The enhancement of the stratospheric aerosol layer by volcanic eruptions induces a complex set of responses causing global and regional climate effects on a broad range of timescales. Uncertainties exist regarding the climatic response to strong volcanic forcing identified in coupled climate simulations that contributed to the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). In order to better understand the sources of these model diversities, the Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP) has defined a coordinated set of idealized volcanic perturbation experiments to be carried out in alignment with the CMIP6 protocol. VolMIP provides a common stratospheric aerosol data set for each experiment to minimize differences in the applied volcanic forcing. It defines a set of initial conditions to assess how internal climate variability contributes to determining the response. VolMIP will assess to what extent volcanically forced responses of the coupled ocean–atmosphere system are robustly simulated by state-of-the-art coupled climate models and identify the causes that limit robust simulated behavior, especially differences in the treatment of physical processes. This paper illustrates the design of the idealized volcanic perturbation experiments in the VolMIP protocol and describes the common aerosol forcing input data sets to be used.