How to Paint Nesting Dolls

Lindsey Crafter

Paint your own nesting dolls to give as gifts or to add whimsical friends to a bookshelf! Let your creativity run wild - try non-traditional characters and patterns to customize these classic toys to suit the owner. For this tutorial I created "friendly robots" by adding dials, grates, gizmos and gadgets, but you can easily add classically sweet doll faces and flowers by following the same steps below.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic Paint in Various Colors 
  • Small Paint Brushes 
  • Fine Tip Permanent Markers 
  • Thin Masking Tape 
  • Water & Paper Towels 
  • Unfinished Wood Nesting Dolls 
  • Pencil 
  • Gloss Sealer 
  • Cotton Swabs

Sketch & Prep Your Details

Using a pencil, sketch out a face, arms and any other details you want to include on your dolls. Creating a guide will make painting easier and pencil won't show through the layers of paint.

Lindsey Crafter


  • You can add polka dots or stripes easily with a few household items: Use cotton swabs for painting polka dots and thin masking tape for straight stripes!

Lindsey Crafter


Using small paintbrushes, fill in the details you've sketched out with several thin layers of paint. Let paint dry between layers for bolder colors.

Lindsey Crafter

Detail With a Marker

When your painted dolls are completely dry use a fine-tipped permanent marker to add fine details and outline shapes.

Adding gauges, screws and buttons with a fine-tipped marker.
Lindsey Crafter

Seal , Dry & Stack

Give your dolls a high-gloss finish with a layer of clear sealer. This will prevent details from chipping or scratching off. Allow to dry overnight before stacking!

Lindsey Crafter

Leave questions or ideas for us to try in the comments below-- happy crafting!