The Making of Paper Dolls

I've been working super hard over the last several weeks so I can soon introduce you to an entire line-up of lovely Fall-inspired paper doll sets! They're nearly ready (I'm on the outlining stage as we speak - you'll find out in a moment what I mean by that!) and seriously can't wait to show you the completed collection!!!

In the meantime, I'm giving you all a "backstage pass" into my studio so you can see just how each paper doll set is made...

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I love organization, but my space gets pretty constantly cluttered up with papers! I'm always writing out new ideas when they pop up in my head - and I usually prefer the old fashioned approach of doodling onto real paper.

The idea for my first doll, Hazel, just happened into my head one day - the name and everything! I wanted to create a little character who was an artist (just like me), and who would encourage the creative side of any little girl who played with her.

At this stage, all my ideas are mainly just words scribbled out, with the occasional very ugly pen sketch!

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This next stage is a bit tedious. First, using my trusty Staedtler Mars 2B or F pencil (I love them both), I copy my original Hazel doll's outline (just the middle bit, actually, unless I'm making a hat) onto several pieces of paper as templates so that all the clothing will be just the right size.

Having an outline and a bank of ideas to begin with takes away a bit of the agony that comes with staring at a blank canvas - although honestly it usually still feels quite daunting! When I've created a sketch at last, though, it's such a lovely feeling - it's a little bit like making a new friend!

When I'm satisfied with my sketches, I come up with a colour palette for each set - based on the season or what's trending, or just what would be prettiest - and write out what colours I think would work best for each part of each outfit.

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This stage is very boring to write about, so I will be succinct! I use a light box to trace my sketches onto good quality card stock so they're ready to be painted.

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This is the lengthiest and most painstaking stage - painting takes many, many hours to get all the brush strokes and details just right.

I have a love/hate relationship with painting! Liquid on a brush simply doesn't behave the same way as a nice solid pencil does - and I've always preferred drawing.

However, over the past couple of years, I've been learning how to "tame" watercolours (I use Reeves brand, because my aunt got me a set when I was very young, and I've used the same brand ever since!) and make them (mostly) do what I want them to, ha ha! Plus, mixing colours on a palette is pretty fun!

(And for those of you who are wondering why I don't just use coloured pencils instead of paints - would you believe that that takes even longer than painting does?? Ha ha, I do love coloured pencils, though - check out some of my other illustrations here.)

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Even after my little drawings have been transformed by colour, there's still a little something missing. Outlining the original pencil lines with my Faber-Castell (my favourite art supplies brand!) black "Pitt" artist pen (size XS = super fine) really makes the drawings pop!

I also use the same pen to add little dotted lines around each item as well, making it easy to cut the dolls and clothes out later.

I just love the precision of this part of the process, as well as the satisfying feeling it brings!

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Wouldn't it be nice if scanners would scan colours accurately?? Alas! That is not the world in which we live. When I place my carefully crafted paper doll originals onto the glass and press the button, the image that shows up on my computer screen is washed out, and all the colours are tinted a little bit blueish. Ugh.

So, I create these fancy little things called "layer masks" in Photoshop to adjust the colours, contrast, etc., and I test print several copies until I can get the digital image to look as close to the original as possible.

Next, I arrange the dolls and clothes and all the other accessories into a template I've created, so that, once printed, they can easily be cut to fit the packaging.


We've made it to the final steps!! Hooray! I print, cut and package all the paper doll sets right in my own home. I have a Fiskars paper cutter, and the cutest little clear sleeves with peel-and-stick flaps.

(If I'm making a brand new set, I print an extra copy and cut out all the pieces so I can photograph them, too!)

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And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this little "tour" of my art process. :)

As I mentioned way at the beginning of this post, my new Fall creations are still on stage 5 (#reallifeconfessions), and art is a fickle beast that always takes longer than I think it will - so I don't have an official launch date set in stone at the moment.

Instead, please join the Alistrations Secret Club mailing list (it's 100% free, and full of great perks you won't want to miss!) and you'll be the first to find out when the new collection is going to be released - plus you'll have access to a top-secret fall sale!!

I hope to see you there!