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Painted Baby Helmets: A DIY Doc Band Design

Learn how to paint your baby helmet

Before I start to explain how I went about decorating my son’s baby helmet, you need to make sure that you are following the rules from your doctor about what is allowed. Our Doc Band came from Cranial Technologies and they have great baby decorating tips on their website. Remember that a baby helmet is a medical device and should be treated like one. 

In the post, I am going to share how I chose to follow the decorating baby helmet guidelines to create my son’s unique helmet. 

*We are not liable for anything that could happen to your baby helmet after you decorate it. I just feel like I have to say this here, again!

(because at the end of the day I am talking about how I painted a medical device).

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read full privacy policy here. 

Doc Band Decorating Ideas

I knew I would be painting something cool on my son’s helmet, but what? Honestly… 

I was a little scared and tired! 

Anytime my children need something new (like a baby helmet) I normally become a little overwhelmed. This whole baby helmet process has actually been pretty good so far. My son slept in the band right away and really only tried to take it off initially. He got used to really quickly, even for being an “older” baby helmet wearer.

Why do babies need to wear helmets?

So for those of you who do not know why babies wear helmets, it is simply to correct the shape of their heads. There are medical terms to describe everything, however, if you are reading this then you probably already know about torticollis and plagiocephaly.  My son had a flat spot on the side of his head due to a tightening in his neck muscles. 

 I googled and search for doc band helmet designs and how to decorate a doc band. There really aren’t too many detailed posts out there with different designs and ideas for painting these Doc bands.

As an artist, I tried to think of things that I thought would be simple enough to paint on a round surface. We thought about local sports teams, famous paintings, and general books and things our family loves.

My husband and I are huge fans of the book, Where the Wild Things Are. We decided to go with a wild one theme on our helmet. I also knew that I wanted to use my style of painting to make this baby helmet art my own.

Don’t forget to Pin this for later!

baby helmet decorating ideas with in progress decorated doc band pictures

What kind of paint do you use on a baby helmet or doc band?

Acrylic paint is your best option due to its ability to adhere to the surface and dry in a plastic-like layer. Most acrylic paints are low VOC and will have an AP (approved product) seal and this means it is a certified safe product to use (especially with children). Acrylic paint is also water-based and can be cleaned or diluted as needed. It also has a quick drying time compared to other paint options.

If you would like more info on the labels on art supplies you can go to The ACMI site for more explanation.

Brainstorm baby helmet decorating ideas

I wasn’t sure if my go-to drawing transfer technique would work. I have used this technique to help make a DIY wedding gift to lettering for a chalkboard wall. Even though I wasn’t sure, I thought I would go ahead and give it a try!  I am happy that my simple drawing transfer technique worked to help me decorate the baby helmet.

10 popular baby helmet designs

  1. Fighter helmet cap
  2. Favorite character
  3. Monster
  4. Polka Dots
  5. Watermelon
  6. Simple Blocks of Color
  7. Decals with your favorite saying
  8. Construction themed with cute sayings
  9. Under the Sea
  10. Football helmet or inspired by your favorite sports team


Paint Brushes

Acrylic Paint in the colors of your choice*


Mod Podge

Foam Brush to apply Mod Podge

*We used more expensive Liquitex paint because we already had it, but some people say that the cheaper acrylic paint works just as well.

How to paint a baby helmet

Before you begin, make sure your baby helmet is clean and grime-free.

1) First, create a sketch or find an image you want to use for inspiration.

Putting pencil on the back of drawing

2) After I printed images that I thought would work, I put the pencil on the back of the image, cut it out and tape it on the helmet where I wanted it.

3) I then used a SHARP pencil to trace on top of the picture and push the scribbled graphite on the back. It actually worked better than I thought. I wasn’t sure if the graphite would stick to the plastic coating of the outside shell.

Pencil drawing of a wild thing on white cranial technologies baby helmet

4) Once my images were on, I simply began painting with acrylic paint. I used my artist’s acrylic paint.

However, according to the Cranial Technology website, regular acrylic craft paint will also work when painting a Doc band baby helmet. Make sure you are using non-toxic paint as you want to make sure that you are being safe for your baby.

Now, this is where my skills come into play. I know everyone reading this may not be able to paint as I do. However, my drawing technique can work for a lot of simpler baby helmet designs. Or you could use the baby helmet decals. I can’t believe how many cute ones there are out there!

