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.

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Step-By-Step Ever After High Repaint (Photo Blog)

Goodness it’s been far too long! I’m sorry to all my wonderful followers who put up with my ramblings! Grad school and blogging just don’t go hand-in-hand (okay, nothing really goes hand-in-hand with grad school except maybe reading and stress).

I have a few posts in the works, and those should be out within the next month or so. One is a tutorial to make a ballet outfit for Bratz, and the other is a tutorial for mermaid outfits for Bratz (although the tutorials can be modified for any doll).

But for now, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things with a photo blog that shows you how I repaint my dolls, step by step.

Our lovely model is Cerise Hood, an Ever After High Doll. Unfortunately I didn’t take a before picture, but if you really want to see that just google ‘Cerise Hood Enchanted Picnic’ and photos will pop up.

Let’s get started!

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Layer one: just the outlines of the eyes and a layer of white pencil over the whites. (Not shown: spray seal before starting with MSC!)

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Layer one: Added dark brown to the corners of her lips (gave her a bit of a smirk because she sassy), and outlined her upper lip with a light red. Drew in a simple upper-lash line, added eyelids, and outlined eyebrows.

IMG_5949

STILL layer one! Filled in eyebrows with dark brown chalk pastels, filled in lips with red and peach chalk pastel, but erased parts of it on her lower lip to get a more natural/nude lip color. Then I used a dark red watercolor pencil to make small lip lines on her lower lip.

IMG_5950

STIIIIILL layer one! Shaded in her smokey makeup with chalk pastels (from tan to black). Added a second eye crease with a black watercolor pencil. Blushed cheeks, chin, forehead, and nose with chalk pastel dust (skin tones and blush tones).

IMG_5951

Layer two! (Finally). Used dark red and white watercolor pencils to make her lip lines more pronounced, highlited the upper lip line with a white pencil. Added a beauty mark with dark brown pencil. Made her upper-lash line darker with black pencil. Shaded more eyeshadow with chalk pastels to make the color deeper. Colored in her waterline. Darkened her lower-lash line a bit. Highlighted her brow with off-white pencil. Made eyebrow hairs with dark brown pencil. Highlighted eyelid crease with white pencil.

IMG_5953

Still layer two: Added the irises first with a light lime green. Made a dark green ring around the iris. Lightly penciled in the pupils first with a dark green, then with black.

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Layer THREE: Blended pupils into the irises with dark green, dark brown, and black pencils. Shaded the irises with those same pencils. Added another layer of white to the whites of  her eyes.

She’s so much less creepy now!

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Layer FOUR: Everything white on the doll got another layer of white pencil, including the upper lip highlight, lip lines, around her tear ducts, eyelid crease, brow bone, and eyes. Added all her lashes (I always do this on a layer separate from the pastel eyeshadow because I normally have to erase some of the eyelashes to make them match). Also added dark lines radiating from her pupils into her iris.

Seal for the last time!

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Finishing touches: last-minute I added some gold shimmer dust (PearlEx powder) to her eyelids. I did this before I sealed for the last time.

After the final seal I wait for the sealant to dry for about half an hour, then I unwrap the doll from her saran-wrap serial-killer-victim cocoon, fix her hair (I boil washed it), and add a layer of semi-gloss or gloss varnish to her eyes and lips.

All done!

Want her? She’s on Etsy!

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Making Ball Gowns for Bratz

So my newest sewing obsession is making tiny super-fancy dresses for my more detailed Bratz repaints. They can be quite a bit of work, but it’s worth it! If you like tiny super-fancy dresses, that is.

This is not a sewing tutorial, so if you’re not familiar with basic clothing construction or sewing principles, you might want to brush up before attempting this!

A few notes before we begin:

  • I don’t use a pattern. Or a ruler. I don’t do math. So if you don’t do any of those things either, you’re in good hands. *Later in the process I realized that I do use a pattern, but for the bodice only. And it’s a very loose pattern.
  • Choice of fabric will either make your life for the next hour or so very easy or very difficult.
    • For the skirt you’ll want something that’s very flowing and drape-y.
    • For the bodice you’ll at least want your lining to be a bit stiffer (like a cotton quilting fabric).
    • If you want an overlay over the skirt you can use anything from tulle to lace to … anything lightweight and fancy.
  • This doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a doll. Not a night on the red carpet.

You’ll need:

  • Sewing stuff. Thread, fabric (see note above), pins, a sewing machine…
  • Fray check (seriously, you 100% need this)
  • A doll
  • The shoes the doll will be wearing (or an idea of how tall they are).
  • Some patience.
  • Some more patience.
  • And just in case … a seam ripper.

