I keep getting asked the same questions about doll making and unfortunately I don’t have time to answer them, so i collected all the info i have here. If you have really specific questions(ei: My silicone isn’t setting up, why?) feel free to ask.
There is no magic bullet answer for making BJDs except to say “TRY.” Learned by doing. It’s the only way you’re going to improve.
Important! The biggest misconception people have is that making their own doll will be cheaper to get what they want. It’s not. It’s about the same price in total. Unless you’re really passionate about art and have a great track record for getting huge projects done, you’re probably better off just saving your money slowly and buying a company doll you really like. Making a doll is time consuming and requires engineering skills as well as art skills. Anyone can do it, but not instantly. It will take time, heart, and hard work no matter what level of artist you are.
1. How do I make a doll?
Noah’s doll tutorial
This is a really, really good place to start.
2. What do you sculpt your dolls in?
Depending on the doll I use paperclay, super sculpey, or apoxie sculpt. Pop those names into google and you will find a variety of places that sell them. Each clay has a different hardness, durability, work time, curing process, and weight. I suggest giving them each a chance to see which one you like. Paperclay dolls are weak and don’t take a lot of strain. Super Sculpey is strong but brittle and will break under compression over time. Apoxie sculpt is very hard, durable, but has a short work time of 1-2 hours and cures over night.
3. Where can I get silicone/resins from?
Smooth-on.com Alumilite.com Polytek.com bity.com these are all stateside companies. I have no idea what is/isn’t available in other countries. I suggest getting a kit from smooth on or alumilite to get you started. they all have tons of tutorials on mold making and casting. Again, each resin and silicone has it’s own properties.
4. Will you make a tutorial on this?
In the past few months the requests have started to get more and more demanding and rude. I like to be helpful and provide information for people… but I don’t have to supply the information. I think the message that really sticks in my mind is someone who said they absolutely hate my dolls but they want me to teach them how to make dolls anyway. :/ I’m sorry. I’m not trying to keep the information from you… the information is already out there. You just have to spend some time researching. There are some great sculpting and casting books out there as well. Look for them.
Making a BJD means teaching yourself a variety of skills and then applying them to doll making.
5. How do I make a mold?
6. How do I make the doll hollow?
Build the limbs over straws. For the body, you can use either aluminum foil(and pull it out later) or make a 3d box out of chipboard. I have a video on that if you look at my youtube channel. it’s Making a BJD 01 i think.
7. Where can I get more information/help?
The Joint is a BJD-creation forum run by several accomplished artists. they’re all very helpful and wonderful. Join it.
8. Where do I get ball-joints from?
This is a tricky one. The easy answer is that anything spherical can generally be used as a joint. When I first started working on dolls I literally went to every single craft, toy and hardware store in town gathering as many spherical things as I could. The more perfect your sphere the better your joint will move.
The easiest thing to do is get wooden balls and beads and cut the holes into the slots used for joint movement(there’s a tutorial on the shape and how to make simple molds for more joints in my deviant art tutorials linked above). Ball bearings are also wonderful, but you’ll have to make molds of them and then press your material into the molds.
Pulkifee and I also have released 3d modeled spheres available for print on Shapeways.com You can find my store here, once i remember where her store is I’ll update with another link to it! These balls are pretty expensive, I know. I’m sorry. 3d printing is very expensive but a really useful tool.
9. Will you sell me/give me your junk casts?
No. I sell bits and bobs when I sell them. Please don’t ask me for them. When/if I DO have broken bits(which are usually NOT dolls or faces), I sell them on my etsy shop.
10. How do I get my doll cast by someone else? How do I set up for that?
I really suggest casting your doll yourself before going this route as it’s very expensive and if the original is not extremely sturdy it can be damaged in the molding process. However, you can talk to Grace at Jpopdolls.net for information on pro-casting.
11. How much do you pay for your individual pro-casts?
More than you think. The initial investment is large. If I sold off my entire stock in one go I would make a good profit, however I’ve never done that. I usually sell enough dolls that I can pay off the order without taking out a loan. Over the course of several years I will probably be able to sell off the remaining stock but there’s no guarantee. The doll market is very fickle.
I go with pro-casting not because it’s cheaper, but because it’s a more consistent, professional quality in a larger quantity than I can produce myself(I can only produce maybe 5 dolls a month on my own). I’m sure if I made doll making my only job(I am employed as a 3d modeler for video games) I could possibly produce the same quality and quantity. However, making my rent every month would become a crap shoot, I would no longer have health insurance, and I’d be pulling 16 hour days/6 day work weeks. For sake of sanity, i keep my day job which I thankfully generally enjoy.
This stuff isn’t that hard, but it does require a lot of work on your part and a willingness to make mistakes and move past them.