Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fixing Problems: Painting Over Moonies

If you have a doll that has multiple moonies...too many to try to fix by cutting them out and filling with new can still try to save it. I read how one doll maker painted over them with Genesis heat-set paints. Here is how it was done:
  • Mix Flesh 07 with a small amount of  Pyrrole Red 05 to the color you desire.
  • Paint entire doll with 3 coats of your flesh color.
  • Bake doll between all coats with an embossing gun, as needed, and also bake per the manufacturer's directions.
  • Finally, blush with Pyrrole Red 05 and bake again per manufacturer's directions.
  • Seal with Genesis Matt Varnish.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Make A Light Tent

This link is to a tutorial on making a light tent from a cardboard box. Easy and inexpensive solution to taking great photographs of small scale dolls:

Some info on lighting and background:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Heat Guns

A heat gun is a helpful tool for setting up small parts of unfired clay without having to set any other part (to do that, cover the part of the doll that you don’t want to set with some aluminum foil).  A heat gun also cures Genesis heat-set paint. Some doll makers use a heat gun for a super-heating technique. Read more about super-heating here:

How to choose a heat gun: Embossing heat guns are sold in stamping sections at many local craft stores. Genesis also makes a heat gun for use with their paints and can be found where Genesis paint is sold.  You can use a paint stripper heat gun that is sold in home improvement stores, but be aware that they get much hotter than the embossing heat guns sold for hobby work; hair dryers, on the other hand, have too little heat to bring Genesis paint to drying temperature.

Be careful. It is really easy to scorch the doll with any kind of heat gun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conditioning Clay By Hand

Most conditioning is done by working the clay with your hands until it warms and becomes soft and pliable. The warmth of your hands combined with the stretching and compressing of the clay changes it to a working consistency. You will know when your clay is completely conditioned because the clay's texture changes and you will be able to see and feel this change. To speed up the process, many doll makers use pasta machines, food choppers and commercial clay softeners as aides. To use the clay softeners, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Some doll makers find using a dedicated electric food chopper is a helpful time-saver (never use it for food). When you're chopping clay to condition it, crumble the clay into the bowl and pulse the blades in bursts of several seconds, just until the clay is the size of a pea. The friction from the blades will warm the clay. You can over heat the clay so watch the clay and stop when it has been chopped into small bits. Dump out the clay and press the bits together, then continue conditioning with your hands.

Clay cannot get too conditioned, but clays get softer the longer they're worked and the warmer they get. If your clay is getting too soft you can firm it up by letting it rest for a while, even overnight, or chill it for an hour or so. Sometimes, the clay will be crumbly no matter what you do because it has been partially cured. This can happen if the clay has been exposed to excessive heat or ultraviolet light.

Check out this photo tutorial on conditioning and blending polymer clay:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Make A Multi-Strand Wire For Poseable Doll

When you make a poseable doll, choose a multi-strand wire for the armature. A multi-strand wire will take a lot of bending, whereas a single strand wire can be fragile at the point of the bend.

You can make your own stranded wire from brass, aluminum or galvanized steel. Choose fine gauge wire and twist 6 to 7 strands together.

If you don’t plan to incorporate a tube in the doll’s lower leg, the finished diameter of the multi-strand wire is not crucial. If you are planning on a rod and tube stand, the finished diameter of the multi-strand wire should fit into the size tube that you will be placing in the clay.

To make a multi-strand wire:
  • Cut several lengths of wire.
  • Double it over and secure the end of the loop over something stationary.
  • Pull against the wire to keep it taunt and twist all the strands together.
To make a multi-strand wire with a power drill:
  • Fit a hook into a battery powered, electric or hand drill.
  • Cut wire at least 8 feet long and fold in half.
  • Place the loop end in the drill’s hook.
  • Run your hand along the wire to even it out and tie the cut ends together, very firmly.
  • Secure the tied end into a vice or other holding device, or tie the cut ends around a stationary object.
  • Start the drill, pulling tightly against the wire to keep it taunt.
  • As the wire twists, it will shorten. Be prepared to move with it.
  • To see how firm the wire is, stop the drill to relax the tension. Do not over twist or the wire will start to ball up and get lumpy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Problem: Cracking Clay

