stone sealer. Alice recommends Sparks Stone Glamor sealer. You can find it online at sparkssw.com for $18 per quart. Other brands will also work. You’ll find stone sealers at home centers; masonry, landscape and tile suppliers; and online. Check out a different variation of this plan for a boot tray in winter.

Additional Information

Required Tools for this Homemade Stepping Stones Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY concrete stepping stones project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Circular saw
  • Drill/driver – cordless
  • Paintbrush
  • Rubber mallet

You’ll also need rubber gloves and a garden hose.

Required Materials for this DIY Concrete Stepping Stones Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1-1/4-in. wood screws
  • 3/4-in. plywood
  • Cement pigment
  • Muriatic acid
  • Smooth stones
  • Stone sealer
  • Type S mortar

DIY Stepping-stones with the Kids

Few DIY projects are as useful and kid-friendly as handmade garden stepping-stones. Give them as gifts or keep them as a permanent – and beautiful – record of your kids’ hands and feet. Kids of any age will love the excuse to get their hands dirty.

Chances are, once you start, you won’t want to stop!

Supplies Needed

  • Plastic stepping-stone mold: You can find this in a wide variety of shapes at any craft supply store or online for less than $5. In a pinch, try using a disposable saucer for a large planter, an old cake pan or even an old cereal box. You will need one mold for each child
  • Quick-setting concrete: Purchase a standard 50-pound bag of quick-set concrete at your local hardware or home improvement supply store. This size bag will make between six and 10 stones, depending on the size of your mold. Alternatively, if you only want to make one stone, you can purchase an 8-pound box of stepping-stone mix from a craft supply store
  • Embellishments: Depending on your child’s age and ability, use stones, mosaic tiles or glass beads. (See additional ideas below.)
  • Old bucket
  • Old spoon or paint mixer
  • Nonstick cooking spray or petroleum jelly
  • Rubber gloves
  • Old newspaper or drop cloth

Basic Instructions

  1. This is definitely a project best done outdoors. Protect your deck, driveway or lawn from stray lumps of concrete by spreading old newspaper or a thick drop cloth over a large work area. Make sure to dress your kids in their oldest, most beat-up play clothes, just in case
  2. Fill mold with a heaping pile of concrete mix to determine how much you will need to mix. Pour the concrete mix into your bucket
  3. Coat mold with cooking spray or petroleum jelly to prevent the concrete from sticking after it dries
  4. Mix water into concrete mix, a small amount at a time, until it resembles the consistency of sour cream or very thick cake batter. Refer to the instructions on your concrete mix for further details
  5. Spoon or pour your mixed concrete into the mold and spread it smooth. If your mold is sturdy enough, carefully lift the stone and tap it gently a few times (as you would a cake) to help smooth the surface and release any hidden air bubbles. Your stone is now ready to decorate!
  6. Let your kids personalize the surface of their stone with handprints, their names or various other embellishments. Kids 4 years old and up should be able to handle this step of the project without too much assistance from you. Wet concrete is surprisingly easy to work with, and any “mistakes” can be easily corrected and reworked
  7. Once your child is satisfied with his or her creation, let the stone dry in a safe, covered spot overnight. Once the stone is completely dry, carefully pop it out of the mold and let it cure another 5 to 7 days before using it as a stepping-stone

Creative Embellishment Ideas

  • Use vintage game pieces and small toys such as dice, dominos, marbles, plastic figurines, or old board game place markers to create a colorful playtime-themed stone
  • Collect a variety of colorful soda bottle caps, and use them to create a rainbow pattern in the concrete
  • Use lettered tiles to spell a name, short quote or other sentiment
  • Create a yin-yang pattern using small, smooth river rocks in contrasting light and dark colors
  • Design flowers and dragonflies from pieces of colorful sea glass or glass beads
  • Create your own rock “footprints” within the concrete by placing five small round stones above a large oval stone

What better way to create an object with true meaning than to have your kids make it with you?

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