READY, SET, GO!

The Skirt

IMG_4150
Here is the skirt and the skirt overlay cut out. They’re both a bit over 12 inches in diameter. The hole in the center is for the waist.

Lay your fabric out on a flat surface and cut out a skirt. I eyeball this, but I base my measurement off of the doll’s legs, with her shoes attached. Because this skirt will be a circle skirt, I just put the doll’s waist in the ‘center’ of the circle, mark it, mark where her feet end plus a centimeter (seam allowance), then draw a sort-of symmetrical circle.

If you want the dress to have a slight train effect (be longer in the back than the front) add three or so inches to one side of the circle. It makes an egg-like shape.

To make the waist opening, fold the circle or egg-like shape in quarters, and cut a small hole in the top where the folds intersect.

Err on the small side here! You can always cut more away later if you need to make the opening larger, but it’s hard to make it smaller if you cut the opening too big early on.

IMG_4151
Cut a straight line from the edge of the skirt to the center of the waist opening. This will be the back of the skirt. I apologize for my messy carpet. It was a long day of crafting.

Then cut up the back of the skirt from the edge of the fabric to the waist opening. Yay. A skirt.

Overlay

If you want an overlay on top of your skirt, lay the overlay fabric out, put the cut-out skirt over it, and trace the pattern. Repeat all the cuts that you did with the skirt.

I find it easiest to cut the overlay and the skirt fabric out separately, because I tend to use fabrics that are slippery and I don’t like pinning them more than necessary. It is possible, of course, to cut them out at the same time, if you prefer.

Bodice

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This photo really made me realize how my Halloween tablecloth probably needed to go. It went.

Crap, I totally lied about the pattern. I use a pattern for all my bodices, but this one is one I created myself by taking apart a Bratz top and copying the shirt pieces onto a piece of paper, leaving room for a 1/4″ seam allowance (you might give yourself more allowance than that, 1/4″ is not enough, as it turns out).

Cut out your bodice according to whatever bodice pattern you have on hand, or whatever pattern you make yourself. There are plenty of patterns on Etsy for little Blythe dresses that fit Bratz and have simple bodices.

My bodice is going to be strapless.

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The bottom row of pieces are the outside or right side. I don’t use slippery satiny fabric for all three sections because I find it increases the likelihood that seams will split apart and it decreases the overall stability of the bodice. And I hate working with silky satiny fabrics, so the less of it I have to do, the better. The top row of fabric is just a cheap lining (cotton broadcloth).

Cut out one set of whatever fabric you cut your skirt from, and one from a lining fabric that’s cotton or anything easy to work with and sturdy. Mine is a cotton broadcloth.

Fray check

 

This is probably the most important step. If you used a fabric that frays easily (satins, organza, whatever) I would fray check EVERY raw edge of the fray-y fabric at this point. You will thank me later.

When fray-checking, make sure to go with the weave of the fabric. You can tell if you’re going with the weave because if you’re going against it, you’ll actually start pulling the fabric apart. Because the skirt is a circle, the weave will change ever few inches, just to keep you on your toes.

 

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Fray-check is pretty good about drying clear and not darkening the fabric too much, but some fabrics are more susceptible than others. The right side shows dry fray-check, the left is wet.

Sew the skirt

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I’ve pressed the sides in for the slit in the back and the hem-edge of the skirt.

This part is a pain. First you want to ‘hem’ the slit you cut up the back of the skirt. I just press each edge to the side with my iron from Target that cost $10 (and is the worst iron you can imagine).

Then move on to the the circular edge. I have no tricks for this, except to say that it is hard and you might want to reserve time to drink a glass of wine or meditate after you’ve finished this.

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Sewing the hem. If you’ve fray-checked the edge, you won’t have to turn this edge over again and stitch a second time. You can if you like, but this is clothing for a doll and so I refuse.

I press the hem in about 1/4″ with my worst-iron-ever, then sew it and the slit up the back of the dress very carefully. Pintrest probably has better tips for you on this subject than I do.

Once you’re done with all that, drink wine/meditate/cheer, and then press the skirt. I always stretch the fabric a bit too much when hemming circle skirts so pressing it helps remind the skirt it’s supposed to be a circle, not a wavy mess.

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Basting the waist opening of the overlay (shiny silvery lacey stuff) with the skirt fabric.

Next, line up the waist opening of the skirt with the waist opening of the overlay and baste them together. This can sometimes stretch the waist opening too much, so basting by hand here is probably the better option. I won’t be basting this with a sewing machine anymore.

