Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tutorial MH03: Putting kit parts on a basic doll

I'm not interested in the parts in the big Monster High Create-A-Monster kits and really not feeling the price tag for a torso that doesn't even match. So I got my paws on a stained Frankie 2.0 and a Spectra for the Bee kit and Skeleton kit.

The goals here are to use the lower legs from the kits, as well as the arms, but the Bee had damaged hands I wasn't that fond of, so I'm also modding Frankie's hand to fit the kit arms.

Tools you need are an Xacto knife or some similarly thin bladed box cutter. Optionally, you can use Epoxy to build up the leg and hand posts, which I will demonstrate.

First things first, you're going to cut along the seam on the back of the thighs to pull the lower leg out.

By far the hardest part is pulling out the lower legs. If possible get someone to help. I used cheap thin tweezers to wedge into the opening to push them apart while my sister pulled on the leg. The cheap tweezers bent all up, but did far less damage in the end then some of the other tools I tried to wedge in there. The front seam will split but its unnoticeable and easy to repair.

As you can see the post on the kit leg is longer. Inside the basic girls' thigh is a stop you could cut. The indent in the kit post I'm pretty sure would hit there. I, however, choose to not take the leg completely apart so there's less to repair on the outside. So take your blade and cut the top section off where the indent is on the kit post.

The problem now is that the kit post is the same width as the middle of the regular post. You can cut into the post at the same placement as the basic leg, but the leg will be loose. One option is to glue the leg in, but then you can't turn the leg.

I wanted a bit more stability, so I decided to use Epoxy to build up the post a bit. Epoxy can be found in the adhesive section of your local hardware store or online. I used Kwik-Plastk since I didn't have any Milliput around. Just mix up a small amount and put it on the entire post. I made a few cuts in the kit post to give the epoxy something to hold onto.

The post on the basic leg I cut down so I could see how I the epoxy needed to be cut to make the leg removable. I also rubbed epoxy into the cuts on the back of the legs. This body will be painted so I wasn't as concerned about colour match. If you aren't painting it over you can use nail acrylic to patch it.

Let the epoxy dry for a while until its really hard. You just carefully cut down the epoxy and keep testing it in the thigh to see when it fits well enough to move, but not fall out.

You don't need much at all since the post is already close in size, you just need to build up the top mostly to hold the leg in. I used similar technique on the hand posts to build them up to fit. That hands do need more epoxy to fit since the posts on the basic hands are a lot smaller than the ones in the kit. The peg length however is the same.

Now the arms themselves are easy to do. The post on the kit arms is only slightly longer the the post on the basic arm.

Step one is to trim down the kit arm post to match in length. You only need to trim about half that top section. Trim down the post a little at a time. If you cut too much you can build it back up with epoxy, but who wants to do that?

Then all you have to do is put all the parts on the basic body.

Ta da! This body still needs to be painted before I put the head on and I need to cut holes in the back for the Bee wings. I did finish my Spectra/skeleton kit girl though.

I only used half the parts for this one because I wanted to make Ingrid Visible, daughter of the Invisible Man. She just has trouble staying visible. All parts are still removable in case I ever feel the need to put them back together, though I wouldn't recommend swapping pieces a lot or the epoxy may come off.

Enjoy all the new dolls you make!

Tutorial MH02: Accesory mods

There are a lot of options for repainting the hard plastic parts. You can use pretty much anything; paint markers, acrylic paints, pastels, coloured pencils, model paints, etc. There are just a few things to keep in mind when deciding what medium to use.

Acrylic paints I tend to use a lot of for these sorts of things. Small brushes work great for tiny details, but the draw back, is it often takes a few layers of paint. Plastic is about the worst surface for acrylic.

Pencils and pastels and other dry materials will need a sealer of some sort. Mr. Super Clear is good for solid parts, but things like the shoes, not so much. Its not designed to really flex and stretch so the sealer can crack in those areas and show up white.

Paint markers are fantastic for detailing and tend to have a lot of control, but its often hard to find the small tips for hard to reach places.

I didn't really do a step by step for this, because each item is going to be different, but I will give you the steps I used. When starting, you have two options, paint over the existing paint, or be OCD like me and strip it down the the base plastic colour. Most plastics have a base colour that they are cast in. In this case I'm useing Frankie's Maul shoes and basic purse. Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner and a Magic Eraser and voila! Solid black bases to start fresh.

