Wednesday, 16 January 2019


 I don't really have anything doll or craft related to post about, right now. All that stuff has been packed away because we're moving in two weeks. To a bigger place with A DOLL ROOM AND A PANTRY! I'm very stressed and a little depressed about the move. The Giant Husband and I both grew up in this area, and we had never planned on leaving. But we've finally had to accept that the Yarra Valley is just too fashionable right now and if we actually wanted to buy a house here, it would cost three quarters of a million dollars for any house at all, much less a nice one. And frankly, anyone who'd be willing to lend us that much money, is not someone we should be borrowing from. We like our kneecaps too much.
 I'm also pretty excited about having a whole house. Especially the doll room and the pantry. I have this fantasy that having a bigger place means I won't have two kids and the Giant Husband hanging off me twenty four seven. But I know that's wishful thinking. We could live in Buckingham Palace and they'd still all find a reason to be within three feet of me, all the time.
 Tiny finally gets a bedroom that's larger than a closet. So I get the fun of decorating her room all over again. As well as planning stuff like new towels, a new dinner set, and that kind of stuff. And I'm getting a new computer desk, because my current one is so small that I can't fit my keyboard and mouse pad on it at the same time.

 Christmas was brutal. We have a habit of forgetting to tell the Giant Baby important things. For instance we told him he was getting a baby sister, but didn't think to tell him it meant I'd have to go to hospital for a couple of days. That's something he still holds a grudge about. At Christmas, everyone had told him that he would get Christmas presents. Nobody thought to tell him that everybody else would get presents too. This is his face when he discovered that the presents under Nanny's Christmas tree weren't all for him.

Then he hid in the kitchen to cry.

 Tiny got to wear one of the dresses that I made for her. I originally planned on making most of her clothes. But then we got a ridiculous amount of hand me downs. She ended up with SEVENTY FIVE onesies in size 0-3months! Which meant I could focus on making frivolous dresses like this one.

It's not a good picture but it's the best one I have. The front has a tucky-pleaty treatment that I found on a sundress on Pinterest and copied. But since Christmas day was hot, she actually spent most of the day in just her nappy anyway. (And her brother spent most of the day in his underwear in a kiddie pool.)

I know this post is kind of disjointed. It's been written over three days in two minute bursts. So I'm going to leave it here before it completely stops making sense.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

How to Make Paper Dolls. Tutorial. Part Two. Painting the Dolls.

Before I even start I'm going to be upfront and tell you that this is not the right way to use watercolours. I have no idea how to use watercolours the right way. I have no interest in learning. I taught myself to use watercolours from an article in an old folk art magazine I found when I was about fourteen (At that point I actually made my own paints by grating watercolour pencils because my mum wouldn't let me buy paints.) and it was about ten years before I discovered it wasn't proper and nobody else seems to do it this way. But that's the thing with art. It doesn't matter if you're doing it the right way. It only matters if you like the result.

What you need:-
- Dolls to paint.
- A plastic container with a lid.
- The cheapest, nastiest paper towels you can find.
- A cup or jar for paint water.
- Tubes of watercolour paint.
- Paintbrushes.

If you don't want to draw your own dolls here's some you can print out and colour. Just don't print them on ordinary printer paper if you're going to paint them. Use a drawing paper that can take being wet and won't bleed or feather when painted on.

As in my previous post, you don't need to spend a lot of money on materials. It's important that you use cheap paper towel. Expensive ones have a varnishy type of coating that gets into the paint and makes it gummy and gross. Any flat-bottomed plastic container with a tight fitting lid will do, but if it's rectangular and roughly the size of a sheet of paper towel, that's ideal. Your water cup should look as different to your coffee cup as possible but other than that it doesn't matter. An old mustard jar is fantastic.

Your paints don't need to be fancy. A basic student box of watercolour tubes is fine. I would suggest that if they're under ten dollars a box, they're probably not good enough but anything between about fifteen and forty dollars a box is good. I actually don't like expensive paints. I find they don't dilute as consistently or easily as cheaper paints. At the moment my favourite brand is Mont marte, which is an Australian brand that you can get in two dollar shops here. They're available worldwide though. Reeves are also good. I've also got a lot that are a brand called Maries but I don't think you can get them anymore. The Derwent Academy boxes should be good, but I haven't tried them personally. There's another brand in Australian two dollar shops called Reno Art. I do not recommend wasting your money on them. I have never bought a product by Reno that I've been happy with.

Here's my confused paintbox (It's not usually this neat. This was taken just after I'd bought the box from Aldi and shoveled in my paints.)

And my favourite case of Mont marte paints! (Which needs replacing because it was put away for years and years and some of the tubes split)

But you don't need heaps of colours. A basic twelve pack will provide the basics and you can mix the rest. I have heaps of colours because I used to buy a whole new box every time I ran out of white. (Until I realised it was cheaper to buy a single tube of Artist Spectrum white than a whole new box of paints.)

As for brushes, obviously you need something better than those kiddy brushes with the plastic bristles. I don't like pig bristle brushes for watercolour - too scratchy. And I find the little squirrel hair ones to be messy and uncontrolled. I like brushes with Taklon bristles. Before you ask, I have no idea what Taklon is. But it says Taklon on the pack. They're smooth and hold paint well. Montmarte sell nice packs of Taklon brushes packaged as being for Acrylic paint. (Their packs of Watercolour brushes are squirrel hair. Yucky.) I like to have one big brush about as thick as the barrel as a ball point pen, one tiny brush for detail work and one or two that are in between the others in size.

It can also be helpful to have a cloth, or tissue, or bit of toilet paper or something to wipe your brush on occasionally. (Because you should never put your paintbrush in your mouth. Especially if you're using Artist Spectrum Zinc White which tastes disgusting and the taste sticks with you for weeks.) If you're using tissue or toilet paper, obviously don't use one that's impregnated with scent or aloe vera or anything.

Getting Started.

Tear off enough paper towel to cover the bottom of your container when it's folded in half. Fold it in half and stick it in your container, so you have a double layer of paper towel in the bottom of your container. Go to the sink and run about a half inch of water into your container. Pour most of it down the sink, or into your water cup. Press on your paper towel to squeeze some of the water out, but not all of it. You want it wet, wetter than damp but not sopping.

Find somewhere to paint. Obviously you need a flat surface with room to put everything but light is the important thing. If you're painting somewhere too dark or where the electric light is too yellow or blue, you might find that the colours don't look right later.

Painting your doll.

We'll start with painting the doll. I do my skin shading with Burnt Sienna. Most basic paint kits have a colour called Burnt Sienna, if not you're looking for a sort of rust brown. Open your tube and squeeze the tiniest bit onto your paper towel. Not like you're squeezing toothpaste. Just squeeze until you can see paint and dot it onto your towel like this

Dip one of your medium sized brushes in water and use it to pick up a little paint. Don't paint it onto the doll. Paint a couple of swipes onto your wet paper towel. Squeeze as much water as you can out of your brush. Now pick up some colour from the swipes you just painted and test their colour on a scrap of paper. You want it very faint. You're painting a wash with tinted water not paint. When you have the right colour paint a layer of shading on the doll something like this

I do three layer of this. The first layer does the shadows, the second layer is exactly the same colour and goes over the first layer completely but also extends out from it. This makes the first layer darker but ther should also be more shading around the first layer now that's lighter. The third layer, I do after the first two have dried and is darker and smaller. Just touches on the darkest places. Armpits, between fingers and toes, nostrils, hollows in the ears and so on.

Once this is dry you need some crimson and yellow ochre. Mix this together to make a pinkish colour like this

The light smear next to the burnt sienna blob is the paint I used to paint the shading. Below that is my yellow ochre and crimson blobs and to the left is the pink I made. The pink smears that are there, I'll keep to paint lips and blushing later. I'll put another smear like that an inch or two away and mix with a lot of white to make my flesh tone. Like this

The whitish smear to the right it what I used to paint her skin. you want it very dilute and sheer or she'll look kind of corpseish - which could work if that's what you're going for. Use the biggest brush. I did two coats.

