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Armature to Art Doll Part 1 by Magweno Armature to Art Doll Part 1 by Magweno
Update 6th February 2013
Well I made this tutorial almost exactly two years ago now! It's been in storage for a year, but I'm happy to rerelease it to the DA community. If you could take a couple of minutes to read through the following:

1. I don't make dolls this way anymore. I use more specific tools and spend more time getting things right, but this acts as a perfect starting point for you to experiment.
2. That's it haha I just wanted to stress how old and dated this is
3. My tumblr is: [link] and my facebook is [link]
4. OH and if you make a doll using this tutorial submit it to my group,
#PosableArtDolls :iconposableartdolls: so everyone can see!

Enjoy, have fun, PLEASE let me see what you make! :)

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Part Two: [link]

Ohhhh how exciting!!

Part one of a two part series on how to make your own artist doll. This part tells you how to make the armature.

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Edit: Hi everyone, just want to say a huge thank you for all the favs and comments, there are some really awesome posable creatures turning up on DA now! It's great to see so many people using and enjoying my tutorial and how variable the dolls can be as well, some are pretty basic and then there are the astoundingly sculpted dolls like *Wood-Splitter-Lee's dragons and *Vertaki beautiful gryphon, Dojo. If you make a doll please let me know, I've found most through dolls being submitted to groups.

I have a small request if you do make a doll - please link back to the tutorial so others can try making one for themselves! It would be a great help, and the more dolls there are in the world then the merrier we will be.

Thanks again for all your support, it really means a lot to me. Keep craftin'! :love:
end edit

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Edit2: Hi again! The growing number of awesome dolls meant I had to bring them all together somehow so if you do make a doll or are interested in making one, or even if you just love art dolls, then swing by my group,
:iconposableartdolls:!

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Edit3: This tutorial has been typed up by Amanda DiVirgilio and featured on Doll Makers Dream! [link] Thanks Amanda!

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FAQs
What is Fimo?
Fimo is a polymer clay (meaning it's plastic based) which is baked in a standard home oven at 110C for half an hour to cure it. It feels a little like elasticy play-dough when fresh and sets hard when baked.
Other affordable craft polymer clays are Sculpey and Primo, you can use both of these for this tutorial quite happily.

Can I use another type of clay for my doll?
You could use air drying clay too. That would be fine, just skip the parts about the oven!

I don't have pin heads, what do I use for eyes?
You can use beads, marbles, bits of Fimo rolled and cooked earlier (remember Fimo doesn't need to be baked as long if it's thin/small) etc. Anything round, really! ~MaryBunnie uses "Czech glass drop" beads and loves them.

FLORAL TAPE, AAH!
I know, it's frustrating! It's also hard to know if you have the right one as there is such a lack of distinction in florists. If it feels papery then it's right, if it feels smooth and is shiney then it's wrong. If you're buying online then try to look for 'stemwind'. If you're not buying online then look in Poundland (in Britain), local florists, gardening centers, haberdasheries and anywhere that sells fake or real flowers, they will usually have some.

I hate floral tape!!
That's fine, it's not for everyone, if you honestly can't stand it (or can't find it) then you could also use masking tape, but it's stiff nature could be even more frustrating. If both masking tape and floral tape send you into a frenzy then you can also go ahead and not use either! It just means the fimo won't stick to the wire and could prove even more frustrating... :D

What gauge wire do you use?
I don't know! (That's helpful isn't it :giggle:)
I used to buy my wire in my Universities art supplies shop and it didn't have the gauge marked on it, or the material (zinc, aluminium etc) If you're buying in that sort of situation then use your own judgement to decide on the best wire for you. If you're making a large doll, you will need a strong wire. If you are making a small and delicate doll then you'll need a smaller wire! I use a mix for my dolls, thick for the armatures and thin for the wings.
Recently I moved home and there aren't any craft stores here, so I have to get creative with my suppliers! My local gardening center sells gardening wire, for tying up trees and other established plants, and I use that for the armatures. It is a LOT stiffer but also harder to nick and therefore lasts longer. So far it's working excellently, but I do have to use pliers to form it.

What gauge jewelry wire do you use?
Once again, I don't know. I would say it's a medium gauge. It comes on a spool, it's cheap, I used to use copper but now I use... Well it's gold in colour, so it could be brass! I'm not sure! You just have to go to your supplier and see what they have.
A helpful hint: my supplier also stocks floral tape and the wire I use and the tape are next to each other - this means the wire could also be that wire you get for putting in flowers to form them. Try looking in a florist.

What gauge are the tubes?
3/32" or 2.4mm aluminium tubes.

