How to Paint Matryoshka Dolls

Written by carmen laboy
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How to Paint Matryoshka Dolls
Matryoshka sets can have as few as three to several hundred dolls in them. (7 matriochkas image by Julia Britvich from

Matryoshka, or Russian nesting dolls, are sets of dolls that fit one inside the other. They can come in virtually any size, shape and style, but are generally made to resemble each other, either by wearing the same clothes, being the same colours or having something in common, such as carrying a basket of food. The dolls were originally meant to symbolise motherhood and fertility, which is why traditionally the design is of a woman, but it is now common to find a set that represent a family, or even a variety of different animals or plants.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Choose the topic for your nesting dolls. While a traditional set is of a group of female characters in babushka costumes, this is not your only alternative. The most important aspects of the dolls is that they have an overriding subject, such as animals, family, political or religious leaders, fairy tales and more.

  2. 2

    Draw the body and heads of each doll using a light pencil. Press just enough so you can see, but avoid going so dark that it will show through your paint. To make things easier, consider making the largest doll the most complex and the smallest the least complex.

  3. 3

    Separate your dolls so you can do them one at a time. Start with whichever you prefer, but make sure each doll is cracked in half. Do not paint them whole because the paint may get into the crack and make it hard or impossible to open without breaking.

  4. 4

    Put a doll part on a pedestal or shelf, some place near your eye level, comfortably within painting reach and well lit.

  5. 5

    Choose your paint. Watercolour does not stick very well to wood and is translucent so your pencil marks will show through, but it can also be extremely attractive. Acrylics are cheap and dry quickly, but they can sometimes look plastic-y, particularly for those who have less experience with it. Oil paints are malleable, long lasting and have a lustrous quality, but some can take a year or longer to dry, depending on the brand and quality (lower quality dries faster while high quality dries very slowly).

  6. 6

    Paint the dolls using the smallest brush you can manage. If you have difficulty controlling a brush, use a crafters' paint pen.

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