Tutorial: Bratz Makeunder/Natural Repaint Pt. 1

Time for another makeunder tutorial! I did one a little under a year ago with  a Moxie Girlz doll, but my style has changed (and improved) so much I figured another tutorial would be helpful!

You can find the Moxie Girlz repaint tutorial HERE.

Update: now that I’ve finished all three parts of the Makeunder/Rescued Doll series, you can skip to my tutorials on DRESSMAKING and SHOEMAKING for dolls, if you like!

Also, because this is the part of the blog people seem to write random things totally unrelated to the post that no one cares about or reads, I JUST WENT TO THE MOTHER OF ALL JOANNS FABRICS STORES AND IT WAS HEAVEN. My quick trip (I literally needed two items) ended up taking two hours and about $40 more dollars than I planned on. I know all you crafty people know how that goes!

Back on track….

WHAT IS THIS TUTORIAL GOING TO TEACH ME?

This is part 1 of a three-part tutorial that goes through my process of rescuing or making-under dolls like Bratz or Moxie or whatever. Part one (you are here!) goes over the process of repainting the face. Part two will cover making a simple dress, and part three will show how I make simple shoes.

This isn’t a quick step-by-step photo tutorial. It’s really in depth, with lots of tips and tricks for repainting explained under each photo. But if you don’t want to read all that, you can go through the tutorial by looking at the photos. The captions to the photos explain what I did in what order.

What is this tutorial NOT going to teach me?

Lots of things, I suppose. Like how to cook chicken without over-cooking it (this is a problem I have 100% of the time). But as far as doll-related things goes….

  • First, this tutorial does not cover how to wash/tame/fix/style doll hair. If your doll needs a good salon day, head over to my tutorial HERE on how to fix doll hair.
  • Second, this tutorial won’t teach you much about the materials I use or how to prep the doll for a repaint (“what?! But that is so important!” I know. Don’t panic. It will be okay.).

GETTING STARTED (This is the part where you should start reading if you skipped all that stuff above).

Materials

  • Matt Spray Sealant like Mr. Super Clear
  • Chalk pastels
    • You’ll use pastel dust, which you make by scraping the surface of a chalk pastel bar.
  • High-quality watercolor pencils (Derwent or Faber Castell or Prismacolor)
    • You’ll use these dry…don’t get them wet!
  • White acrylic paint
  • Satin varnish (or glossy varnish, I don’t care, you don’t care).

If you have questions about any of these materials go check out my post on Materials and Doll Prep.

FIRST STEP: Preparing the Doll

What, you thought you could get away without reading my tutorial on Materials and Doll Prep? If you have any questions about how I remove factory makeup from the dolls, and protect and seal them, you should read that ‘Materials and Doll Prep’ link just above.

If you’re a veteran, get your doll all ready to start applying pencils and chalk dust.

How many layers of MSC do I spray before repainting?

It used to be that I only put one layer down. That’s not enough. I use 2-3 layers of spray sealant now, and it’s SO worth it. Trust me. Go spray another layer just to be sure.

Our Model

We’re going to call her Andy, because Andy is an adorable name for a girl.

Andy is a 2015 Bratz, so her head is bigger than the older Bratz, her body shape is quite different, and she has articulated knees (whoo!). This particular Andy is the ‘Hello My Name is…Meaghan’ doll I got in a five-pack of Bratz from ToysRUs (at a price that made it worth it, I promise).

In the photo on the right I’ve gone through all the prep necessary, including spraying two layers of MSC on her. We’re ready to go!

FIRST LAYER OF SEALANT


This doll was done using only three layers of MSC after I started repainting. So we’re going to go by layer, because I’ve found it’s the most efficient use of MSC (which is expensive; you definitely want to minimize your use).

* Note on how this tutorial is organized: each picture has  a caption with numbered subjects. Each subject is then elaborated on (in numerical order) underneath the photo.

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1. Eye outlines. 2. Eyelid creases. 3. Eyebrows

1. EYE OUTLINES

Very first thing I do is outline the eyes. I never move on until after I’ve gotten both eye outlines where I want them.

Eye placement and size

The bigger the eyes are, the younger the doll will look (until they’re so big it’s just creepy. Don’t go to that place). I find that the 2015 Bratz look better with eyes about the size I did here. Smaller eyes start to look out of place on the super large heads. I went with medium-large eyes. They could be a little bigger, but not much.

As far as placement goes, on a big-headed doll I make the eyes wider than normal. You can see the shadows in the picture above where her ‘eye sockets’ are. I’ve made my eyes a bit wider than the sockets, and they’re definitely wider than the original factory paint.

Um….How Do I Make My Eyes Symmetrical? 

Practice? But seriously, practice. Some tricks I used in the beginning:

  • Do the left eye first so you can copy it while drawing the right eye (or if you’re left handed, do the right eye first). This way your hand isn’t blocking the finished outline.
  • Don’t be afraid to modify both outlines to make them match. I set one down, then the other, then I go back to the first and change it, then so on.
  • If you have a hard time reaching one of the eyes, turn the doll upside-down to work on it.
  • Look at the eyes from different angles, especially from the top (bird’s eye view). This is SO HELPFUL!
  • Don’t be shy about taking a ruler out and measuring distances between the corners of the eyes and the bridge of the nose.
  • Hold a pencil (or anything straight) against the bridge of the doll’s nose and make sure your eyes line up along the pencil. I use this to make sure the corners of the right and left eyes are on the same plane.
  • Hold the doll up to a mirror for a different perspective.
  • Put thin outlines down, and make them more symmetrical by making them thicker in the same places.
  • Practice. Repeat.

2. EYELID CREASES

After the eye outlines are in place, you can pencil in the eyelid creases!

To achieve a more natural, child-like face, I keep the creases rounded and fairly close to the upper lash line of the doll’s eyes. For other dolls I might make the eyelid larger and the eyes less round (this achieves a more sultry look).

I also do a double-crease, just because….why not?

3. EYEBROW OUTLINE

Now for the brows.

I only pencil in an outline for the outer edges of the brows, because I’ll fill in the rest with chalk pastels. These brows are going to be pretty neutral brows, nothing crazy going on!

 

Caption: 1. Fill in brows. 2. Eye whites.

1. EYEBROWS

This is where the chalk pastels come in. Make some chalk pastel dust in the right color for your brows. Then use a small flat brush (I use my black 10/0 flat brush for this) to pick up some pastel dust and fill in the eyebrows.

You can go back and clean the brows up with a kneaded eraser (the weird grey kind that’s like gummy clay) or any eraser, really.

2. EYE WHITES

Using a white pencil, fill in the eyes. A lot of people have trouble getting the whites to show up well enough, and this is normally because they didn’t seal the doll enough before beginning. The picture shows just one layer of pencil, and it shows up so well only because I sprayed two layers of MSC on the doll before starting.

If your white watercolor pencil isn’t showing up like mine, don’t worry, you’ll just need some extra layers of MSC sprayed on to make the color show up more.

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1. Nostrils

1. NOSTRILS

Use a dark brown or medium brown pencil to mark two nostrils, about the shape of those in the photo. Make sure they’re centered as well as possible, and even. As far as placement goes, I put them right where the nose mold curves into the lip.

Warning: don’t make them too round or too tall! The doll will look pig-nosed (of course, if you adore pigs, go for it).

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1. Lip outline

1. LIP OUTLINE

Use a dark or medium-brown pencil to make two very small dots in the corners of the mouth. Then draw a thin dark line from the dots towards the center of the mouth. My line is only about 4 millimeters long: they’re very short.

Then use a pink or red or whatever-lip-color-you-want pencil to outline the corners of the lips, and the upper lip curve. If you don’t want the lines to be too noticeable, use a lighter pink or nude pencil.

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1. Eye shading. 2. Nose shading.

1. EYE SHADING

Break out those chalk pastels again! Make pastel dust in nude colors. Here, I used  light tan, tan, and brown dust to shade the eyes.

Starting with the lightest shade, use a small flat brush (I’m using my black 10/0 that I used for the brows) to shade above the larger eyelid crease and the outer eyelids. I also used some of the tan dust under her lower lash line.

 

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Note on natural v. makeup looks: for a natural look, this shading should be fairly light. If you want the eyes to look more deep-set, you can use some darker shading, but you have to be very careful not to go overboard. If you want your doll to have a more smokey-eye look, just use darker/not-nude colors to shade!

2. NOSE SHADING

For the nose, use the light tan and tan dust to make the bottom of the nose (area around her nostrils) a bit darker. You can bring the dust up the sides of the nose if you want more realism.

Warning: I would advise against using a pencil to outline the bottom of the nose. I haven’t been able to do it where it looked natural, so I only shade with pastels. But if you are a braver soul than I…I can’t stop you.

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1. White highlights.

1. WHITE HIGHLIGHTS

This is more a personal style preference, so it’s up to you.

I use a white or off-white pencil to mark highlights around the doll’s tearducts and eyelid creases, and her upper lip curve.

Note: If you’re nervous about how white and bold these highlights are, don’t worry. They’ll fade a bit after they’re sprayed with sealant.

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1. Waterline.

1. WATERLINE

Use a dark brown (or whatever color you outlined your eyes with) pencil to add a waterline to the doll’s eyes just underneath the lower lash line you already drew. I keep them very narrow, and only extend this waterline to about the middle of the lower lash line. You can extend it all the way if you want; it’s just a personal preference.

 

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1. Color the waterline. 2. Fill in lips.

1. COLOR THE WATERLINE

Use a light pink pencil to color in the waterline until it ends and hits the white highlight pencil.

2. FILL IN THE LIPS

Using pink/red pastel dust, fill in the lips. I use a larger brush for this (my short clear makeup brush that I show in the Materials and Prep blog linked at the beginning of this tutorial).

I use darker pastel dust in the corners of the mouth and the center of the upper and lower lips.

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1. Blush

1. BLUSH

Using pink/light pink pastel dust, use a fluffier larger brush to blush the doll’s cheeks. I use a fluffy eyeshadow brush for this.

I use a lighter pink dust to blush the doll’s chin and center of forehead.

Why blush now and not earlier?

Because we’re trying to minimize sprays of sealant, I do blush right before I’m about to seal the doll. If it’s done earlier in the process it’s super easy to smear the blush dust all over the place, which sucks.

SEAL WITH A THIN LAYER OF MSC (OR WHATEVER)

SECOND LAYER


First, let the layer of MSC dry for ten-fifteen minutes.

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1. Iris outline. 2. Eyebrow lines.

Tiny note: see how much the white highlights faded? It’s more natural-looking now.

1. IRIS OUTLINE

Using a color that is a shade or two darker than the shade you want your iris to be, make two round outlines for the iris. For example, I’m going for light blue eyes, so I used a dark blue pencil to outline here. You can go as dark as black, though, if you want.

I made Andy’s eyes looking to her left, but it’s easier to make eyes that are looking straight forward, if you’re just starting out.

Placement

Your outline shouldn’t be perfectly round. The iris should always be partly obscured by the upper eyelash (if it isn’t the doll will look crazy or terrified or some horrifying combination of both). For a rounder, more Caucasian eye, the bottom of the iris should just touch the lower lash line. For a more almond-shaped eye, or an Asian eye, the bottom of the iris can be partly obscured by the lower lash line, but generally not as much as it is obscured by the top lash line.

2. EYEBROW LINES

Using a pencil with a darker color than the pastels used to fill in the brows, use fast, short strokes to create individual ‘hairs’ inside the eyebrows.

I also colored in the outer edges of the eyebrows with a dark brown pencil to make them more solid. I often make the outer edges of the brows darker than the inner edges.

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1. Iris color. 2. Iris shading. 3. Pupils.

Oops, I forgot to take more pics of this process (sorry, I was watching Jurassic World and got REALLY caught up. Ahhh the raptors!).

1. IRIS COLOR

After penciling in the outline, color in the whole iris with the lightest shade you want in your eye. I chose a very light blue for this.

2. IRIS SHADING

Then take a darker pencil and lightly shade in the top 1/3 of the iris, trying to blend it into the lighter color as well as possible.

3. PUPILS.

Using a black or dark brown pencil, pencil in the pupils using circular strokes. Start small, then build them outward so they don’t get too big too fast (if they get really big, your doll is going to look really stoned, which would be funny, but probably is not the intent).

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1. Small eye line things.

1. SMALL EYE LINE THINGS

Using a dark brown or black or dark blue/green/purple/I-don’t-care pencil, make tiny lines in the irises, radiating out from the pupils.

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1. Make upper lash line darker. 2. Eye whites.

1. DARKEN UPPER LASH LINE

Sorry about the lighting that keeps changing in these photos. I was chasing the good natural light around my tiny studio, which is definitely easier said than done!

Use a black pencil to make the upper lash line a bit darker and thicker. This is less ‘natural,’ so I suppose it’s my own personal style preference. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but I’d recommend it.

If you want a more natural look, use dark brown instead of black.

2. EYE WHITES

Using a light grey pencil, very lightly shade the part of the whites that is just beneath the upper lash line.

Then, go over the entire whites with white pencil (including the grey, unless you want your shadow more pronounced).

IMG_6059
1. White highlights. 2. Lip lines.

1. WHITE HIGHLIGHTS

If you want the white highlights to be more pronounced, go over the white highlights again with your white or off-white pencil. Remember, after we seal the final time they’ll fade a bit more.

2. LIP LINES

Using a light red/dark pink pencil, draw tiny lines inside the lips. These are the lip creases that most people have!

SEAL WITH A THIN COAT OF MSC!

THIRD LAYER


Remember to wait for the MSC to dry!

IMG_6062
1. Eyelashes. 2. Eye whites. 3. Darken Pupils. 4. Highlights

 

1. EYELASHES

Technically you could do these on the previous layer. I sometimes do that. But I normally try and do them after sealing because I often have to erase them once or twice to get them perfect, and I don’t want to ruin anything underneath.

For the upper lashes I do thicker more doll-like lashes using a black pencil. For the lower lashes I use a dark brown pencil and do tiny, thin, straight lashes until the waterline ends. For a more natural look on the upper lashes, you can use a dark brown pencil instead of black, or you can just make the lashes thinner and shorter!

2. EYE WHITES

Go over the whites of the eyes with white pencil again. If you want more shadow, add more light grey underneath the upper lash line.

3. DARKEN PUPILS

Go over the pupils once more with a black pencil, or dark brown, or whatever color you chose for the pupils (they don’t always have to be black!). If you want you can also darken the shading in the irises.

4. HIGHLIGHTS

If you want, go over all the highlighted areas from earlier again with a white or off-white pencil. If you like where they’re at already, you don’t have to go over them again.

However, ALSO add some thin white lines to the lower 1/3 of the irises, and to the lips.

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1. Freckles.

Sorry about the weird green lighting. Dunno what was going on there.

1. FRECKLES

Optional, of course, but Andy’s a redhead so I decided to give her some freckles with a tan pencil. So adorable. Love freckles.

SEAL WITH A LAYER OF MSC

FINAL LAYER


Let that stuff dry.

IMG_6064
1. Unwrap doll. 2. Catch-lights.

1. UNWRAP DOLL

She’s looked like a serial killer victim for long enough. And she’s SO CUTE!

2. CATCH-LIGHTS IN EYES

Or eye reflections, whatever you want to call them.

Mix up one drop white acrylic paint with two drops of water to thin the paint down. Then, using a toothpick, make a small white dot in the same place in each eye. Then make a couple other small white dots (or not, the number of white dots is up to you. I use two-three, normally).

Just make sure the white dots are in the same place in each eye (for the most part).

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1. Varnish

1. VARNISH

 

Using a gloss or satin brush-on varnish, brush a coat over the eyes and lips (or eyes only if you don’t want the lips to be a bit glossy).

I have a satin varnish, and I used one coat on the eyes, and two coats on the lips, so the lips are shinier.

And she’s done! I don’t have Part 2 written up yet, but I’ll try to do that this week. Stay tuned!

Furthermore, if you like Andy, you can adopt her on my Etsy page, here! She comes with a cute pair of glasses, a pink dress, and booties.

IMG_6070

 

 

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Tutorial: Blushing A Doll’s Body

Repainting a face is well and good, but what about the rest of the doll?

That’s what blushing is for. When I say ‘blushing,’ I’m actually talking about shading. Shading a doll’s body will make the doll appear more realistic and three dimensional, just like blushing/shading the face does.

I’m sorry that I don’t have many pictures here. I had a terrible time trying to get good pictures that actually showed the blushing; unfortunately blushing tends to happen where shadows would naturally fall, so it was tricky to get pictures that showed the blushing and not just the shadow.

Materials:

  • A doll (note: this tutorial, and blushing in general, will work best on dolls with hard plastic bodies. Disney Princess dolls, Barbies, and Bratz tend to have legs that are sort of rubbery: this plastic doesn’t take well to blushing at all! If you’re working with one of these dolls, only blush the torsos).
  • Chalk pastels
    • Super optional: pearl PearlEx powder for highlights.
  • Paintbrushes in assorted sizes (at least one big-ish, one small, one tiny).
  • A toothy spray sealant (Mr. Super Clear is my go-to, but if you have a different sealant go for it. As long as it has some tooth or grain to it!).

*WARNING*

Before we get started, you should know that blushing a doll’s body makes the doll less awesome for playing with. Playing with a blushed doll can easily scratch the sealant and rub off the chalk pastel. This is especially common around the doll’s joints, where the plastic will rub against itself when the limb is moved around.

When I post dolls on Etsy with their body’s blushed, I encourage the dolls to be used for display only.

Okay now we can start: The Prep

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Wrap the doll up to cover areas you don’t want to blush. This doll is a Disney doll, so her legs are rubbery and can’t be blushed.

If you’re planning on repainting the doll’s face, I recommend doing that first so you don’t accidentally rub off any of the body blushing while working on the face.

Wrap the doll’s head and hair in saran wrap so the spray sealant doesn’t get on it (wrap legs too if they’re the Mattel/Disney rubbery type). Then slightly spread the doll’s limbs apart, making sure to bend/place them so they are exposed to the sealant.

I spray the front and sides of the doll’s torso and arms first. Let dry. I then bend the arms so my next coat gets the inside of the arms (the outside and front of the arms is covered on the first spray). With the second spray I coat the doll’s back, inner arms, and the back of the arm. Let dry. Spray the front and outside of the doll’s legs (IF they’re the same hard plastic as the torso–if they’re that rubbery material, spraying them will work for a while but the sealant will normally start to fall off after a period of time. Most sealants aren’t designed to stick to that kind of material). Let dry. Manipulate the doll’s legs (if possible) so that the next spray gets the back of the legs and the inner legs. Spray. Let dry.

How much do you spray?

I dunno.

