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.
<< 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Varnish. 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