Sew the bodice

Sew all the bodice pieces together, trim the edges, turn right-side out, and press. Bam. Done.

Connect the dots (sew the bodice to the skirt)

This is another tricky part, mostly because I don’t have a pattern and so it’s always trial-and-error to get the size of the waist opening match the lower edge of the bodice.

I just start pinning the bodice to the skirt and adjust, cut, or gather as necessary to make it work. This is the part that is normally not perfect.

If your waist opening is too small: good! Easy fix. Just cut the waist opening a bit lower on the skirt until it fits. Or, you can just pin the bodice a little lower on the skirt. Because it’s a circle skirt, the waist opening will get larger if you cut away more fabric.

If your waist opening is too bigless good! But not horrible. You’ll just need to sew some basting stitches to the top of the waist opening and gather the opening until it’s small enough to fit the bodice.

Then sew all that together. When you trim all the seams and all that, you should have the bodice connected to the overlay and the skirt.

IMG_4164
After sewing the bodice to the skirt. I fray-check this seam too, because why not?

 

I usually sew a couple reinforced stitches just in case this dress is going to get into the hands of a five-year-old. Also make sure to look at the seam you just sewed from the front of the dress to check that you caught all the edges of fabric in the seam. Otherwise you’ll end up with a big hole in the front of the dress (definitely speaking from experience).

Sew up the back of the skirt

 

I always screw this up. You need one side of the bodice and skirt to overlay over the other for your snaps or velcro or whatever you use. I normally play around with the skirt (get the overlay out of the way for a sec) opening by folding the edges right sides together until I figure it out.

I think this is actually a lot simpler in real life than it is in my mind. So that’s good for you, I suppose.

I ended up messing mine up, but it’s hardly noticeable so whatever. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

IMG_4169
Stitch up the back of the skirt overlay, too! I don’t like to stitch the skirt and the overlay together at the back, but you’re welcome to.

Stitch up the back of the overlay, too!

Add a fastener

IMG_4170
Add your choice of fastener to the back. I add a strip of velcro to the bodice only. The skirt doesn’t require it.

I use adhesive velcro, and iron it in there to make sure the adhesive is really super stuck. You can use whatever you want.

 

Decorate

Well, the hard part is done. I have a huge box of beads and ribbon and buttons and glitter that gets pulled out at this point. I ended up sewing a strip of ribbon onto the bodice before sewing it onto the skirt, and then I sewed another strip of ribbon to the bottom of the overlay fabric on the skirt.

 

Sky’s the limit.

Here’s the end result! To adopt this little doll and her silver dress, head over to I Am Loved Doll’s Etsy!

IMG_4186 - Copy

 

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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Transformation Story: Devon; Part I (Bratzillaz)

For the rescuers out there: you know when you get a doll from Ebay or Craigslist or wherever, and when she comes in the mail and you look at her you can’t help but think “what the hell happened to you?!”

Meet Devon, the red-head on the left.

Read on for tips on taming doll hair, fixing doll heads, and removing ink stains from doll faces.

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.

Devon arrived a Hot Mess with a capital H (and M). I have honestly no idea how a child could take a doll and mess it up so much. Did it get run over with a car? Did you try to draw and quarter it? Did you think her face would look better with blue marker over all of it?

“Yes” to all of the above!

To categorize the damage:

  • Her hair was not in optimal condition. As in, it had been converted into a mass of frizz and then a frustrated mom, in an attempt to tame it, put the frizz into five braids that really didn’t help the situation much.
  • Her stomach joint (yes, stomach joint) was a little loose. Still haven’t figured out how to fix that without drawing and quartering her all over again.
  • Her head was so wobbly it was pretty much just not attached to the neck anymore.
  • Best yet, there was blue marker all over her face.

The hair.

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

Fixing the hair was a three-day process. Now, hair is normally something I spend about half an hour on per doll. That’s it. I have no patience for hair.

For Devon, though, I was willing to put in more time only because I love Bratzillaz. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of the process, but it went something like this: brush brush brush brush boil boil brush boil brush pour pour brush brush scream in frustration boil brush. Brush.

For an in-depth tutorial on fixing, smoothing, and straightening doll hair, see my post here.

And after all that, here she is:

Look at the waves!
Look at the waves!

The head.

I followed the method explained in a video here by Novastar Dolls. Bratz and Bratzillaz are both made by the same company, as are Moxies, so their neck joints are all built the same way, and can thus be fixed the same way.

