ball-jointed dolls & accessories

Robert's head making: progress pics and creation hints


Here is the finished head from the different angles, and I also would like to share some progress pics where you can see how an ugly lump of wax turns into a head with likeness to a certain person.



That's my main schema with front and side views, perfectly scaled to be of 1:1 on my monitor. This way I can measure each part and transfer it to the physical world.





You can see some layers below with Chris Hemsworth's head and such, because I use my previous files to perfectly scale the heads to each other and to existing doll bodies for hybridization sake. 


Red lines help me to see the symmetry of the model (or significant asymmetry, like in this case) and align the front and side view.


Once I made a head that was too small, so I had to redo like almost everything. That was a huge tragedy! I try to avoid such mistakes at every cost. 



See? Ruining already polished sculpt by your own hands is a trial!


So. When the scale is set I'm ready to transfer the head to wax. I usually make a paper silhouette that I use as the template, and one of my sculpts with removed facial part as the base. I make a ridge at the front and outline my template, so the contours of the nose, lips, forehead and so on are already in place. 



 Now I have to fill the head with some meat. 



It's hard to describe what I exactly do - I just look at the reference photos and copy the shapes and plains. There are 4 stages, each one took about 1 working day.


After the main shapes are in there it's very useful to put the head to rest for a few days or even for a week. You put the work on hold, and in the meantime your subconscious works on the sculpting material, so when you return to the work and take the head in your hands you can see the places that are off and might need correction.

Also it's VERY useful to take the photos of your head and to overlay them onto your digital schema. Just try your best to make the photo of your head from the same angle a real human was shot.


The wax head is smoothed out with gazoline. See my Sculpting tools and materials article for details.



Also I removed double pouches under his eyes because my customers said they'd prefer not so old RDJ.



When you make a celebrity doll it's very useful to put your work on social media and ask people to do some critique. Even if they say "dunno what's wrong with his nose but I think something is off" it might be useful, as you'll pay more attention to that part of your model's face. Human beings are trained by billions of years of evolution to recognize even the slightest differences in facial features, so you can rely on their opinion. Of course, it's not the case if you make a fantasy creature or a doll with a huge amount of stylization.


Getting the likeness right is the slowest part - like, you did 95% of the work in 4 or so days, and then you put your head off for weeks, check it back, tweak something here and there, lay it on the shelf again, and so on... But the devil is in the details, and 100% likeness is impossible, there is always a room for improvement.



I've got "he's perfect now!' comments several times - and each time I fixed something, getting "omg, now he's even more alike", and it's really endless)) Some people are very picky, some aren't; some prefer stylized sculpt knowing that a proper faceup will add the wrinkles and so on, while someone wants the sculpt to have all the pores and imperfections. 


I always think how a realistic head would look on a pretty and smooth BJD body like Soom or Iplehouse, so my sculpts are stylized to a certain degree. Being a faceup artist myself I intentionally leave some room for the faceup - like I didn't do the forehead wrinkles, and the mimical wrinkles on his cheeks aren't as deep as the real human has, because those features are easily done with faceup. To look properly the head should be painted in different colors, and dimples are usually enhanced with pastels, so making them already too deep may be too much.


After I'm satisfied with the likeness I transfer the sculpt into Apoxie Sculpt through the silicone mold. See my Sculpting tools and materials article for details. Apoxie is a hard, sturdy medium that can withstand molding process easily.



Unfortunately, Apoxie doesn't stick properly to the silicone, and I don't know how to overcome this issue yet. So I have to fill in the dents and bubbles and to sand the head smoothly.


After the sculpt is restored I cover it with primer. See my Sculpting tools and materials article for details.


I use a neutral gray matte car primer that reveals all the imperfections left. It's a pretty tedious process: you spray the head, see the issues, fill them with Apoxie or any other putty, sand, spray another layer of primer and so on, many times. Your head has to be perfect, because silicone mold reproduces everything - every tiny bump and scratch. I take the quality very seriously, so it takes me about a month to make an Apoxie copy and to finish it to perfection.



Once the head is ready it has to be sent out to the casting company for reproducing. Raw polyurethane is very hazardous and requires a special equipment to achieve a good quality, so I chose to never do castings by myself.

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