Where can I get good fur?
I buy my fur from Mohair Bear Making Supplies, who are a British company who order their fur from Germany (some of it anyway). Sometimes if they don't have what I want (a rare occurrence!) then I go to Christie Bears. If you are shopping online then look for teddy bear supply websites, they usually have the highest quality fur.
You can go to haberdasheries and look at their fur, I sometimes go to a dressmakers supplies store as they stock soft furs for bridal capes and things.
If you live in America then I'm told Jo Anns and Michaels often have nice fur. Also try Etsy, there are a number of sellers on there. ~mammalfeathers buys her fur in scrap packs from a supplier on Etsy and loves it, as the mixed variety inspire new designs.

What can I use to make the pattern?
You can use any cottony fabric you can find. Old pillow-cases, old t-shirts, I use the lining of some curtains that were being thrown out of my old house. They were huge so it's lasting me a long time! (It also means all my patterns are spotty which is quite nice.)
I have also used newspaper a few times to make patterns, or just newsprint paper, and measured the doll instead of wrapping the fabric around it.

How do you dye fur?
.... *deep breath*
Faux fur is impossible to dye. I have tried hundreds of methods and read through hundreds more tutorials, and everything is kind of half baked. Essentially the plastic that makes the fur doesn't take dye but does stain, so there are methods like sharpie dying or acrylic washes. (*Kat-Nicholson used copics to colour Afalon's mane!)
However I have found personally that sharpie dying is very expensive and acrylic washes make the fur go 'crispy'. If I have to do markings on a doll I will use Dylon Fabric Paints. What I do is take a small amount on a paintbrush and brush it very softly onto the fur, making sure there aren't any globs, then brush it more vigorously with a nail brush.
The fur stays very soft, maybe not as soft as the original fur, but compared to dyeing with acrylics and sharpies it's a lot better. Of course the more paint you put on then the 'stickier' it gets. Also Dylon fabric paints are heat set so it means if the fur gets wet at any point then it's going to be ruined (but it would be ruined whether or not it had paint on it!).
Of course you can use RIT dyes on natural materials like mohair, but I think mohair fur is pretty gross! I tried using it on faux fur and it doesn't work of course, it just dyed the backing of the fabric.
*Wood-Splitter-Lee uses Tulip fabric spray paint to colour her dolls, which she bought in Michaels, but Britain doesn't have a Michaels so I haven't tried them yet. Tins of fabric spray paint are available from a number of suppliers but they're too expensive for me to buy for the dolls at the moment.
My best advice is to just buy fur in the colour you need! I know that's useless but it really is something that should be considered. However I always buy short pile almond coloured fur and it takes the dye very well.

How do you make wings?
That's a secret! ;) If you've got this far and made a doll I'm sure you can work out a method using your knew found knowledge.

How do you stick feathers on?
Using hot glue primarily but recently I've been using fabri-tac (it's an American product and expensive to buy over here but I found some and tried it out! Turns out it's exactly the same as UHU glue, or bostik multi-purpose glue.)
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-06-20
Armature to Art Doll Part 1 by *Magweno Do not miss out on the second part of this wonderful tutorial! ( Suggested by nyanko-dono and Featured by Elandria )
:iconkeldain:
Keldain Featured By Owner May 25, 2015
Thank you for sharing! :)
Reply
:iconmadkittymk2:
madkittymk2 Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2015
This tutorial is amazing!
I saw it a long time ago but finally decided to try making a soft sculpture doll today.




...I was a bit too ambitious.
It's probably not going to come out well due to the size and materials I chose. v_v
(most recent pic)

But it would have been infinitely more difficult if I didn't have your newb friendly instructions.
Reply
:iconjulzabro:
julzabro Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015
I am probably one of many looking to see how you make the wings but I'm actually glad that you're keeping it a secret. You've obviously put a lot of time, effort and research into studying wings to discover the best way to create them. I love and admire you're work and look forward to seeing new creations.
Reply
:icondreamkeeperarts:
DreamKeeperArts Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2014
This... this I think, has been what I am looking for... I've been trying to find info on building dolls for a personal project... this is EXTREMELY helpful!! Thank you.
Reply
:iconarcali:
Arcali Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for making and posting these tutorials! Looking forward to giving it a bash!
Reply
:iconbjirf:
Bjirf Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2014   Artist
I made something like this a while back (got stuck in the project now...), but I had a major problem with balance, unless it stands on all four feet. I made the head way too heavy
Have you ever had any trouble with this?
Reply
:iconalbino-noivern-eli:
Albino-Noivern-Eli Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, thanks for this! I'm going to try and make a little guy of my own ^v^
Reply
:iconlost-in-the-day:
Lost-in-the-day Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is fantastic!
Reply
:iconxishadowwolfx:
xiShadowWolfx Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thankyou for this tutorial. Made my first art doll with it. :aww: :hug:

xishadowwolfx.deviantart.com/a…
Reply
:iconleopardcorgi:
leopardcorgi Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Been reffing this tutorial for a while but it occurred to me I'd never said thankyou! So here it is. You've really captured my imagination with this stuff. I love anything hands on and crafty.
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Aw thanks very much! I love getting my hands dirty too :)
Reply
:iconaliciachiu:
aliciachiu Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks SOOO MUCH!!!  :)  This is awesome!  Nobody EVER shares their secrets… :3 But this is just… spectacular!  A frankenstein tutorial?!?!?  I can't even make a  tutorial myself without leaving the people reading it questioning at least 2 things!!!
Reply
:icondoglover589346:
doglover589346 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014
Thank you this is very useful.
Reply
:iconemmacreatures:
Emmacreatures Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
do you just put the whole armature and stuff in the oven? won't it melt ?? or be not good for the oven? 
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Well fimo needs to be baked in the oven for 30 minutes for it to cure, it is a low temperature though, 110-130C. That is not hot enough to melt metal although if you are using a wire that is coated in plastic I would be wary. The floral tape is crepe paper with wax, so I would advise not to put it in a gas oven, but otherwise it is fine if you are only doing it occasionally. I presume the wax could cause a build up, but that is like anything you put in the oven :b Ovens just need to be cleaned every now and again. I don't know about epoxy putty, best to google and read the MSDS (materials safety data sheet) to check.

There is a lot of documentation about fumes and gasses that fimo exudes when put in the oven, I believe it isn't a problem unless you burn it or if it is used to bake fimo every day. I use a little halogen oven with an oven thermometer to bake my creatures as they are quite small. :)
Reply
:iconemmacreatures:
Emmacreatures Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
MMMM okay, and is there something else instead of that aluminium tube? we don't have it here, or could i do for example make the head first but make a hole in it that fits the wire and than glue it together? thank you soo much for this tutorial! :)
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Yes if you just twist a little loop at the end of the wire that will stop it from coming out of the clay.
Reply
:iconemmacreatures:
Emmacreatures Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
alright! thanks for helping!!
Reply
:iconathena102:
athena102 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
To buy all of the material (beside the house hold items) would cost aobut 60 dollars, right?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ohh I have no idea… Something like that, probably
Reply
:iconathena102:
athena102 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
How much do you usually sell them for?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
I sell my dolls for 180+, but it isn't just materials that make a doll :)
Reply
:iconathena102:
athena102 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh I know. I do ceramics, I was only asking about the cost so I could save up.
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
It varies hugely depending on which CITY you live in, let alone country, sometimes shops have great sales or deals on. Best way to estimate it is to do a bit of searching on eBay and your local shops, but I would say 40/$60 is a good estimate.
Reply
:iconathena102:
athena102 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you. It may be a little before I can afford supplies (I have already drew out a couple designs I like) 
Reply
:iconstormowlart:
StormOwlArt Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
any idea where to get the "modelling wire"? I checked hardware stores and the craft store near my place but they had no idea what I was talking about...is it called anything else?

thank you! :hug:




p.s. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS TUTORIAL!!!! :worship:
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
it's also known as wire LOL
Just wire. if you find the wire section then play with the ends of some and you will get an idea of how soft or stiff they are. if they have what they are on them, I used a galvanised steel gardening wire.
lots of wires have different attributes useful for doll making, sometimes I use aluminium, sometimes i use plastic coated wire, they all have their uses
Reply
:iconstormowlart:
StormOwlArt Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you very much! :hug: I wasn't sure if maybe it was a "special" kind of wire or something lol


also, sorry again lol, but would you know where the aluminium tube could be bought? can't seem to find that anywhere (the only ones I can find are the huge one for construction lol)
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
modelling shops, scale model shops, craft shops in the scale model section. "albion alloys" are a company that sell it.
alternatively just put a loop at the end of the wire and sculpt directly onto it. the loop will stop the clay from spinning. :) bit easier.
Reply
:iconstormowlart:
StormOwlArt Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you so much for all your help!!! :hug:
Reply
:iconmoon-crafter:
Moon-Crafter Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Impressive
Reply
:iconsweet-fire-lily:
Sweet-Fire-Lily Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2013  Student General Artist
Do you use this on every single one of your dolls? or do you sometimes not use an armature? also how do you keep the clay from breaking all the time?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I've been producing a range of floppy dolls that have cast resin heads, hands and feet, most recently the jackalopes. They don't have armatures. Neither do the fox dragons. But if I'm making a posable doll then yes I will use either wire or plastic ball and socket armature.