The only change I made to the steps in the video was to heat up the head by immersing it in hot water before I popped it off and on. The heat makes the vinyl more flexible, which makes it easier to remove the head. Heated vinyl is less likely to tear or crack, as well.

The face.

The stains are on her nose, cheeks, and chin.
The stains are on her nose, cheeks, and chin. They’re a little difficult to see from a computer screen.

Before I could repaint Devon, I had to get the stains out of her face.

If you have  a doll with ink stains or marker stains on her face, you know that acetone won’t get them out. You have to bleach the stains out, but regular bleach doesn’t work.

I used:

  1. Acne spot treatment with 10% benzoyl peroxide.
  2. UV rays (sun)

IMG_2829I bought a cheap acne treatment from Walgreens (it was about $5.50), and then removed Devon’s factory paint with acetone, being very very careful not to get acetone on her acrylic eyes (it will melt them). Then I used a Q-Tip to liberally apply the cream to the marker stains on her face.

IMG_2830It looks like shaving cream.

Then I put her out on the porch, hoping that the sun would do it’s work and I could get to work on the faceup in the evening.

Of course, that didn’t work out, because I live in Colorado, USA, where the weather is notorious for NEVER DOING NORMAL, PREDICTABLE THINGS. The sun immediately disappeared and it started thunderstorming out of the blue, so I gave up hope and decided to start a custom project for a customer.

Five days later….So the sun came back. Finally.

Technically, the sun came back two days later, but I have some carpenters re-building my deck and I figured I’d spare them the trauma of building around a body-less doll with white cream all over her face. See, that was nice and considerate of me.

After a day in the sun, all the stains were gone!

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Part II of Devon’s Transformation Story: the repaint!

Click HERE for more Transformation Stories!

Back to Basics: How to Fix and Straighten Doll Hair

So you just got another doll to rescue, and like many dolls in need of rescuing, her hair is styled in the ever-fashionable ‘single dreadlock’ style.

Shiiiiiiiiit.

Darn.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • A sturdy, wide-tooth comb (or a fork)
  • A fine-tooth comb
  • Scissors (unless you have the patience of a Saint)
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Boiling water

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

1. Put a movie on. Seriously, that is an important step.

2. Stare in misery at the doll. Start by staring in misery at the dreaded mass of doll hair. Just take it all in.

My name is Rapunzel and my hair is a mess.
My name is Rapunzel and my hair is a mess.

3. Brush the hair out. Begin brushing the hair out with the wide-tooth comb or the fork. I take small sections of hair and brush from bottom to top. Brushing from bottom to top helps keep little snarls from developing (or worsening) as you brush. This is the step that takes me the longest.

I'll let you figure out the before and after.
I’ll let you figure out the before and after.
Finished with the first brush-through. Minor hair loss was involved.
Finished with the first brush-through. Minor hair loss was involved. No idea why this picture is green.

4. Shampoo and condition. Once the doll’s hair is pretty much brushed out—at least, you can kind of get a comb through it, sorta—shampoo and condition it. Depending on how badly tangled the hair is, I’ll comb the hair after I’ve put shampoo in it, but before rinsing. The soap helps keep the snarls from reforming. After conditioning, but before rinsing, I brush the hair out once again. And then AGAIN, I brush after rinsing for the final time.

Brushed after sudsing with shampoo. Pretty sure 'sudsing' is not a word.
Brushed after sudsing with shampoo. Pretty sure ‘sudsing’ is not a word.

Some people condition the hair with coconut oil. But let’s be real, I can’t even afford to cook with that stuff let alone use it on plastic doll hair. So I use Pantene conditioner that I got from the clearance rack of my local grocery store.

Hair cut. Also a great shot of the messiest workspace ever.
Hair cut. Also a great shot of the messiest workspace ever.

5. Trim the hair (optional). Sometimes the bottom inch or two of a doll’s hair is really, REALLY frizzy, even after all this. I have a pretty good feel for when frizzy hair can be fixed with boiling water and when it can’t be, so if I think the hair is just too dense and frizzy at this point the best thing to do is just cut an inch or so off.

When I trim a doll’s hair I layer it, so that the bottom layer of hair is the longest and the top layer of hair is the shortest. All in all, the bottom and top layers probably differ in length by a centimeter. It’s not much but it helps the hair lay flatter.

If I’m going to curl the doll’s hair I will make the difference between the bottom and top layer about three centimeters. This will help show the curls off.

This doll won’t get curls, but she will need a trim. I just don’t want to deal with the frizz at the bottom of her hair.

