saint peg dolls 101. 1 comment

Just in case my Pinterest board (or last week’s post) doesn’t make it obvious enough…I’ve totally hopped on the saint peg doll bandwagon, and since 50 (yes, fifty) male pegs just showed up at my door (thanks, Amazon Prime!), I clearly have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Why? Simple:

  1. I really enjoy painting them. I love having a creative outlet, something I truly find relaxation and fun in once the kids are asleep.
  2. I LOVE the saints. I love learning about them and I love having an easy way to teach my kids about them. Better than fairy tales or magic, the lives of the saints are full of inspiration, hope, and faith. There are families with more than one saint (Therese, Louis, Zelie), married saints, saints who were sisters, brothers, priests, princesses, and everything in between. I love being able to share these stories with my kids and to be able to honor these saints when their feast day comes around (on their feast day the peg gets to sit on our prayer table for the day).

The more obsessed efficient I’ve become at making these saints, the more I’ve had people ask me questions about how to make them. So here goes, the tips I’ve learned along the way and my own little hacks for making the process smoother.


Male Peg Dolls

Female Peg Dolls

When it comes to the dolls, I dove right in and bought bags of 50 – a decent bang for your buck in terms of price per doll, but not as committed as a bag of 300!

Paint: I am a firm believer in the Americana brand – a little bit more expensive (~$1.20/2oz bottle, ~$1.99/2oz bottle of metallic paints), but totally worth it. Cheaper paints take 2-3 coats to cover the pegs so I’d rather spend more money to save time, but that’s just me.

Varnish: I’ve tried 5 or 6 different varnishes, but the Triple Gloss by DecoArt is my favorite by a landslide. It is non-toxic and one well applied coat (I’ll get to that in a minute) gives a beautiful shine that is nice and thick, leaving the doll feeling smooth without needing to sand the peg before or after painting (again, I’ll spend a little more money to save time, but this gloss is still cheaper than Mod Podge!).

Brushes: Again, I’ve tried quite a few, but I tend toward Artist’s Loft (usually found at Michael’s stores) or Loew-Cornell. Cheaper brushes leave hair on the pegs or the hairs stray and then when you are painting details like eyes suddenly you have a line where you really didn’t want one. I like a variety of sizes because it nice to have bigger brushes (I use a lot of black for saints who were Sisters), but I definitely use a lot of the finer brushes for details. If you had to pick, I’d get more smaller, thinner brushes (like these), and less of the big ones.

Play-Doh: My toddler likes Play-Doh but after bedtime I steal repurpose it as a way to stand the saints on their heads while the varnish dries. HUGE timesaver and it keeps my husband from having to hold the dolls while they dry since I paint 2-4 saints a time 😉

The Actual Painting

First, I have to give credit where credit is due. This post from Ordinary Lovely has been huge for my ability to paint the saints. That post coupled with this guide gave me an enormous head start on the saint peg doll game.

  1. Sketch out the design on the peg itself. I’d be a goner if I didn’t do this. The paint will cover it and it gives you a much better guide. Sometimes I sketch a design and don’t get to paint it for a few days so I’ll also write on the peg what colors I want to use where. When it comes to designs for a saint I look to Pinterest, Etsy, and Google. I’ll often just look up icons or images of the saint and sketch from that image.

    Blessed Chiara Badano on the left, Gemma Galgani on the right – sketched, faces and hair painted first

    As pictured above, I paint the face first and usually the hair next. From there I layer the clothes, so if there is an ‘under’ layer, I paint that first. For Chiara I painted a blue and white striped shirt on her, so I painted the white as a the base and added stripes from there. For Gemma I painted her habit and added details on top of that.

  2. I tend to save the faces for last. I’ve been working a lot on the eyes of the saints lately, so here’s my usual order for eyes: white under layer, black thicker dot, eye color on *one* side of the eye (blue, green, brown), then a tiny dot of white over the original black dot. Then if I want to get fancier I add a black (I think it looks better than brown) eyelid, and eyelashes if I so choose. Then eyebrows…which I think could be thinner/smaller than I’ve been tending toward.

    I call this the ‘creepy eye phase’

    Chiara (L) has black eyelids, vs. Gemma (R) with brown eyelids. I think the black is more crisp

  3. Then I paint the bottom. I like having the saints’ names on the bottom so I know who is who, just in case I forget. I also add their feast day so I can remember and hopefully put them on our family prayer table on their special day.
    (I also have to echo the suggestion to paint from the caps – it would be SUCH a waste of paint to pour some on a plate. Some saints hardly require much of any one color so painting out of what is in the cap is genius. And I store my paints in a box upside down so it is easier to see the true color, plus the paint is in the cap, ready and waiting for me!)
  4. Then comes the varnish + play-doh. I usually varnish the very bottom first (over their name), then the bottom half of the body, from the neck down. Once the bottom dries, I flip them and varnish the head.I use a wide acrylic brush – not a sponge brush – to paint the varnish on. The thicker I can get that coat, the better. Then I can put one coat of varnish on and be done.
  5. Varnish the head and done!
  6. Miscellaneous tips: using a Q-tip to apply paint for the hands or roses is ridiculously easy and very consistent. It saves me from having a huge left hand on a saint and then one tiny right hand. Awkward. Also, the post from Ordinary Lovely (linked above) suggests that you avoid using metallic paint. Personally, I haven’t had any issues with the Americana brand and find that it gives a nice shine to some of the saints, especially those with crowns. I also like paint pens for some of these details because the flow is easy and consistent, though I’m dreaming of getting paint pens more fine like these, though the finer brushes are doing the trick just fine as well.

There you go. What are your favorite tips and tricks for painting saints? Can’t wait to hear your favorite saints and things you’ve learned along the way!

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