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Learn to Sculpt Custom Heads for Dolls and Figures
If you have a collection of miniatures or dolls houses, you may need characters for scenes, or heads to use for showing off jewelry or hats. Sculpting your own doll's heads from polymer clay, air-drying clay, or paper clay, is fairly simple to do. If you sculpt your own characters, in a dolls house or other scale, you have much more control over their age, main features, and even the option of creating miniatures of people you know.
The process takes a bit of experimentation and practice. First, you need to get used to how the brand of polymer clay or air dry clay you use shapes and dents. Elastic, fairly firm polymer clay brands are better than soft and brittle clays when you are sculpting dolls.
Before you begin, you should review the information on doll proportions so you can decide what size head you will need, and where the features will be placed. If you think you need a reference book. Maureen Carlson's book, Family and Friends in Polymer Clay will help you through the steps.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
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Start Sculpting a Doll's Head Over an Armature or Base
Miniature doll's heads are small. Use the discussion of head proportions to work out which size head you will need for your doll. The doll head in these photographs will be approximately 3/4 inch long, which suits a 1:12 doll between 5 ft. 6 inches and 6 feet tall, or a shorter doll with an adult sized head.
- Sculpting material: Polymer clay was used to make this doll head. It is available in a range of natural, 'fairy', and 'doll', skin tones, or you can blend a custom color. You can also use air drying clay or paper clay, they work in a very similar fashion. Air dry clay and paper clay will shrink as they dry, so you may need to experiment to find out what size head you need to start with.
- Aluminum foil: You will need a small piece to form the base for the head.
- Wire: This is for the armature to support the head and to eventually make a body if you wish. As this head will eventually have a body, the armature is made from a 12-inch wire bent in half.
- Modeling tools: These can be quite simple. To show you how easy it is this entire head was modeled using a sharp and a bluntly rounded toothpick and no other tools. If you have them, dental picks, embossing tools, and needles are also useful, as are alcohol wipes to clean your hands and remove fingerprints.
- Oven: You will need to use an oven to bake the polymer clay.
- Paint: Use paint to finish coloring the head and eyes.
Form the Armature
For this doll, a 12-inch piece of wire was folded in half and a small loop made at the bend. A small ball of aluminum foil was then formed over the loop to make an inflexible base for the head.
If you are not using polymer clay to make your doll's head, or if your polymer clay is very firm, you may not need an armature to support it. The armature will form the doll's body in this case, as well as supporting the head while it is made.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
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Form the Head and Jaw
Once you have your armature, begin by forming the basic head shape over the foil. The foil should form the back of the head to the base of the jaw. cover it with a thin layer of polymer clay or air drying clay.
Once you have the foil-covered, add more clay to one side of the shape towards the bottom in the area where you will add most of the doll's features. This area is roughly equivalent to the area defined by the jaw. It needs to have more clay, in order to allow you to sculpt the shapes easier.
Mark the head shape with a line at the halfway point and then divide these two sections in half to mark four quarters on the head. These basic lines will serve as the point to add features. If you are not sure where the eyes, nose, and mouth are located on a head, check the information on body and head proportions.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
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Set the Eye Sockets and Nose
The miniature doll's eyes will be located on the line halfway down the doll's head. The head is roughly five eyes wide, and there is space for one eye, between the two eyes above the nose.
Mark two small circles for the iris of the doll's eyes on the doll face. Roll a small tapered cone of clay which is long enough to reach from the line of the doll's eyes, down to the line which marks the bottom quarter of the face. Place the cone between the eyes to form the nose.
Use a toothpick or a dental tool to blend the edges of the nose into the face. Try to make all your blend lines smooth. Add tiny balls of clay to the sides of the base of the nose. These will form the sides of the nostrils.
Once you have blended the nose into the face, check the profile of the nose from the side. Make sure there are no unexpected bumps. Use a toothpick to carefully smooth the angle of the nose from the top to the face, this will give the nose a thinner profile.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Sculpt Eyelids, Cheeks and Eyebrows
The photo here shows the rough pieces of clay lying on the face on one side and the blended pieces added to the face on the other side.
