Well, two years in between posting isn’t….that bad, right?
Hello again! And to those just joining, welcome to a very irreverent and self-deprecating blog about repainting dolls. Grammar-people beware, I did not proof-read this post.
In this post I’m walking everyone through a layer-by-layer (not step-by-step) process of repainting.
What’s a layer and why do I care?
When I talk about a layer, I mean the amount of pigment that can go on a doll without having to re-seal it to start with a fresh base of sealant.
If you’re a bit newer to repainting, the sealant that most people use is Mr. Super Clear, a weird (super toxic, horrible smelling) aerosol that can actually adhere to soft vinyl plastic and provides a bit of a tooth for watercolor pencils, pastels, and acrylic paint to cling to – anything smoother and it’s like trying to draw on glass. When you’re drawing on the doll’s face, or adding pastel shading, you’ll notice that the colored part of the face gets smoother and smoother until you can’t add more color without it scraping off color underneath. This is the point when you need to stop trying and just add another thin layer of sealant. The sealant will seal in all the work that you’ve done, while also providing you with another layer of ‘tooth’ which you can layer more pigment on.
If you use watercolor pencils, you should expect to use at least three, and up to 10+ layers on your doll. Three is not recommended. Five is probably a good number, depending on the skin tone of the doll.
Onto the repainting:
So first, I prep the doll for repainting. I have a blog written about materials and prep somewhere around here (here, specifically), so if you want to back up a few steps, go check that post out.
The short version is: spray at least two to three base layers of MSC on the doll before applying any pigment. Some artists use up to five base layers. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT. That ‘tooth’ I mentioned earlier can take a couple layers to build up enough to allow a pencil to stick very well. You can technically start drawing on the doll right after one layer of MSC (I used to do this), but it’s such a miserable first layer and frustrating process because the pencil won’t stick very well.
So please apply three layers of MSC on dolls before you start working! You will thank yourself later.
So above, in Photo 1, you see that I’ve prepped the doll (three layers of MSC) and added in the outline of her eyes. The thick lash line looks sort of blotchy and not very dark because we haven’t layered any more color/sealant on top of it.
Photo 2 is still layer one. Because MSC is stupid expensive, I like to get as much done per layer as possible. This conserves the number of layers you need in the end.
So in Photo 2 I’ve built onto the outline of the eyes. She now has a lower and upper eyelids, tear ducts, a lower waterline, eyebrows, an outline of her lips, and some contouring.
Starting with the eyes: I’m going for a super dramatic, glam look with this doll so her makeup is going to get really dark. But even going in with black and dark purple chalk pastels I’m not getting a dark application. This is because pastels, just like pencils, need to be applied in layers.
I have not applied any white pencil to the whites of her eyes in this layer. That is intentional, and more on that below.
The lips: will eventually be painted black, so I just draw in the outline so I know where to paint. More on this in a couple layers.
The eyebrows: are outlined in pencil first, then filled in with pastels for a smoother look, because I blended two colors together.
QUICK TIP: watercolor pencils can also grip to the chalk pastel dust applied to the doll (over a layer of MSC, of course), which means that sometimes after you apply a layer of pastel dust, you can go over it with pencil and get darker/more vibrant colors. An example of this would be the solid line on this doll’s upper lid: I drew it in, then applied pastels, then drew over that line again and got a deeper color.
Contouring: Photo 2 (and most of photos) were taken at night in artificial light, so it’s a bit tough to see the contouring. The sides of her nose have been shaded with tan and pink, and pink has been added to her cheeks, forehead, and chin.
Okie dokie, we’re on layer two. There should be a pretty big different between Photo 2 and Photo 3, above. Photo 3 depicts the doll with every line drawn over and every pastel shaded more intensely. Basically, on layer two I did everything I did on layer one all over again, going over the same areas with the same colors to build up more intensity.
The only thing I’ve left alone from layer one is the contouring. I tend to go in on layer one, contour and blush, and then leave that alone for a couple layers. If you add blush and contouring every layer your doll is going to look super weird. So on my last layer I take a look at the face and if the contouring seems too faint compared to the eyes or lips or whatever, I add a touch more.
Whites of the eyes: if you repaint dolls with watercolor pencils, you probably know that the whites of the eyes are the BIGGEST PAIN IN THE ASS ever. When I colored in the whites using a white watercolor pencil I found that even when the rest of the colors on the doll were sufficiently dark and vibrant, the whites of the eyes were barely visible. Then I was just layering MSC and white pencil for another five layers before the eye whites looked normal. It’s frustrating. I get you.
I switched a couple years ago and started painting in the whites of the eyes. The process is somewhat easy: I just water down white acrylic paint and apply it with a tiny brush. The trick is to apply the super thin paint in LAYERS (of course. More layers). Do one coat (it will be pretty transparent), let dry, add another. Because it’s paint, you don’t have to add a sealant layer in between each coat of white. The thin paint is necessary for a smooth eye – if the paint is too thick you get bumps.
I painted her lips the same way, just with black paint. Layer by layer, until I had a smooth, even, coat.
Not shown but very important: It looks like a skipped a photo (sorry!). After I let the paint in her eye whites dry completely, I go in with the first layer of pigment in the irises. The pencil will stick to the paint, and you can get a pretty solid first layer on without too much more. This saves an extra sealant spray, too.
So again, I’ve gone over everything again with a third layer of pigment. The eyes (which I first filled in on Layer 2 after painting the eye whites) have also been given a second ‘coat’ of watercolor pencil to fill in any gaps or uneven spots. I’ve also added in a few hair lines in her brows with a thin black pencil.
Because her eye makeup is finally getting pretty dark, I added another coat of blush to her cheeks (using pastels, not actual blush).
TIPS ON WHITE HIGHLIGHTS: If you look closely you’ll notice a lighter line going around her inner eyes and extending up onto her lid, just above the thick line of ‘eyeliner.’ You can also see a lighter line just above her upper lip, and another just below the arch of her brows. These are all areas that I do use a white pencil to highlight. You can’t see it in all the earlier photos, but I am adding these white highlights in each layer. It’s just that it takes until about layer three on this doll before it’s noticeable at all.
Pearl Ex Powder: I’ve added some shimmer in the form of Pearl Ex powder, which is some sort of powdered pigment that I think you’re supposed to add to paint? I don’t really know. But it’s great for this sort of stuff. Pearl Ex is somewhat similar to white pencil in that the MSC sealant applied over it will make the shimmer less noticeable, so it requires a couple layers.
In Photo 5, above, I added another layer of blush, more shimmer, darkened her beauty mark (but really, it’s a mole. Those are just moles and I don’t know why we call it something different if it’s on a woman’s face? Thoughts.), and added some silver highlights. I also added the white pencil highlights to her inner-eyes, upper lip, and brow arch. Annnnnd finally I gave her some lower lashes. I tend to do the lashes fairly late in the process, which can add an extra layer if they need to be built up more. Here, the makeup underneath the doll’s eyes was so dark that I knew darkening the black eyelashes wouldn’t make them stand out much anyway, so I didn’t worry about it.
The silver highlights were applied to her eyes and her lids. Just a single layer of thinned-out silver acrylic paint. Just for…extra drama. You know.
In this layer I actually didn’t go over any of her eye makeup to make the colors darker. They seemed dark enough to me and I was finally happy with everything.
You could consider this layer five, if you wanted. But I don’t think it counts because you won’t seal this with MSC.
After Photo 5 (layer four) I sealed the doll a final time with MSC. Adding in the three base layers, that’s a combined total of seven coats of MSC (I think).
Over the top of my final layer of MSC I added the eye reflections and a gloss varnish to the doll’s lips and eyes. I also added some glitter because why not.
And she’s done! This doll is for sale in my Etsy shop at the moment, and you can find her HERE.