Wild thing monster painted with acrylic paint on Doc Band Baby Helmet

Baby Doc Band Painting Tips

  • Make sure the brush is almost completely dry when painting. You are adding paint to a plastic surface and if you have water on your brushes the paint will just puddle on there. 
  • Paint in layers
  • Always paint general to specific. For example, the eyes were done with painting yellow first, then adding the pupils and then adding the “detailed” sketch or black lines
  • The good news with painting on plastic is that it can be mostly wiped clean if you make a mistake
  • I only had my paints end in a painterly way away from the edge so that I did not have to worry about the foam

5) I was surprised at how fast the acrylic paint I used dried. I placed it outside to dry and also to get the inside of the helmet some sun. After a month of us, the inside foam definitely has a little smell and I am told letting sunlight get to it helps. 

Wild Things Baby Helmet Drying Outside

I placed my son’s Doc Band in an 8″ baking pan to support it outside while drying. I thought it worked perfectly!

Apply mod podge to your painted baby helmet to help protect it

6) After 45 minutes, I checked on my painted baby helmet. It appeared to be dry to the touch. I decided to go ahead and put my first layer of mod podge. Make sure you use the original formula to seal and protect your painting. I used a brush to lightly paint it on in one layer. I chose only to mod podge the parts I painted. As you can see, the milky coat will turn clear when it dries. 

Baby helmet resting outside to dry after painting

7) Again, place the painted baby helmet outside to dry and to also hopefully help get rid of the mod lodge smell. After 30 minutes, check to see if my first coat was dry so that I could add another layer of mod podge.

8) I left the Doc Band back outside in the sun. So my son was out of the doc band longer than the hour recommended that day. However, only because we really wanted to let it dry and not become smelly. I think he did not wear his baby helmet for around 5 or 6 hours that day. 

How long should you wait for your baby helmet to dry?

For the best results, I would let your helmet dry overnight. When I was cleaning mine that night, my nail slipped, and took one of the leaves out. Luckily, it was not an important part. My son did sleep in his once I thought the smell of the mod podge was not too bad. He did not ruin his helmet or anything, but it may be best to let your painted baby helmet dry overnight.

A mom in the Cranial Doc Band Facebook group recommended using a blow dryer on COOL to help speed up the drying process. I would just be cautious that you do not heat the band at all as I know that could cause problems.

I am so happy that I decided to finally get over my fear and just paint something on the baby helmet. It is so nice to see his smiling face with a cute illustration on it instead of the medical-looking white baby helmet.

Wild Things Painted Baby Helmet Design

How to clean a painted Doc Band baby helmet?

Cranial Technologies recommends using rubbing alcohol to clean the helmet. However, I believe I will now only be cleaning the inside foam with rubbing alcohol as mod podge is water-soluble and I think the rubbing alcohol will take the sealer off. I will be asking about this at our next appointment. 

Note: I didn’t realize there were different types of rubbing alcohol, but Cranial Technologies says you need to use this percentage of Isopropyl alcohol.

We will see if we need to reapply mod podge on this as he bangs his head around. I really hope that the painted baby helmet stands up to all that he will put it through. Be sure to come back and see how he is doing with this newly painted baby helmet! 

I hope you found these tips helpful on how to paint a baby helmet. Hopefully, all of our babies only have to wear these cool helmets for a little bit of time!

Good luck decorating your baby helmet. You’ve got this!

You won't believe this painted baby helmet

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Friday 27th of August 2021

Did you end up having to reapply the modge podge? Anything you would hVe done differently? My twins are getting their helmets next week.


Saturday 28th of August 2021

Hi Amanda. Good luck with your baby helmet. I ended up added a little darker blue to the sky of the helmet two months later, so I did reapply 2 more layers of mod podge. I really just did that because I didn't like the white of the helmet in my design. Good luck with your baby helmet, I know how overwhelming the whole process can be at first. Before you know it they will be out the helmets!

Jenn Summers

Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Great job Erin it is adorable! Our smaller twin wore a helmet as well. She thought she was indestructible lol. I hope your little guy's treatment works quickly.

Not sure what your helmet doc will say but ours had us wash it inside and out daily with rubbing alcohol (and wash her hair daily as well) and once a week with soap and water and we would change any extra padding then too. Every place is different though.


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Hi Jenn. Thanks for the tips regarding the baby helmet. Yes, we have to use rubbing alcohol and wash our little one's head every day. Our padding does not come out in the inside of our helmet. I am glad he is wearing this Doc Band during the Winter and not the Summer!


Friday 22nd of November 2019

Absolutely amazing! You are very talented and creative!! What a great idea. When people stop to look, it will be at the art, not the fact they are wearing a helmet. What a gift


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Hi Amanda! That you for the kind words about his painted baby helmet. The good news is that baby helmets seem more common around here so people don’t even really ask what it is.


Friday 22nd of November 2019

This is such a gorgeous idea. Just the first paragraph of this article alone had me tearing up. You are an amazing mama and I wish there were more people like you in the world!


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Hi Jasmine. Thank you for the kind comments. We all want what is best for our kids!

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