Yesterday, I shared how to clean seashells. And today, I’m going to show you what I’ve been doing with those clean shells. I’ve been making DIY painted seashells!

How to paint sea shells - DIY Painted Sea Shells to look like imitation Hawaii sunrise shells

This whole project started because I love the look of Hawaii Sunrise Shells, but a good quality Hawaiian sunrise shell can be quite pricey and rare. Since I had an entire basket of scallop shells leftover from my Giant DIY Seashell Seahorse project, I decided to turn one of these scallop shells it into my own version of a Hawaiian sunrise shell. And you know what? My DIY painted sunrise shells came out pretty darn good! They look similar (not exact) to a sunrise shell and can easily be turned into your own version of a Hawaiian sunrise necklace or used as decorative bowl/vase fillers.

How to Paint Imitation Hawaii Sunrise Shells

Keep in mind, that sunrise shells vary in color quite a bit. The bright yellow/orange colored shells are referred to as sunrise shells and the dark green/blue/purple shells are called moonrise shells but are all the same rare native Hawaiian scallop shells.

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DIY Painted Sea Shells Supplies:

Prepping to Paint Seashells

How to Paint Sea Shells - DIY Painted Sea Shells to look like Imitation Hawaii Sunrise Shell
  • Fill two bowls with water. One is for rinsing dirty brushes and the other for clean water.
  • Add a drop of acrylic paint of each color you want to use in the paint tray.

How to Paint Seashells

DIY Painted Sea Shells - How to paint sea shells
  • Brush water onto the entire front surface of the shell.
  • Dip a paint brush into water and a paint color. Dab the color onto the area of the shell you want to be colored and let the water ‘bleed’ the paint into the crevices of the shell.
How to paint sea shells - imitation Hawaii sunrise shells
  • Continue to add paint in the color combination and pattern that you like, using an image of a sunrise shell for reference.
  • You may need to let the paint slightly dry between coats and layer the paint to get the look you want.
  • If you feel you have added too much color, remove it with a clean wet brush before it dries.
DIY Painted Sea Shells - How to paint sea shells paint layers

The left shows the shell I was painting above with the first layer of paint. The right shows a shell that I completed with several layers of paint.

Sealing the Painted Shells

How to paint sea shells sealant

Once you’re happy with the way your shell looks, seal it with a coat of gel topcoat. I tried using a clear acrylic spray coat, but it didn’t give the same shine and ate away some of the acrylic paint.

How to paint sea shells to look like imitation Hawaii sunrise shells

And that’s it! You now have your very own handpainted Hawaiian sunrise shell. When the shells are dry, you can display them in a vase or use them to create fun sunrise shell jewelry 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and give DIY painted seashells a try!

Will you be painting any seashells this year?

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  1. I’ve been painting shells to use as key chains. I paint them with a gold metallic paint then seal with a thick clear gel paint. Unfortunately the shells have some areas where the paint is wearing off, even with the clear gel paint. Upon searching for solutions I came upon this post and I need to ask if the nail gel topcoat works well to stop the paint from wearing away. Handling the shells as a keychain, or necklace like you’ve made, can maybe cause the paint to wear away, but I’m hoping to find a solution that can handle wear and tear. 🙂 Thank you! BTW – your shells are beautiful! I love the colors.

  2. I love love love this tutorial, Erlene! Thank you for sharing. This will definitely be something I’ll give a go. Love the pendants you’ve made, too.