How I Art Doll - ArtDoll Tutorial

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EtsyBanner by StorybookCreatures

**I have also put this tutorial over on Google Docs, it is easier to edit, looks cleaner and is easier to navigate, I hope it will be more useful for everyone. Here's the link to my new tutorial:…  ...I'm not done typing the whole thing up yet... shhhhhhhh, I'm just excited to provide a more useful tool for ya'll that I'm proud of(cause this here is a hot mess).**

How I Art Doll

By Kelsey Wilkins
Storybook Creatures
A reference for poseable art doll crafting basics.

    I have been making art dolls since 2015. They are very complex projects that require skills in multiple art fields and take a lot of patience and perseverance. The style of doll that I make requires the use of these skills: painting, sculpting, basic construction, sewing, trimming fur, understanding of anatomy, problem solving, and I suppose you could include photography in the list too. You’ll also need knowledge of many tools and materials. The fastest I ever made a doll was 2 weeks, my sheep doll in 2015 with a very simple design. I meticulously timed the making of my Halloween dragon made in 2016, for a total of 30 hours. Generally, a doll will take me about a month or more to complete. Surely I will get faster with experience, but I will always take time and care to make something excellent and special. If I’m gonna spend a long time making something, I’m gonna make it good! When I made my first doll, I was impatient so I rushed and cut corners, and I later regretted that I could have done better. Make something you can really cherish and be proud of, for yourself, cause you’re awesome. ♥

What is an art doll? They are dolls that are hand made pieces of art, often made with a wide variety of materials. I’m not sure where the line is that seems to cross into plush/stuffed animals and sculpture.
Although they are not toys, some artists make their dolls sturdy enough to be handled by kids.

    The way I make my dolls is not the only way to make dolls, it’s just what works for me, the creative methods that I enjoy. Experiment and find what works for you! The purpose of this guide is to help you get introduced into making poseable art dolls.

    My goals for my guide have always been: 

    1. To hopefully save others from heartache caused by catastrophic crafting failure. My first doll was a bit of a disaster and fell apart.
    2. To hopefully save others from wasting money on doll materials that end up not working. It can be expensive to get started, especially if you have to keep replacing parts.
    3. To encourage others to create and explore creativity.

Please feel free to post comments if you have questions. You can also contact me elsewhere:
Instagram: StorybookCreaturesArtDolls (Doll focused account) or StorybookCreatures

Facebook: StorybookCreatures
Deviantart: StorybookCreatures
Youtube: StorybookCreatures

Table of Contents

Click the title to go to each section!
Materials I use, about them, and why I use them. 
   2. Eyes
Painting Glass cabochons for doll eyes.
What makes your doll poseable.
Face, ears, paws, and even more if you want, can be made from polymer clay.
The most important information here is using the RIGHT paint sealers.
Giving the doll shape and squish.
Creating a unique pattern and sewing tips.
Flocking, whiskers, haircuts.
Photos of  my finished kitsune doll in different poses.

Extra Guides

A few methods and how they worked or didn’t work for me.
Moldable plastic that becomes soft at temperatures much lower than other plastics. Makes delicate parts like horns unbreakable.
    11. Special Thanks to and Links to Helpful Resources
Other art doll tutorials and polymer clay guides. (Below)

Special thanks to:

    Anya Boz - - Her art dolls were the first ones of this kind I had seen, poseable, intricately detailed, furry, mesmerizing. I had gotten into raising rabbits and tanning their fur, but I had no kinds of projects in mind for the fur. So I googled something along the lines of “projects(or was it art?) made with rabbit fur”. One of Anya’s earlier works made with rabbit fur upcycled from a rabbit fur coat showed up and I nearly died. I was instantly hooked on the concept of poseable art dolls. I’m not sure how I never saw or heard of these things until 2015. I think her firework tiger is my favorite of her work.

    Magweno - - Her tutorials got me started - Part 1: and Part 2: As far as I know she doesn’t make art dolls anymore, I miss her, the whole art doll community misses her, we hope you’re doing well and enjoying life Maggie! ♥ Her ivory and gold kirin Elmis was always my favorite of her work.

