How to Make Russian Dolls

Written by mike marcoe
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How to Make Russian Dolls
Russian dolls are collector items. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Some of the most common types of Russian dolls are "nesting dolls." They are interchangeable with "matrioshka" and "babushka" dolls. Whether you're a hobbyist interested in making a genuine wooden Russian doll from scratch with a lathe, you're just painting wooden blanks in nesting doll kits or you're a teacher interested in teaching a cultural art lesson will determine the amount of time, cost and effort involved. These instructions are for the simplified crafter or teacher with limited budget and experience in wood-turning techniques.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Wooden nesting, matrioshka or babushka doll blanks
  • Protractor
  • Pencil
  • Primary colour acrylic paint set
  • Paint brush variety
  • Wood varnish or clear acrylic paint sealer
  • White make-up sponges
  • Water
  • A set of nesting, matrioshka or babushka dolls, or pictures of them for guidelines

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    Doll Feature Design

  1. 1

    Position the sharp end of the protractor on the doll blank where the doll's irises would be, and make gentle indentations in the wood.

  2. 2

    Pencil an outline of the doll's eyes around the iris nicks. Draw the doll's face and hair.

  3. 3

    Draw the doll's outfit and final facial and clothing features on the blank.

    Painting the Russian Doll

  1. 1

    Paint the back side of the doll with the acrylic paints, using a wide paintbrush. Fill in the larger areas of the back of the doll with paint. Use darker colours first. Lighter colours can be added later.

  2. 2

    Let the main back and body of the painted doll dry for several hours.

  3. 3

    Use finer angled or tipped paintbrushes to fill in the details of the doll's face and body. Use dark colours first. Let the paint dry for several hours.

  4. 4

    Highlight the doll's eyes, irises, hands, and clothing features with white paint and other lighter colours. Let the doll dry for several hours.

  5. 5

    Repeat the procedure to paint each doll in the set. When all the dolls are finished and their paint has dried, coat them with a spray-on or brush-on clear acrylic or wood varnish sealer for protection, and let that dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Get some additional white make-up sponges that you can cut into different shapes and use to wipe off paint mistakes and excess paint.
  • Keep a container of water nearby to rinse the paintbrushes.
  • Do not hurry your painting.
  • Use actual nesting dolls or pictures of them as models for your painting. You can also look up different design possibilities online for ideas in designing and painting your dolls.
  • Wear a safety mask when using paints and spray varnishes or clear coats.
  • Don't be too eager to get your doll completed. Touching the paint on a nesting doll before it has had enough time to dry can lead to frustration and extra work.

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