Topic Request: How I customize dolls

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First topic request! 

While I have chronicled the various extreme customization projects I've done, I am not as good at chronicling the mundane.  Sand a face off, slap some paint on there, add eyes... done!   Eventually.  Several hours (or days) later.  And after much swearing and occasionally bleeding.  But that's the gist.  There are MANY pictures from this series, so if you want to see the full set, go here.

Step 1: Decide what I want to do.  Lots of people do this different ways.  Some people sketch out their ideas.  I don't usually need to sketch things out, but sometimes I do (like when I did Puddles, after my first failed attempt at making a 'cute' clown) and when I do, it's usually nothing flashy, just some basic MS paint type stuff to help me decide what I want to do.

Step 2: Pick my base.  This is an important part!  You can't make any doll from any doll. Well, you can, but it probably won't won't come out as well as if you just did a little planning ahead of time.  For example: what type of body will this character have?  If I plan on rebodying, I either have to pick a head that will match the body I plan to put it on, or I will have to pick a body I can match to the head.  Soft-busts can't be spray painted.   When I made the Bleach custom of Nelliel, I had to use a giant-busted Volks body, and therefore I needed to use a head that matched the volks natural giant-bust, as it only came in one color.   There are about 3 heads that match that body.  Two of them are sold out and sell for >$200.

Step 3: Sand 'er down.  I don't know why, but some dolls (mostly early ones) sand easily while other dolls don't. You can't just sand the parts with makeup or you might end up with an uneven finish, even after you seal it.  Between the sanding and the razorblades to get at the nooks and crannies, this is where I end up with the most blisters/cuts.

Step 4: Begin!  I always do the hardest parts first.  It's not because of my customizing-masochistic tendencies, it's common sense.  The only part of the makeup that is not interconnected to other parts is the lips.  Blush often runs into eyeshadow, eyeshadow runs into eyelashes and eyebrows.  To remove messed up eyebrows, I would likely have to remove a lot more.  So I start with eyebrows.  They are the hardest things to do because there are no reference points for their symmetry.  Therefore, I make some

Step 1: Eyebrows (first draft)

I try to take as straight on a picture as possible, stick it in the computer, use eye tops of the eyes as a reference point to rotate the head until it's level, and then use a straight line drawing function to make a grid of the face.  Symmetry=beauty.

As you can see, my first draft was not perfect.  Nor was my second, third, or fourth.  I went through around 5 stages of revisions and tweaking before I got the eyebrows right.

Step 5: The lips.  The lips are not always the hardest part.  Often, they're the easiest.  In this particular custom, though, I had to match a transparent tint though, and that means I had to match both the color and the color concentration.  It took a bit, but unlike the eyebrows, it was more a matter of getting the color right and then experimenting with ratios of transparent base to paint.  I didn't have to paint the full lips to test it, just put a dot on the bottom lip, compare to Paja, and then go back and tweak it more. Step 5: The Lips

Step 6: Eyeshadow! What color eyeshadow does Paja have? Green, of course!

Wrong. It's more of a golden-orange-yellow. And that took several mixes, applications, removals, and re-tries to get. Color can be a tricky thing. Ever had an argument with someone over what color something is? Sometimes I've done a part on a doll and had it be perfect and then had to erase it when I saw it in different lighting.

Even after I got the mix right, I had to redo it because on one try I concentrated the color too much and in another I ended up with a blotchy spot. Step 6: Eyeshadow base

Step 7: Swear. Often (I sure do!) By this point, I'm roughly 2-3 hours in, and I've only done the eyebrows and lips. Now the dal customs are a lot more exacting than other dolls because I am making them to match their pullip counterparts, so I am at the extreme end of my obsessive-compulsive perfectionism. But it is rare that a faceup takes less than 5 hours, which works out to what... 1 hour per eyebrow, one hour per eye, and another hour for the lips/blush? It's kinda insane, really. And that's just a normal doll, no modding or airbrushing or anything.

Step 8: Try, try again: Step 7: Oh f*ck What's wrong? Most people would say 'nothing'. The transparency of the eyelids is too concentrated! GAH! Remove all eyelid paint and eyeshadow. Return to go. Plz start over. Again.

Step 9: Do not lose your cool Step 8: Fixed Not much difference. It looks maybe a shade lighter? Same paint, I just added more transparent base to compensate for the thickness of the layer on the eyelids vs the thickness of the test spot.

Step 10: Remember thy law of symmetry Step 9: Eyeliner There's this thing called 'paint tupperware'. They're like .2 oz tiny containers that you can put paint in after you've mixed it to keep it from drying out. I recommend them. Even if you're not insane like me, it is handy to be able to do touch-ups without having to try and color match, or worry about how long you're taking since paint that dries out and becomes gloopy leaves gloopy brushmarks on your dolls' face.

Step 11: Eyelashes. Uuuuugh. Step 10: Eyelashes (start) Eyelashes are deadly. You don't have to worry about them as much on 'natural' bjd-type faces because hey, look in a mirror: are your eyelashes in the exact same place/lengh on both sides? Hell no! Stylized faces though? Symmetry. It all comes down to symmetry. I do them two at a time, frequently switching between a super-tiny paintbrush and a fresh razorblade to LIGHTLY scrape away any uneven spots until both eyelashes are perfect, then move on to the next pair. And the next pair. And the next pair.

Step 12: Faceup complete! Step 11: Eyelashes done Now seal it, and hope nothing goes wrong with the sealant or you may have to sand it all off! No, I'm not being sarcastic. It's happened to me before many times. Aerosol sealants especially can be tricky. You have to spray at just the right distance, not too much, not too little, and within the right temperature range. And it can still go wrong. Nothing to do but swear, walk away, eat some cookies, and start over. Or you could not seal it--but I wouldn't recommend it, not unless you plan on sticking it in a glass case and never handling it or having to worry about cleaning off dust.

Step 13+ Assemble the bits! Step 15: Extortion Putting everything together doesn't take very long. For a naked doll.

Clothes take longer. There aren't many doll clothing patterns out there, and even for the ones that are, they take tailoring to fit a pullip/dal/taeyang/whatever. Often, if I'm creating an outfit that is not something along standard skirt/pants blouse, it will take longer to put together than the whole doll. The biggest problem is when you are dealing with dolls, 1/2cm can make the difference between 'perfect' and too big/small. 1/2 cm is less than most seam allowances! But that's another story for another time

I hope if you have gotten this far, you now have a greater understanding for the amount of work that goes into a custom. It is not easy to do a good job, but getting a doll 'just so' is always worth the frustration of creation!