How to Make Russian Dolls

Updated April 17, 2017

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.


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.

Things You'll 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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About the Author

Mike Marcoe is a writer/editor with more than 19 years of experience. His clients have included the Educated Investor, the University of Wisconsin, New York Life, the "Encyclopedia of Personal Finance," "Your Retirement Watch" and "The Internet Review of Books." He works as the content manager for a financial education software firm and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin.