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.
- 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!).
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
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?
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?
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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):
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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!