Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tips for Painting Peg Dolls for Beginners By a Beginner

Tips for Painting Peg Dolls for Beginners By a Beginner 
 - or "The Things I Learned the Hard Way" -

Last December I got my first lessons in peg-doll painting from a friend who had been doing it for a while and was generous enough to share with me her supplies and the wisdom that comes from experience.  A year later, I still think of many of the tips she gave me when I sit down to paint.  And I've painted enough dolls now to have started my own mini store of experience-based wisdom.  

I'm still a beginner myself.  Painting dolls for me is a crafty hobby, not a form of high art or a money-making endeavor.  I know my designs will always stay simple.  My techniques are rudimentary.  But I've certainly learned a lot from just digging in and doing it.   I thought it would be fun to share some of the tips I picked up from my friend and from my own experience as a year-old peg doll enthusiast.  Maybe they'll help you avoid some of the mistakes I made and get you set to start strong!    

(ps - If I reference JoAnn's craft store it's because I think they have them everywhere, so there's probably one near you, and also because they're the only craft store I know of so far that takes unlimited coupons.  Can't beat it.  Any links in this post are affiliate links to products you can order off of Amazon.  Amazon, sadly, does not take unlimited coupons.) 




(1) Use good paint.  When I first started painting dolls I bought several bottles of 79 cent JoAnn's brand paint.  After painting a few dolls I learned that cheap paint stinks.  It can take 5 to 6 coats of cheap paint to cover an area evenly!  That's ridiculous.  Now when I need new colors, I buy Americana brand acrylic paint.  It's more like $1.75 for a small bottle but it. is. worth. it.  (plus... unlimited coupons.)




(2) Use good brushes.  Learned this the hard way too :(  Cheap brushes will shed their hairs on your dolls.  I'm not even talking super duper expensive brushes, just not dollar store brushes.  The ones I've used the most are the Loew-Cornell brand.  I've bought some multi-packs and some individual brushes and have been happy with most of them.  Brushes that shed on my dolls, I promptly returned to the store.   Here's a set I've been using for a while and they're holding up well...




(3) Store paint upside down.   I got this great tip from my friend!  Not only does it make your paint box look pretty, but it makes it easy to see and choose colors.  Also, it keeps your paint near (and in) the cap ready to use.



(4) Work from the cap whenever possible.  This is one of the reasons it's beneficial to store the paint upside down.  When you're painting peg dolls, you hardly ever need a great deal of paint for any portion of the project.  You can almost always get what you need right out of the cap.  This prevents waste.  Any time I've tried to squirt a tiny amount of paint onto a plate it always ends up being 10x more than I needed and it's wasted.  So, choose your color from your upside down stash, shake it well, and then use what's in the cap or right at the top of the bottle.




(5) Don't use glossy paint.  In my experience, when using glossy paint it's harder to maintain even strokes and color, it gets gloppy very easily, it builds up in an unsightly way on the dolls, and it's harder than "flat" paint to paint over when adding a new color.  If you like a glossy shine, wait, and use a glossy varnish, which is what I do.  Don't use glossy paint.  Just don't.  

(6) Metallic paint also gets gloppy.  I still use it because some dolls just need a touch of shine, but metallic paints usually don't cover as smoothly and evenly as plain acrylics.  Maybe someone more experienced than I has some tips for painting with metallic paints, or maybe there's a good brand to look for??  Input welcome!

(7) When painting details and fine lines, use long, thin brushes.   Learned this the hard way too.  I thought I'd have more control over a short thin brush, but that's not the case.  For fine lines and details use a long, thin brush.  These pictured here are the Loew-Cornell Golden Taclon brushes in sizes 3/0 and 6/0 and the Loew-Cornell Soft Comfort brush in size 1.  





(8) Don't mix colors.  Even though it sounds fun mixing colors till you get the perfect shade you've always wanted, there are two main reasons for not mixing colors.  The first is cost - you typically waste TONS of paint when you add a little of this and a little of that to get a certain color.  You're left with tons of paint on your plate after you've used the little amount you actually needed.  The other reason is that you'll never be able to create that exact same color again, so if you ever need to make a repair or correction you're out of luck.  You'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you just buy the color you want for $1.79.  If you absolute must mix colors, try to save the extra in a paint container like this so that you have some spare set aside for repairs, etc...




