Supply Guide

Why do people 50-cent craft paint on a $100+ doll?

I wonder this. I wonder this over and over again when I see dolls that have chunky craft paint glopped on makeup that make me want to cry (call it my sensitive artistic temperament). When buying supplies to customize your doll, DO NOT buy the cheapest things available! You don’t need to buy $8 per half ounce artist’s acrylics either. Expect to pay somewhere between $10 and $20 for basic faceup supplies. You’d pay that much for an extra wig, or a nice outfit, right?  And if the wig/outfit doesn’t work out, you can replace them without ruining the doll.

Paints: Paints are used for eyeliner, painted on eyelashes, eyebrows, and lipstick lips. You can thin basic acrylic paint. But thinning acrylic paint makes it less pigmented, so you may have to do multiple layers which results in chunky makeup. Also, most acrylic paints aren’t made to go on dolls’ faces. Shock, right? Acrylic paint can seep into Pullip plastic and bleed into the surrounding makeup or stain. What you want to look for is flat drying high pigmented acrylic paints for figures, models, etc. I prefer airbrush paints. A 2oz bottle of a good for-plastic airbrush paint costs about $3 and will last you a very long time.

But really, you want to use paints as little as possible. Paints are ok to do all the makeup on 1″ high barbie heads, but you should not need to paint on eyeshadow (unless you’re using an airbrush). Would you paint eyeshadow on your own face?

Pastels: Pastels are used for blush, eyeshadow, and doing natural toned glossy lips. You can buy a makeup set of pastels for Ball-Joint dolls.  Or, you can go to an art store and buy soft/chalk (NOT oil) pastels individually in the colors you need. Don’t cheap out on pastels. The difference between regular and artist grade pastels is the concentration of pigment. Pastels are pigment held together by matrix; you are going to be putting a very fine coat of them over a doll’s face. A pastel with a higher pigment will work much better than a low-pigment one. Most good artist quality pastels are $1-2 ea depending on the brand and art store. You can mix colors.

Colored Pencils: Colored pencils are great for people who can’t paint fine lines. You can use them to do ‘hair’ eyebrows, drawn on eyelashes, and if you have a light hand and a good blending technique, eyeshadow, blush, and lip details. If you don’t know how do do those last few things, practice on paper before you try it on your doll. You can buy a basic set, or buy them individually for less than $1 ea

Watercolor Pencils: Watercolor pencils can be used for everything colored pencils can, and can be easily blended with a damp paintbrush or piece of paper towel or even Q-tip. Keep in mind the type of sealant you are using if you decide to use watercolor pencils. I use a brush on sealant, so watercolor pencils are usually a no-no. If you use a spray sealant, you should be OK, BUT keep in mind that spray sealants are rarely waterproof, so you may still have ‘accidents’. They are the same or slightly more expensive than colored pencils.

Makeup: Human makeup like eyeshadow should be OK to use on your doll like you would pastels, just make sure to check that it is not oil based.  I’ve heard good things about MAC pigments, but it’s probably cheaper to buy high-grade artists supplies.  Oil based makeup can stain or cause damage to the plastic. It’s not a risk worth taking.

Sealant: There are two kinds of sealant; brush on sealant and spray sealant. Spray sealant is easy to use, but is not as reliable as brush on sealant. Brush on sealant can be tricky to use, but is very reliable; a custom of mine was in toxic water in New Orleans during the floods for several weeks and all she needed was a sponge-off to restore her face. I suggest that if you use both. Brush on sealant for areas that have been painted, and spray sealant over that to lock in the trickier areas that have been penciled/pastelled. A can of spray can go for around $6+, a bottle of sealant goes for $2-3. Make sure that both are approved for plastics.  My favorite brand of brush-on sealant is Delta Ceramacoat, and it comes in multiple finishes (matte, satin, high-gloss and a few other special effects)

Paintbrushes: These are a personal preference as to how soft a bristle, etc. But you only really need 1 brush, in a size 0 or somewhere thereabouts. You aren’t filling in vast areas. You’re doing lips, eyelashes, and eyebrows. A nice sable brush will cost about $3. If you take care of it and keep it clean (both during and in between colors) it will last you years.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice that a couple of pastels, pencils, paints, brush, and sealant really will only cost you $10-20. If you do another doll, you will only need to add on maybe a bottle of paint or a pastel or two if there is a huge color difference in the face. It is really not that expensive to use good quality materials. You will get a much better result, and it will cause you much less grief in the long run.