I sealed both with MSC (I know I said don't use it on shoes, but I can't follow even my own instructions sometimes. In the end I wipe the MSC off the black sides, but I really wanted to use coloured pencil on the shoes.)

The sole and tongue of the boots I coloured with a couple layers of coloured pencil and I gave a couple layers of pencil to the purse as well, but as I wanted the purse to look like a different material I put acrylic paint over it. I did a lot of detailing with a tiny brush and some silver paint and took off the MSC from areas the shoes would be stretching to fit. My dolls all have one 'official' look so I'm not planning to be taking the shoes off much.

So for about an hours worth of work, swapping pieces as another one dried I have this;

And that's pretty much all there is to repainting accessories. Its really easy, just takes patience since if you're using acrylic and sealer everything has to dry in between so I tend to work on more than one piece at a time.

On to clothing dyeing!

First pick the clothing and the tools. In my case, Frankie's Maul fashion and Prismacolors markers.

You can use Sharpies, they now come in a wide array of colours, and you can also use actual fabric dye. As I am only dyeing this one doll dress green, I don't need a whole box of Rit dye sitting around here.

So decide the colour you want and test in out of the way unseen spots. The dress has extra fabric inside for the seams and I tested around the waist band of the leggings.

Also think colour theory, how you mix colours. I wanted a green that popped more so I ended up colouring the blue diamonds with yellow and the red with purple. The dress got a full light green.

Also important, NEVER do this while the doll is wearing the outfit. Markers bleed and vinyl stains.

After you've finished colouring each colour, let it dry. If you add a second colour to a wet colour, it will bleed into the first. After its completely dry, wash the pieces in warm water, until it runs clear. Darker colours tend to give me trouble and bleed forever, so I actually put those in the washer with some dark clothes I'm washing. If you don't rinse out all the dye it can stain your girl. Even the Sharpies.

Dress the doll and accessorize!

The leggings ended up a bit too Christmas, even though the red squares have a purple tinge, so I went with black for the complete outfit.

And with that, Mara Nigh, daughter of the Nightmare is complete!

Tutorial MH01: Make up

This is my first Monster High tutorial for removing the face paint and repainting the faces.

The victims: Dead Tired Ghoulia, Basic Frankie, and Dead Tired Cleo (who has a quick Acrylic face up already that is getting redone)

The tools:

For removal:
1. Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner. Found in pretty much all art stores and some hobby/craft stores. Tends to be about $6 for a bottle. An alternative is nailpolish remover, but I highly discourage it because a) acetone nail polish removers are known to eat and melt plastic and b) non acetone removers are usually cloloured and stain the plastic. W&N takes almost no real scrubbing either.
2. Mr. Clean Magic Earser. I usually cut mine into inch sized cubes to last longer. One cube can usually clean one doll face.

For painting:
1. Mr. Super Clear or MSC sealer. This one is made for figures and dolls so it is safe to use. Testors can be used, but tends to be a bit gummy and colects dirt and Krylon has been known to melt some types of plastic. MSC is hard to find, but ebay usually has it and some hobby stores carry it or can order it for you if you ask. Usually runs from $15 to $20, but you will get a lot of uses out of 1 can.
2. What you're colouring the face with. I tend to mix mediums so I use chalk pastels (make sure they are not oil based), Prismacolour coloured pencils, and either watercolour (the kind in tubes, not the cakes) or acrylic paint.
3. Brushes. Make up brushes work well for powders like the chalk pastels and for paint brushes I tend to get size 0 or 10/0 or just rip out bristles from old brushes so I can do finer details. Art stores usually have a few on clearance for a dollar too.
3. Toothpicks or a pin. These are good for clean up rough edges or getting into the had to reach spots like the corner of the mouth. A tooth pick dipped in water is magical and doesn't require you to start all over.
4. Clear nailpolish or a high gloss finish. I use Finger Paints clear top coat because it looks wet even when dry and even years later hasn't turned yellow on my other dolls.

Removing the face up:

Take one of your Magic Eraser cubes and get it pretty well soaked in the brush cleaner. I recommend tipping the bottle 2 or 3 times for the first time as the magic eraser will soak it up and store it.
Then you just scrub. The Magic Eraser will probably seem like its coming to pieces, but this is normal. You shouldn't need to scrub real hard and keep rotating the cube around as the paint builds up and seems to just be smearing around. If you have a stubborn bit you can soak the spot for a minute and it should come off easier.
For the corner of the eyes you can squeeze the head like so:

A toothpick dipped in the brush cleaner will get out the bits in the mouth with little fuss too.
After the face is clean, give her a bath and voila! Faceless doll!

