Lately, I've been playing with paper dolls more than designing them. My 5 year old niece loves paper dolls and, as a result, I've been cutting out a lot of dolls!
Today's lesson: cut out a paper doll.
Seriously. Go cut one out. There's a lot to learn by cutting a doll out and that's what we're going to talk about today. Here are a few of the things I've discovered while cutting out dolls and some tips & troubleshooting when designing a doll:
1) The only part to cut out is the face
This image is from my Goddess dolls and demonstrates the "face-only" cut-out. I'm as guilty of it as anyone, and sometimes it really is the best option for the design. If you're creating an art doll (ie: probably not for kids) then this often makes sense. Every single one of the Goddess dolls is like this! Fine, but if you or a child plan on cutting this out, it's a pain. Plan on using a sharp blade or tiny pair of scissors. When possible, avoid it on a child's doll.
2) Things don't fit quite right
These two images are from a fashion doll I painted several years ago. This was before I discovered digital editing. I started with Photoshop Elements, and I've said before that I think this program is enough for most purposes. I've found that editing a doll in Photoshop or an equivalent program can help solve a lot of fit problems.
The top image show some spots that don't quite fit. To test the fit, I opened the doll in Photoshop and placed each outfit in its own layer. Then, I set that layer to Multiply and placed it over the doll. It's a quick and easy way to check for fit.
The second image shows a close-up of the hand. The fit here is definitely off. Digital editing is one solution. In this case, I might erase the hand from the outfit and copy & paste the doll's hand in the appropriate spot. Another solution is to make your initial drawings as accurate as possible. I've been working on this myself. My process at the moment is draw, scan, edit the drawing in Photoshop, print and repeat. The more time you take to create an accurate drawing, the more time you'll save later on in editing.
3) Fussy details are tough to cut out
I made this circus doll and I would not want to cut it out! First, you need to cut out the hoop on the doll. Second, you need to cut into awkward, tight corners on the doll. As I said earlier, that's fine for an art doll, but this doll would be a real challenge to actually play with. And the fingers! I'd probably end up slicing those off accidentally!
4) Tabs: enough, too many, or just right
This image is from my Garden Fairy doll. When placing tabs on your doll outfits, it's important to keep a few things in mind. First, does the tab actually function? If it doesn't fold behind the doll it probably isn't going to work. I've seen dolls where the tab folds and never comes in contact with the doll! Second, think about gravity. Does the doll have a stand & base? Will the outfit hang correctly if the doll is standing in a base? Third (this one is super nit-picky!), think about narrow spots. In the image above, I have tabs on the ankles. If folded, these tabs with show beyond the doll. Ideally, the tabs should have been a little smaller so that they would stay completely covered.
5) Don't abandon that doll design!
This is a doll I started about a decade ago! The image on the left is the original doll, and the image on the right is the edit. Initially, I thought the doll was ok, but never really liked it enough to do anything with it. Something just didn't look right. I rediscovered this doll a couple of weeks ago & decided to play around with it in Photoshop. That's when I realized the problem: the head was too small and the body was too squat. The figure is about 6 heads tall when a person is usually between 7 & 8 heads tall. (Fashion illustration is a totally different scale, usually 9 to 10 heads. I'll work on a lesson that explains that in more depth.) Anyway, I used the Lasso tool in Photoshop and selected the body. I stretched it downward until it looked right. The result is a little leaner and a little bit better height. And now it's a doll I'll use!
These are 5 things that I've discovered lately and thought I would share. None of these are hard & fast rules or anything like that, just pet peeves of mine, really! In the words of architect Louis Sullivan, form ever follows function. These are words I like to keep in mind when designing a doll. I often forget that these are toys meant to be cut out & played with. If the doll doesn't function correctly, it just isn't fun. Hopefully I can follow my own rules and create better functioning dolls!
Comments, questions, etc, are always welcome. Look for a new doll on Friday!