No, I kinda do. Only kind of, though. With MSC there is a very fine line between too much, where the chalk pastel won’t stick to it, and not enough, where the chalk pastel won’t stick to it. I spray from about ten to fifteen inches away from the doll, and do a fairly light coat. If you see the doll’s skin become shiny with wet sealant, that’s probably too much but it may not be the end of the world. Don’t panic. Panicking is not conducive to a relaxing evening of body blushing.

What brushes do you use to blush?

IMG_4672
My brushes! And a pen (for sizing, although it is a nice pen).

I use three brushes to blush. (1) The first is a big fluffy eyeshadow brush i bought at Fred Meyer for $3.00 or something. (2) The second in a small cream eyeliner brush that I got for free with a horribly expensive cream eyeliner I bought forever ago. I love it for blushing because it has short but firm bristles, so I can really smudge the chalk dust around. (3) The third is a super small 10/0 shader brush by miniMAJESTIC ™.

The fourth is a pen. No, I’m kidding. Don’t use a pen.

Picking the Right Colors

Choosing what colors to shade with probably comes naturally to most of you who are artsy enough to customize dolls. But there are a few rules of thumb.

  1. Do not shade with grey or black unless your doll has grey skin. There may be a few other exceptions to that rule, but otherwise you’ll just make your doll look like a sickly zombie, and that’s not great (unless you want a sickly zombie, of course).
  2. Choose a tone, warm or cool, for your shading. This will help you determine the darkest color for the shading. For example, my model in this tutorial has bright pink skin, and the customer who commissioned her wanted cooler tones. So my darkest color for shading was purple (a cool color), whereas it would have been red if the customer wanted a warm tone.
  3. Don’t shade with only one color group (i.e. green, including all shades of green). For example, my model in this tutorial was shaded with two shades of pink just deeper than her skin tone, as well as purple, which gives the shadows extra dimension.
  4. I would encourage you to shade with a bit of pink, even if the doll’s skin color is blue or grey or whatever. It’s up to you. I just think that adding a bit of pink makes the doll look a bit more alive.

Here are the three colors I picked to shade my doll (remember, she is bright pink, so that’s why my shading colors aren’t normal skin tones):

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The three colors I used to shade Goo. BTW, this is a Faber Castell palette of 48 soft pencils. Each pastel is about 1.5 inches long.

Ready, Set, Blush!

Once you’ve picked your colors, use an Exacto knife or coin or butter knife or nail or nail file or whatever to gently scrap the chalk pastels into a fine dust. Don’t scrape too much: you can scrap more later but once it’s scraped it gets really hard to store without smudging everywhere.

Some tips:

  • Start with your lightest shading color (it should be just a bit darker than the doll’s natural skin tone), and layer the darker colors over it as needed.
  • Keep in mind the doll’s anatomy when choose where to place shadows. If you stand the doll up in natural light, the areas where the shadows naturally fall, or would natural fall if the doll had actual bones and muscles, is where you should blush. The skin under the breasts, around the collar bones, around the belly button/abdominals, around joints, in between fingers…all those places should probably get blushed.
  • Blush the doll’s torso first, spray to seal, then blush the legs. If you do it all at once you’ll be smearing your earlier work around by the time you get to the later stages of the process. No good.

I start by blushing the big areas first, using my big-ish eyeshadow brush. On my model (meet commission Gooliope #2! We’ll call her Goo for short), I started by shading the area between and underneath her breasts, followed by her hip bones. I followed up with the darker shading colors under her breasts, but left the hipbones less shaded.

 

Then I take my small eyeliner brush (not the tiny one) and blush the smaller areas, including her belly button, collar bone, and in-between her fingers. Of course, Goo is a 17″ doll, so if you’re working with a smaller doll these areas may require the tiny brush (especially the fingers).

Goo is a sort of radioactive goo doll, so her skin is sort of…dripping.  I have a lot of questions about if the radioactive goo hinders her fashion choices, but that’s for another day. My customer asked that I blush her so the drips are more enhanced, so I took out my smallest brush and used the darkest pink and purple colors to shade each and every drip.

Some more pictures, finally!

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Highlighting

If we were working with almost any other medium, shading a drawing or painting doesn’t stop after adding the darker tones in. You would then add highlights to areas that will naturally pick up the light more. On a person, these are the tops of the shoulders, tops of the collar bones, tops of the breasts, etc. You get it.

Unfortunately, unless you have and are very good with an airbrush, options for highlighting a doll are limited. (If you’ve figured out a way to do this, PLEASE comment below!).

White chalk pastel, in my experience, doesn’t show up at all on the doll after applying it and then sealing it in place with MSC. Instead, I use Pearl EX powder to highlight.

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

PearlEX powder was featured in one of my Transition Stories posts, but if you didn’t read that, PearlEx is a very very fine shimmery dust that is normally used mixed with acrylic paint to give the paint a metallic sheen. When applied as a dry powder, it looks nicely shimmery. Even better, it comes in a lot of different colors (I have purple-gold, pink-gold, and pearl).

If you want a really shimmery doll, you have to apply the powder in several layers, because spraying it with a sealant dampens the shimmer a bit.

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PearlEx powder was used on each drip and the pre-drip part of her leg. You can see one highlighted area that is randomly catching the light here. The other drip’s highlights don’t show up in the shadow.

On Goo, I put a touch of the pearl-colored powder on the tops of each drip. The effect is subtle enough that my camera can’t get a good picture of it, but when the light catches her drips they show up more!

PearlEx does NOT make a ‘glittery’ effect: the particles are too small for that. That said, it is shimmery, so if you don’t want your doll to have a slightly shimmery torso in some places, it may be better to skip the highlighting all together.

Here’s a few more pictures of the Disney Ariel I blushed alongside Goo. Her shading was super subtle (I think over-shaded dolls look scary), so I didn’t use her for my model. You can barely see the difference, but in person, she looks much better!

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The three colors I used to blush Ariel.

 

You haven’t seen the last of Ariel…she’ll be featured in my upcoming blog about tattooing dolls (the faint marks you see on her chest, arms, and hands are the beginnings of a heavy ink job).

And…..an upcoming giveaway!

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Here’s the first giveaway doll!

I promised that as soon as I reached 100 likes on Facebook I would do a giveaway! I reached 100 likes a couple weeks ago, just before leaving for a holiday trip. Now that I’m back at my work space, I’m working hard on getting two dolls (one made-under Bratz, one Monster High) ready for a giveaway. If you haven’t liked my Facebook page, do so now for updates on the giveaway as soon as it’s posted!

