Dollhouses are a favorite toy for many children. They provide limitless opportunities for imagination regardless of what type of dolls fill the rooms.
With the growing popularity of DIY projects, many parents have decided to customize dollhouses for their children. You can now find dollhouse kits that come with plain wooden pieces for you to turn into the dollhouse of your child’s dreams.
While it may have seemed an easy and fun project when you ordered the kit, the task of painting the dollhouse might end up being more work than initially anticipated. Many are now finding themselves looking for tips and guidelines for how to paint a dollhouse.
So, what do you need to know to paint a dollhouse? When painting a dollhouse, it’s best to use semi-gloss or eggshell finish paints. You should also assemble what you can prior to painting and tape off areas you don’t want painted. Remove any doors or windows prior to painting.
In this article, we’ll go into detail on all the tips you need to know to paint your dollhouse, as well as provide some top product options for the supplies you’ll need.
Let’s get painting!
Preparing To Paint
Just as with regular house painting, the first thing you’ll want to do is prep the space. The preparation steps will look different for everyone, depending on whether you purchased an unassembled kit or are refurbishing an old dollhouse that’s already assembled.
If you’re working with a dollhouse that’s already assembled, you’ll need to clean and sand all the surfaces you’ll be painting. This will prepare the surface for taking on a new coat of paint.
You’ll also most likely want to use a primer, not only to help the surface take the new coat of paint but also to cover the old color. For example, painting a light grey over an old navy blue will be more difficult without a primer coat first.
If there are any windows or doors that you are able to remove, you should remove them. It will make painting easier and prevent any unwanted globs of paint ruining your doll’s view out of their bedroom window.
If you have a dollhouse kit that came as separate wood pieces for you to assemble, our best recommendation is to assemble them. There are mixed opinions on this. Some people say that leaving them unassembled while you paint makes it easier to paint neatly.
While this is true, it also runs the risk of the paint warping the size and shape of the wood. When you go to assemble your neatly painted pieces, they may no longer fit together.
There could also be manufacturing defects in the wood pieces before you even put paint to them, and you won’t know that unless you assemble the house first.
When we talk about assembly, we’re referring to the main shell of the house. You can still leave off any window shutters, door frames, and other small pieces that are easily painted separately and attached to the shell of the house.
It’s still best to keep any doors and windows separate prior to painting as well, for the same reasons you’d want to remove them with an already assembled house.
Regardless of the state of assembly of your dollhouse, you’ll certainly want to sand all the surfaces. Even brand-new wood pieces come imperfect and need some sanding to help the paint adhere smoothly.
If you find any imperfections in the wood that need to be filled, fill them now. Otherwise, they will be glaringly obvious once you get the paint on the house.
Types Of Paint To Use
The best type of paint to use is another hot topic in the dollhouse painting community. There are those who vouch for latex paint, and those who vouch for craft paint. If using latex paint, many people have strong opinions on the type of finish.
In general, it’s best to avoid any high-gloss paints. The shinier the paint, the more imperfections will show through. Glossy paints also just look too bright and shiny on such a small-scale house.
The exterior of the house is pretty versatile and can take different levels of finish depending on the look you’re going for. You can use a more matte finish like eggshell or a shinier finish like satin or semi-gloss.
For a fun added bonus, you can try using chalkboard paint on the exterior of the house. This adds a new dimension for your child to draw decorations on their house in whatever way they choose.
The interior of the dollhouse should stick with more matte finishes like eggshell or flat. This just helps the general look of the dollhouse not catch too much light or look too flashy. Especially if you’re going for a more realistic look, you’ll want to avoid paints that make your dollhouse appear like it’s made of plastic.
You can also use craft paint, which works great on any wood surface. You could even purchase a white can of latex paint and mix in your craft paint in small amounts to create whatever color you want.
Tips For Painting Dollhouses
When it comes to painting dollhouses, you’ll find plenty of people saying you have to do something, or it won’t turn out right.
Most of these rules are more like guidelines and will depend on your particular dollhouse. It’s always best to read the instructions that came with your dollhouse kit for the best advice.
If you’re working with an older dollhouse that’s already assembled and painted, our best tip is simply to sand and prime. This will help give you best results as you add your new coats of paint.
Be careful with your paint and use painter’s tape liberally. Dollhouses are small, so if you don’t want the ceiling painted, it won’t take much to tape the whole ceiling rather than just around the edges. This will help give you a cleaner end-product.
When it comes to applying the actual paint, go by the age-old saying “less is more.” It’s better to paint multiple coats (usually three) in thin layers than glob on one thick layer. Remember to sand in between each layer for best results (but not after the final layer).
Don’t paint over any wooden areas that you’re going to stain. Tape these over to protect the surface from any potential paint drips, then sand and stain according to your stain’s package directions.
It works best if you paint from top to bottom. This will ensure your hand or wrist has somewhere to rest as you paint without risking accidental bumps into wet coats of paint.
If your dollhouse roof has shingles, we recommend painting the roof then hanging or laying the dollhouse upside-down. This will allow the paint to drip underneath the shingles for full coverage.
Always make sure you correct any imperfections in the wood prior to painting. We mentioned this earlier, but it’s definitely a top tip with painting dollhouses. With such a small surface area, any dips or chips will be obvious once the house is painted.
