We’ve painted a cute little set of DIY nesting Dalmatian dog dolls! When I stumbled across a set of blank Matryoshka-style nesting dolls, I just couldn’t resist! My painting skills are dubious at best, but there’s still something rather relaxing about creating just for fun, isn’t there? My nested dog dolls are Dalmatians (of course), but you can use any dog or design to put your own unique spin on the project. I’ve also included some links on painting in the post in case you’d like a more traditional Matryoshka nesting doll DIY project.
Nesting Matryoshka Dog Dolls
Classic Matryoshka Nesting Dolls
My little nesting Dali doll family are smiling at me from the nearby office shelf as I write this post. Nearby, amongst the treasures from my many travels, are two Matryoshka dolls – one was a gift from my Dad when I was younger and the other is a souvenir that I bought in Russia. They are very different versions of the more traditional female nested doll, with painted faces and brightly patterned clothing. This article on the history of nesting dolls takes you into the origins, painting styles, and manufacturing process. My Dali dolls are, of course, far from traditional!
Puptryoshka Nesting Dolls
Matryoshka means mother, which isn’t really the style of our DIY nested Dalmatian dog dolls. My Dali dogs are a less conventional pack, although I did include a Momma dog. What shall I call them? Puptryoshka kind of has a nice ring to it. Then again, so does Dalitryoshka. Choices choices…
Painting Options and Techniques
Classic Painting Methods
I bow to the masters on this one. I am not much of a painter. But as noted above, it’s still fun and we’re all about fun. Traditional painting techniques use an egg-tempera paint, but you can use gauche or any paint that you’re comfortable with. Because the dolls are curved, they’re extra tricky to paint with smooth lines and fine details. Paint selection and texture are important if you’re aiming for a detailed work of art on your nesting dolls. Check out this post on painting Matryoshka doll faces. Such amazing detail! I can only imagine the effort that went into the Russian dolls on my office shelf.
Craft Room Painting Methods
My pups are much more simplistic. I used normal craft paints that were already in my craft stash. They’re old and bit gloopy to work with, but I can’t bring myself to buy more without putting them to use. I kind of wish I’d bought some fresh paints looking at the finished pups, but buying anything right now is tricky with stock outages and shipping delays. I can always sand them for a do-over if I ever get better at painting. Haha! Decent brushes and patience are important for details, even with a simple design like mine. Paint markers (or compatible ink) could be an option too, if you’re not into brush work. If you’re mixing medias, make sure they’re compatible. The same applies if you’re going to varnish your finished dolls.
DIY Nesting Dog Dolls
Supplies and Materials
To make a similar set of DIY nesting Dalmatian dog dolls (or other doll design), you will need
- Nesting doll blanks
- Primer (optional)
- Pencil for outlining your designs
- Filler and/or Sandpaper (both optional) for smoothing the dolls before painting. Sandpaper is also useful for removing any paint that you accidently get on the joining surfaces, which can make it difficult to open/close the dolls.
Blank Nesting Dolls vs. Upcycling
Unlike many of our DIYs, you will need a set of nesting dolls to use as the base for your pup painting project. Blank nesting dolls can be bought from craft suppliers, specialist shops, or large online retailers like Amazon and AliExpress. It would be a shame to paint over a nice set of Matryoshka dolls, but if you have or can find a damaged set, you could prime and upcycle them.
Nesting dolls come in different shapes, sizes, and qualities. You can check out the blank Matryoshka dolls on Amazon (affiliate link) for product examples and ideas. For dogs, I’d suggest a set with a less rounded belly, if you can find one. Even the “slimmer” oblong shapes, like mine, still make for rather portly pups. My nesting dog dolls were made with a very inexpensive blank set of wooden bases. They needed some filling and sanding before painting and weren’t a perfectly smooth base. But, since I was using leftover craft paints and painting with my amateur shaky handed painting skills, imperfect was still perfect enough for my purposes.
