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Sculpt a Doll

The first Ball Jointed doll I ever made was Coppelia. The whole project spanned over 4 months from the beginning of September to late December 2006. This page has some of my progress photos, so you can see how she turned from a small blob of Super Sculpey II into the finished doll you can see in the galleries!

Although this isn't a full tutorial I'll try explain a little as I go along, and maybe you'll want to try your hand at making your own doll too? I hope you find this helpful!

Measurements

The very first thing I did was collect some measurements from existing dolls, that way I could make sure I would be able to find items like wigs and shoes to fit the doll once she was finished.

Having dimensions to aim at keep the doll "growing" in proportion. When you are making it piece by piece it's hard to eyeball it until you have a basic doll sculpted.

I decided to go with a standard mini size:

Height: 17.5"
Head Circumference: 7"
Neck Circumference: 3"
Chest Circumference: 8.5'
Shoulder Width: 3.5"
Shoulder to Wrist: 5"
Elbow to Wrist: 2.4"
Wrist Circumference: 2"
Waist Circumference: 6"
Hip Circumference: 9.5"
Hip to Knee: 4.6"
Knee to Ankle: 4"
Ankle Circumference: 1.6
Feet length: 2"

These are the guidelines I used from standard dolls on the market. They are good to get an idea of proportion, but not necessary to stick to rigidly, my dolls dimensions came out pretty different in the end. It's always rewarding to be creative!

Scale it

If you want your doll to be bigger or smaller, you can use a percentage calculator to work out the proportions for your new size! For example my doll is 17.5" tall, you might what to do a full size at 24" tall with is 138% of my dolls size, so just scale up all these measurements by 138% for a guide!

Sculpting Coppelia
Starting the head
Starting the head Profile

The most exciting part for me was sculpting the head! So that's where I started.

I calculated roughly how thick I thought the walls of the head would be, and made a small egg shaped form out of Sculpey (covered in saran wrap for easy reoveal) to sculpt the head around, and stated building up the face. (, you can also use tun foil covered in saran wrap as a core. the important part is it must be removeable to leave the head hollow)

After a few alterations baked the face, and removed it from the form.

Rough Face
Rough Profile

I built up the rest of the head onto the back of the already hardened face plate, keeping the head completely hollow, and leaving an open space at the back to later be filled in with a removable head cap.

I softened the features to make the final face, and sculpted a head cap into the angled space at the back of the head.

I added a little part to the inside of the head cap to eventually hook the strings onto holding everything including the head cap in place.

At this point I had bought a pair of glass eyes to fit the doll, and with my dremel ground some eye wells into the inside of the head so the eyes would fit into the finished doll with little or no gaps. (if you just can't get this perfect, silicone eyes are bright looking, but squishy, so they can fill in an irregular eye well!)

Part one of the head sculpt complete!

The Body

The body part 1

Again I made a basic form this time out of tin foil (again covered in press and seal so the sculpey wouldn't stick) )for the torso and sculpted away!

To keep thinks looking smooth, I sculpted all parts in full. So for example rather than trying to sculpt the top part of the torso and the bottom repeatedly, I made it as one full torso, put the soft sculpt in the freezer to harden, then with a scalpel cut the pieces in half with a horse shoe shape in front. This was then baked.

I pulled the separate pieces off the form, and started to hollow out the top part, and build up the bottom part to rounded dome make the torso joint (it looks kinda like the top of an egg!)

I worked the same way with the limbs, only I used a chopstick as a form. I wouldn't suggest using chopsticks tough, instead a drinking straw re-enforced with tinfoil would be better. Much easier to cut the limb sculpt into 2 pieces, and for those not planning to cast you can later pull out the tinfoil for a hollow piece!

Ball Joints

As you can see in the first photo I attempted to build my own ball joints, but these didn't look so good.

I carved them out and replaced them with good sized wooden beads, with a slit sanded into them with my dremel. These make perfect ball joints and you can easily incorporate them into your Sculpey! (Make the slit on one side of the bead, and only as far as the already drilled hole)

When making the joints, it's much easier to form the nesting joints over the ball joints, than to try make the ball fit the nesting.

Sculpting completed!

The Surface

The next part is surfacing. If you chose to cast the doll, the mold will pick up any imperfections, and if you chose not to cast the doll, you still want a nice flawless finish.

I started out with a 150grit sanding film (like paper but more flexible) and roughly sanded out all the lumps and bumps. It's hard at first to see where these are, but as you sand it becomes more and more apparent. I then did a little neatening with a 250 grit

After that I coated the doll with layer upon layer of gesso, the primer used to prep canvases for oil painting. It's sands easily to a perfect egg shell finish.

I used brush on, and the brush groves were quite severe, I used the 150 grit sanding film again to get these sanded down, if you use a spray on gesso you might not need to worry about that.

Once smooth the surface will have scratches, just keep on sanding with a gradually finer and finer grit. I used 250 then 350 followed by 400 grit sanding films.

You really want a perfect finish, so although this takes a really long time, it's worth it! The whole process for me took a whole month, but when it was done, she had a lovely silky surface texture.

For the hard to reach parts, such as the sides of the nose and around the eyes etc. I found a wet piece of cloth pulled round the point of a sculpting tool really smoothed out the gesso without disturbing the details.

Phase one is now complete!

You can at this point stop, paint and string your doll! Spray it down with a nice flesh color spray paint, and paint in the details with either paints, or do just as you would with a resin doll (these will all be shown in a painting and assembly section coming soon)

But for those wanting to produce a doll just like the ones available on the market out of resin, this is where the fun part starts!

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