There has been some crazy weather lately, and, although not as extreme as in other places, the weather here in New England is a bummer. My kids are stir-crazy and it seems like the rain is never going away! So today's doll has a summery wardrobe. The name - Talia - is not summery at all. In Russian, it means "born near Christmas" and it was a name we were considering if our oldest child had been a girl. I was due in December/January and it seemed appropriate. We had a son, so the name got scrapped. I love it and thought it would be fun for a doll.
I'm working on a lesson for Monday. I'm not certain it will go up on Monday. My grandfather is in the hospital and I may have a 4 hour (one way!!) car trip ahead of me this weekend. It's not a surprise to anyone, really. He's been dealing with a degenerative disease for a long, long time. Still, Gramp supersedes the blog. And my mom is having surgery next week, so things are a bit hectic. I'll get the lesson up when I can. It'll be a good distraction.
Anyway, I hope the weather lifts soon. For now, enjoy the doll!
Crayon? Sure, why not! I'd be willing to bet that, for most of us, crayons are the first tool we ever used to make art. And for a toy like paper dolls, crayons seem very appropriate.
I also wanted to talk about crayons because one of my nieces made me a paper doll for my birthday. It's the first time anyone has made a doll for me, and not the other way around! Her medium of choice right now is crayon.
I have a nostalgic love for Crayola, so this doll will be colored using Crayola crayons. There are a number of crayon brands out there. Each has a different wax to pigment ratio, different color schemes, and, in some cases, different types of wax. I am also using artist's beeswax crayons to demonstrate how those work.
First things first, get a doll prepped & ready to go. Usually I use a mechanical pencil and ink over it, or erase it and paint over it. Today, we're not doing that. Crayons can pick up pencil marks and smear them all over paper. As a result, I recommend using a hard, light pencil, such as a 4H.
If pencil grades are new to you, H is for hard and B is for soft. Why B? I dunno. The numbers indicate the level of hardness or softness. A 4H is a fairly hard, light pencil. A 9H is even more so. Hard pencils are lighter than soft pencils. And to further confuse matters, F is the midpoint between H and B pencils. Check out this Wikipedia article for more information.
So I outlined a doll on smooth paper using a lightbox & a 4H pencil. Make sure your lines are clean and light. I traced my doll without erasing, and, if you can, try for that. Eraser marks will show on the paper. I'm not going to post an image of the outlines - the image is too faint. And that's exactly what you want!
Once more thing before we color a doll. Choose your surface carefully. Any surface you color on will come through as a texture. I like to color on a drafting board or on a few sheets of paper to eliminate any textures.
Here's a comparison of beeswax and Crayola crayons. Beeswax crayons are easy to find (there are tons on Amazon) and come in a variety of shapes and colors. My set includes 8 block crayons (perfect for covering large areas) and crayon-shaped sticks.
I used the block crayon in the top sample. I used a tortillon (or blending stump. See the Colored Pencil on Smooth Paper lesson) to blend part of it. I then used a stick to create two lines below. And I blended the bottom one. I like this effect on the smooth paper. It ends up looking almost like marker or paint.
For the Crayola sample, I did the same thing on the top three samples as I did on the beeswax crayons. The bottom three samples are from the Twistables line. These are a harder crayon. Keep these in mind for detail work.
I colored the skintone first and added some shadows. Then, blend those together with blending stump. A lot of the color came off and left a bit of a shine on the paper.
This is a close-up before blending. I tried to add pink to the lips & cheeks. You'll see how that turns out...
After blending, I added a slightly darker brown to make the shadows a little deeper, and blended again.
Here's the second layer after blending. The pink blends almost completely out, which isn't quite what I had in mind.
Another close-up. I colored over the blended color with the skintone.
Another close-up. I colored the hair with two similar colors. I colored the eyes and clothing. Unfortunately, this is about as much detail as I could get with crayon.
Here's the final doll. I'm not thrilled with the way it came out, but I felt that posting it was important. Not every experiment is a success, but every experiment is a learning experience. In this case, I think I'd like to play around with markers or colored pencils with the crayons. I love the way the the crayon leaves a subtle color on the paper, but it needs a little contrast. Worth working on some more.
As usual, any suggestions or comments are always welcome!
