Monday, March 28, 2016

Making of Mondays: Outfit Sketches

Every time I work on a project, I try to remember the failures of the past.  I have a tendency to rush because I love what I'm creating.  This time, I'm trying to take the project in manageable chunks, take some time to look & analyze, then continue.

There are some things I'll be changing about these paper dolls as I progress.  I realized that the ears on the oldest girl doll are way off.  One is much higher than the other so I need to fix that.  I also realized that the base outfits I gave all of the dolls just don't work, so I'll change that a bit, too.

This is a work in progress and these are usually not images or thoughts I would share.  But process is really important to me.  I've seen this joke floating around the internet that really resonates with me: it's a page from a drawing book where step 1 is a set of circles or ovals or whatever and then step 2 is a photorealistic drawing of a bear or something.  I'm interesting in the in-between steps & if that means sharing the failures, then so be it.

These are my sketches.  It's not everything but it's a start.

I found that one of the best things for me is to print out my outlines in a color (blue or magenta or whatever) and draw directly on these templates.  For this project, I'm printing the templates out on 8.5in by 14in paper.  Why? Because I accidentally bought a ton of it and want to use it up!

Here's my Photoshop file.  I printed directly from this. Then, I'll draw on this sheet, scan it, fit it, and outline it in Photoshop.  It's a lot of paper to computer to scanner to computer and repeat as needed! Because I chose bright colors for the lines, I can selectively get rid of them in Photoshop after scanning and have just the black of my pencil lines.

I decided that the first thing to do is check the fit of the new base costume.  That's the image here. I set the sketch to Multiple so I can see it over the doll.  I like how it fits & I can outline it anytime.  The next thing I want to do is take a sampling of the outfit sketches and create a rough page layout.

When I layout a page, I give myself a half inch margin. It's larger than I need to print on a standard home printer or for publishing a book.  I do this so that I don't have to rework a book for something easy to avoid in the first place (which I've had to do and I'm not proud of it!).

To create an experimental layout, I opened up my back cover file.  I added approximately half inch margin guides.  Then, I opened up several sketch files, copy & pasted outfits, and arranged them on the sheet.  The goal of this experiment was to see if I could fit all of the similar themed outfits for each kid on one page.  In this case, I chose my raincoats sets.  These are some of the largest sketches so far & this will give me some upper limits to work with.

At this point in the project I've learned a few valuable things:
1) I still need to edit & refine the base dolls.  That's ok, because I don't have a ton of work put into the outfits, layout, etc.  Better to discover this early.
2) I can proceed with the idea of having page themes for each doll.  The experimental layout confirmed this for me.
3) I have about half of the outfits I need for the book.  That means more drawing.  I need to decide if I want this to be completely mix & match or if I want some one-piece outfit sets as well.

For now, it's back to Pinterest for inspiration and more drawing!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fashion Friday - Sachi

Spring has been bizarre here in New England.  We had a snowstorm bad enough to cancel school on Monday morning and almost all of that snow had melted by afternoon.  Really weird, if you ask me.

Anyway, while I was watching the weather this week, there was mention of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.  And I thought, why not a cherry blossom inspired paper doll?!

The longer skirt & puffy sleeved blouse were inspired by an Alexander McQueen outfit I've seen floating around Pinterest.  I just love everything about that set!  The longer skirt here can be worn over or under the puffy sleeved blouse, but probably just underneath the other one.  I haven't tested it yet.  Also, I was too lazy to create a new hairstyle so I gave her some rad pink highlights instead. I created the sakura blossom pattern in Illustrator.  Took a couple of tries to get it right!

For those of you celebrating, have a happy Easter this weekend.  And if you're looking for an Easter project, go check out last year's Easter paper doll family.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Making of Mondays: Outlines

I've been thinking a lot about outlines.  Every time I tackle a new paper doll, I think about outlines.  Should they be black?  Or brown? Or colored?  In my vector and watercolor work, I use a variation of the base color.  So a blonde hairstyle is outlined in a light yellowish-brown, a green top is outlined in a darker green, etc.  I like the way it looks.

