There’s a T-Rex in My Living Room, or How to Paint a Plastic Toy Tutorial

This is a tutorial for painting a plastic dinosaur  to make it an item of decor. While this is a tutorial for painting a dinosaur, I suppose that you could use it to paint other plastic toys. It doesn’t have to be used on dinosaurs. Additionally, it doesn’t have to be white. If you think another solid color would go better with your décor, go for it! This is a great gift for anyone who likes kitsch and a perfect decorating compromise for me and Adam – subtle and classic yet kitschy at the same time!

You’ll need:
A plastic dinosaur
TSP-PF (or soap)
Krylon Fusion spray paint

I found my plastic dinosaur at the thrift store. See what you can find at your thrift store, or steal an old toy from your daughter, neighbor, or nephew. However, please note that once you have spray painted the plastic toy it is NO LONGER a child’s toy. It is now a decorative object.

Start by washing your dinosaur. While TSP is the classic cleaner to use to wash something before painting, it’s not strictly necessary to have TSP in this case. A bucket of soap and water for washing will probably work just fine. If you do use TSP, make sure that you wear gloves and mix it up in a bowl or bucket that is never used to cook. Also, phosphate free TSP (TSP-PF) is a more environmentally friendly alternative that works just as well. For either TSP or soap, make sure that you rinse the dinosaur well before painting. I did the washing and rinsing in my bathtub, but you could easily do it outside with a hose. Make sure that the dinosaur is totally dry before proceeding to paint.

The only extra prep that I did on my dinosaur was to take a tiny piece of painters tape and tape over the eyeball so that when I finished painting, and removed the tape, my dinosaur’s eyes still showed.

Spread a tarp out. It’s very important to have lots of air when spray-painting, so this should be done outside. If this isn’t possible, make sure you have all the windows open and good air-flow through the room.


For paint, I used Krylon Fusion and it worked very well. The specific brand doesn’t matter but it’s important that it is meant for plastic. A plastic paint will stay much better than an all-purpose paint. You won’t need to worry about it chipping off if it’s bumped.


Set your dinosaur in the middle of the tarp and start painting. Spray painting is really easy. The important things to remember are written on the side of the can. Shake it. Shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture. (Okay, so the can doesn’t exactly say it like that, but you get the picture). Also, hold the can 6-12 inches away from your dinosaur. Trust me on this. It’s very tempting to hold it close because the paint goes on thicker so it’s faster. But you’ll get a better finished product with a more even coat and fewer drips if you paint 6-12 inches and do an extra coat.


When painting my dinosaur I had to do several applications of paint, flipping the dinosaur around each time so that I could get into the various nooks and crannies. The paint should dry in 10 minutes, so it’s pretty easy to be patient enough to get the needed coats from different angles, even if patience isn’t generally your strongest virtue (ahem).

Wait for it to dry, place it in your home, and smile!

P.S. I was inspired by a spray-paint-horse pin I found on Pinterest from DreamGreenDIY.