(9) Paint several (well, at least two!) dolls at once - you can still be productive while the others are drying.  For example, I'll paint the facial "skin" of three or four dolls, and by the time I'm done with the last one, the first one is dry and ready for clothes.  

(10) Paint dolls from the skin, out.  In other words, "dress" your doll.  That means, paint the skin of their heads first, then "put on" their first layer of clothing and continue on to all the things that layer outward.  I don't know how to say that more clearly, but you can see what I mean in the photo tutorial at the bottom here.

(11) Use pencil to lightly sketch ideas onto the doll before you paint.  It's not cheating!


(12) Dry brushes well in between colors.  Rinse and dry brushes well before dipping into your next color.  Wet brushes can't apply paint properly or neatly.  Gently squeeze brushes dry in paper towels or old rags.  Don't twist or pull on the bristles.  

(13) Use thin coats of varnish to protect and seal your project.  Thickly applied varnish can drip and dry bumpy.  Ahh!  After all your hard work you don't want that!   Use a thin layer of varnish and if necessary, add an additional coat once the first is completely dry.  Do the head or body first, wait for that to dry and then do the rest of the doll.  I use Americana Dura Clear gloss varnish.  



Hmm... what am I missing?  Those are the best tips I can think of for now.  
Do you love painting peg dolls??  (It's a bit addictive, isn't it?)  What suggestions and tips would you add?  

*   *   *   *   *   *

Finally, to end here, a friend recently asked about a doll painting lesson... so if you can't come over and paint with me here some time (wouldn't that be so fun?!?!) I'm including a quick photo tutorial here.  Nothing elaborate, just a quick visual step by step.  Let me know if you have any questions!  

I painted Ruth from the Old Testament (for my daughter, Ruth) and St. Zita (for myself!).  These two dolls took me three hours total.   I love how Ruth turned out, but I'm already starting to plan when I'll have time to make another St. Zita.  She didn't ending up looking like what I had in my head :(    

I prefer the dolls that are approximately 3 1/2 inches tall.  They're small enough for little hands, but are big enough to paint details easily.  These are the "female" dolls I like (though I use them for males who wear robes or religious habits, etc... as well).  And this is a link to the "male" dolls I use.


Supplies?  Check.

I panted the heads first.

I painted the St. Zita's shirt and Ruth's "under garment."

Then I painted Zita's skirt and Ruth's "over garment."

I started adding some embellishments to Ruth while Zita's skirt dried. 

I drew on Zita's apron.

and outlined it and started painting it

Apron drying.  I drew on Ruth's hair.

Started on Ruth's hair.

Added Ruth's head scarf and started on more details on Zita.

Adding more details - broom and load of bread for Zita, sheaf of wheat for Ruth

Few more details for Zita (flowers, rosary) while Ruth's wheat dries.

Almost done!  Just need to varnish :)

Varnishing!




*   *   *   *   *   *

And... here are some others I've  painted in the past...

Nativity

St. Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sts. Clare, Kateri, Dominic, and Therese

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Jerome


54 comments:

  1. Dear Theresa,
    Lovely ideas to share
    Even for those of us who have painted before.
    Thank you
    Gae

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  2. Wow, these are beautiful! Mine would never look so detailed as yours but you make it look easy. :)

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  3. Love the upside down and cap tip!! And I didn't know that about the brushes....awesome!

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    1. All from Lori! She's the real genius behind this operation :)

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  4. Wow! These look incredible! You make it look so simple and they turned out so lovely :)

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  5. oh wow, so inspirational! Excellent tips!! I keep hovering about buying, your posts keep encouraging me to. What size dolls are yours?

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    1. Erin, the big dolls are approx. 3 1/2 inches tall. I like them the best because it's easier to get details on larger dolls. I hope you try it out!!

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  6. Great tips! Now I really want to make my own! I don't know if they'd turn out as beautifully as yours do, though.

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  7. Okay. Oh my goodness, yours are gorgeous! I am taking all of your tips to heart! I think my paint is glossy and I love how yours isn't! It makes such a difference in the smoothness and the way end product. Your style is just gorgeous. I mean really really really. Thanks for sharing this. Pretty sure you just became my little wooden saint doll yoda ;) Yours are so inspiring and encouraging since they show how beautiful they can be!