This method is problematic in Photoshop.

I know there are methods of coloring linework after drawing it in black.  I never seem to get around to it.  Not to say the black looks bad.  And ultimately, that's what I end up doing.

To start with, I opened my file from last week.  I'm going to draw the outlines for each doll in a separate file.  I have my dolls grouped into folders and there's a neat trick I learned from digital scrapbooking.

First, you need to have two files open in Photoshop.  I have my back cover file open with my group folders.  The other file is where I want to work on the paper doll (#1). After opening the files, grab the tab section of the cover file and drag it til it's a separate file floating on the screen(#2).  Take the group folder you want in the new file and drag it into the new file (#3).\

And there it is, layers and all.  I love groups in Photoshop.  So useful! You'll notice that I've added a layer called outlines.  That's where I'll start sketching.

I'll draw my lines in default black with a custom brush.  I try to scale my sketches before I outline & I make sure to use the same size brush and same color on each of the dolls & outfits for consistency. You can use a standard brush -- it doesn't really matter much -- but make sure it's pressure sensitive if you're using a digitizer of some sort.  I'm drawing directly onto my Surface Pro 3 (which has been happily trouble free of late).

I like to start with the face.  There's no right or wrong way.  It's just what I do.  I try to vary my line width by carefully increasing or decreasing the pressure on my stylus.  I like the organic qualities of it.  Zoom in or out as much as needed to get a good line.  I am immensely thankfully for the Undo feature in Photoshop! If I did this with pen on paper, I'd scrap dozens of attempts.

And by the magic of internet time's the final outline.

On the left, the lines over the sketch.  On the right, just the lines.  I also took the base shape and made it an outline to see how it fit with the doll.

At this point, walk away from your drawing.  Really.  For a while.  Then come back, look at it critically and adjust it as needed.  Right now, I'm not terribly crazy about the eyes.  I want to mess around with those a bit.

Now, I'll outline the other two dolls and get ready to create a wardrobe.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Paper Doll Studio Magazine (you can subscribe or order individual issues here) was looking for holiday themed submissions for an upcoming issue.  I thought about sending part of the Santa and Mrs Claus set (you can grab the book here) or maybe coloring one of the wacky holiday Kawaii Kids from way back in 2013.  Instead, I decided to tweak one of the Jane dolls and create a St Patrick's Day paper doll.

Right-click on the image to download and save it for printing.

I think I'm done with the Jane templates.  Something about these bugs me every time I look at them.  I think the arms are too long.  Honestly, I'm getting tired of rehashing old stuff instead of creating new stuff.  This is cute and I like it well enough, but I have more I want to do and revisiting old projects is just holding me back.

Anyway, look for this in the magazine & print out your own copy!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Making of Mondays: Set Up and Layout

Before I begin finalizing my sketches, I need to decide the scope of my project.  In this case, I know I want this to be a book.  Laying out the sketches before I start outlining them makes the most sense.

I publish my paper doll books via There are a few post from way back in 2012 that walk you through the process I use (starting here, then here) and, although Lulu has changed some, the process is pretty much the same.

Since I haven't created the dolls or clothing yet, I think the best place to begin is at the beginning.

Here's a screenshot of Photoshop.  I have the Lulu back cover template open on one layer and a white background layer underneath it.

Each doll is now placed on its own layer above the template layers (now in a group). I set the doll sketch layers to Multiply so that I can see the template layer. These dolls are a little bit smaller than I usually draw, mainly because I wanted to fit three of them instead of the one doll I usually make.  This is just a rough placement.  Next, I want to add the base to each doll.

There are lots of ways to add a base.  I'm really comfortable in Illustrator, so that's what I used.  I created a shape in Illustrator and added it as a Custom Shape in Photoshop.  If anyone wants to know how that's done, let me know.  It's not terribly difficult, but it would get wordy and would be better as its own post.