The Supplies You’ll Need For Painting A Dollhouse
When preparing to paint a dollhouse, make sure you collect all the supplies you need. Check the list below for an idea of what you’ll need to buy:
- Drop cloth (or other surface to set your dollhouse on while you work)
- Fine sandpaper
- Wood filler
- Painter’s tape
Beyond these, you may also want to consider purchasing a primer or stain if you plan to use either of those. An apron could be helpful if you want to protect your clothing.
The supplies listed above are specifically pertaining to the painting step. If you need to assemble your dollhouse first, you’ll probably want wood glue as well. It can also be a good idea to have paper towels and a microfiber cloth on hand to help clean up any spills or drips.
Best Supplies For Dollhouse Painting
Now that you’ve got an idea of what you’ll need and the steps required to paint a dollhouse, we’ve listed some of our favorite products below.
These are the best supplies for painting your dollhouse, and if you add these to your cart, you’ll have everything you need to get started!
1. Interior Paint – Boomerang Eggshell Finish
The Boomerang interior latex paint is a great choice for the interior paints of the dollhouse.
Boomerang has several colors to choose from, but we love this cotton color because it gives a nice neutral base for you to add pops of color through the decorations and furniture.
One of these 1-gallon cans will be more than you need for a dollhouse, so this could be a great opportunity to pick a color you wouldn’t mind having on your own walls and freshen up your home with a new coat of paint!
2. Exterior Paint – Microblend Semi-Gloss Paint
You can really choose any semi-gloss exterior paint, but we love this Microblend brand Tahoe collection.
The colors listed are neutral, earthy tones you’d likely see on a real-life house, which can give your child’s dollhouse a fun a more realistic quality.
You can even choose to get only 1 quart, cutting down on excess paint that may go to waste unless you plan to take advantage of the opportunity to repaint a room in your home.
3. Craft Paint – Craft Smart 16 Color Acrylic Paints
If you want to go the craft paint route, you really can’t go wrong with Craft Smart. They’re a reputable brand that makes a large variety of colors in acrylic craft paint.
This set has 16 basic colors that you can apply directly or mix to make your own color.
The bottles are much smaller, so you won’t have a large paint can going to waste in your garage. Plus, you won’t spend have to spend more money to get more paint than you’ll need.
1. Detail Brushes – Professional Artist Paint Brush Set of 12
When painting a dollhouse, you’ll need to alternate between large and small brushes depending on the area. With such small rooms and hard-to-reach corners, you’ll be glad you invested in more than one size paint brush.
This professional artist set of paint brushes from Benicci is a great choice. It comes with 12 different brushes in flat, filbert, round, and fan shapes to help you paint all your detail work.
These smaller brushes will come in handy not just with the small crevices, but if you want to paint designs on the house.
For example, you can paint floral vines along the edges of the house to give it a soft or romantic quality.
You can also use these smaller brushes if you plan to paint custom furniture and décor. Dollhouse accessories are miniature, and you’ll be glad you have tiny paint brushes to help you paint your tiny furniture.
2. Large-Scale Brushes – Pro Grade Paint Brushes 6 Pack
The smaller detail brushes above will be helpful with most of the interior work, but when you’re painting the exterior of the dollhouse and trying to cover large surface areas, you’ll certainly still want larger brushes.
That’s where this pack of Pro Grade paint brushes comes in. You’ll get 6 brushes in 4 different sizes to help you cover the large sides of your two- or three-story dollhouse.
These brushes can also be helpful on the roof or on larger interior rooms of the dollhouse.
Some people use foam brushes, but we recommend getting synthetic bristle brushes for better, smoother coverage.
1. Painter’s Tape – Scotch Blue Sharp Lines
One thing everyone agrees you can’t do without is painter’s tape.
To truly get the sharp, clean lines and well-defined rooms, you’ll need to use painter’s tape.
It may seem like one roll is too much for one small dollhouse, but you may be surprised by how much you end up using if you choose to cover entire areas (like the ceilings and floors) to protect against paint drips.
2. Wood Filler – Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler
Carpenter’s wood filler is another product you can’t do without. Any nicks, dips, chips, and other imperfections in the wood will stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t fill them prior to painting.
This small tube of Elmer’s wood filler works great. It’s the perfect amount to ensure your dollhouse is smoothed to perfection.
Apply according to the package directions and remember to sand your wood after the wood filler has been applied and properly dried.
For best results, apply primer after filling and sanding.
3. Sandpaper – 3M General Purpose 220 Sandpaper
Another must-have when painting dollhouses is the sandpaper.
Although paint may seem as easy as brushing on and drying, it will adhere much better with a properly prepared surface.
Before you paint, we highly recommend sanding your surface. Whether it’s raw wood or has a coat of paint already, sanding will provide better coverage for the paint.
Keep in mind you’ll also want to sand in between coats of paint. This may seem counter-intuitive but will help each layer of paint have a smooth and even appearance.
Don’t get sandpaper that’s too course or too fine. It’s best to stick with sandpaper around 220-grit. If you notice the paint becoming damaged or the wood being unaffected, you may be using sandpaper that’s too course or too fine.
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