    More Tutorials on Deviantart:

    XPantherArtX - How I learned to make whiskers out of paint brush bristles:

    Rhiannon Wolf - How I learned to flock fur:

    NecoStudios - How I learned to save my tails from being too pointy:…

    EvieCat - Another tutorial that helped me get started:

Links to Related Resources:

    Garie’s at GarieInternational - Thorough strength testing for several brands of polymer clay. This is what helped me decide to go with Sculpey Premo! brand:…

    The Blue Bottle Tree - An amazing resource for all things polymer clay:                 Their test on 41 different sealers for polymer clay:…                 Their test on spray sealers for polymer clay:… 

    New Clay News - Another good resource for clay, including air dry clays:…


And that’s the end of my tutorial!
I hope you enjoyed my guide, whether you’re here to make a doll, here to find techniques for use in other art forms, or just here out of curiosity!
Go and make something fun!

© 2015 - 2021 StorybookCreatures
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Beautiful work. Thank you for sharing this!

StorybookCreatures's avatar

Thank you! And you're welcome! :)

TornWingXx's avatar

I've been watching videos on these and I was like I NEED TO MAKE THESE. Whenever covid is over and I can get the materials I will try it out :D

StorybookCreatures's avatar
NanoBanana's avatar

Thank you for writing this all out! I can only imagine how long it took to make it understandable >v>'

I'm really hoping to try making my own art doll sometime soon. The closest I've made are these miniatures I made last year. They're entirely made of Fimo and don't seem to be as durable as I was hoping they'd be (the Fimo is chipping around the wire joints sadly ;v; ). I'm planning on trying out some of the thermoplastic you mentioned in the hopes of making a more durable doll ^_^

Oh! I was going to ask. With regards to trimming the fur, I've seen a lot of art dolls some others have made where it looks kinda choppy and not as smooth as I'd personally prefer. Do you have any tips on how to avoid obvious "chop" lines? I read through your Finishing Touches section, but I was just wondering if there are any other tips that could help a novice like me ;v;

StorybookCreatures's avatar

You're welcome! I did do quite a few revisions haha.

Nice! They look great! I'd call those art dolls too. I think art dolls are kind of any "doll" that's hand made.

Ahh.. I've heard making bjds out of polymer clay gives the same problem, chips at the joints. I think Cosclay would fix your problem, it's a polymer clay rubber hybrid. Thin pieces are SUPER flexible, I'm not sure if it can chip in thicker pieces, I haven't used it yet. The best joints you could possibly make for limbs with sculpted parts would be ball joints, elastic strung like ball jointed dolls(bjds), or interlocking parts like action figures. From what I hear they can be tricky to figure out, but it might be something you like!

Thermo plastic is extremely durable but it's tricky to sculpt, it's definitely useful for art and household repairs.

As for trimming the fur neatly, if you're using an electric trimmer, keep your downward pressure on the doll consistent(or as consistent as you can). You can also refine with scissors after. Trimming large chunks of fur with scissors will cause choppiness. I usually start with some big blunt cuts on the lower legs since I remove the most there, and then cut little bits to refine and shape it. I do have a video on youtube if you haven't seen it. Try petting the fur backwards to get it to stand out straight and you'll be able to notice any gaps in the difference of length. And don't drive yourself too crazy trying to get it perfect, because the fur doesn't always lay the same way, it changes as it's handled. Hope that helps!

NanoBanana's avatar

Thank you for the reply!

I'll definitely give Cosclay a look since that sounds like the perfect compromise. I do plan to try sculpting with thermoplastic as well, for the experience if nothing else, since I'd really like for any new dolls I make to be able to put up with some manhandling. xD

Ah, I didn't think of raising the fur up by petting it backwards. I'll definitely have to get some practice in with the electric trimmers as well. It'd be heart breaking to mangle the fur after sewing everything together. But yes! I'll definitely go give that Youtube video a watch.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! This has all definitely helped and I can only hope to put your advice to work soon >v<

Have a fabulous day!

StorybookCreatures's avatar

You're welcome!

Haha, I agree, if you're going to put that much work into a project, it'd be nice to have it last for a long time!

So far I have only really messed up the fur on one doll while trimming, my first doll, so don't feel discouraged if you don't do well the first time. That doll is actually in pieces right now, the armature is broken and too weak, I threw out the fur cause I did such a bad job trimming it, I had even removed a piece from straight down the back and glued it shut cause it was too round but after that it was too skinny... I had hot glued everything instead of sewing, it did not feel nice to hold. And then I also used the wrong paint sealer that never cured, so I plopped some good sealer on top which wrinkled and warped over time so I'm scraping that plus the paint off. I hate to "update" my very first doll because it's the example of where I started, but it was a gift for my mom and it's in real bad shape.