Add the Eyelids
Roll out a thin line of clay and lay it above the eye circle to create an eyelid. Curve the clay to roughly match the curve of the iris. Use a toothpick to carefully blend the eyelid in place above the eye. As you blend it you will begin to cover the top section of the iris. Check your own eyelids as you work to see how much of a crescent you can see.
Use the sharp end of a toothpick or a pin, to create the shape of the eye on either side of the iris below the eyelid. Mark the lower eye where it crosses the iris using a fine pin.
Add the Eyebrows
Roll out a slightly larger piece of clay than the one you used for the eyelids. Starting just above the top of the nose, lay this piece in place above the eyes to form the eyebrows. Blend it in place in a curve that goes from just above the inner eye, to a point just beyond the outer eye. Use a pin or a sharp toothpick to create the effect of fine hairs on the eyebrow.
Add the Cheeks
Form a small ball of clay and place it just beneath the eye and just outside the line of the outer eye. Carefully blend the cheek into place, making sure you don't flatten the eye details. Make sure you don't flatten the cheek too much. Feel your own cheekbones to see how they curve against your face.
Finish the Nose
Use the end of a toothpick to create nostril openings at the end of the nose. Be careful you don't distort your nose when you are doing this!Continue to 6 of 8 below.
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Shape the Mouth
Mark the mouth line approximately one third to 1/2 of the way down between the jaw and the bottom of the nose. Make a small hole for the mouth, opening up the area and pulling the clay forward with a toothpick or other small tool. A line from the top of the nose down on the outside edge of the nostril flare will give you a guideline for the width of the mouth. Open up this area even if you want your doll to have a closed mouth. The area from the base of the nose slopes forward toward the lips and then back down to the chin from the lower lip.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
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Shape Ears and Lips
Make the Upper Lip
Create the doll's upper lip by rolling out a very thin roll of clay and laying this on to the face above the mouth opening to create the upper lip. Blend the lip into place and use a toothpick inserted in the mouth to shape the lip. If the face is smiling, the lip will be stretched in a smooth line. If the lip is relaxed, it may have a fuller shape. Examine pictures of real people to determine the shape and size of lips you want your doll to have.
Make the Lower Lip
Create the Lower Lip the same way you created the upper lip. The lower lip is usually fuller than the upper lip. As people age, their lips become thinner.
Set the Ears
Set the ears in position behind the halfway mark of the head. The top of the ears is at the line of the eyebrows. The bottom of the ears is just above the bottom of the nose. Begin blending the ear into the head on the backside of the ear, then blend the ear into place on the inside of the ear. You can use a pair of tweezers to create an earlobe at the base of the ear.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
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To complete your miniature head sculpture blend all the curves and lines as smoothly as you can. You can use a fine flat watercolor brush with fairly short bristles to blend the clay in areas your fingers cannot reach. Check the sculpture both head-on and sideways, to make sure ears line up, and features seem balanced on both sides of the head.
If you are having difficulty making features look the way you think they should check photographs to see how eyes, noses, mouths, and lips line up with each other. Sometimes a minor adjustment will change the way a face looks.
How to Check for Proportions
If your head seems a bit lopsided, or some features don't seem right, turn the head upside down and check it from that view. Often when you view something from an unusual perspective it is easier to see mismatched areas. If you are not sure if the sides of the face are equal, hold the head up to a mirror and look at it in the mirror. Sometimes this makes mistakes jump out in a way you can see them.
If you used paper clay and it cracked as it dried. Fill the cracks with more paper clay, smoothing the filler into the dried areas. Use a damp sponge or cotton bud to smooth and burnish the surface of a head made from air drying clay or paper clay.
To clean and smooth the surface of a head made from polymer clay, use a small section of a baby wipe or a cotton but dipped in alcohol to gently smooth the skin surface of your miniature sculpture.
Turn the head sideways and make sure you can see a jawline running back from the chin to a point just below the ear.
Create a Neck
Add some clay around the wire support for your head to partially finish the neck area. The neck can have more clay added to it during a second baking if you want to add a torso.
When you are happy with your sculpture bake it according to the polymer clay directions or set it aside to dry.