Monday, May 27, 2013

Tips & Troubleshooting

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!

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