Tutorial: Anime and Manga Doll Repaint

Lately I’ve been (frantically doing homework, working part-time, attending classes, teaching high school civics, trying to keep my house clean) repainting a lot of Moxie dolls.

Basically, I first started doing makeunder dolls on Moxies, because that’s what I happened to buy off Ebay this one time five months ago.

But then I ended up with, like, twelve of them and I started getting bored. Maybe I’m totally ADD when it comes to dolls (is that not PC to say?), but I can’t paint the same face after same face. Especially because Moxie dolls have very, very, very flat faces.

It occurred to me that the Moxie’s flat-ness works very well for some things: very large eyes. And what art style involves girls with very large eyes?

Anime and manga.

I felt like a genius. Still feel like one, actually. But that’s a personal problem.

Okay you’re here for a tutorial. Not the ramblings of an exhausted student with too much creative energy.

So here you are:

PHASE 1: THE EYES

Every time I write a doll tutorial I end up saying something like “the eyes are the window to the soul.” So there it is again. It’s especially true with anime and manga eyes, because they are literally half the face (if not more-than-half). If you have the eyes down, you’re in good shape.

Phase 1, Step 1: Design the eyes

Some general characteristics of anime and manga eyes:

  • They are large. Like, really large. Weirdly large.
  • They are rounder than natural eyes.
  • There is generally not an outline surrounding the whole eye. The lashes frame the eye on the top and bottom, but not necessarily the sides of the eyes.
  • The lashes are much thicker on top than on bottom.
  • The pupils are larger than natural. Think somewhere between ‘really dark room’ and ‘really high.’
  • They are much more reflective than natural eyes. Very large shiny white spots, basically.
  • They are not as detailed as a realistic human eye.
  • They are framed by fairly thin eyebrows.

So now you know all that, grab a piece of paper. Or, if you’re familiar with anime/manga styles, go ahead and grab the doll you’ll be working on.

If you want to start work on your doll instead of planning out the eyes on paper, make sure the doll is properly prepared to be repainted. For information on how to prep a doll for repainting, see my post on Materials and Doll Prep. I’m going to proceed assuming that you’re practicing on paper first, but if you’re drawing directly on the doll, the same principals apply.

You can start designing your eye in any way you want. Sky’s the limit. If you haven’t seen a lot of anime or manga art, do a google search for ‘anime eyes’ or ‘manga eyes’, or click here for the google search I used: “Anime eyes” image search.

I start by drawing the outline of the eye, then the top and  bottom lashes. Thicker on top, thinner on the bottom lid.

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Then I sketch out the iris. Large, more oval than a real iris.

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Add in the pupil. There are different styles you can use for this part. Some anime or manga eyes are shaded to be very heavy on the black. There are black outlines everywhere, very much like a traditional comic book. See the picture below.

I know. She looks green. Oops.
I know. She looks green. I promise that she’s not in real life.

Alternatively, you could use a more gradient approach to fill in the iris and pupil, and leave out the black outlines.

Here's an example of eyes without the black outlines around the pupil and iris.
Here’s an example of eyes without the black outlines around the pupil and iris. Want to adopt this little lady? She’s on Etsy, here!

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Now that you have the idea of your pupil and iris laid out, add in the reflections. If you’re working with pencil or pen on paper, you’ll probably need to use a white gel pen to do this (or white paint).

Remember, anime and manga eyes are more reflective than realistic eyes. However, if you add too many reflective spots or too large of reflective spots, the doll will appear to have very watery eyes.

Play around with it!

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Another style
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Anooooother style. This one has softer, fluffier lashes.

PHASE 2: PAINT THE DOLL

Most of the materials used for this tutorial.
Most of the materials used for this tutorial.

Phase 2, Step 1: Prep

Now that you know what you want the eyes to look like, you’re ready to begin repainting. If you want more information on what materials I recommend, and how to properly prepare a doll to be repainted, see THIS tutorial: Materials and Doll Prep.

What kind of doll to use? This is a tutorial using a Moxie doll as a model. Like I said earlier, Moxie’s flat faces make them ideal for this style. However, with some creative adjustments I know you can modify the eyes to work with almost any doll mold.

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The Moxie doll, wiped clean with acetone.

Phase 2, Step 2: Outline the eyes

First, did you prep your doll? Seal her face once? It’s important! You cannot pass GO until you’ve done that!

Now’s the fun part! Draw in the outline of your eyes. Don’t worry about the eyelashes: you’ll add those in next.

Outline the eyes. I used a light brown pencil to mark the placement, before I went over it with black.
Outline the eyes. I used a light brown pencil to mark the placement, before I went over it with black.

Okay, now you can add the eyelashes.

Add in the eyelashes.
Add in the eyelashes.

Phase 2, Step 3: Make the eyes less soul-less and creepy.

Draw in the iris, then the pupil. If you want a more cartoon-y look (I mean, all anime/manga eyes are cartoon-y), use black to outline the iris. If you want the more gradient look (discussed above in Phase 1), you’ll want to use a dark color of whatever your eye color will be. With this model, I’m using more black outlines than a gradient look.

Add in the iris, then the pupil.
Add in the iris, then the pupil.

Note: You can kind of see in the picture, but I use a light brown or light pink pencil to mark in where my irises/pupils/anything is going to be, then I layer black over that. I don’t commit to black pencil too soon.

Well…she’s kinda creepy. I promise, we’ll fix that. Now you can fill in the irises. Fill in the entire iris with the lightest shade of color you want to use for your eyes. You will layer on darker colors next.

Go ahead and use a white pencil to fill in the whites of the eyes, too.

The irises have been filled in, as well as the whites of the eyes.
The irises have been filled in, as well as the whites of the eyes.

Lip interlude! Take a quick break from the eyes to draw the outline of the lips and then fill them in. I honestly just did this as a color-check. I wanted to make sure the doll would look okay with bright red lips. You could easily do the lips after the eyes, but I like to get a lip color down in case I need to change the eye color to match.

Filling in the lips doesn’t have to be perfect: we’ll go over it with paint anyway.

The left image is the the outline of the lips, on the right is the outline loosely filled in.
The left image is the the outline of the lips, on the right is the outline loosely filled in.

Back to the eyes.

