How do I paint my dolls? - Adele Po.
Doll making series

How do I paint my dolls?

Do you ever get this feeling, when you have a beautifully sculpted doll in your hands and you’re afraid to ruin it with paints? At the beginning of my doll making journey, I’ve been getting this a lot. It’s so frustrating when you can’t fulfill the image you have in mind. In this article, I’d like to talk about the best materials and techniques I use to paint my dolls, so we could put all the annoyance behind our backs!

How do I paint my dolls? - By Adele Po.

Best materials

Three most important components of my painting routine are pastels, watercolors and good sealant. With these main materials, you’ll get the best results and natural looking faces!

• Pastels

Use pastels to create blushed cheeks, eye makeup or add color to the body. Grinded soft pastels don’t leave any brush strokes, are buildable and create natural looking tones.

How do I paint my dolls? - By Adele Po.

• Watercolors

When you need to accentuate the lips, eyes or other parts of the body, use watercolors. You can build up the color in layers and avoid painful mistakes as you learn to paint tiny details like eyes. Watercolors are tremendous when you try to achieve natural looking lips because you can dilute the paint to the marvelous sheer colors.

• Sealant or mat varnish

After each layer that you’re happy with, sealing the paints is a must. I like to use “Mr. Super Clear Flat” spray for that or any mat acrylic spray varnish. This step is crucial for two reasons: it’ll preserve and save your work. If you make a mistake you won’t need to start over – sealed layers will remain intact when wiping the paints with water.

• Watercolor pencils

For more detailed work like lashes, eyebrows, etc. use very sharp watercolor pencils. Watercolor pencils don’t have oils in them so the strokes will be even and bright, especially on sealant! Remember, what works on paper doesn’t necessarily work on a hard surface like clay.

• Acrylic paints

Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations when you can’t achieve the look you want without dense paints like acrylics. For example to paint really black eyeliner or bright red lips. You can dilute acrylics with water without losing vividness. Also, I use white acrylics every time I paint my dolls! It works great as the first layer and prepares the clay for painting.

How do I paint my dolls? - By Adele Po.

Tips and tricks

Always, always paint in layers! It’s the golden rule of any doll artist. When you paint in layers, you can build up the color, avoid harsh lines and create a natural looking skin tone or face features. If you seal each layer properly, it helps to fix any mistakes which may occur to any of us. Just wipe off the paint with a damp cotton pad or cotton bud! All the sealed layers will stay intact.

Have in mind that all the small details matter and create a character for your doll. Don’t forget to add light reflections to the eyes, maybe use glossy lacquer to make them more realistic. Think about interesting makeup looks to reflect their style and complement the costume.

If you need more help in painting and sculpting your dolls, consider joining my doll making classes where you can learn techniques I use to sculpt or paint my dolls and get individual consultations as well!


Handmade OOAK art dolls by Adele Po.

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