Here the paper is pilling from being too wet. If this starts happening, at any point, it's important to finish the coat you're painting as quickly as possible, let the paint dry thoroughly, then gently and lightly brush the pilling off with clean, dry hands. If you don't stop, your paper will go gross and you'll get spongey, rough, discoloured blobs. If you press too hard when you brush it off, you'll take paint off.
Once that has dry you can use the pink left over to paint the lips and tear ducts and a very dilute pink to do any blushing. And paint the eyes and hair.

This is with the hair half done. I painted the first layers of shading on her hair while I waited for her skin to dry. As with the skin you do the darker shading areas first, then the lighter shading areas but painting over the first layer as well, then I did a third layer, painting over the previous two. My first layer on her hair was burnt umber (dark brown), then burnt sienna, then yellow ochre. Once they dry I'll use a last very dilute coat of yellow ochre over all the hair.

Painting the clothes.
Next you need to shade the underwear and clothes. I use burnt umber to shade warm colours and Payne's grey to shade cool colours. Most paint sets have burnt umber, it's just dark brown. Payne's grey is less common though. But if your set doesn't have it, it's just blue grey made by mixing ultramarine and black. As with the skin you do two layers of shading, maybe adding a third layer of highlights (lowlights?) if you think it needs it.

Then mix the colours you want to paint the clothes. Remember you want to paint with tinted water, not paint. You want the colours to be right when the paint is diluted, not as they're mixed. This can take a little getting used to. Once you have the right colour add another layer of shading but in that colour. Not darker. Paint over the shading extending it slightly with your final colour. This will make the bits that are white now look like highlights when you're finished.

Once that's dryish, do your final coat of colour. Don't worry too much about staying inside the lines. Everything that's outside the lines will be cut off when you're finished anyway. Then you can paint in details and belts and prints and things.

Finishing touches.
When I'm done painting, I'll often add touches like shoe buckles, buttons, sequins et cetera in silver, gold or white gel ink pen. It has to be gel ink though if you want it to work on dark colours. I bought a pack of coloured fine liners this week to try out but I'm pretty sure they won't work over anything but the lightest colours.

Computer stuff.
I've also started to outline my dolls in thick black fineliner when I draw the tabs on. This really isn't necessary at all. I do it so I can scan my dolls into my computer and rearrange the layout on photoshop to make it pretty. The thick black outline is so I can easily use the magic eraser to remove the background.

If you are going to scan and print your doll, print it on ordinary printer paper. Glossy paper often has the colour peel off if it's folded too often, and glossy paper is often too bulky when folded to work properly as clothes. But if you are going to print it on ordinary paper you need to adjust the contrast or it will print very dull and weird. Below are two prints I made of my finished doll. The left one is as she was. The right one has been run through Auto Levels in Photoshop and much more like the original.

When painting the big coats (base colour of clothes, skin) use the biggest brush you can handle. I forgot about that and my t-shirt turned out quite scrubby because the brush I used was too small.

Obviously wait for a base layer to dry before you paint details over it. This doesn't matter as much with shading, can even help it blend. But if you're painting two separate somethings you don't want them blending or bleeding into each other.

Keep your brush as dry as possible. Squeeze the water out with your fingers, or some towel or if you're a terrible person like me, your sleeve. (I totally put mine in my mouth most of the time, but this is a horrible, awful, disgusting thing to do and you should never do it. At least not if anyone's watching.)

Just like how the right Instagram filter can disguise a terrible photo, a pretty painted pattern can hide uneven painting underneath it.

Always paint from smears on the paper towel, not directly from paint. Unless you're painting extremely fine details. Then you usually need the paint a bit thicker or it won't hold it's shape.

Build colours up from fine layers. But not too many layers or you'll ruin your paper. I think the number of layers I do is a good balance of enough detail without soaking my paper too much.

If you need to stop painting at any point, simply put the lid on the container you've got the wet paint in and stick it in the fridge. It'll be fine for at least a few days.

Ignore everything I just said and experiment and have fun and do what works for you.

How to Make Paper Dolls. Tutorial. Part One. Making the Dolls.

NOTE I'm not an expert on anything and any technical terms used in this tutorial were probably made up by me on the spot. If you know another way of doing things, or want to try something else, that's great! Go ahead! This is just how I do things. It might not be the best way, or the easiest, or the way that suits you and that's ok. You might prefer fantasy characters, or a more cartoonish style, or something photo-realistic. Take the information you can use and adapt it to suit you.

What you need:-
- Paper to draw on
- Pencil for drawing
- Pen for outlining
- Eraser
- Graphite stick or soft dark lead pencil for transferring
- A template

As with any art project your materials don't actually need to be the best quality or the most expensive, they just have to be suitable for what you want. For instance the pens I use are probably one of the cheapest, ordinary, ball-point pens out there but I like them because they draw with a fine line and the ink dries waterproof. What you need will depend on what you plan on doing. If you're going to colour with pencils, you'll want paper that picks up pencil well. If you're going to colour with marker, you'll need paper that markers don't bleed on. If you're going to colour with paint, you'll need paper that can get wet without falling apart. And the same goes for the rest of your materials.

I'm really fussy about paper and will only use Spirax brand cartridge paper. . . actually I'm so fussy that I'll only use the back side of the sheets in this book! If I find I've accidentally drawn on the front side, I get very annoyed. I also prefer mechanical pencils to normal pencils. They give a finer line and are less likely to have scratchy imperfections in the lead. As far as pens go, I'm happy with any black pen that gives a fine line and dries water-proof. The water-proof part is because I paint my dolls with watercolours. But whatever you're comfortable using is fine. You might be more comfortable using a thick pen, or colouring with pencils, or markers, or eye shadow. It really doesn't matter what you're using, as long as you're comfortable using it and it works on the paper or with the pen you're using.


The most important part is the template. You can't make a paper doll without a template. A template is an outline of a body that is used to draw both the doll and the clothes. It can be anything you want - a lady, a child, an elf, a cat. My templates tend to be human children because I'm not overly into fantasy characters and I couldn't draw a pair of boobs to save my life.

There are two basic types of templates. Arms In and Arms Out.

An Arms In template has the arms in front of or behind the body as much as possible. Like this. . .

This style of template is good for story telling. The arms are drawn with each outfit in different poses. The poses can be something simple like having the hands behind their back

Or by their sides

Or slightly more complicated, they could be holding a doll, or a bouquet, or a purse

Or you can even go all out with complicated poses

These can be a lot of fun but they are more work to both draw and colour. You have to redraw the arms and hands for each outfit which means once you've coloured an outfit you can only use it with dolls that have the exact same skintone which can be irritating. And sometimes you can end up with an outfit whose skin doesn't quite match any doll you've made at all. It also doesn't really lend itself very well to making separate clothing items, it's much easier to make entire outfits this way.

I used to draw ALL of my dolls Arms In because as a kid I found it fun. As an adult I prefer to do my dolls Arms Out because I hate drawing hands, it gets hard to think up poses after a while, and I started to get a bit too insanely ambitious in my posing/backgrounds and would draw things like this

Which is very lovely but a pain in the neck to have to paint. (I'm talking about the outfit with the dollhouse. The jug, I was fine with.)

An Arms Out template has the arms away from the body like this

You only have to draw clothes for a doll drawn from an Arms Out template. You only have to colour skin on the dolls. This style lends itself more to mix and match separates, which I like. And you only ever have to draw hands when you're making the doll or gloves, which makes me happy. And you can make a variety of dolls with a variety of skintones and they can all wear the same clothes. And that's the sort of doll I'm going to show you how to make.

Not all templates are quite so simply Arms In or Arms Out. Some have one arm in, the other out. I find it easiest to keep it simple though.

I'm not going to show you how to draw a template because I hate doing that so much that I will use the same template for ten years or more to avoid drawing a new one. But I will provide you with some templates you can print out if you're too lazy or scared to draw one too. (OR if you've seen a printable paper doll anywhere on line that you like, you could print that and trace it to make a template and make clothes to fit that doll.)

The second template is the one I used to draw the dolls I posted the other week. The third template may look like it's just the second one repeated but it's not only bigger but also taller and thinner. The last template is the one I'm going to be using.

Drawing your doll.

