Sculpting a BJD - Finishing Touches
I’ve been talking about sculpting your own Ball-Jointed Doll with this series of articles. With our previous ones, I discussed the first steps and sculpting joints. Now, it’s time to cover the final touches!
I believe that sculpting the smaller details is what differentiates a good doll from an excellent one. For example, a striking hand pose, detailed feet, visible muscle definition? These things work together with simpler parts to create dolls that are cohesive and look intricately designed. With everything being one-of-a-kind, let your imagination run wild and sculpt your own creations! That's an advantage factory-made dolls can't offer you because they're mass produced. So make sure you use it and make something completely your own!
If you're not sure how to get a realistic look, use photo references. I like to draw all the changes I want to make with a pencil right on top of the clay. Seeing it all before sculpting or carving can help you visualize the end result.
I often combine two techniques for my sculptures - painting with an incredibly tiny watercolour brush and scratching after the clay has dried.
Adding layers can make a big difference. If you're working with air-dry clay, it tends to squish together and get mushy if you don't wait for the previous layer to dry. That can mean not getting clear and crisp details in your sculpture--unless you know the technique for sculpting in layers.
If you're interested in sculpting realistic details, check out my BJD sculpting masterclass.
Once you've sculpted the majority of the doll's body, now is a good time to start stringing it up. To test this, it's best to do it every once in a while to see how the joints move and if everything is put together correctly. For testing purposes, use simple knots rather than S-hooks or high quality elastic.
Stringing might seem challenging at first, but I’ll show you a good tutorial to make it easier. Most ball-jointed dolls are assembled with two elastic pieces. One thinner (around 1.5mm) for the arms, and one much more substantial (around 3mm) for the rest of the body.
Not all products are perfect when they're manufactured, and that's why we offer polishing and priming services.
One of the most tedious parts of the process is sanding. Sanding can take a long time, so be patient! You'll need to buy papers in different grits (the higher the number, the finer the paper). I start with medium-grit sandpaper to remove and polish rough clay, then move on to finer sandpapers. The most important part is to pay attention not just to the number and name of paper but also its quality when shopping for paper.
Priming is an essential step if you want to cast your doll later. It smooths out the clay and creates a protective layer that will help maintain the clay's integrity. I use Mr. Surfacer 1200 or simple grey primer that is used on cars. Because the primer is grey, it might be more difficult to paint your doll later. If you're not planning on casting your doll in resin or porcelain, I suggest painting it with acrylic spray paint after priming or skipping priming altogether.
I hope this article helps you if you're just starting out on your journey. Creating a ball-jointed doll might be hard, but it will be so rewarding. Just let me know if you have any questions below and don't forget to check out my masterclass about sculpting them!