How to Make Lifelike Clay Dolls

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Working with clay can be a very rewarding activity. When it comes to creating realistic-looking dolls, however, the process can be somewhat frustrating. By implementing certain tools and techniques, you can greatly increase your sculpting skills and produce a displayable work of art that closely resembles life.

Things You'll Need

  • Polymer clay
  • Craft wire
  • Masking tape
  • Sculpting tools
  • Genesis heat-set paints
  • Rolling pin or pasta machine
  • Exacto knife
  • Sucker stick
  • Aluminum foil
  • Embossing gun

Preparing the Armature

  • Measure a strip of craft wire that will be equal to three lengths of the desired size of your doll.

  • Fold the strip of wire in half. Form the wire into the shape of a body. Create the legs and twist the wire for each leg up to the beginning of the torso. Repeat this process for each arm.

  • Reinforce the torso by wrapping the wire around the stomach area a couple of times. You do not need to form a head as you will be creating that separately.

  • Flatten out a large portion of clay to be used to cover your armature by using a rolling pin or a pasta machine.

  • Cut separate pieces of the clay to be wrapped around the limbs and body of your armature. A utility knife works well for this.

  • Shape the clay around each limb as well as the torso. Smooth and define the body parts using your fingers and your sculpting tools.

Sculpting the Head

  • Position a round ball of aluminum on one end of a lollipop stick. This will eventually become the head of your doll. Using the stick of one of your sculpting tools, press down across the front of the aluminum ball to mark where the eyes will be. This should create a horizontal indentation across the middle of the ball.

  • Cover and attach the aluminum ball to the lollipop stick with masking tape. Make it as smooth as possible. This will help the clay to adhere to the head.

  • Form two round, flat pieces of clay for the front and back of the head. Apply them to the head and blend the clay together.

  • Reinforce the horizontal line that represents where the eyes will go by firmly pressing your sculpting tool against the indentation.

  • Fashion ears out of two small symmetrical pieces of clay. Define crevices and grooves that match from ear to ear. Apply the ears by blending the outer edges of each ear to the head. An imaginary horizontal line from the top of the ears should come to rest on the eyebrows. This will help you to place them appropriately.

Shaping the face

  • Create pieces of clay to apply to the head that will become the face of your doll. Make two identical clay spheres that will become the eyes. Place them in the indentation you created. Make sure to leave enough space for the nose.

  • Make a small worm-shaped strip of clay and place above the eyes to form the brow line. Blend the clay and smooth out the lines.

  • Form a ball of clay that is similar to a large grain of rice. Place this between the eyes to form a nose. Using a stylus, create the nostrils and define the shape of the nose. Blend the edges of the clay into the rest of the face.

  • Make another worm-shaped strip one third the length of the brow line. This will become the top lip. Apply it below the nose.

  • Roll out a ball of clay about the size and shape of an oblong pea. Position it where the chin would be. Using a spoon-tipped sculpting tool, push the top half of the pea up to the top lip. This will become the bottom lip. Blend and smooth clay into the rest of the face.

Building up the face

  • Form two symmetrical balls of clay and slightly flatten them by pressing them lightly between your fingers. Apply them to either side of the cheek area. This will build up the face and help create cheekbones and depth to your sculpture.

  • Continue to add depth and define features of the face until you are pleased with the symetry and shape of the face.

  • Do not forget lines and creases around the mouth and eyes.

  • Cut the lollipop stick to about a half an inch below the head so you can insert it into the armature.

  • Insert the head into the armature and add a touch of clay around the neck to blend the two pieces. Add any final touches to your doll before baking.

Baking and painting

  • Bake your sculpted doll at the clay manufacturer's suggested time and temperature on a glass, oven-proof dish. Lining the dish is not necessary, but be careful how you place your doll so intricate lines and shapes are not compromised during baking.

  • Paint on the eyes once the doll has been removed from the oven and cooled. You can layer different shades of Genesis® Artist Colors heat-set oil paints until you achieve the desired effect. Use your embossing gun to set the paint by aiming the gun at the area you want to dry.

  • Add blush to the body using flesh-toned Genesis® Artist Colors heat-set paints. Focus on delicate areas such as elbows, knees, tops of the ears, cheeks and belly.

  • Apply hair to the finished doll. Hair can be added by gluing on a wig or individual sections of hair.

  • Spray on a sealer to protect the finished doll. Your doll is now ready to be dressed and displayed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Super Sculpey works well for sculpting realistic clay dolls. It stays pliable without being too soft. It does not dry out very fast. It also comes in a flesh-like tone.
  • Baking should be done in a well-ventilated area like the garage. Although the fumes are not toxic, they can be irritating for certain individuals.
  • Photo Credit Marina Bychkova, Bead World, Freewebs, Nadine Kam, Morezmore, Leigh Allan
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