Word of warning! I removed Frankie's stitches from her body and there is some weird sealer on the hard plastic bits that got all sticky and peeled off. Just took a little more elbow grease and an extra scrubbing with the brush cleaner, but it all comes off and doesn't damage the body at all.
You'll also note I took off Frankie's bolts from her neck. A little soft pressure with an Xacto blade did the job. Just be careful not to cut yourself or press too hard or you'll cut into her shoulder.
And that is all it takes to take off the factory face paint! This also works after you've done a face up. W&N will take off any sealer you put on, so make sure anything used for this part is cleaned up and out of reach so you don't take off too much and have to start over!

Painting a Face:

I cannot recommend enough, if you have never painted a doll face, practice on paper. Print out a blank photo of the girls or something, but the curves of the face make it even more difficult so if this is your first time, getting the idea on paper even just once to reference can be a big help. Me, I just dive on in these days.

Two ways to start. You can spray sealer for a base coat to work on. The MSC gives the work area a bit more tooth (ie. makes it less smooth). Or you can be like me. I tend to put my blush on before the first coat of sealer. I'm a bit heavy handed with blush so the smooth surface grabs less and makes it easier to rub off to get it the right shade. Either way works fine!

Before sealing though You want to cover the hair, unless you are rerooting the hair, in which case pull it all out first to save you the trouble. I use a plastic sandwich bag and some masking tape. Cover as much of the hair as you can. You can also substitute the baggie with paper or paper towel. I forgot to take a photo of the hair tape, but it should look like this:

Then just spray a light coat of the sealer. It will look a little wet, let it sit for about 10 - 25 minutes to make sure its really dry. Also, please please please spray in an open area or by an open window. MSC smells a little fruity, but you don't want to be inhaling it much. Also be careful what you spray on. Use a piece of cardboard behind the doll or something you can toss out at the end. Also if it is super cold, the MSC will turn white and flakey. Winter is not the best time for spraying. Humid hot weather isn't either, but that can be combated easier because you can open the window on your cool house for the short time you are spraying and not have ill effects with the MSC.

Now, for the blushing. I like chalk pastels because they are quick and easy and powder nicely. Just take a razor blade of some kind and scrap a little off onto a palette or in my case, paper plate.

You can use one colour or you can mix the colours. I used a little white and peach with red. Mix it up with a toothpick or the end of your brush or even the razor blade. Use a make up brush to dust on the blush. It is designed to hold dry pigments like this and is super cheap at Walmart or any drug store. Or ask family or friends for an old one. Just remember to clean it out before using.

I like the dab method better than the painting method. Just dab the blush over the area and lightly blow away the excess. You may have to do it more than once and if you feel like you want it darker and its just not taking, spray another layer of sealer.You can make it as dark or light as you please and if you don't like it just use water to wipe it off and try again. I blush the lips too, just because it adds a nice base. If you are doing a more realistic face you can blush a little in the corner of the eyes nearest the nose as well, but for this tutorial I'm doing a more Monster High style face up.

After blushing, spray with sealer. You can spray on the MSC anytime you feel like you've got something just right and you're afraid you'll mess it up. I generally have about 7 layers to a face up like this, but I also double up the eyes and the lips. It is all a personal preference to you and what you are comfortable with and what makes you feel safest.

The white of the eyes is by far, my least favorite. If I had my way I would cut out the eyes and put in glass ones, but I want them to fit in with the other ghouls. The key here is to make it look white and you cannot do that with one layer unless you use paint. Acrylic tends to be thick and bumpy. Model Masters paints are thin yet rather opaque, but they never seem to dry right and always seem sticky to me. Watercolours are good as long as you don't thin them out too much. Chalk Pastel and coloured pencil are my medium of choice and what I'll be showing in here, just know that there are other options.

I double up a layer of white pencil and a dusting of chalk pastel to smooth out the strokes and give it a bit more oomph per layer. Tip! If you are using a coloured pencil and its not going on well, try sharpening it.

Layer one:

Layer three:

Spray between layers obviously. You may want/need more than 3 layers and that is fine. Just come back ere when you are satisfied with the white. I can wait. As you can see, I went a bit outside the lines of the eye shape. Its going to be covered over with black so I'm not too worried. If you have another girl with a factory face you can have her handy to see the sort of shape they use. Spray when done as well.

