Paper Art Playtime: Make Yourself Over as a Paper Doll

Today I'm going to give you permission to play with paper dolls. Come on, you know you want to. And really, you don't need permission. You're an artist! If anyone questions you, tell them you're working on some amazing paper art sculptures, and leave it at that.

paper collage paper doll
One of Debbi's paper
art dolls.

Handmade paper dolls are wonderful because you can try on different personalities by changing the hairstyles, clothes, and accessories. They're like mini paper collages or self-portraits. Make several with different identities and you can role play while experimenting with paper, fabric, embellishments, and paints.

There are so many ways to go about making paper dolls. But I especially like the way Debbi Crane shows how to create them in Mixed Mania: Recipes for Delicious Mixed Media Creations, the book she co-authored with Cheryl Prater. In 2006, Debbi made a paper doll every day of the year.

"It is my favorite daily art challenge to date," says Debbi. "Perhaps it was because it brought me back to my childhood, allowing me to have playtime once again. I know the practical gal in me loved that  could make these small and simple creatures only to reuse them in a variety of other projects."

I've adapted Debbi's instructions from the book here.

How to Make a Paper Art Doll
1. Draw your own paper doll pattern, purchase a die-cut doll pattern, or use the doll shown here as your base.

2. Alter the head or hairstyle shape as you like. You can even use glue (or digital technology) to place a photo of your face on the head. Cut it out and mount on cardstock so it's a bit sturdier.

3. Color the skin using watercolor paints, markers, colored pencils, or another medium of your choice. You could also print the doll form on cardstock of your skin tone or just leave it blank.

4. Allow the skin to dry and color the hair. Make it your natural color or something whimsical. Use paint , markers, or fibers. Or, cover "your" hair with turban made of sequins or a triangle of fabric posing as a scarf.

5. Use a colored pencil to add lipstick and blush, if desired.

paper collage paper dolls
All dressed up for playtime!

6. Now dress her! Place the doll face-down on paper or fabric and trace around her limbs to style a dress or separates, then cut them out. Fold paper to make a poufy skirt or layer a coat over a dress. Cut up pieces of paper backgrounds or handmade paper to create your own fashion patterns.

7. Color in tights, shoes, etc. Use bits of fabric and tiny found objects to embellish the outfits and add accessories.

Don't forget the "play" part of paper dolls. Dress your doll up like Marie Antoinette, Jackie O, Lady Gaga, or Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge).

You can make these dolls just for your own amusement or incorporate them into other creative paper crafts. Your dolls could take on serious roles, portraying icons of womanhood in a paper collage. Or they could represent stages of your life in an art journal. Debbi and Cheryl offer many techniques and projects for playing with figures, paper, and fabric in Mixed Mania.

And if anyone has a problem with you playing with paper dolls, you just send them to me.

P.S. Do you still play with paper dolls? How about digital dress-up (like Mad Men Yourself, Elf Yourself, etc.). Have you used paper dolls in your art? Leave your comments below!


3D Art and Assemblage, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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