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    1. Also, I now really want to copy your nativity! Where'd you get the shelter? Also, I need new paint (maybe in the new year? And new brushes! Eep ;)

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    2. Thanks Amanda!
      I got the manger from etsy, I'll put the address at the bottom of this comment. I love it. It's simply and beautifully made and very sturdy. The star cut-out on the top is the perfect touch!
      I hope we'll be able to get together some day and paint!

      https://www.etsy.com/listing/171521527/stable?ref=shop_home_active_3

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  8. Oh my goodness!!! These are beautiful!! Wow. So awesome. You are a crazy good crafter! I love the nativity. These are really so super nice.

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  9. Using the kids is brilliant! The most helpful thing I have found is to have a little six in fan at the table with me to really speed up the drying process. Your are beautiful. Well done!

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    1. I'm stealing your fan idea! Genius!

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  10. dang nab it! why oh why do my comments decide not to post sometimes!?! gaaaaaah. always on the long ones too. basically said mike and i looked at this together last night. he was quite impressed with your creative capabilities . he kept saying things like, "wow, look at that apron, the hair, the broom!" he really appreciates how much fine motor skill this takes as he has to do stuff like that all day long at work. but he makes retainers people, not peg dolls! ;) he was still nudging me to try it myself until we got to the wise men...and the lion. haha, i think we both knew i was out of my league ;) beautiful work though. you are very talented!

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    1. You absolutely can do it! Rose was here last night and painted one for the first time - she went home with a very lovely St. Catherine of Sienna! Come over next craft night and try it out.
      Sorry about the comment problem. I wonder what's up with that???
      Hope you're feeling better.

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  11. Oh wow - these look fantastic. Thanks for sharing your tips. I'm not sure if I'm up for attempting peg dolls yet, but I'm glad to have a resource to possibly look back at.

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  12. Thesesa!!! These are stunning and your tutorial is so wonderful. I'm going to share it with my girls and hopefully we'll paint some saints together! (I SO WISH I could paint with you! Kindred spirits!)

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    1. Thank you, Gina! (and thanks for the facebook link :) )

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  13. Thank you for these tips- we are doing an exchange with 50 (!) participants in June

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  14. How fun!! Have fun with the exchange! You'll have such a great collection at the end :)

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  15. I can't tell you how much I LOVE this blog post!! It has changed my attitude form terrified to excited about a Saints Peg Doll exchange I signed up to participate in! I was wondering if you could answer a quick question about how much paint you use per doll?? I am going to be making St. Frances of Cabrini and will need to make 30....Thanks SO much for any tips!!! :D

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    1. So glad you found it helpful! I'm afraid I can't really say how much paint you'd need for the main body/clothes color of 30 dolls. It would definitely depend on whether one coat covers well or if you'd need multiple coats. If one coat of paint did the trick, I'd guess maybe 2 bottles? But I really can't say for sure. It could be you'd just need one bottle. I'm so sorry :( As for the skin, hair, details, and extras, you would not need more than one bottle of each color.

      When you finish the project, it would be great if you could stop back here and let us know how many bottles of paint you ended up using! That's good info to have!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jenna! Have fun with the doll exchange! It sounds great!

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  16. Thanks for the great tips! I just did a pinterest search for peg dolls and it led me here. I recently bought some peg dolls with the anticipation of painting our family of 7 to go with a doll house I got our children. You've inspired me to paint some saint dolls too and I may have to get to work on a couple for my son's First Holy Communion this weekend! Just wondering if you've used a spray on acrylic finisher before. I bought a matte finish one and am thinking it might be easier to go buy a paint on one like you've recommended. I can't wait to get started, but first I think I may look around your blog first!

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    1. Hi, and welcome, Julie! I've never used a spray finish on the dolls. I don't see why it wouldn't work... it might be hard to get it to cover evenly, though? I'm not sure. The liquid form is easy - you just have to do the top or bottom, wait for it to dry and then finish the other portion. It will be so fun for your kids to have the dolls of your family! A friend of mine painted our family for me as a gift, and then I paid her to paint a Mass set for us - so now my kids can play that our peg doll family goes to Mass with a peg doll priest and altar servers :) You'll have so much fun painting dolls - it's addictive!!

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    2. p.s. - thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  17. what would be the best paint and varnish to use that is non toxic please

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    1. The Americana paints and varnish I mention here are "non toxic".
      If you want to find something different, I just googled "non toxic craft paint and varnish" and came up with other options, so I suggest trying there :)

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  18. I just googled around for tips on the peg doll exchange I'm participating in and your post was the second Google entry! Cool.