Next you want to draw on the coloured part of the eyes. Then you just draw a circle. Start light and small and work your way out, checking often to make sure that the eyes line up and your doll isn't looking cross eyed. The eyes will look kinda buggy. I also draw the circle closer to the top than the bottom, because I'm going for a more official Monster High look.

I also use this layer to add colour to the lips. Don't ask me why I blush Ghoulia's lips pink at the start, because I don't know. I wasn't thinking. For the lips you just out line the shape you want, I want my lips a little less full than the factory girls. Again its pretty well outlined by the face shapes so not all that complicated. Sharpen the pencil well to get the inside too. Again, I dust my lips with a little pastel to smooth out the lines from the pencil, but that's not needed. Spray with sealer.

The next layer I take a darker shade than the main eye colour and colour the upper half to give the eye some shading. I also outlined the lips with a slightly different shade. Around the eye, use a darker shade of 'eyeshadow' and only go about halfway of the full height you want the eyeshadow. Now she should look like this:

And spray. Remember, any mistakes or rough edges or even just mismatched shapes can be cleaned up with a wet toothpick before you seal it, so don't freak and erase the whole thing.

Next I touch up the eyes and lips and add the rest of the eyeshadow and dust the eyeshadow with some pastels to blend it a bit better. So now your bug eyed beauties (don't worry, this won't last much longer) should look like this:

Spray~ And move on to eyebrows. First determine the colour. Usually eyebrows will match the hair, but sometimes they won't. For Ghoulia, I went with blue, Cleo got black, and Frankie I started white and then added some black to the same layer to grey it out since the white looks a little odd.

First you want to draw your guide line. You can look at the factory versions if you need some reference for how they certain shapes fall over the face because they do not really follow the above eye ridges. (sorry for the blur on this photo. I didn't check it before moving on.)

Gradually build off these lines constantly checking to make sure they line up how you want them to and that they match each other. Eyebrows can be tricky. I redid mine a couple times so try not to get discouraged if you're having trouble. If you want realistic eyebrows, instead of shading in, take the sharpened pencil and make short little flicks for each individual hair.

Spray those brows!

Finally we detail the eyes. You can stick with the pencil method, but I love rich blacks so I outline with paint. Usually watercolour, but for some reason it was having a weird water and oil reaction today so I opted for my good ol' back up, acrylic. It works just as well, but dries super fast and is thicker than watercolours.

This is where you want the smallest paintbrush you can find. Even if it means ripping out or trimming down a brush. I start by outlining the main around the whites shape. Thicken up the upper lid until satisfied. The first main eyelash has a bit of a guide if you follow the shape of the head and then just work your way towards the center. Lower lashes are easily done by painting the lower line and pulling a little paint down with the brush. I kept my other Frankie handy for quick references too. Outline the coloured circle and then add the pupil. See how less buggy it looks?

I opted not to add the eyelid line also, but that's personal preference. Also you will get frustrated trying to paint it on perfectly. Toothpick and water here are your best friends. Dip one end in water and rub at the rough and mishapen edges and use the dry end to soak up the excess water and paint. Spray and Bam!

Beusty marks and freckles can be added at any stage. I wanted Cleo's darker so I used paint here.

Spray sealer! Its almost your last time!

Eye highlights are my favorite thing. They bring the eye to life. I went with the basic original eye highlighting style and just used white paint. Little dab on the upper pupil and two little dashes below.

Make sure you do both eyes the same! Light only comes from one direction generally. Spray. And ta dum!

Nailpolish or gloss is used now. I just add it to the lips to give the lips a glossy look. You can add it to the eyes as well, but I have yet to come to a way I like my eyes glossed so I don't for these types. Remove hair covers and vogue.

And that is how I paint a face! Sorry it was kinda wordy, I was trying to think of everything that you should know. Practice! The more you do them, the more things you'll find work for you or better. Most of my techniques come from much bigger dolls with glass eyes and real lashes so mine usually do not look the prettiest. I hope at least some of the tips were helpful.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment me any questions or problems!

Welcome to the Toy Box

I play with toys a lot. I'm never satisfied with just buying a doll or toy and keeping it as is. I also draw and sew, so this is blog about a lot of stuff. Maybe even cupcakes.