I've given each doll a base.  Because the doll layers are set to Multiply, I can see the base shape underneath.  I like using a custom shape primarily because it's a vector and I can scale it or change as much as I need & I can use it repeatedly.  The base colors are for my reference at the moment, and not the final colors.  Finally, I placed the sketch and base in a group.  I like using groups in Photoshop.  I can move and scale the entire group instead of each individual layer. I can give all of the layers within the group the same style (say, a drop shadow) by applying it to the whole group.

So that's the basic layout.  It's tedious but necessary. Next week, the drawing fun begins!

Til then, here's a picture of my little art buddy :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Toddler Fashion Friday - Ben

While I was working on Clara last week, I decided I wanted a boy version of the sports doll as well.  So this week, I have Ben.

Ben is virtually identical to Clara except for the shirt & dress pants.  They can play together or against each other!

The big news this week is the Santa and Mrs Claus paper doll book!

I got my proof copy this week and it's beautiful.  My photos really do not convey how awesome it came out.

There are 20 themed sets in the book -- the 15 themes from the December paper doll download and 5 exclusive sets (Scottish, German, pajamas, skiing, and a baking/workshop set).

Along with the 5 additional theme sets, there are 5 pages of coloring sheets.  The paper these are printed on would work really well with markers!

I modified the dolls so that you could easily add a stand and I included the stands.  Also, Santa and Mrs Claus need an elf helper, so I included one of those, too!

You can grab your copy here and it'll be available on Amazon soon!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Making of Mondays: Kids at the Beach Paper Doll Book

It's time for something new! Well, it's also kind of old....

Last summer, while hitting the playground circuit with my sons, I started sketching.  I had sort of this nebulous idea of creating a mix & match kids at the beach paper doll book.  My sons like going to the beach with my sister and her daughters.  Seeing these kids year after year having fun at the beach got me to thinking that a beach/nautical paper doll set would be a lot of fun.

The first thing I like to do when I'm starting a more realistic project like this is to find good reference images.  It helps establish pose, proportions, etc. I wanted a girl (somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10), a boy (somewhere around 5 or 6), and a toddler girl.  I'm envisioning this as a set of siblings.  Although I seem to have misplaced the reference images, I do have the initial sketches.

And they are AWFUL!

Wait, what?

Yup.  I hate these initial sketches.  Well, mostly.  The older girl (in the middle) was something solid to start with, so that's what I did.

I literally went back to the drawing board and started sketching again.  Over the years, I've moved towards digital art -- it's easier to find ten minutes in Illustrator while wrangling the kids than it is to hole up in my studio with paper & paints.  What I lose in the process is regular drawing.  And I really need to draw more frequently.

And these are the result of drawing.  And drawing.  And drawing some more.  I'm not sure how many sketches I actually went through to get these.  And even these are a bit flawed, but I actually want to work with these sketches! These were scanned in at 300dpi and I'll outline and color them in Photoshop.  Next week, I'll go through the layout process.  Then it'll be on to drawing.

So let me know what you think of my little beach babies!  I'll have a new paper doll up on Friday, too, so look for that.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Toddler Fashion Friday - Clara

Last week, I visited with my nieces during their school vacation week.  They talked about how much they both love paper dolls.  My oldest niece wants to learn how to create them herself and I'm thinking about creating a starter package for her.  Anyway, they both love sports.  They wanted their paper dolls to play sports, too.

Here we have Clara, a sports loving little lady! Initially, I thought about during a series of sports dolls, one for each sport.  I still might.  However, I thought have a multi-sport mix & match paper doll would be more fun.  She has a basketball uniform, a baseball uniform, a soccer uniform, and a hoodie & pant warm-up set as well as a sports patterned dress and matching sweater.

The toddler dolls are designed to be completely interchangeable, so if you want to print out a previous boy or girl toddler set, it'll work with these dolls.  I'll work on other colors and a coloring sheet for these, too.