Cracks sometimes occur when you are bending a doll to pose it while it is still raw clay or when you are joining raw clay to some partially set clay. Cracks also occur when raw clay has been left exposed to the air. Sometimes the clay is too soft to fix the crack when it happens. It is best to set the doll aside and let the clay firm up before attempting to fix it.
Don’t attempt to just smooth over a crack. Use a sharp tool to carve out an open area.  Then, with a wood tool, press new raw clay into the open area to fill in any pockets. Finish the area by smoothing with your thumb or a filbert brush.
A tiny crack on cured clay is difficult to fix because you can’t carve out a hole. Try using a liquid polymer clay product on the doll and re-baking it (follow manufacturer directions). You will have to coat the entire doll to have a consistent color. You can also make a mixture of regular clay and liquid clay. Use the mixture to fill a crack in a cured clay doll but only do that on an area that is going to be completely covered.
The issue of cracking clay is discussed on this blog... be sure to read it:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Need a Pattern for a Hat?

While we are on the topic of hats, I found a site that has patterns and instructions for 4 different styles of hats. Check them out:

Dyeing Tibetan Lamb Fur and Mohair

You can dye both mohair and Tibetan lamb fur for your doll's hair with Rit dyes. You can also use regular hair dye. Here are the instructions for both techniques:
For commercial hair dye

For Rit dye
 Decide on the color you want for the doll's hair. You can get a natural blonde color with a combination of yellow and tan RIT dyes. Don't use cocoa Rit thinking you are going to get brown, it turns purplish. The color chart links in previous posts about dyeing feathers should help you get just the color you want. 

Here is what you do:
  • Leave the fur on the hide.
  • If you have a large piece you can cut it into smaller pieces by cutting on the hide side only, Using a sharp blade, cut close to the hide surface, being careful not to cut the fur.
  • Boil some water; pour it into a large enough container to submerse the entire section of hide.
  • Before putting the hide in, thoroughly mix in some liquid RIT dye the color you want.
  • Put the hide into the dye bath and stir it around for 5 minutes.
  • Take it out, run clear water over it to rinse out the dye and hang it on skirt hangers to dry.
  • If the color is not what you want, you can re-dye it after it is dry.
Do not use a blow dryer on it. Air dry only.
Be sure to dye only bleached fur.
Sometimes it takes two dye baths to get the desired color.

For more detailed instructions, read this:
And finally, a photo essay of one doll maker dying some Tibetan lamb and mohair:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dyeing Feathers & Other Trim For Hats

An interesting hat will have ribbons, lace, ribbon roses, feathers and other trim applied. Some doll makers dye all their trim items to match or get the color they need for the costume they have made. You can dye cotton, silk and other natural fibers and feathers with Rit dye (the same dye used to color bleached Tibetan Lamb fur for doll hair).

Follow this link to find a color mixing chart:

Color Formula Guide from Rit:

And a little DIY advice about dyeing fabric:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sculpting Shoes On A Doll

Some doll makers sculpt a shoe directly onto a doll's foot while the clay is still soft. To do that you 'draw' the shape of the shoe directly on the foot with a very thin needle tool (like a beading needle). The foot area is then slightly recessed to visually separate the shoe from the foot, then baked and painted.

Another way to make a clay shoe is to add polymer clay over a baked foot using the series baking technique. When making a shoe with a heel, you need to have a heel shape already on the baked foot. Starting with a baked foot with a heel makes it easy to add just a very thin layer of clay over all surfaces so your shoe will bake quickly. You can use any color of polymer clay so no painting is required.

This link will take you to a 4 page photo tutorial that demonstrates how one doll maker added polymer clay to form a shoe directly onto a hard foot:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sculpt A Small Baby Doll

This doll maker has a 2-part tutorial on making small baby dolls. The tutorial demonstrates several ways of making armatures, including head modules and under-sculpting. Several small scale baby dolls are completed in the work in progress photos. Check it out here:
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Can't See Your Doll Faces? Try A Magnifying Lamp!