For small delicate details I'll either cast in polyurethane resin and bake it at 70C for half an hour to make it extra strong, or sculpt from a stronger material like the epoxy used to keep the chest and torso together. If you want to make polymer clays extra strong you can bake at 130C for an hour, it will make it go sort of walnut brown but if you aren't trying to preserve the colour then that isn't a problem.
Reply
:iconsweet-fire-lily:
Sweet-Fire-Lily Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Student General Artist
Oh ok thank you for your help :)
Reply
:iconparasytes:
Parasytes Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013
Sorry to keep bugging you but where can you get good floral tape?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
This is answered in the fourth questions in the FAQs! Please read the description and both tutorials fully, a lot of the questions you've been asking have been answered before many times.

Florists sell floral tape, just ask for crepe floral tape. You can get it in Poundland and Hobbycraft in the UK. I think it was Michaels or something that also sell it in the US. You can use masking tape as a substitute.
Reply
:iconparasytes:
Parasytes Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013
Sorry about that it seems that I wasn't reading some things properly -_-'

This shall probably be my last question before I try the real thing, fingers crossed it turns out well :)
Reply
:iconantiquegarden:
AntiqueGarden Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013  Student General Artist
NO WAY! You've even made a tutorial? Now I have no excuse anymore for not trying to make posable dolls myself :D
Thanks a lot, I haven't read it yet, but it looks so helpful! You are such an encouraging artist.
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
It will act as a springboard for your own ideas and techniques. feel free to chop and change parts, this isn't the ultimate and only way to make an art doll by any means. Just a collection of ideas. I don't make dolls like this anymore, but they're perfect for starting out with!
Reply
:iconantiquegarden:
AntiqueGarden Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Student General Artist
You say that like it's a bad thing :/ I like the springboard sort of tutorial far, far better than the sort claiming that everything THEY say is absolutely correct and infallible and anything you can find anywhere else is WRONG. Trying, failing, trying again and failing better with the help of a well-implemented idea collection does a far superior job in making it clear to me what the hell I am doing. Thanks again!
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
oh wire based posables are excellent as works of art but if you are looking for durability and something that can be interacted with a lot (as most people are) then you need completely different materials and methods. That's all I meant by it! (And if you meant the springboard thing then I didn't mean to impart that as a bad thing AT ALL)

Couldn't agree more ^_^ It's expensive, it's frustrating, but you get the best sense of achievement when you pull through it all!
Reply
:iconyammiyammi:
YammiYammi Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Hi!
I liked your tutorial very much and I'd like to translate your tutorial into Russian, so that people from Russian-speaking countries can also make such beautiful things. May I translate it?
I'll write that it's your tutorial and give a link on this page of course!
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Absolutely, go for it :)
Reply
:iconparasytes:
Parasytes Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013
I would really love to make my own art doll but I have some questions before I actually start to buy the equipment, how difficult is it to sculpt the head and feet? Does the wire body require the tape? What size do you recommend i should make as a beginner at this?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
1. I can't tell you that, you will have to try and sculpt and just find out how naturally talented at it you are if you have never done it before. If you are sculpting small the little details can be a bit fiddly, but mostly it just takes patience and a good eye for 3D anatomy.
2. If you are going to bulk it out with tinfoil, yes, the tape holds the tinfoil in place. It is not essential though.
3. My first was around 9" in length, I just started sculpting at what felt comfortable for me and ended up downsizing because of financial restraints. Back then I only had the money for one small block of fimo, so I had to make it last for legs, head and feet.
Reply
:iconparasytes:
Parasytes Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013
Thank you very much for replying, I will be beginning my first doll soon :thanks:
Reply
:icondemorta:
Demorta Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
this is incredibly helpful thank you! <3
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
You're welcome, good luck!
Reply
:icongelidwolf:
Gelidwolf Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I know I bugged you not too long ago with a question but after beginning my art doll I ran into some problems :P

Is there any other kind of putty or clay I can use instead of an epoxy putty? Like could I maybe use sculpy instead of epoxy putty to hold the armature together? I know you have to cook sculpy but would it cause the sculpy to expand a second time when I have to cook the actual doll features or would it just blacken or what? Or is there any other way I can keep the armature together?
Reply
:iconmagweno:
Magweno Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Sculpey will be too brittle to cope with the stress of the constant movement of the wire. You can try it but you will find it will break and crumble over time. You could use epoxy glue, araldite would work. Epoxy putty is easy to buy in any DIY shop, I can't vouch for the durability of much else as it's all I use.

You can bake sculpey as many times as you like, as long as it is at the packet directions you will have no problems with expansion or burning. I think sculpey is 110 for 30 mins but it will say on the packet.
Reply
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