*edited April 29, 2020: added images of the paper dolls because the PDF link is broken*
First, I want to say this is my birthday present to myself! My birthday is tomorrow so I decided to combine two of my favorite things: paper dolls and Star Trek.
These dolls fit the Fashion Friday template, so feel free to mix & match with other dolls. I made a Vulcan, a Klingon, and a human. The Klingon isn't exactly what I was hoping for, but not bad. The human is a redhead because all the women I love in Star Trek are redheads (Beverly Crusher, Kathryn Janeway). And I also want to make it clear that these are not exact replicas or anything. Just my interpretation of something I love.
(Standard disclaimer: these are fan art, for personal use. You know the drill....)
Here's a low-resolution preview of the set. It's a ten page PDF including the cover. I'd love to do more of these. It was so much fun! I plan on cutting out a set soon and showing that here as well.
Download the Star Trek paper doll pdf here.
If the pdf is too big or cumbersome, just let me know and I'll post something smaller/easier. I hope there are other paper doll AND sci-fi fans out there. I can't be the only one! Enjoy!
I just received my copy of the kids' issue of OPDAG's Paperdoll Studio magazine and it is beautiful! I contributed a little boy doll and a dress-a-doll selection. The dress-a-doll is an occasional feature where an artist designs a doll and other artists contribute outfits.
This is my contribution. Feel free to download & print it. It's also available as a book at Lulu.com as a full color doll complete with 12 outfits.
So the top image is of the outfits I sent to the dress-a-doll feature and the bottom image is a scan of the dolls. Really fun project! All of the contributors came up with some lovely outfits.
If you can get a copy of the magazine you should. It's always a treat and filled with great paper dolls.
I don't have a formal lesson for today. I have a few months every year that are crazy, and May is typically one of them. Every year I have three birthdays, a wedding anniversary, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day. I tend to see my extended family and sometimes my in-laws at some or all of these events. Add to this a two-day graduation event and things start getting nuts. I was in three states over the course of two days!!
Anyway... I want to share a few updates.
First, I attended my cousin's graduation over the weekend. I made a paper doll for her in March -- she has the same birthday as my youngest son, so I thought it would make a fun present. I took it one step further and made it a magnetic doll.
She loved it and I loved making it. Because I eliminated the tabs, I was able to fit more outfits on a single sheet of printable magnet. Here's the preview of the full doll. If anyone wants to print the fashion Friday dolls out on magnetic sheets, I highly recommend it with one tip: the hands are really tough to cut out. This doll almost lost her fingers. The shoes, however, are way more successful as magnets than they are in paper.
Second, I am posting a multi-page doll on Friday. I'm not going to say much, except that it's a theme I'm very excited about and it has a sci-fi influence. You'll have to wait and see.
Third, I'm working on a doll I'd like to have published with a *real* publisher. As such, it's going to take some attention but I won't be able to share any of the details here. Think happy thoughts for me :)
Fourth, the newest issue of OPDAG's paper doll magazine is on its way. When it arrives, I'll share some of that here.
And finally, what should I write for lessons? I'm starting to run out of ideas. I have a couple more software lessons I'd like to try, as well as a doll in oil paints and maybe markers. Perhaps more mini lessons or going in-depth on certain subjects? Any ideas/suggestions are welcome. I love writing the lessons and people seem to enjoy reading them. I actually gave my 5 year old niece a paper doll lesson this weekend and it was super gratifying!!
So any and all ideas are welcome. Look for an amazing, out-of-this world doll set on Friday!
This past weekend, my husband and I were invited to a lovely wedding for a terrific couple. The bride & I have frequently talked about paper dolls, so I thought a commemorative doll was in order. They were married at a seaside hotel right on the Atlantic, so I included an ocean view for the dolls.
I'm putting this up at full resolution and not as a PDF download. If anyone would prefer a PDF, just let me know and I can do that.
Also, these dolls will fit with all the other fashion dolls, too.
We're going to continue working with Corel Painter X today. Get out a cleaned up line drawing & get ready to "paint"!
This is the doll I'm going to work with today. Make sure that you've got a clean, black & white image to work with. Save it as a psd file and open it in Corel Painter.
Normally, I use a more universal format, such as jpg or png, but for some reason (program problems? user error?) I couldn't get a jpg to open in Painter but it opened a psd just fine. You may not have this problem, but just keep it in mind if you do.
Here's what your workspace should look like. There is a layers panel to the far right and that's where we'll start. I want to create an outlines layer and a working layer. If you've followed along with the Photoshop lessons, this will be pretty familiar. I'll be using a Wacom tablet and pen to color this. You could use a mouse, but a tablet is easier & more natural.
Painter has a few quirks that take some getting used to. First, the Canvas layer (equivalent to a Background layer in Photoshop) is permanently locked. You can't move, copy, alter, etc, the Canvas layer. There is a way to get the outlines out of the locked layer. For more on the complexities of Painter's layer types, check out this post. It's more complicated than I plan to get in this lesson.
At the top right of the layers panel there's a small black triangle. This opens up a layers menu. Go to the bottom of the menu and select Lift Canvas to Watercolor Layer.
What we have now is a blank canvas with a watercolor layer above it. The watercolor layer has the outlines. It's set to Gel and Ignore. This created a transparent layer for the outlines, which is exactly what I wanted. If you try to paint on this layer, you get a pop-up that says you can only use watercolor brushes on this layer. We aren't going to paint on this layer, so it's not really relevant.
Make sure to change the name of your layer to outlines (or something similar) in order to keep your layers organized.
And finally, here are my layers. The top layer is a transparent, watercolor layer where I placed the outlines. It is set to Gel and Ignore. (I'm not going to pretend to fully understand what that means. It does what I want it to do!) Next, I add a layer under this, name it "paint", and set it to Default. Lastly, there is the white canvas layer that is locked. All of the painting will be done on the Paint layer.
Now it's time to paint. Play around with brushes, settings, and colors.
I'm using the default artist's oil brush. I mixed my own skintone in the mixing palette and applied it to the doll. A lot of the same shortcuts from Photoshop work here, too. You can change the size of the brush with the bracket buttons. The spacebar acts as the hand tool shortcut, and Command - or + (or Control on a PC) adjusts the zoom of the canvas. If you have a scroll wheel on your mouse, you can zoom with that, too.
I like to paint one color at a time, so I painted in the skintones first. One of the advantages of using a natural media program is the ability to blend colors on the fly.
This is some of the shaded & blended skintone. Every time you pick up your brush, that is a completed brush stroke. I was able to blend the skintone by holding down my brush as needed.
You can choose to paint all on one layer and use the eraser as needed (or blend the colors) or you can set up a layer for each color. I chose to paint on one layer. It's a bit more like I would paint on canvas.
This is some of the color. I'll clean everything up later on. I've decided to keep the black outlines. If you're feeling up to it, you could create a new layer just for outlines and re-draw those. I'm fine with the black outlines for this exercise.
More of the same. In this image, I've started to clean up the edges of the doll and the edges around the first outfit are still sloppy. The second outfit is still uncolored.
This is the final doll. I added a background color. I discovered that the brush didn't track well at large sizes. I don't know if it's the program, my computer, my Wacom, or some combination. Could even be a setting I don't know about.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with this. It's my first completed project using Corel Painter. Painter is an enormous program with enormous potential. For my purposes, it might actually be more than I need. It's amazing, and I'll continue to experiment with it, but my preferred natural media program is ArtRage for its simplicity.
I hope you enjoyed the lesson & learned something. I know I did!
Also, there are two special edition paper dolls coming in the next few weeks so check in on Friday. That's when I'm posting the first of them!
Today's doll is inspired by Cinco de Mayo. I don't know a lot about the day or the history, and the outfits aren't accurate traditional clothing. It's just inspired by Mexico. We spent our honeymoon in Mexico and there are some truly beautiful places, but I've discovered over the years that tropical environments don't really agree with those of us with pale Northern European heritage!
Anyway, enjoy the doll and have a margarita this weekend. I know I will!