To make a quality small doll you need to sculpt and paint it under a magnifying lamp. You may find that it is confusing to shop for a magnifying lamp, because magnifying lamps come in various lens dimensions, lens shapes (round or square), bulb types, diopters, and clamp –on, and floor and desk stands. So which to choose?

The most important thing to consider (aside from where you want to put the lamp and how much you want to spend) is to get a lens that will enlarge as much as possible at the correct focal distance for how you work.

The diopter of the magnifying lens refers to the power of the lens, i.e. how much it will enlarge. Focal length refers to the distance at which a lens will make an image appear to be in focus. So why do you need to know this? If you want to work on a doll head under a magnifier lamp, you do not want the sculpting tool or paint brush to hit the lamp. You must have enough space to work under the lens. To calculate the power of a lens needed to focus at a particular distance, first convert the distance you need work into centimeters, and then divide 100 cm by that number. The result is the dioptric power. Another way to determine that is to consult a chart. One is found here:

Clear as mud? Try taking a doll head and sculpting tool and placing it under various lens power lamps set up for display at an art store  : )

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Wire To Use?

What wire to use for an armature for small dolls made from polymer clay? We have found that it depends on the pose.  Here is what we wish someone had told us when we started making dolls.

·         For fixed pose dolls a single strand of wire is sufficient but you use a larger gauge (diameter) wire and it is bound together with small gauge wire. See posts on making armatures for more information.
·         For poseable dollhouse dolls, the best armature is stranded steel wire, because multiple wires twisted together have more strength before it breaks from repeated bending or becoming loose from the clay from rotating the wire as the doll is posed. We have found that 6 strands of 26 gauge wire twisted together is sufficient for a dollhouse scale doll.
·         For both fixed pose and poseable dolls the wire can be augmented with tiny brass tubes with the limb wires threaded through. The tube reinforces the armature for added strength, to prevent stress cracks in the clay and to attach the doll to a base.

Some metals are too soft or too stiff; you need one that is stiff enough for the doll’s legs to stand without flexing but soft enough to bend at the joints.  Galvanized steel and aluminum are the 'go to' wire types. Each metal wire has its own properties. Some doll makers use Fun Wire; it is plastic coated and is compatible with polymer clay.  Others choose copper or brass wire, but they are very soft.

All metals oxidize. It is a good idea to wrap any wire armature with masking tape, floral tape or aluminum tape prior to applying polymer clay because it keeps the oxidation from showing through the clay. It also keeps your hands clean because metal leaves a residue when you touch it and then transfers to your clay leaving dark marks. Some doll makers coat the wire with a white glue or corrosion resistant liquid (like Rustolum paint).

Cost  and availability are also a factor; both aluminum and galvanized steel are affordable from a home improvement type store (aluminum wire is sometimes sold as electric fence wire). Aluminum wire is also sold as armature wire from art suppliers. Hobby supply stores carry many types of wire. Tiny brass rods and tubes are available from hobby stores. 

Here is another doll makers opinion about wire:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More About Metal Armatures

Most polymer clay dolls have a metal armature embedded inside. Armatures can be made from a variety of metals; common types for small dolls are aluminum and galvanized steel wire, aluminum tape, copper tubes, and aluminum foil.

Aluminum tape is used to secure wires together.  All aluminum tapes are rated for maximum temperature. Some take higher temperatures than others. If baked at a higher temperature than rated, the tape will bake without damage to the aluminum surface but the glue becomes soft and melts. A tape rated at a temperature lower than that used to cure polymer clay (up to 280 degrees F) does not seem to react badly to that firing temperature because covering the tape with aluminum foil and masking tape may shield the tape from the higher temperatures.

Copper Tubing is used to increase strength and/or to function as a stand or connection to a base. Wire is threaded inside the tube and is secured by tape or crimping.

 Aluminum Foil is used to pad the armature. It bulks out the doll body to reduce the thickness of polymer clay covering the surface. You need to compress the foil lightly so air pockets have room to expand inside the body during baking (air expands when heated and could crack the clay). Some doll makers do not recommend using aluminum foil for small dolls.