After her haircut. I put a rubber band around the bottom of her hair to try and help it dry a little flatter.
After her haircut. I put a rubber band around the bottom of her hair to try and help it dry a little flatter. Still not sure why the green is happening.

6. Boil and brush (only needed for dolls with very curly hair). Boil water in a pan. There should be enough water that you can submerge the doll’s head and hair in the water, and a little extra left over won’t hurt anyone. When the water is boiling, submerge the doll’s head and hair in the water for ten seconds or so. You can do longer, just keep an eye on the hair to make sure it’s not melting (’cause that would be tragic). Then, take your fine tooth comb and brush through the hair while it’s still hot. If it doesn’t seem to be helping, you can take smaller sections of hair and boil and brush those individually.

Okay do you HAVE to do this? It seems like a stupid amount of work. Honestly, I skip this step with a lot of my dolls. If the doll doesn’t have curly hair to begin with, then I’d just go straight to step 7, below.

Nope, I didn’t boil and brush Rapunzel’s hair.

7. Pour hot water over her head. After I’ve heated the hair once (or two times or seven times or not at all) in boiling water, I boil a kettle of water and pour that water over the doll’s head while she’s sitting in an upright position. The force of the water will help flatten and straighten the hair more than simply boiling and brushing.

I normally section out the hair in layers, starting with the hair closest to her neck and adding more hair as I’m happy with how the lower layers look. This helps the hair straighten evenly.

8. Cold-set the hair. When the hair is as straight as I want it to be (or as straight as I have the patience for, whichever comes first) I cold-set the style by brushing her hair under cold water (use the fine-tooth comb).

Honestly, I’m not 100% this step is needed. But the cold water feels kinda nice and makes the hair easier to brush so why not.

After boiling, brushing, pouring hot water on her, brushing, brushing, cold-setting, and brushing. And at some point she lost her body. Weird how that happens.
After brushing, pouring hot water on her, brushing, cold-setting, and brushing. And at some point she lost her body. Weird how that happens.

A word of warning! I don’t have proof for this, but I’m always a little concerned when brushing boiled doll hair that the brushing stretches the hair, making it snap back a little frizzy, or just stretching it out in general. I know many doll rescuers have complained that after straightening doll hair it will slowly lose some of its sleekness over the following few weeks, and my theory is that boiling and then roughly brushing the hair may damage it in some way. Not like that has changed my boiling and brushing behavior, though.

Can you use heat tools on doll hair? The safe answer is ‘no.’ Curling and straightening irons are generally too hot; they will melt the plastic hair and trust me, you do NOT want that to happen.

However, if you are very, very, very careful about using heat tools, you can do it. I’ve had success straightening doll hair by wetting it, wrapping it in a thin rag, and pulling it through a straightener on the lowest heat setting. That said, I’ve also had success melting the doll hair this way, too. Try at your own risk. Or, at the doll’s risk, I guess.

Okay hold the phone. Her body is gone. Why is it gone?

Look so easy. And yes, that is dental floss.
Look so easy. And yes, that is dental floss.

Rapunzel had a slightly wobbly head, so while her vinyl doll head was soft and pliant from the hot water treatment, I went ahead and popped it off so I could fix the wobble.

Taking Bratz/Moxie dolls heads off is super easy. Heat them up with hot water, push down on the head, and pop them off. Don’t twist or angle the head: just pop it straight off.

And yes, that is dental floss. Waxed, to be specific. Because no one has string just lying around anymore.

9. Dry. After cold-setting the hair, squeeze the water out but don’t brush it out. Let the hair dry completely.

Here she is, straightened (enough for my purposes at least) and brushed. So much better.
Here she is, straightened (enough for my purposes at least) and brushed. So much better.

10. Style. At this point, you have a nice blank canvas to work with. Styling straight hair is much, much easier than styling frizzy hair. You can, of course, leave the hair straight at this point, or you can curl it into ringlets if you want to spend some more time playing with hair.

Curl? Check out my tutorial on how to curl a doll’s hair HERE!

11. Finish your movie.

Before and after. I'll let you figure out which is which.
Before and after. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Questions or suggestions, leave it in a comment below! I love to help and learn from other rescuers.

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEAL!!!

SECOND STEP(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEAL!!!

THIRD STEP(s)

Added eyelashes, irises.
Added eyelashes, irises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOURTH STEP(s)

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

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

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

Whites of the eyes. Another layer of white.

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

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

FIFTH STEP(s)

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

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

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

SEAL!!!

FINAL STEP(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformation Story: Violet (Bratzillaz)

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Violet.

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

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

The WIP.
The WIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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