Now you can shade the iris. I used four colors to do this. The lightest pink was the base color, used to fill in the irises in the previous step. Next I used the red pencil to shade in the tops of the iris, going down to just below the pupil. Then I used the darkest red to shade the tops of the iris again, but I didn’t extend the dark red as far down. Last I used a black pencil to make sure the area just underneath the eyelid was very shaded, almost black.

The image on the right shows the irises shaded with pink, red, and dark red pencils. The image on the right shows the iris shaded with the pinks/reds, as well as black.
The image on the right shows the irises shaded with pink, red, and dark red pencils. The image on the right shows the iris shaded with the pinks/reds, as well as black.

See? She’s less creepy, now.

Phase 2, Step 3: Seal

Now you’re ready to seal her. Make sure you like what you have, though, because after she’s sealed you can’t fix mistakes made on this layer!

Phase 2, Step 4: Do random things to the eyes

Add in the eyelids! Eyelids look good with this particular eye design, but keep in mind that if the upper lashes are thick enough, anime and manga eyes may look just fine without an eyelid.

Either way, if you decide to draw in an eyelid, it should be fairly thin. No big sultry eyelids here; those are more commonly seen in American comics. I’ve drawn mine with light pink.

Also, now that you’ve sealed the doll once, you have a fresh surface to work on again. I always go over all the black lines, and the whites of the eyes, with their respective colors to intensify the pigment. This will also fill in any areas that weren’t evenly drawn the first time.

Going back over the lines you made on the first layer will make the colors more bold.
Going back over the lines you made on the first layer will make the colors more bold.

Phase 2, Step 5: Eyebrows!

Add in the eyebrows. Anything goes here, depending on the expression you’re going for. Anime and manga eyebrows are typically very thin and simple, although you can do variations on that, of course.

Eyebrows!
Eyebrows!

Phase 2, Step 6: Blush

I’m sorry for the bad photo here: it makes it a bit hard to see what I did with the blush. For this doll, I used a combination of hot pink and red chalk pastel dust to apply blush to her cheeks just below her eyes. I used a lighter pink dust to blush her forehead and chin.

Blush the cheeks, chin, and forehead.
Blush the cheeks, chin, and forehead.

I love this step because the blush brings out so much character!

Phase 2, Step 7: Seal

Spray seal the doll for the final time. Make sure you like what you have, though, because after it’s sealed you can’t easily fix it. Also try and blow as much dust off the face as you can, and do a check for any stray chalk dust that may be lingering in a bad place (under the chin is where my chalk dust goes to evade detection, apparently).

Phase 2, Step 8: Paint the lips and eye reflections

I use a paint retardant to thin my acrylic paints out. It’s basically just expensive water, so if you don’t happen to have acrylic paint retardant, use water with confidence. It’s the same.

Red paint is for lips, white is for eye reflections.
Red paint is for lips, white is for eye reflections.
Here's my super tiny brush. It's a 20/0 spotter, but it's in bad shape because I never wash it properly. Do as I say, not as I do.
Here’s my super tiny brush. It’s a 20/0 spotter, but it’s in bad shape because I never wash it properly. Do as I say, not as I do.

I do this lips first. Just thin out the red paint to the consistency of half in half or whole milk, and use a very very tiny brush (this one is an old 20/0 brush I had lying around) to go over the lines you already drew in on your lips.

Do a couple coats, until you’re happy with the color build-up.

Paint over the lip outline you drew in earlier.
Paint over the lip outline you drew in earlier.

Now do the reflections. I added a heart and what turned out to be a semi-colon to each eye. Anime and manga eyes can handle A LOT of reflection, so if you want more reflection than I used, go for it.

Too much reflection and the eyes will look watery, though (which can be great if you’re going for a teary look).

Add in the eye reflections.
Add in the eye reflections.

Phase 2, Step 9: Varnish the eyes and lips

Use a small brush to apply several layers of glossy varnish to the eyes and lips. Wait for each layer to dry before applying the next. I used the same old brush I used to paint the lips, because I find that the varnish can ruin good brushes if they aren’t washed out properly. And apparently I don’t wash my brushes properly, because my ‘varnish brush’ is just a disaster by now.

You can see that I added a little heart on her cheek. I did that before I varnished, so I could seal it properly with MSC.

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Congrats! She’s all done. And I’m sure she looks great. 🙂

My models in this tutorial are for sale in my Etsy shop. You can find the dark-haired anime girl for sale HERE. You can find the light-haired girl HERE.

UPDATE 1/25/2016: I just added the little pink-eyed girl to my Etsy shop! You can adopt her HERE.

If you liked this tutorial, leave a comment below! And if you use it to repaint your own doll, I would LOVE to see your results! You can post your picture in the comments, or if you’re shy, you can send I Am Loved Dolls on Facebook a message.

And of course, if you have questions, ask away!

Transformation Story: Adelaide (Monster High)

You know what’s less fun than customizing dolls?

School.

But regardless, I found some time to squeeze out another custom in between reading for classes, class, working, and sleeping. And Netflix (what?).

I used similar techniques for Rochelle as I did for my freshwater Lagoona a while back, so for more of a tutorial on how I repaint my Monster High dolls, check out THIS post.

Adelaide started as a Zombie Shake Rochelle Goyle, albeit a slightly unique one…

Before!

Most of the Zombie Shake Rochelles have even bangs, but the one I got had been rooted incorrectly, from what I can tell, and so her bangs slant down the side of her face. I kind of like the look – honestly didn’t even notice something was off until I saw another bunch of Zombie Shake Rochelle’s at Target.

Let’s get started…

Wiped, wrapped, and sealed.
Wiped, wrapped, and sealed. 
The first layer of color.
The first layer of color.

For this Rochelle, I decided on a more mature look than she wore with her factory paint. Her eyes are smaller and reshaped to allow for a heavy lid. Instead of painting on lipstick, I went for a slightly softer lip coloring.

The second layer of color.
The second layer of color.

I began defining her eyes and lips a bit more. I added the cateye lash to her upper lids, added her tear ducts, and intensified her eye shadow. Her lips were brushed with another layer of color, darkest in the center of her lower lip.

She was looking a bit pale, so she has blush now, too.

This was like...a week later...and probably two layers later.
This was like…a week later…and probably three layers later.

Rochelle was giving me a lot of trouble with my MSC for some reason. But it also could have been the weather. I had a hell of a time getting intense colors, so I had to use quite a few layers of sealant to build up the color.