Painting DIY Nesting Dalmatian Dog Dolls (or Other Pawesome Pups)
Preparing the Blank Matryoshka Dolls (Optional):
If your dolls have lathing marks on the tops or bottoms, you may want to give them a quick fill and/or sanding before you start work. The same applies if you have any rough edges or want to sand the outside of the dolls for a super smooth working surface.
Painting the Base:
Set up a work area in a suitable location and protect your work surfaces. These round roly-poly little devils can be messy, so you’ll want to protect your work surfaces and work incrementally.
- Open the and separate the pieces of the dolls.
- Prime the dolls (optional).
- Paint the base colour(s) (white for Dalmatian fur in my case), taking care not to get paint inside the joint where the dolls open into halves. Apply incrementally with recoats per your chosen paint product. Allow to dry thoroughly and sand if/as needed to clean up any paint inside the joints.
Designing Your Nesting Dog Dolls:
This is where you get to have a little creative fun. My dogs are (of course) designed as Dalmatians, so the design pattern included lots of spots, but for other breeds you can use colour or outlines for fluff instead. Not sure where to start? Take a look at carton dogs in your favourite breed(s) for inspiration. The flatter and less-detailed style of drawings often used in cartoons can help you with ideas on how lines, outlines, and colours can be used to create simple features.
The face and ears are the main parts of drawing a simple dog. I used simple features, with a combination of semi-smiling closed mouths and happy tongues. The Momma dog also has eyelashes on her non-patch eye and a slight pink blush on her cheeks. I kept the bodies simple, with no leg outlines, but each dog does have a tail at the back.
For interest and colour amongst all those spots and outlines, I opted to have each dog wearing either a collar or a bandana. The Momma dog wears her bandana with the knot at the front, like the tied headscarf kerchief tied at the neck of a Matryoshka doll.
Painting Your Dog Designs:
- Pencil on your basic design elements. I drew the main elements, but free-handed the tiny details and filler spots.
- Working incrementally with drying time in between coats and colour changes, add your design elements. Because we’re layering, I started with the main spots. Then I added the big embellishments, like collars and bandanas, before doing any minor retouching (I had few paint finger smudges…). Then I slowly added the finer details.
- Where the designs overlap seam between the top and the bottom of the dolls, be extra careful when painting to ensure that everything lines up in the finished doll when together. Make any corrections or adjustments if/as needed.
- When ready, topcoat with a compatible sealer or varnish (optional). My dogs are not coated.
- Allow the paint (and topcoat if used) to dry and harden thoroughly before closing and nesting.
I used shading in only a few places on my dogs, including the tongues and bandanas. The rest of the paint is unmixed single colours, although the inclusion of a few metallic paints really helps to add interest and dimension. My big Russian doll has beautiful metallic and iridescent elements, so I channelled a little of that with metallic decorator paints for some of the collars and accents.
Play or Display?
My DIY Dalmatian nesting dolls are for display. There are no little hands at our place to play with these puppers. If you are making a set of dogs for a young child, make sure that the smallest dog (or half a dog) is a safe and suitable, or tuck it away for the future. The littlest dolls inside the Matryoshka can be super tiny, and we wouldn’t want anyone trying to eat their toys – whether people or pups. And, on the subject of tiny hands, this is definitely a project that slightly older kids could enjoy.
DIY Dog Projects at Dalmatian DIY
Itching for more creative ideas? Although we have lots of DIY and craft projects here on the blog, most of them are for the dogs or people who have dogs. This post is one of our special projects that dog-lovers of all shapes and spots can enjoy, even if they don’t currently have a pet. Take a little sniff around our pet-lover DIY projects and you might dig up some other cute craft ideas. There are also some more fab fun dog crafts in our pending posts for those of you who need some distraction or a creative break from things, all the more so in these crazy times. Pats to you all, furfriends and peeps. Stay tuned for more doggone great ideas!