 Masking Tape or Floral Tape is used to cover all metal surfaces of the armature (wire, tape, tubing, and foil) to keep the polymer clay from picking up oxidation from metal surfaces. Wrapping armatures in masking tape also keeps your hands clean and avoids getting the clay dirty while sculpting. Covering the armature helps hide the metal armature under the polymer clay where it comes close to the surface. For small dolls, masking tape is also used to secure wires together.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making Mermaid Tails & Fins

Mermaid tails and fins for small dolls can be made of any material; they are all imaginary so be creative. All use wire armatures to form the shape and add strength and are attached to your doll's main wire armature. The main armature usually goes down to where the feet (human) would have been and a loop is made for attaching the fin. I found these tutorials that show you how to make a tail and fins:

The second is a fin made from thin cellophane, such as Angelina or Fantasy Film. 

The third uses cloth for the tail.

Here is some information on two ways to create scale texture on a polymer clay tail.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Porcelain vs Clay Molds

Have a doll mold that was made for using with porcelain slip and you want to use it with polymer clay? You can press polymer clay in it but the plaster the mold is made from is softer and will show wear faster than the plaster used for making a mold for pressing clay, and once you press clay in a mold made for porcelain the plaster will absorb oil from the polymer clay. The liquid porcelain slip shrinks slightly as it is fired so a polymer clay doll will be a little larger than a porcelain one from the same mold.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Buying Polymer Clay On-Line

Here in Florida and many other parts of the country, it is HOT most of the year! During the hot months, clay can bake in your mailbox, while in transit or in the delivery truck. It is better to order clay during the cooler months but if you do order during the rest of the year, plan ahead.

Most sellers send a notice of shipping with a tracking number. If you will not be home when your mail is delivered, have an ice chest or some type of cooler close to your mail box with ice in it. You should speak to, or leave a note for your mail carrier asking him to leave any packages in the cooler. This will greatly reduce any accidental baking due to the sun.

Some sellers will freeze clay prior to shipping.  Check the shipping policy of the seller and be sure to instruct the seller that you want the clay frozen! The clay will most likely not be frozen by the time of delivery, but it will help during transit and should arrive cool.

Sellers that do ship frozen clay, and carry brands of our favorite doll making clays, can be found here:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tudor Style Costume

We found this doll maker who shares a series of photos about the making of her doll's Tudor style dress. Check it out:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mixing Viscose Wigging

To get a natural look to your doll's wig, you may want to have more than one shade of a color in the viscose wigging fiber. One method of achieving that is described here:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sculpting A Doll Using Series Baking

These links are to a 3 part photo tutorial that demonstrates the making of a doll from start to finish and includes lots of tips along the way. The doll maker sculpts an original doll from polymer clay and uses a series baking technique. Warning; doll nudity. Check it out:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Make a 'Pattern'

You can use these materials for drafting a “pattern” (you can probably think of lots more):
·         Stiff Netting
·         Paper Towels
·         Non-woven Interfacing
·         Dryer Sheets
·         Heavy Aluminum Foil
·         Old/Used Full Size Pattern Paper

Start by laying a small piece of the 'pattern' material on the doll.  With a pencil, sketch the contour of the shape you wish to make on the material. Then cut it out.  Place it on the doll again and check the fit. Then, tape or sew the first piece in position on the doll’s body so you can draw and cut additional pieces.
When you have all of your pieces, lay them out flat and cut some test-fabric. Fit the test-fabric pieces on the doll, making adjustments as needed. You can hold the test-fabric in position with tape, or by sewing or using temporary glue. Once satisfied with the fit, lay the test-fabric pieces out flat and cut your final fabric.

You can save the 'pattern' by cutting a permanent copy using plastic sheets or light card. Be sure to label the pieces.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tips About Working With Lace & Viscose

The first part of his YouTube video demonstrats using wide lace and applying it to a doll's body. The second part is a demonstration of applying viscose to a dolls head and forming a gibson style wig.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Draping Techniques

A doll’s costume needs to hang with the illusion that gravity is pulling the fabric into natural “folds” as it hangs on the figure. There are always folds where the figure bends, such as at knees and elbows. Sometimes you will want to add some motion to give the illusion of wind or that the figure is in motion.To improve your costuming skills, try these four techniques to see exactly what they do.

