I’ve just started sculpting a ball-jointed doll. Before I did, it seemed like no one was doing much to educate people on the process, and so it was very mysterious. But now, there are a few more online resources that have popped up on Instagram and Facebook groups. Still, if you want to try your hand at sculpting your own ball-jointed doll, you’re pretty much left on your own! With these blog posts, I hope to share my knowledge with you and inspire you to create your own BJD
It all starts with a drawing. Blueprints are the very first step on this maddening journey. Now everything is possible. Make a few sketches if you like.
When you know what type of doll you want to create, it's time to get a little technical. Are there going to be joints? What kind of poses will the doll be able to do? This is very important because it will affect how you sculpt your doll. Fewer joints usually mean that the doll will be more integral and look quite a lot like the usual doll. Remember that it won't be able to do as many poses and its range of movement will be limited. If you want a more human-like doll with a greater range of motions, it needs more articulation points -- most double joints are best for this. Trying this technique if you're new is tough, but possible!
After you get your blueprint, you can start gathering all the materials. You can read more about the materials here. Pick a good quality clay, so your doll will be easier to sculpt and sand. You'll need a few sculpting tools, some for detailing, and some for larger areas.
For easier removal, wrap the base parts in saran wrap or plastic tape.
To keep my sculpt hollow (ball-jointed dolls are hollow inside to be stringed later), I build a base before I sculpt. For the base, I use styrofoam, twisted paper and plastic straws. The base does not need to be very exact since we can even all the sides while sculpting. It is very important to keep your sculpt hollow!
CLAY FIRST LAYER
Always sculpt air-dry clay in layers to avoid cracks. The clay will dry faster and you’ll avoid cracks. When you first apply the clay to the plastic-wrapped base, it might be hard to spread out because it doesn’t stick to anything. The second layer of clay will have the surface to stick on when you add it. By making the first layer thin and leaving it to fully dry, you will make your sculpting much easier later on.
When you've created a strong body with a few layers of clay, it's time to cut open the base. You'll leave the straws in place because they don't get in the way while stringing the toy. The simplest way to remove the base is to slice it in half and remove the styrofoam. Glue it back together and then cover up any seams with fresh clay. Once you've removed the styrofoam, go ahead and add any additional detail you want on your doll. Remember that styrofoam might damage your toy: Keep it out of reach so you don't accidentally tear something up when wiring your doll.
It has been a pleasure to share my first steps in sculpting ball-jointed dolls with you and I hope you learned something new as a result. Until these lumps of clay start looking like a functioning doll, it will be quite a journey, but I am really looking forward to showing you behind the scenes. Subscribe to my newsletter for the latest news and articles on joints, detailing the body and putting it all together.