This shot was taken a week after I started her (no dolls on weekdays since school started). I probably sprayed two or three layers in between the last photo and this one, mostly just so I could layer on color.

Oh look, she's done!
Oh look, she’s done!

All done! One thing I really like about the Zombie Shake Rochelle are the cracks on her arm (you can see those in the picture above) and on her leg (you can’t see those, but I’m sure you have an imagination). I would have liked to keep some of the cracks on her face, but it didn’t quite fit with the look I had in mind for this repaint. Next time.

My only Rochelle repaints, side-by-side.
My two Rochelle repaints, side-by-side. I’ve improved a bit in the last two years…

Here you can see my two Rochelle repaints side-by-side. These are the same face mold. I think it’s incredible how a custom faceup can make the same face molds look completely different! The Rochelle on the right is one of my first repaints, and was an experiment in using primarily acrylics (no watercolor pencils). I’m thinking I’m going to re-repaint her now that I’ve gotten just a bit better at all this!

Both of these girls are in my Etsy shop! If you like the Rochelle on the right the way she is in the photo, adopt her quick! She’ll likely be taken down and repainted in the next month.

Transformation Story: Devon; Part II (Bratzillaz)

Why work on my real job when I can just paint dolls instead?

That was rhetorical.

Here’s part two of Devon’s transformation, her repaint! If you missed part one and want some tips on fixing wobbly heads, removing ink stains, and taming hair, check it out HERE.

Here’s the ‘Before’:

If only 80s hairstyles were still in...
If only 80s hairstyles were still in…

She was a Hot Mess. She came with another Bratzillaz, Violet, who I repainted first. If you want more tips on painting Bratzillaz and on using PearlEx powder, you can check her Transformation Story out HERE.

This doll has been named Devon. She’s a teenage witch, and attends a school for witches and other creatures with magical powers. That’s how she met her best friend, Violet, who’s a flower faerie. 

And ^ that is what happens when I watch fantasy TV shows while repainting dolls.

I wanted Devon to have a lot of character. Her friend Violet came out very nice and innocent and flower-faerie-ish, and I thought it would be fun if Devon had a noticeably different personality. She’s the edgy one of the duo.

IMG_3061As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, eyebrows are the main conveyor of personality, so I knew right away that Devon would have a raised eyebrow and a lot of sass. I also figured I’d put some darker makeup on her.

At this point I think I’ve actually lost her body, because her head has been impaled on a Bic pen for so long.

Her eye shadow is a mixture of browns, black, and a dark purple (all chalk pastels). She also got heavier eyeliner compared to Violet. Her lips will be a reddish pink.

I broke down and decided that because Violet got glitter (and I mean glitter EVERYWHERE) Devon could have glitter. Check out Violet’s transformation story for more on PearlEx glitter.

IMG_3066Instead of putting glitter all over Devon’s face, though, she just got a touch on her eyelids and a dusting over her cheeks.

Because she still looked too ‘normal’ at this point I put some tiny black stars around her eyes. Because that’s…witchy….kind of…

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Made-Under Doll Repaint Tutorial (Moxie Doll)

Sometimes I am in the mood for instant gratification. And by ‘instant gratification,’ I mean two-to-three-hour gratification.

What I mean is: I wanted to feel like I did something productive with my day, so I decided to start and finish a doll in one sitting.

Mostly it’s an excuse to watch a movie. My repainting movie tonight was Mission Impossible II, which is a terrible movie, as it turned out.

So in an effort to feel productive, I grabbed one of the three blond Moxie rescue dolls I have lying around and the TV remote, and pressed play.

The before.
The before.

So there’s the ‘Before.’ Honestly, compared to Bratz, Moxie dolls are already pretty made-under. But I have enough of an ego to believe I can make her look cuter.

FIRST STEPS – PREP

(1) Removed makeup with acetone.
(1) Removed makeup with acetone.

–> The first of the first steps is to seal the doll’s face with a sealant that has some tooth with it. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! In order to get good color build up on the doll’s face, the face has to be sealed first. Otherwise the pigment won’t stick to the vinyl and the colors will be very faint.

For a more-detailed explanation about how to prep a doll for repainting and the materials involved, please see this post: Repainting First Steps

Note on sealing layers: I do my made-under dolls in two layers. So I seal the plain vinyl (with no makeup at all); do the first layer, which includes the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth; seal that layer; add the second layer, which includes some little details and the cheeks; then seal for a final time. You can seal more or less often depending on your preferences.

To learn how I fixed this girl’s hair, go HERE!

(2) Fixing the wobbly head.
(2) Fixing the wobbly head.

Photo 2 was taken while fixing this doll’s wobbly head. Thankfully, Bratz and Moxie dolls are pretty easy to fix (unlike the Monster High heads). I won’t take credit for this method: Novastar Dolls has a helpful video on how to do this; I learned from that. The only change I made to her video was to heat the doll’s head up with hot water before popping it off and on again. The hot water heats the vinyl head and softens it, making it easier to pull the head off.

Next (after the head was reunited with it’s body), I wrapped the hair and hard plastic body in saran wrap and sprayed the bare face with a layer of Mr. Super Clear.

The eyes. Getting the eyes done takes the most time, so I do that first. I also just kinda want to get it out of the way.

(3) Outline the eyes.
(3) Outline the eyes.

First I use a dark brown watercolor pencil to get the rough outline of the eyes down. Because I was planning on making the upper lid a little thicker than normal for this doll, I didn’t worry about making the eyes perfectly symmetrical at this point. You can see in photo 3 that they’re pretty different.

(4) Finished outline of the eyes, plus eyelids.
(4) Finished outline of the eyes, plus eyelids.

Then I go back and draw over the outline, making the lines thicker in certain places to get the two eyes as symmetrical as I have the patience for. (Photo 4).

Eyelids. After the outline of the eye is in good shape, I add the eyelids. Usually I draw two lines for the eyelids, but you can do as many or as little as you like.

(5) Added eyebrows.
(5) Added eyebrows.

Eyebrows. As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, eyebrows do the most expressive work of any characteristic on the doll’s face. Basically, whatever expression you want the doll to have, the eyebrows are going to be your best friends.

I use a pale pink watercolor pencil to pencil in the eyebrows, shown in Photo 5. I use pink because it usually doesn’t show up under the pastel. This little gal got asymmetrical brows. It gives her a bit of sass.