First is to use spray starch. To do this you must saturate the costume (on the doll) with spray starch and pull the fabric into the drape you want and let dry. This technique makes the fabric feel slightly stiff. This technique requires the use of waterproof glue or sewing. Second is heat. You can make minor adjustments to the drape with a heat gun. Heat makes the costume sag on the doll as real clothing does. Third, you can add a hidden wire in hems or seams. This technique lets you get fabric to retain a shape, such as in a hem or to hold fabric away from the doll’s body to indicate motion or wind. And finally, you can pin parts of the costume’s fabric in place and use hair spray. A light spritz of hair spray will hold fabric with less stiffness than spray starch.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Need To Determine The Scale Of Your Doll?

Many doll makers want to place their doll in a setting or add props of some kind, such as backgrounds, accessories, buildings or other types of display items. It is helpful to know the scale of the doll in order to make or collect items in the same scale as your doll. has a Guide you can read to find out how you determine scale. Find the guide here:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warming Clay

As you know, you need to condition your clay before you begin to sculpt your doll. It is usually cold and very stiff when you open the package. One way to warm the clay prior to conditioning it is to place the wrapped clay into a heating pad (the pad will not get hot enough to start to cure the clay). Here is a link to a tutorial with more information about this technique for warming, softening and applying clay:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Giving Tibetan Lamb The 'Look' You Want

Once you have a piece of Tibetan lamb hair, you need to determine if it has the 'look' you want for your doll. Is it too straight? Too curly? Or just fuzzy? You can give the hair the texture you want. Instructions can be found here:

Monday, March 5, 2012

How To Thin Beacon's Fabri-Tac Glue

Did you know you can thin Fabri-Tac glue by stirring in acetone - drop by drop - until you get the right consistency?  Lots more good information about using Fabri-Tac glue on its manufacturer's web site:

How To Dye Tibetan Lamb or Mohair

Tibetan lamb or mohair skins are available in lots of colors for use as doll hair. You can also purchase bleached Tibetan lamb or mohair skins and dye the fur yourself. Instructions to dye them are found at this web site:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

All About Mohair

One of the choices for wigging small scale dolls is mohair. Follow the link below to learn about it:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sleeve Tips

Several doll makers have offered tips for constructing and attaching sleeves onto small scale dolls that you may want to try. To read them, click on this link:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Doll Stand To Use Outdoors

If you are thinking of taking pictures of your dolls in a garden setting, you may be interested in this tutorial about making a doll stand for use outdoors:

Note that the stand is for a doll larger than 1:12 scale so you will need to modify it to suit the size of your doll.

Friday, January 13, 2012

How To Make Eyes For Your Doll

If you would like to insert pre-made eyes into your doll's head as you are sculpting it you will need a pair of glass eyes, beads or polymer clay eyes. These can be made or purchased.

Some doll makers like round eyeballs and some prefer flat backed ones. One technique for round eyeballs is to just roll tiny balls of polymer clay. Eyeballs can be soft fired or completely cured. Then insert the eyes in your doll head as you sculpt the head. The eyes can be painted before the doll head is baked or after. Experiment to find what works best for you.

Another option is to purchase ready made eyes; available in glass or polymer clay. Don't use the acrylic pre-made eyes as they don't take the heat when you bake your doll. You could also purchase white jade or other beads. White glass head pins will also work (not plastic).

So what size is correct for your doll? Click this link and scroll down to Human; the chart has the size in millimeters for various scales:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sculpting Ears

I found this excellent photo tutorial on sculpting detail to a doll's ear. Check it out:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Using Anatomy References

The Guild's 2012 Resolution: to encourage doll makers to use a reference while sculpting their dolls.

The reason to use a reference is that it is very difficult to get human anatomy to look correct without it because, when you look at people from day to day, you automatically take in important details that help you distinguish one person from another and filter out any unimportant information, such as general anatomy. this is the reason many doll makers who sculpt from memory tend to make mistakes, especially when it comes to sculpting the face!  If you keep sculpting without ever using a reference, you keep creating the same mistakes, over and over.

So doll makers, take the time to check anatomy and use a photo while sculpting. You will be surprised how quickly you will improve!