How to Draw Paper Dolls - Design
by Judy M. Johnson
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Because I have always learned better
and faster by seeing rather than reading, I have attempted to show you the process
of developing a paper doll by showing each step and noting details. I shall not go
into the logistics of drawing an architecturally correct figure, because there are
many good books available on the subject. I also urge anyone, whether new to drawing
or very experienced, to take life drawing classes to learn to draw the human form
firsthand. Next best is to draw the people around you, and next best is to draw from
magazine photos. If you feel it is quite impossible for you to draw a figure at this
time, and you are desperate to draw a paper doll NOW, you may enjoy tracing figures
from fashion magazines or catalogues. If you choose to do this, be creative and use
a head here, an arm pose there, and move leg direction so what you finally have
cannot be connected to the original sources. Be sure that once all the parts are put
together, they make sense and have good balance. One way to check your work is to
look at your drawing in the mirror. Some mistakes really glare back at you this way.
In keeping this exercise as simple as
possible, I have used easy to access supplies: white copier paper, tracing paper, #2
pencil, white art eraser, and Faber Castel's Uni-Ball pens, sizes Fine and Micro.
And to hold down the tracing paper, Scotch's blue-label Removable Tape. (A light box
may be used instead of tracing paper).
Draw your figure
and undergarments in pencil on copier paper. Use a fairly light
touch, so pencil can be erased. Use micro pen to carefully draw
the finished line work over your pencil sketches. Use heavier
pen to deepen shadow areas, under chin, breasts, shoes, and to
darken any area desired. Keep facial lines simple and to a
minimum. Leave white highlight areas on hair - do not completely
fill in with hair lines. Do repairs with white out. I use Liquid
Paper, red bottle (for copies); it seems to work just fine over
the water-based ink.
Taking a look
at your figure, note areas on the high sides where tabs may
go. When you remember how you may have walked your paper
dolls about while trying to keep clothes on, you will know
that tabs need to be on the upper edges, in order that
gravity not pull the clothes off. Also remember: don't make
a tab longer than the width of the member it embraces. Think
of a long tab on a skinny wrist -- it will show on the
opposite side of the arm when you bend it under. There are
also the kind of tabs that tuck behind the figure rather
than folding over. These are helpful when part of the fabric
or fur wraps around the body (or arm or leg), and a regular
tab is not suitable because the garment sticks out past the
edges of the figure.
THE COSTUMES (Fig. 3)
you use tracing paper or a light box with opaque paper,
follow these same guidelines. The illustration shown
here is an actual photocopy of the doll with a tracing
paper overlay of the pencil costume (before inking).
With this I hope to show you not only how to tab and
tuck, but to follow the contours of the figure to create
garments that appear to be all around the doll instead
of just lying on top of it. See how the boots curve
around and droop a little at the top. See the fur wrap
around to the back sides of shoulders, head and wrists.
Note the tabs on the topmost edges of the figure and the
tucks in areas where the garment extends beyond the
body. I have drawn the costume fairly heavily in #2
pencil, which is soft and rather dark, so that my copier
will pick up the color so you can see it. You will want
to handle your pencil with a lighter touch than I have,
just so long as you can see your sketch lines for
use the Uni-Ball, as I have, or another pen of your
choice. Think of form, light and shadow as you draw.
Light usually comes from above, so darkest areas will be
on under sides, which are in shadow. I generally imagine
a light coming from the upper right hand side, for
continuity of light effects. Though on this costume it
looks like my light is more from the upper left side.
Whichever, just keep your shading consistent.
use a white art eraser to remove all pencil lines. I do
a small section at a time, between my thumb and fingers,
because the tracing paper is so easily crumpled. Also,
wait until the ink is very dry or it will smear, leaving
more repair work to be done. Cover smudges, over-drawn
lines and other unwanted items with white-out, and add
any other details, line work and shading after pencil
has been removed. Any remaining pencil can be picked up
by the camera or copier and will mess up the final
is a very handy tool to have when doing black and white
PDs. I have kept its use to a minimum (or none at all)
in these instructions. One thing I almost always do,
however, is to do my drawing larger than the finished
layout. The figure I worked on for this PD is actually
10 inches high, then reduced by 70% before cutting and
pasting onto the layout with borders and all. After
reducing the doll and costume onto plain white 20# copy
paper, I may do further inking. As tracing paper can
sometimes be difficult to draw fine line lines on, it's
nice to have the more accepting surface of the 20# bond
to work on. I'll add shading, clean up edges, widen some
lines and add fine detail with the Micro point Uni-Ball.
Another thing I use the copier for, is to copy the doll
full size onto plain white paper. I use this for doing
the costume over-lays and for inking. Having the doll
right there under the costume while doing final inking
aids perfect fit. But using a copy is safer in case the
ink bleeds through while drawing. It would really be
upsetting to mess up the original.
Layouts (Fig. 4.)
complete your paper doll page, you can use
cut-and-paste methods to arrange the components of
your final layout. Components are: Figure, Costumes,
Lettering and Titles, Borders and Trims. You can do
your own hand lettering if you are very neat, or
computer generated lettering. There are various
brands of press-on type, which you can buy from art
and office suppliers in many type styles that work
well for PDs, too. These can be cut and placed where
desired. I use Scotch removable tape for placement
of components because it's easy to change and move
about. If you prefer a more permanent layout, use a
glue stick that is acid free, to prevent any future
yellowing. (Rubber cement is toxic to you and your
paper, so we never recommend it). Remember to keep
any design (line work or words) at least 1/4 inch
away from edges. If you work larger, and will reduce
final art - say 11 x 14 reduced to 8 1/2 x 11 -
leave at least 1/2" plain white border all
around. This allows for imperfect placement while
printing, and gives the press a "grab"
edge, if being done at the printers.
Borders & Trims
books and other clip art books such as Graphic
Products Corp. offer endless possibilities for
textures, borders, trims and even lettering to
enhance your paper dolls. Using them can make even
simple art work appear more professional. I urge you
to get some that appeal to you and play with them.
It's OK to copy what you want from pages of
copyright free books, so you can cut and paste them
on your work without destroying the clip art books.
FINISHING TOUCHES (Fig. 5)
Sign, date and copyright mark each page of your
work in this order: (D 1998 Jane L. Artist. If
you are making a limited edition, leave a place
in the design just for that. If it's an edition
of 50, hand sign; 1/50 Jane L. Artist, 2/50,
3/50 etc. Then do not print any issues beyond
that number, unless you change it, add more
costumes, etc. to create another set. Have fun!