Cut one of the templates off the template sheet you're using. Not along the lines. At all. You want to end up with a rectangle of paper with a line drawing of a person on it. Turn the paper over and colour in the back (the side with no drawing on it) with lead pencil. I use graphite sticks because I have them and wasn't using them. Otherwise I'd usually use a 2B, 3B, or 4B pencil. (6B is too messy, but anything lighter than 2B isn't dark enough.) I don't know what that is in the American pencil grading system but basically you want a lead pencil that's soft and dark. So you end up with a piece of paper with the template printed on one side and heavy graphite on the other like this

Place the template on your sheet of paper, graphite side down. So you can see the picture and the dark side you've coloured is resting on the paper. Holding the piece of paper in place with one hand, use a pen to trace over the lines that are printed on your template. Press a little bit so the graphite from the back of the template is transferred to your paper (but not so hard you're leaving huge dents in the paper) and you should end up with a graphite copy of the template on your paper like this

Then sketch in underwear (or dancewear, or swimwear), facial features, hair etc with pencil. I use the facial features of the templates to give me an idea of where the facial features should be, rather than copying them exactly. When you're drawing underwear remember that every clothing item will need to cover that underwear. So don't draw high necked, long legged underwear if you plan on making a lot of low necked, mini skirted dresses. It can be helpful to mark out the neckline and waistline of the underwear on your template before you start. And if you're going to draw a doll in a crinoline petticoat or long Victorian drawers you will need to have the outline of those drawn on your template. (Like there is on the third template above.) I like to give the dolls shoulder length hair because it helps hold the clothing tabs in place when they're dressed, but you don't need to have it that long. Just remember the hair has to stop above the shoulders or go behind them. It can't go in front of the body, the clothes will cover it if it does, anyway.

Once you've sketched the features and are happy with them, draw them in pen and you should end up with something like this

Cheat. If you're good at that kind of thing, you could use a program like photoshop to replace the template's head with a photograph and trace that out along with the body. I am not good at that kind of thing. I've tried it but find it nearly impossible to get the head the right size.

We'll come back to the doll later, when we've drawn some clothes.

Drawing the clothes.

To draw the clothes, transfer the outline again onto the paper. But just the part you need. If I'm drawing a t-shirt, I'll trace the outline of the arms and body down to just below the waist, marking in the neckline and elbows like this

Similarly for a skirt I'll trace the outsides of the legs, the waistline, mark the knees, and maybe the crotch (for a short short skirt) or ankles (for a long skirt). For pants you'll need to trace both the insides and the outsides of the legs.

Sketch in some detail in pencil and when you're happy with it, go over the outlines in pen.

Keep drawing clothing items until you think you have enough. (I've gone modern. They don't have to be modern. You could draw historical clothes or fantasy outfits, or even a bunch of animal costumes, whatever you like.) You can reuse each template until it stops transferring or tears through. I've done two tops, two bottoms, a dress and a pair of shoes.

Cheat. If you find you have trouble holding the template still to transfer it, you can cut the template out of cardboard and trace around the edges of it instead. It's not as precise but it's easier for kids or people without a lot of hand strength.

You can kind of tell here that I completely changed the design of the dress half way through. My original idea just wasn't working. . . I also turned the shoes into kitty shoes, after I took this picture. . . maybe even while I was painting.

Now wait until the ink is dry. How long depends on the type of pen and whether there are any blobs along the lines. (Incidentally, if you find ink blobs are building up on the tip of your pen, keep a tissue handy and wipe it occasionally.) I usually leave mine overnight, just in case. Then erase your pencil lines and it's ready to colour.

So this doesn't get uncontrollably long, I'm making this a two parter. Tomorrow I will show you how to paint the dolls with watercolours. If you don't want to paint with watercolours feel free to colour your dolls however you like now. I'm going to skip to after the dolls are coloured for the rest of this post so that anyone that doesn't care about watercolours doesn't miss the ending.

Finishing the doll.

Once your doll and her clothes are coloured (and dry if necessary) cut out a rough rectangle with the doll on it like this

Don't follow the lines at this point or when you glue her to card she'll stretch or get bent and her clothes won't fit. Also apparently I have no idea what a rectangle is.

Glue her to a sheet of card. You don't have to be fancy and buy special card. The cover of an old notebook would be fine. I try to use white card, because coloured or printed card sometimes discolours the doll or shows through.

