is in many ways the most important part of your dolls house as
it is the part that is on show most of the time. The style you
have chosen for your house may dictate the exterior finish or
if not the choice can be influenced by the place you intend to
keep the house. On the other hand, it may just boil down to personal
Plan Your Work
Firstly it is a good idea to plan what you are going to do. A
colour diagram will help to show which colours work to achieve
the results you want. If you are unsure about what you want your
house to look like you can gain inspiration by looking at books
(in the library) and also real houses etc. You can even see a
selection of other dolls houses in the Gallery on this site. If
you do not plan, changing your mind half way through can lead
to a lot of extra work - however, it is not the end of
all else - don't forget it is your dolls house -
it is meant to be fun for you. If you want to be faithful to a
period that's fine, but you don't have to. If you want it bright
orange with purple spots that's fine. However, we do not recommend
this as it is unlikely to win one of our competitions and people
will require sunglasses to view it.
When to Decorate
If you are building from a kit it is better to complete the main
painting tasks before assembly. A dry run assembly, following
the instructions, but using masking tape to hold the parts together
will identify the assembly points. It should then be possible
to determine which parts go together for painting purposes.
Things to Avoid
Paint in the grooves
If you are assembling a good quality kit the joints will be
accurately machined to form a tight fit, so it is important
to avoid getting paint in the grooves. Keep a damp cloth ready
to wipe any residue before it dries. It is always a good idea
to check your work periodically until the paint is fully dry
- in case a run of paint sneaks up on you.
The dry run assembly, using masking tape to hold the parts
together, will identify the assembly points - and therefore
the parts, which must be kept clear of paint
It is often only by trial and error that you will discover
the result you want. We always recommend using a test area to
practice on before you work on the house itself. The best way
for this is to have a spare piece of wood - ideally
the same as your house (as paints etc. will dry differently
on each type of wood) - or failing that use a part of
the house that will not be seen, i.e. the rear or the underside
of the base.
important thing to remember is that if your dolls house is of
normal wood construction then this is what it is - wood.
This means it should be treated with regard to paint just as you
would the woodwork or furniture in your own home. Many people
are overly concerned about painting their dolls house. Don't be!
Different types of paint can be used and we have listed the main
Primer - The
only type of wood, which may benefit from a primer, is ply.
For other types such as MDF a primer is not required - but some
people still prefer to use a priming coat as a base.
Vinyl Silk -
This is our recommended paint for the main surfaces. It is a
hardwearing, easy maintenance paint. Surfaces can be cleaned
with a damp cloth.
Matt - We are
not fans of matt paint and would not recommend its use. This
paint tends to mark easily and for this reason we especially
do not recommend its use when painting a child's house.
Gloss - Gloss
paint produces a very shiny finish and we would definitely not
use it on the main surfaces. The 1/12th scale seems to accentuate
the shininess of the paint. However, a well-chosen gloss colour
is perfect for your front door - everyone loves a shiny
Sandtex - If
you want a more textured look for your house then Sandtex or
an equivalent is what we would use. After application, you can
then stipple the paint, which will even out the textures. You
can even experiment at making your own textured paints by mixing
sand with the paint of your choice. This not only gives you
an unlimited range of colours but also allows you to vary the
texture to your choice.
When applying paints we would always recommend two or three light
coats rather than one heavy one.
types of brick effect can be purchased - from inexpensive
papers to fully textured brick sheeting. Application is usually
by PVA glue for the textured sheets and wallpaper paste for the
papers, but it is always best to check with your supplier when
you purchase them. Individual bricks are also available.
However, please be aware that individual bricks add extra weight
to the front of your house and will put extra strain on its hinges.
various types of roofing can be bought. Different grades of roofing
sheet (simple paper to textured sheets) are available. Application
is usually by PVA glue for the textured sheets and wallpaper paste
for the papers, but it is always best to check with your supplier
when you purchase them.
Many people use individual tiles or shingles. For added realism
and an "aged" affect it is an idea to lay a few "broken"
or "slipped tiles". When did you last see an old roof
in perfect condition? Application is usually by PVA glue. If you
want to "cheat" the tiled effect can also be created
by using MDF tile sheets, which give a similar effect, but without
N.B. be careful of the weight you add to the roof and any effect
it may have on any hinges.
roofing papers will come already coloured but in the case of the
shingles and MDF sheet you can colour them yourself. See the information
on paints above. To produce a weathered look for your roofing
mixing sand into the paints or applying boot polishes (by dabbing
with a cloth) can give great results at very little cost.
The most simple and cheap way to achieve a glazed look for your
windows is to use perspex. This can be bought in small sheets
at a minimal cost from your dolls house shop and cut to size to
suit your windows. These can then be secured in place -
either by gluing (preferably with a clear drying glue) or by using
double sided tape.
strips, pediments, balustrades etc can greatly enhance the look
of your house. It is best to paint these before attaching them
to the house. A good effect can be achieved by "picking them
out" in a different colour to the main colour of the exterior.
This effect can also be achieved by using a different textured
paint to the one you have used on the main body.
If you have chosen a Tudor style for your dolls house then timbered
beams will be a feature. There are many wood stains available
to help you achieve the effects that you want.
useful tip from "Dusty" is - if you are painting
a lot of small mouldings such as window sills or quoins then first
stick them to a piece of card or paper (using double sided tape).
Then they can all be painted together. Simply peel them off the
card when the paint has dried. This saves holding the fiddly little
bits and getting more paint on your fingers than on the wood.
Another useful tip from "Dusty" is that a clothes peg
makes a very useful mini clamp to hold things still or in place
- where no great pressure is needed.
There are various methods of application, which can be used.
For the main paintwork - if a standard vinyl silk finish
is required then a small roller is best to achieve a smooth finish
and not run the risk of brush strokes spoiling the job. If you
are glossing the front door then a brush is best - the
finer the better. Don't forget 1/12th scale has the affect of
magnifying brush strokes and runs.
For mouldings, windows etc. use a brush - the better
the quality the better the result. See "Dusty's" tip
above for the best way to do this.
For the more textured finish a whole range of methods can be
used. Larger brushes to "dab" the paint on can give
a "rougher" look. There are many different ways to apply
paints in order to achieve the effects you want. The best idea
is to experiment for yourself as this can also be great fun.
is often only by trial and error that you will discover the result
you want. We always recommend using a test area to practice on
before you work on the house itself. The best way for this is
to have a spare piece of wood - ideally the same as your
house, as paints etc. will dry differently on each type of wood
- or failing that use a part of the house that will not
be seen, i.e. the rear or the underside of the base.
Another tip from "Dusty" - don't forget a wooden
dolls house can be affected by heat and damp. Always bear this
in mind, i.e. don't use excessive heat to dry paints etc.
Obviously space does not permit us to discuss all decorating
topics, however we have tried to cover the questions which are
asked most frequently in our shops.
Good luck with your decorating and I hope this feature will have
helped to answer some of your questions and also enable you to
avoid some of the pitfalls, which can happen - especially
when decorating your first house.
If you have any queries that have not been answered by this feature
please contact us on
Tel: 020 8295 0688
or Fax: 020 8295 1061
We will do our best to answer your questions with the help of
our own expert builder - Dave "Dusty" Caswell.
If you need any more help or advice, or have any suggestions
for topics you would like to see featured in the future, or you
have your own hints and tips you would like to share with your
fellow miniaturists, please e-mail us at: