Lagoona Repaint Tutorial (and the Importance of Divine Intervention)

There is a time and place for incredibly detailed, here’s-how-to-do-everything tutorials, and this isn’t it. This is more of a quick step-by-step of how I repainted Freshwater Lagoona (Monster High). You can get the basic idea by looking at the pictures, but if you want to read some words there’s also a fair amount of how-to’s and repainting theory.

Note: for a detailed walk-through of the materials I use and how I prepare the doll for repainting, please go to this post: Repainting First Steps.

She's very cute already. In a very aquatic way.
She’s very cute already. In a very aquatic way.

<< That’s what I started with. She’s a Freshwater Lagoona doll that I got in new condition from a friend’s daughter, who for some reason buys dolls, keeps their clothes, and then gets rid of the dolls themselves. I don’t understand that, but it works out for me.

Also, why does she have purple eyebrows!? She has no purple hair!

FIRST STEP(s)

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Because I don’t have a respirator, and therefor risk immediate-onset lung cancer every time I seal my dolls, I try to seal as little as possible. This is not recommended for a whole bunch of reasons (see: lung cancer), but if you’re wondering why I do pencils and blush before sealing…that’s why.

Slanted, partly closed eyes make you think "oh, that girl is a b**ch."
Slanted, partly closed eyes make you think “oh, that girl is a b**ch.”

Eyes. So the first thing I always do when I begin repainting is outline the eyes. The shape and size of the eyes affects the rest of the face and the personality of the doll. I wanted Lagoona (hereinafter called Kit because Kit is a cuter name) to have a very youthful, innocent look, so I gave her very round, large eyes.

Tips for getting symmetrical eyes. Mostly just pray. But if that isn’t working out, start with the left eye (if you’re left-handed, start with the right eye). I’m right handed, and I occasionally turn the doll upside-down to draw the left eye. It helps my hand avoid getting caught on the doll’s nose. After you’ve finished the left eye you can copy it while drawing the right eye. If you start with the right eye, you can’t copy it very well while drawing the left eye because your hand will be in the way.

Colors. I’m not going to give you a course in color theory, mostly because I never took a color theory course and my 9AM college-level art class (where I should have learned color theory) was the equivalent of nap time. But I used a dark blue watercolor pencil to outline Kit’s eyes. Then I went over the upper lid with a black pencil, and added that extra little line under her lower lid with black pencil.

Eyelids. Eyelids are limited by the shape of the eye. If the eye is open wide like Kit’s, the eyelid has to be pretty thin in order to look normal. But if I had chosen a more sultry look (check out the sultry, you-are-so-beneath-me doll above on the right), the eyelids would have been larger. I do most of my eyelids with two lines like Kit has, but you can do them with one or three as well. Or five or six. You do you.

Eyebrows. Eyebrows do most of the expressive work on a doll’s face. By changing the eyebrows the tiniest bit, you change the whole expression. No pressure.

Asymmetrical brows have a very punk, what-do-YOU-want vibe.
Asymmetrical brows have a very punk, what-do-YOU-want vibe.

I start out by drawing a very faint line where I want both eyebrows to go (turn the doll upside down, start with the left side, pray, whatever helps you get them symmetrical). Kit got symmetrical eyebrows, but some of my favorite dolls have asymmetrical brows (<<<). After the outlines are in place, I erase them so they are very, very faint and won’t be seen underneath the pastel dust. Then I take a small 10/0 flat brush and brush pastel dust over the outline.

Blush. I know a lot of people who blush first, seal, then go onto to eyes. Sometimes I do that too. But lung cancer is a serious health concern, so I consolidated those two layers into one and did the blush after the eyes so I wouldn’t smudge it while drawing the eyes.

Blush is the easiest part. You apply it just like you think you would. Get a little chalk pastel dust by scraping the chalk pastel with a razor, dip your brush in the dust, and smudge it on the doll. Good places to blush are the cheeks (what?!), the chin and the nose (very lightly or she’ll look like she has a horrible cold), and the forehead. Sometimes I do the inside of the eyes.

Kit’s cheeks were blushed with hot pink pastel and her forehead and chin were done with a lavender mixed with a lighter pink.

SEAL!!!

SECOND STEP(s)

Layer two. Added eye shadow, pastels to the lips, and whites of eyes.
Layer two. Added eye shadow, pastels to the lips, and whites of eyes.

So we’re really on step six or something, but we’ll call it step two for the sake of simplicity.

Lips. I always blush the lips on a separate layer from the rest of the blushing. That’s because as I scrub my little eyeliner brush (free with an absurdly expensive cream eyeliner by Clinique) with pastel dust on her lips, residual dust will fly all over her face and I need to be able to wipe it off without taking the rest of her blush with it.

Eyeshadow. I recommend shading the eyelid in some way. I used a dark blue watercolor pencils to shade in between the two eyelid lines, then added a lavender eyeshadow to the outside of her upper lids.

I also layered darker black on her outer lids/lash line because I didn’t think the black on the first layer was dark enough.

Eyebrows part II. You really can’t see this in the picture, but I took a dark blue pencil and made the outer tips of Kit’s eyebrows darker and more defined. I also added five or so little eyebrow hair lines in the inner tips of her brows.

Whites of the eyes. It’s hard to tell, but I added a layer of white watercolor pencil to her eyes in that picture. It didn’t show up particularly well, because it never shows up particularly well for me, especially on MH dolls. I prepared myself for lots more layers, and lung cancer around age 55.

SEAL!!!

THIRD STEP(s)

Added eyelashes, irises.
Added eyelashes, irises.

Funny story about how I totally didn’t notice that the irises were pretty much 100% different at this point (see the spaces underneath the irises?)…. :/

Irises. I like my irises to be partly obscured by the upper lid (otherwise the doll will look crazy or terrified or shocked, and if that’s your thing, cool, but if not…) and sitting just above the bottom of the lid. I started out by outlining Kit’s irises in pink, then went over it in red. I don’t really have any tips for getting both irises symmetrical (clearly this is not my strong suit). Divine intervention is helpful.

Then I filled in the whole iris with pale pink, even the part that would be covered by the pupil. This is because I prefer a ‘soft pupil’ look on dolls, where the pupil sort of fades into the iris. I added a touch of red shading to the tops of her irises, just beneath her upper eyelid, and used a light grey pencil to start filling in the pupils.

Eyelashes. I loath eyelashes. The most important thing is keeping your pencil sharp the entire time. Kit got faint, perfectly-straight lower eyelashes, and very thin, slightly curved upper eyelashes. This is my favorite style for a youthful innocent look. The thicker the lashes get, the more made-up and mature the doll will appear.

Eye shading. I added some shading to her lower eyelids with dark blue and black pencils. I added another layer of white to the whites of her eyes. Still didn’t show up very well. I also added a thin white line just above her top eyelid line, beneath her eyebrow. I add this white line with all my dolls, and I think it makes a big difference in making the eyes pop.

Tear ducts. Just two tiny blue lines on her inner eye, filled in with pink. Easy.

SEAL!!! I always seal after I’ve gotten my eyelashes done. You do not want to suffer through that and then accidentally mess them up later.

FOURTH STEP(s)

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Filling in the pupils. To achieve the soft pupil look, I alternate between coloring the pupils with pale pink, light grey, brown, red, and black, in that order. You could probably take two of those colors out and it would look the same. After I put the layer of black on, I’ll go back and blend everything with the pale pink or grey.

I also went around the outside of the pupils with red to make them pop a bit more. At this stage I still hadn’t realized the colossal mis-match in the size of the irises.

Eye shading. Don’t forget to keep developing the shadows created by the upper lid. I shaded the tops of the irises a deeper color to almost match the pupils. She also got a bit of grey in the whites of her eyes beneath the upper lids.

Whites of the eyes. Another layer of white.

Lips. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I added some faint red and white lines on her lips to make them a bit more pronounced. This helps add depth and detail, too.

SEAL!!! Only because I still wanted to build up color.

FIFTH STEP(s)

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You’re like, “Lady, steps four and five look the same.”

Building color. The only real difference between layers four and five is the depth of color in the pupils. I wanted them darker, with a touch more shading. I also added another (ANOTHER) layer of white to the whites of the eyes.

AND…I finally realized the mistake with the irises and managed to fix it by added a thicker red/dark pink line to the bottom of the irises.

SEAL!!!

FINAL STEP(s)

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After I seal for the final time, I always add yet ANOTHER layer of white to the eyes. The varnish will cover it and seal it securely anyway. However, don’t do another layer with dark pencils on the eyes. The varnish just smears that around and will ruin your hard work!

At this point I take the doll out of her serial-killer-victim-saran-wrap costume because it’s normally falling off by now anyway, and because I’m done with the spray sealant.

White dots. I took a tiny white brush, mixed in some fluid retarder (see my Repainting First Steps post for more on that, but basically it just thins the paint), and put a couple tiny white dots in her eyes. Make sure you place the dots in the same place for each eye. Let dry. Really, let dry.

IMG_2521Varnish. My varnish is thinner, so it’s not as shiny. I put two or three layers of varnish on the eyes, and at least three on her lips. Let each coat of varnish dry before putting additional coats on.

She’s all done!!! You can find her on Etsy, here: I Am Loved Dolls, Kit.

Timeline. This was by no means done in one sitting. I think she took about a week to do, all-in-all.

As always, if you have questions about any part of my process, just leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook

Transformation Story: Violet (Bratzillaz)

I found a decent deal for two Bratzillaz on Ebay a couple weeks ago.

When they arrived, they were in horrible condition. Go figure.

They look worse in real life. This photo doesn't do the tragedy justice.
They look worse in real life. This photo doesn’t do the tragedy justice.

Yasmina (renamed Violet), the one with purple hair, has very frizzy hair, and a loose mid-section. These dolls have a weird stomach joint thing that I couldn’t figure out how to fix without major surgery. Her hands were also not doing so well (I performed surgery with a razor and cut off some extra plastic that was starting to split).

Meygana (renamed Devon) is my favorite doll of all the dolls ever (love her red-red hair and side-glancing eyes), but this Meygana is kind of a wreck. Her head is very wobbly, there are marker stains on her face, and her hair was a disaster of rather epic proportions. She deserves her own transformation story.

Back to Violet.

The 'before.' I honestly like this look a lot. Felt a little bad taking her paint off.
The ‘before.’ I honestly like this look a lot. Felt a little bad taking her paint off.

I first attempted to tame her hair a bit. It didn’t work all that well because a lot of her hair is just frizzies that no amount of boiling would fix. So I just threw it into pigtails and called it good. There are plans to curl the pigtails in the future.

The WIP.
The WIP.

After attempting to fix her hair I removed the paint, wrapped her up, and started repainting. I was going for a fairy.

The WIP below shows scotch tape over her eyes, which prevents Mr. Super Clear from dulling the glossy plastic. Unfortunately, I managed to get some acetone on her eyes while taking the paint off, which made a big streak of melted plastic over her pupil. I fixed it with a coat of varnish at the end.

WHY IS SHE GLITTERY?! Such an important question. Whenever there is glitter involved, ask questions.

PearlEx powder was made by the craft gods for those who love making everything sparkle.
PearlEx powder was made by the craft gods for those who love making everything sparkle.

PearlEx powder, or any similar product, is basically sparkle dust that can be applied dry to dolls’ faces or mixed with acrylic paint to make the paint metallic. I took a brush and applied dry dust to Violet’s eyelids, and then to her whole face. Because why not? She’s a baller fairy.

Clawdeen's lips were glossed with varnish that had been mixed with PearlEx powder.
Clawdeen’s lips were glossed with varnish that had been mixed with PearlEx powder.

A little note on applying PearlEx power dry: don’t forget to seal it! Also, sealing it will make the sparkles less noticeable, so I apply more sparkles than I think I need to, and sometimes I do two layers of glitter.

I finished Violet’s repaint with a flower design on her face. She is now adorned with an orange and purple pansy (my yellow watercolor pencil is MIA) and a dozen or so tiny lilacs.

She also got a coat of gloss on her lips and eyes.

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Repainting First Steps: Materials and Doll Prep

I dislike this part of the process. It’s kind-of tedious, the perfectionist in me isn’t ever happy with it, and sometimes things happen and the doll is ruined before you even touched a drop of paint to her.

That said, preparing well makes the rest of the process much easier, so it’s not something to be brushed off. Read on for tips and advice about materials and doll prep.

MATERIALS

Acetone. I use pure acetone from the nail section of a drugstore to remove the doll’s factory paint. Some people prefer to use other, less toxic and less horrible chemicals to do this, some people have found a non-acetone nail-polish remover…I like pure acetone. It works.

Sealant. I use Mr. Super Clear Matte, a fairly standard spray sealant in the repaint world. MSC is great because it has a nice tooth (or grain) to it that allows the pigment to stick to it and it’s not shiny. MSC is less great in that it is super toxic, and because I don’t have a respirator anymore, I’m probably going to develop lung cancer in a few years. Trade-offs, ya know?

MSC tends to be a little pricey. It comes in relatively small bottles, and costs about $10-20 dollars, if you get it from the right place. I always get mine on Ebay. It’s stupidly expensive if you buy it on Amazon. Junky Spot (there’s a link somewhere below) also has it, but I’ve always found the best prices on Ebay.

Watercolor pencils. I mostly use Faber-Castell and Derwent pencils. These have a high pigment concentration and they show up better on the dolls’ faces. One trick is to keep them very sharp during the whole repaint process, so a good sharpener is key. Using a good-quality brand of pencils is really important–don’t cheap out on these; cheap pencils won’t work.

Chalk pastels. I have Faber-Castell pastels, but I’m not sure that the brand matters as much for chalk pastels as it does for the watercolor pencils. The key with this is to really make sure you’re getting chalk pastels, not oil pastels or pencil pastels or anything else. My pastels come in a short rectangle cube shape. I scratch the side of the pastel with a razor blade to make chalk pastel dust.

Brushes. These are used mostly to apply chalk pastel dust, white paint, and varnish. I would recommend having a varnish brush that isn’t super high-quality, because I always ruin my varnish brushes for some reason.

I use three different brushes to apply pastel dust. First is a fluffy eyeshadow brush I got at a drugstore for no dollars (okay, maybe three dollars). This is great for applying blush to the cheeks and forehead–large areas. Large, as in tiny, because these are dolls, but you know. Second is a small weird eyeliner brush that I got with a fancy cream eyeliner by Clinique (this is the short one with a transparent handle in the photos). It’s the worst eyeliner brush I’ve ever seen, but it works great for applying pastel dust to smaller areas like lips and upper eyelids. Third is a very small flat 10/0 paint brush (it’s the one with the black handle in the photos). I use this brush for eyebrows, shading on the lips, upper eyelids, and lower lids.

I have a nice 20/0 spotter brush (red handle in the photos) that I use for applying the white dots to the eyes, but sometimes I just use my ruined 20/0 spotter that is now my varnish brush, especially if I want the dots to be a little larger.

For tattoos, facial designs, and other things that really can’t be done well with just watercolor pencils, I use a stupidly tiny series of brushes (not shown in photo). The Psycho and Insane Detail brush from JunkySpot are good. I also used to have, and liked, the 10/0-30/0 size brushes from Reaper Miniatures.

Right to left: nice 20/0 spotter, varnish 20/0 spotter, 10/0 flat, eyeshadow brush, eyeliner brush.
Right to left: nice 20/0 spotter, varnish 20/0 spotter, 10/0 flat, eyeshadow brush, eyeliner brush.

Varnish. I use cheap, ancient varnish that works just fine because varnish is varnish to me. Two qualifiers: (1) it has to be shiny (so look for a glossy varnish), and (2) it has to dry non-tacky. Apparently some varnish is tacky. I don’t know why a company would make varnish that doesn’t really dry, but in any case, avoid that varnish for these purposes.

White paint. Acrylic paint, please. I use cheap craft paint that I get for .69 cents at JoAnn fabrics, but it’s a little grainy so I would recommend going a little higher-quality. I just can’t find a good art store in my area yet. This is used for the tiny reflective dots in the eyes. Also seen in that photo at the top is Liquitex Slow-Dry Fluid Retarder. It is basically expensive water that you put into your acrylic paint to thin it out and prevent it from drying so fast. I use this stuff, but I’m honest-to-god sure it’s just water that I paid eight dollars for. So you can definitely use water.

PREPARING THE DOLL

This is where things start getting a little serial-killer-esque.

Removing the factory paint. 

First, remove the paint with acetone or a suitable substitute. I use plain Q-tips to do most of the work, but using the special pointy Q-tips is handy for the hard-to-get places like the corners of the lips.

The Q-tips will smear the factory paint around on the face, which is fine. I get as much of the paint off with the Q-tips as I can, then, when the face is mostly clear, I finish up with a round cotton pad with a splash of acetone on it. The cotton pad has more coverage, so it’ll take off any remaining paint smudges without just spreading them around. This is a super important stepThere is really nothing worse than getting to the end of the repaint process (and you always discover your mistakes at the end, never the beginning) and realizing half the face is still kind of blue because it has smeared factory paint underneath all your hard work.

Rinse the doll’s face off with water to get rid of any acetone residue and the cotton pad fuzz. Just in case.

Some dangers about removing the paint. I have ruined some dolls at this stage. I have discovered while removing paint that the acetone can work itself into the vinyl of the doll and make small dark spots. They look like freckles. I think it may just be a naturally-occuring tiny hole in the vinyl that then gets paint smeared in it and it’s too small to the get the paint out….But I really don’t know what it is. Sometimes I can save the doll, and at least once I’ve had to repaint it and give it away because I didn’t like those imperfections. This has only happened to me in about five of the dolls I’ve ever done though, so it’s a fairly rare issue.

Other dangers about removing the paint. Acetone will melt the hard plastic on the doll’s body if it comes into contact with it. It will also melt holes in your plastic craft table, just FYI. It won’t ruin the hair if it touches the hair for a bit, though.

Protecting the doll. 

Now that the doll is face-less and super creepy, we get to make it creepier by wrapping it in saran wrap. This is when people in your family start wondering if they should be worried.

Wrapping the doll is pretty self-explanatory. I use saran wrap because it stretches and can be pulled really snug against the doll’s hair. The goal is to keep the doll’s hair and hard body from being covered in spray sealant. The hair especially, because the sealant turns it a crusty white and it’s super hard to get out.

Rubber bands or hair ties do a good job of keep the saran wrap close to the hairline. If the saran wrap goes over the hairline and covers part of the doll’s forehead, at the end you’ll notice a line between the MSC-sprayed vinyl and the vinyl that was under the saran wrap, which is something to avoid.

See what I mean about the serial-killer victim? I told you.
See what I mean about the serial-killer victim? I told you.

Seal the doll.

Now that she’s all wrapped up, spray a thin layer or two of MSC over her face. Do this outside (toxic, remember?), preferably with a respirator (not a mask; a real, actual, zombie-apocalypse-type respirator. They’re on Amazon for $30). If you live in a very humid place, try and do this at the least-humid time of day. You also want to spray when it’s a little warmer outside; the spray won’t work right if it’s very cold.

Hold the nozzle 10-12 inches away from the doll, and make sure to turn the doll at times so the sides of her cheeks get sealed as well. Let the spray dry for ten minutes or so in between coats. Try to avoid a really thick coat: if the layer is too thick the MSC starts to dry a little shiny.

As always…if you have a question, leave a comment below, or get in touch with me on my Facebook page.

Blog Introduction

Hello, World!

My name is Kelsey, the artist and owner behind I Am Loved Dolls on Etsy, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ve been repainting Monster High dolls for about two years now, and started repainting rescued/made-under Bratz/Moxie dolls about six months ago. In that time, I’ve picked up a few things about repainting dolls: what works, what doesn’t work (believe me, I know a LOT about what doesn’t work), and what kinda works.

This blog will soon be full of WIP pictures, pictures of dolls-to-be-repainted (I get very excited when I get a new doll to paint), random tips and tricks, features on different repaint artists, and other experiments I get myself into.

I primarily repaint Monster High dolls, but I do a fair share of Moxie/Bratz rescued dolls. I’d like to start branching out to (more) Disney dolls and other brands as I come across them.

You can find out more about me on the About the Artist page.

Here’s to the posts to come!

– Kelsey