Once the glue is dry, cut your doll out properly. Leave a bit of space below the feet, to write her name and add a stand.

You can use clothes pegs as a stand

Or Blu-Tack

Or if you have one you can use a stand! (You can sometimes get these in board games or little cardboard playsets)

(My doll has a bent arm because kids are . . . kids) I don't usually stand my dolls up at all so I was quite surprised to find that the actual stand was rubbish, she kept falling out of it. Blu-Tack was definitely best. Although you could just as easily use plasticine or anything else similar that you have.

And of course you need to cut the clothes out. Don't glue them to card or anything. Draw tabs on them first, to hold them on. At the shoulders, waist, bottom of long sleeves or pants, and at the ankles of shoes. Join the shoes together and cut them out in one piece. Also with long pants, cut the pants legs out as one piece, don't cut up between them or they'll curl up.

And then you can dress her and mix her and match her to your hearts content.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Threenager Tornado

I had the best day ever yesterday . . . Well maybe not the best but the most productive day I've had in years. The Giant Baby was at daycare and the Giant Husband had stayed home sick with an upset stomach, so I took full advantage and made him look after Tiny all day.
I got the usual stuff done, washing dishes and sterilising bottles and three loads of washing. But I also managed to box up my Helen Kish dolls for temporary storage, clean and vacuum the lounge room, clean and vacuum Tiny's room, clean and vacuum the Giant Baby's room, vacuumed the rest of the house, took some old toys to the op shop, went to the shops to buy myself new socks and a new dress to wear to a funeral, got photos of the kids printed to send to my mum, bought Tiny a Christmas stocking, and wrapped all of the kids Christmas presents and bagged up some old baby  clothes to go to the op shop another day! Then I topped it all off by spending three hours tidying, sorting and reorganising the Giant Baby's toys and books!
THEN the Giant Baby came home. We decided to have an easy (lazy) dinner. The Giant Baby had some chicken noodle soup and toast. We played with his LOL Surprise dolls for a little while, then he came outside with me and voluntarily tidied up our large balcony while I got the washing off the line.
So far it had been an amazingly productive day. For once I wasn't ending the day stressed about all the things I hadn't had time to do. For contrast, they're ALL home today and so far it's taken me TWO HOURS to write this post because everybody needs me, or is climbing on me, or needs someone to stop them from jumping off the back of the couch onto the baby.
But then it went pear shaped. Three hours I had spent on the Giant Baby's toys! THREE HOURS! And at six o'clock I told the Giant Baby I had to get myself some dinner before I could play with him again. He said "No! You had dinner yesterday!" I countered that I intended on eating dinner every day. And he countered by doing this . . .

I could go on and tell you how he threw a fit about the mess being cleaned up, and again over going to bed, or that ten minutes after I got Tiny down for the night the Giant Husband woke her up and it took two hours to get her back to sleep, or the vomit the dog did on the carpet once we were all sleeping, or that the Giant Baby woke everyone up screaming at one am because he couldn't find the light switch in the toilet, or that that made me step in the dog's vomit, wearing socks. . . But the toy mess is depressing enough.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Old Paper Dolls

These are some paper dolls I drew, years ago. I'm not sure how many years but some of the sheets had 2004 scrawled on them and others had 2008 written on the back so I'm guessing they're about ten years old. I remember drawing these clothes but when the time came to draw some dolls to wear the clothes, they turned out to be too small. It was too difficult, in this size, to draw a face that I was happy with. So, I abandoned making them in this size and because I wasn't going to be making them in this size anymore, I never coloured these clothes.

But I have a weird habit of feeling empathy for inanimate objects. So when the Giant found these last week, I started feeling bad for these never being coloured. So I'm putting them here, so I can kid myself that one day someone might print them out and colour them in and they'll actually get used.

The first two sheets were an experiment. I drew Edwardian dresses, collars and pinafores separately, so they could be layered on a doll. I actually really like those clothes, and I know I didn't make them up. I copied them from somewhere. But I don't remember where and it's driving me crazy because I want to have another go at drawing them. So if anyone seeing this recognises those clothes, please let me know where they're from!