Sunday, January 8, 2012

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!


  1. I just stumbled onto this tutorial from a google search, and it's brilliant. It answered alot of questions I had.
    How long do you need to let the MSC dry between each step?

    1. I generally wait at least 15 minutes after spraying. If it still looks shiney at all I wait another 15. I've smudged enough perfect layers by noy waiting long enough I've learned much patience.

  2. Awesome. You were very detailed. I've read a lot of these and they never even specified chalk or oil pastels. Thanks!

  3. Awesome. You were very detailed. I've read a lot of these and they never even specified chalk or oil pastels. Thanks!