    Your dolls are absolutely lovely and these tips really helped a lot. I may be stalking you for more help. :) Oh, and I really like your St Zita! But we're all super critical of ourselves, aren't we?

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    1. Wow! Thanks for letting me know! That's fun :)
      I can't wait to hear more about your doll exchange. They seem to be popping up everywhere. Have fun with it :)

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  19. I just googled around for tips on the peg doll exchange I'm participating in and your post was the second Google entry! Cool.

    Your dolls are absolutely lovely and these tips really helped a lot. I may be stalking you for more help. :) Oh, and I really like your St Zita! But we're all super critical of ourselves, aren't we?

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  20. Thank you! This was so helpful to read. I've just discovered the endless possibility of the world of peg doll making and am so pumped about it! How do you do the eyes and rosy cheeks? Toothpick? End of the paintbrush?

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    1. Hi! I just use those long thin brushes to do those details. In addition to being great for thin lines, they're good for dots, dashes, etc... Have fun!

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  21. So helpful and inspiring. Your work is lovely. Thank you for taking the time to help us beginners!

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  22. Very useful painting tips for kids and students. Thank you.
    By Painting Contractors in Chennai

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  23. for the golden and silver accents i use sharpies in those colors. They work well. I have used other colors for details, eyes, smiles...

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  24. Any tips for making streaky paint look better? There are some colors that do not cover well. I think I've painted at least 3 layers and still looks streaky. I'm trying to avoid globs of paint. Thank you!

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    1. I find I get better coverage with better quality paint. I can usually get a nice solid color with one or two coats of the Americana paints. Good luck!

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  25. I want to redo a doll head/face that I paint. Actually it is facial paint is not lookin good and bothering me a lot. Hair can stay as it is . What is the easiest way? I do not have any chemicals or sanding material at home so will have to buy so I am beginner. Is it really worth the effort?

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    1. If I was in this situation, I'd try repainting the face and just see if it worked. If it didn't I might try repainting the whole head. After that, if I was still really unhappy wtih it, I'd probably just start a whole new doll. Good luck!

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  26. This looks great! Complete stranger loving your pointers. I've been working on a couple princesses and marvel heroes for my kids!

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  27. My daughter is named after St. Zita- we have hardly met anyone who knows anything about her. I love this!

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  28. Thank you for the tips. Your Little Peg People are so Sweet.

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  29. Great and attractive Online Toys Store. Amazing art form and interesting toys.

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  30. Hi Theresa,
    Can you tell me the exact shade you used for Ruth's skin tone? It's perfect.

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    1. Hi Sara! It's called "Fawn" from Americana.

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  31. Your work is beautiful! Inspiring... and I can definitely see the draw to making it a hobby. I am new to peg doll painting and am participating in a peg doll exchange for the nativity. My questions may be a silly but hoping you can give me some pointer. Do you paint the very bottom of the peg doll? Also, do you connect the back of the sleeve on the back shoulder and front of the sleeve to the armpit region? Also, what brush do you use to apply the sealer? Thank you. Jenn

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    1. Hi Jenn! I do not paint the bottoms - too much of a hassle if you ask me ;)
      I hardly ever pain full sleeves. I either just do the top and bottom lines and they sort of trail off at the shoulder region, or lately, I've just been making the top line to give the "idea" of a sleeve. I'd say experiment and see what you like.
      For the sealer, I use a bigger (3/4 inch wide?) soft brush. I first do the crease between the head and body, and then the head. When the head is dry I do the body.
      Hope this helps! Have fun in the doll exchange!!

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  32. Oh my goodness this post is fabulous! I have only just decided to try painting peg dolls so thought I'd start with googling but for tips. Yours is the first post I found and I love it! Your dolls are amazing! I cannot wait for my supplies to arrive and start painting! Will probably blog about it myself and will definitely be recommending your post for others who may want to take up the hobby!

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  33. Hi Theresa,
    Thanks for the tips. I was googling for ideas on painting peg dolls for my CGS Atrium. Being a newcomer and not too artistic I found your work very inspiring. I may even take up peg doll painting as a hobby.

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  34. These tips are wonderful. Something I can use all the rest of my crafting days. Your work is wonderful too. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  35. Hi Theresa, I am in my first saint peg doll exchange and now that I've found your post I can't wait to get started. I noticed in your picture of St Jerome that you have an extensive collection of Saint books. Are they all children's books? If so, have you ever done a post on your favorites? I would love a list :).

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