Friday, March 4, 2011

How I Make My Dolls

I have had a few people asking how I make my dolls so I thought I'd post about the process that I go through.

I learned a lot of these tricks through Jack Johnston's Art Doll book, his site is : and he is a seasoned pro!  I think the book was $20 about 5 years ago. 

The first thing I do is build anarmature of the doll.  I have been pretty comfortable with 8-10 inch dolls that vary by body type rather than scale. The armature has arms, a spine, hips, legs and a long neck rod.  I found some alluminum rods and brass tubes at the Hobby Lobby that are working out great to transition from the armature into the foot mounts.  This works by sculpting the feet/shoes and partial legs over the brass tubes.  Then clipping the armature rods at the shin, I slide the brass tube over the armature rod, and the bottom half of the tube will fit over the base mounts.  

I then pad out and soft sculpt the body.  I use alluminum as the inner core, a constrictive paper tape to bind it, gause to add belly bulge and other features, seal edges with Fabri-Tac so the gause cant shift or roll, and finally finish with a custom body sock.  The soft sculpted body includes the pelvis, torso, shoulders, 1/2 to 3/4 of the arms and 1/2 to 3/4 of the legs.  The polymer pieces are specifically sculpted to butt
up to the soft sculpture partial limbs so that there are no gaps.

The first thing I sculpt is the head.  I start with a ball of alluminum sheeting and compress it into the size of the skull.  I then deside where the eye sockets should be and add those in.  I also create a hole up through the neck area where the armature will fit in.  I prefer to make my skulls rather than buying pre fabricated because I can make the features more unique.  I then insert glass eyes and some thin layers of polymer to hold them in.  I always use ProSculpt Polymer Clay -Light fairy color is my favorite because its softer than the darker pigments.  I add the clay around the head and sculpt the features.  I often create a sketch of the doll before hand to help fine tune the features. I add the neck and ears and then cure the polymer.

Next I sculpt the hands/arms and feet/legs.  The legs are sculpted with the brass rod cores and then a compressed alluminum sheeting, and finally the polymer.  The arms/hands have no inner core but they have a hollow center-like a tube-where the armature will slide into.  All of these solid core techniques make it so that I never sculpt the polymer more than 1/4 thick.  That ensures that curing times are always accurate and fully effective.  This keeps the doll more durable against falls or other accidents.

Next I paint the polymer pieces, seal them, and slide them onto the armature to make sure they are all just right.  I then make the dolls' clothes and assemble the doll.  The last thing I do before attaching the head to the armature is hand-apply the hair.  I like to use Tibetan Lamb hair because it is so realistic on the dolls- I buy mine from the Morezemore shop on Ebay.  Then I wet and style the hair, perminantly affix all pieces and slide the doll over his/her foot mounts on the base.


  1. Shannon,
    You are so wonderful! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! What a generous lady you are!
    I appreciate this so much!!

  2. Thank you Shannon this was a great tutorial.

  3. This was great, Shannon! Looks like it will take me a year to build my doll. It's the custom body sock that will slow me down...but then this was to guide us and I'll probably come up with my own?

    Thanks so very much,

  4. Lisa I'll put together another post to give you tips on the body sock :)