(6) Erased the brows until they were very faint.
(6) Erased the brows until they were very faint.

After penciling the brows in, I lightly erase them until they are very, very faint (Photo 6). This ensures that the pencil marks don’t show up under the pastels.

(7) Applied brown and yellow pastel dust to her eyebrows.
(7) Applied brown and yellow pastel dust to her eyebrows.

Then I apply pastel dust with a 10/0 flat brush to the pencil outlines (Photo 7). Getting very light colored (read: blonde) eyebrows is almost impossible with pastel dust, so I combined some light brown and yellow dust and used that. The outer edges of the brows got darker pastel dust than the inner edges.

(8) Filled in the whites of her eyes and colored her lips.
(8) Filled in the whites of her eyes and colored her lips.

The next steps are combined in Photo 8. First, I used pastel dust to do a bit of shading on her eyelids (brown, pink, and orange pastel dust). Second, I filled in the whites of her eyes with a watercolor pencils. Third, I added some color to her lips (otherwise she looked like a zombie and it was creepy).

Lips. I use a small brush to scrub pink/dark pink/red pastel over the lips (Photo 8). It can be difficult to build up color, so I use quite a bit of pastel dust. Residual dust flies everywhere (all over her nose, chin, and cheeks), but that dust will brush away easily.

(9) Brushes I use to apply pastel dust.
(9) Brushes I use to apply pastel dust.

The larger brush in Photo 9 is an eye-shadow brush (the Q-Tip can give you a size reference), which I use to brush loose pastel dust off the doll’s face. I also use it to apply blush to the cheeks. The smaller brush is a weird eyeliner brush that I use to apply pastel dust to smaller areas, like the lips.

*Seal this layer!*

I seal at this point to protect the color on the lips, the shading on the eyelids, the eyebrows, and help the color of the irises (next step) really pop.

Irises. So when you get tired of your doll looking like a soulless zombie, go ahead and add the pupils. This gal (I really need a name for her) is getting side-glancing eyes, because those are my favorite with a raised eyebrow. It’s by far my favorite look for a doll.

(10) Adding the irises.
(10) Adding the irises.

I set the irises with a light blue pencil, then outlined them with a dark blue pencil (Photo 10). Side-glancing irises will never be perfectly symmetrical because the shape of the inner and outer eye is different, so I don’t worry as much about making them symmetrical.

Pupils. Then I begin shading in the pupils. I use a ‘soft pupil’ look, where the pupil sort of fades into the iris. It’s very unnatural and if a real person had this they’d probably be blind. Then again, if us real people looked anything at all like dolls we’d be missing half our organs.

(11) Shading the pupil.
(11) Shading the pupil.

I use a dark blue pencil to begin shading the pupil, but you can use any color that will go with blue. I shade using small circular motions, making sure that the darkest area is in the same place on each eye–that’s the direction of her gaze. (Photo 11).

Then I shade over the dark blue with a black pencil (Photo 12). When the pupils are dark enough and fade nice and gradually into the irises, they’re done!

(12) The finished irises/pupils.
(12) The finished irises/pupils.

If you want a more traditional ‘hard pupil,’ it’s actually much easier. Just outline it in over the iris, then fill the outline with black (Photo 13). Make sure they’re symmetrical. Otherwise the poor doll will be forever cross-eyed.

(13) An example of 'hard pupils.
(13) An example of ‘hard pupils.

Facial details. Next I added a few little details to her eyes (Photo 14).

(14) Another layer of white over her sclera (whites of her eyes), and changed her lashes from brown to black.
(14) Another layer of white over her sclera (whites of her eyes), and changed her lashes from brown to black.

First, I applied another layer of white pencil to her sclera (new word! = whites of the eyes). Second, I changed her upper lashes from brown to black by going over them with a black pencil. Third, I drew in faint eyebrow hairs with a dark brown pencil. I drew the left eyebrow hairs in first by turning her upside-down. Fourth, I added tear ducts.

Blush. Now for the easy part (finally!). Blushing the cheeks is pretty simple. I use my eye-shadow brush (shown in a photo somewhere up there ^), dip it in bright pink or red pastel dust, and just lightly dab it onto her cheeks (Photo 15). See? Simple. I wouldn’t lie to you.

(15) Added blush to her cheeks.
(15) Added blush to her cheeks.

She’s pretty much done at this point.

*Seal this layer!*

This is the final time I will seal the doll. The sealant protects the blush, the pupils and irises, and all the other little details we added.

Eye reflections. Take a tiny bit of white paint, water it down a bit (or use a fluid retardant like I do), and use a teeny-tiny brush or toothpick to apply a white dot–or two, or three–to the eyes (Photo 16).

(16) The little white dots! They add a LOT to a doll's face.
(16) The little white dots! They add a LOT to a doll’s face.

Be sure to apply the dots in the same place in each eye. Don’t measure it by where the dots are in relation to the pupil (especially if the eyes are side-glancing), measure the dots by where they are in relation to the upper or lower lid. This helps me align the reflections in both eyes correctly.

Varnish. The LAST STEP! YOU MADE IT! See that wasn’t too bad, right? Took you, like, ten minutes from start to finish, right?

This is a pretty simple step, shown in Photo 17 below (barely shown. It’s hard to photograph). Use a brush to apply a shiny varnish to the eyes (avoid the eyelashes). I also glossed this girl’s lips, although I don’t often do that with my made-under dolls. If necessary, apply a couple coats.

Note on varnish. I mentioned this in my post about materials, but some varnishes apparently dry tacky. Those varnishes probably don’t like the vinyl the doll head is made with–few sealants like this material, which is why you have to be a little careful with what you brush or spray onto your doll’s face. Anyway, I use a Delta Ceramcoat gloss interior varnish. It’s for use over acrylic or oil paint, but it fully dries on the dolls, so I’ll take it. It’s an ancient bottle, so I’m not even sure if Delta makes this type of varnish anymore.

IMG_2805(1)Here she is, all done! What should I name her?

Unfortunately this little girl won’t be available in my Etsy shop for some time…She needs a new outfit and my sewing machine access hovers in between non-existent and not-worth-it.

If you repaint a doll using this tutorial, please show me your results by posting a picture of the doll (either finished or in progress) to my Facebook page! As always, if you have any questions about my methods or process, don’t hesitate to ask a question in the comments below.

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)

IMG_2493

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.