No problem! It's nice to help people avoid the mistakes I did on my first doll. Inspiring and enabling other people to create is one of the best parts of being an artist.

Thanks! You have a fabulous day too!

CrowClaws's avatar
This was SO helpful, I’ve just gotten into watching the making of art dolls and they are something I’ve wanted to try for years. This was super informative for me, thank you for putting it all together. Your dolls are beautiful! 
StorybookCreatures's avatar
Awesome!! :) and you are welcome! I originally wrote it up because I was disappointed in the lack of guides for making poseable art dolls. Now there are quite a few, as well as lots of videos on youtube!!! ❤
WumpusthePotatoMumph's avatar
Do you have to pour resin on the clay or can you just let the clay dry by itself?
I know it might crack but will it crack if you bake it?
StorybookCreatures's avatar
There are two kinds of polymer clay, air dry and bake. You do not have to put resin on either. Bake polymer clay has to be baked or it will stay maleable forever. It can crack in the oven if you don't condition the clay before use. Also, thermal shock can cause cracks-put the piece in the oven before it preheats and let it cool slowly to prevent this. Air dry will dry when left outside of the bag. You might? be able to bake air dry clay, I have never used before.
WumpusthePotatoMumph's avatar
so I have oven bake clay and am finishing up the front paws before i bake it, how do I condition it so it won't crack?
StorybookCreatures's avatar
Watch this video on youtube! :) She taught me how to condition my clay.
WumpusthePotatoMumph's avatar
thank you, and sorry for the EXTREMELY LATE REPLY. I couldn't get into my account for a while
StorybookCreatures's avatar
Haha, that's ok. I hardly check DA anymore because it usually gives me trouble on my phone. If only they had a nice app like Instagram~
emilizz's avatar
i want to make an art doll of some sort to Play with- anything i can use to make this so? i want to pose and play with it. 
emilizz's avatar
any way to avoid using fur?
StorybookCreatures's avatar
You can use any kind of fabric to cover your doll, does not have to be real fur or faux fur. Some artists use scaley fabric, and sequin fabric.
Moonbli1231's avatar
Yes, One question... Would it be cheaper to buy all of these materials and make one or just buy one for 150$
StorybookCreatures's avatar
Depends. If you're making a more complex doll, like one with wings, you'll need a bigger variety of materials. What materials you already have or can get from someone you know helps, my Dad let me use his pliers, epoxy and wire to start off.

If you make a doll with soft paws and soft ears you will only need clay for the face, 2oz bars of Sculpey Premo are about $3-6. You can make easy eyes by rolling two balls of the clay and baking them, then they will keep their shape as you sculpt the face around them. Yes you can bake polymer clay more than once without hurting it. Having soft paws also means no worries about delicate clay feet or needing to reinforce them.

If you have fake flowers, like on wreaths or table center pieces you can take them apart and use them as feathers, just glue or sew them on. Felt sheets can be cut into feather shapes and used the same way.

A sack of small rocks from your driveway can be used to weigh down the hips to help the doll balance, nothing fancy needed there.

Most people already have paint, you need water based paint for polymer clay. You do not need to worry about sealing the paint, just be careful with your doll to not scratch it.

If you have a thrift store you can look for fur coats or stoles. I got a vintage fox fur stole at mine for $25, enough fur for a couple of dolls. Getting to upcycle is pretty cool in my opinion. You'll need probably about a yard of fur/fabric. You can get small amounts of different colors on Etsy, though I'm not sure how the prices fair.

Have an old pillow or stuffed animal? You can take it apart for the stuffing. You can also brush out yarn to use as stuffing.

So if you have everything except fur and clay, you can make a doll for about $30.

Hope that helps!
Tammysoul's avatar
WOW THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS!!I am always serching for tutorials on dolls you hit the nail on the head...Awesome awesome awesome!!!!
StorybookCreatures's avatar
You're welcome! (: I'm glad it is useful to you! More and more people are making doll tutorials, it's great to see the unique way people make things.
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