Painting 3D Printed Pets – Tutorial

There are some pretty awesome and adorable 3D printed pets out there, such as Helga Reinhart’s elegant PureBred orientals and super adorable OLEUM aka Eve the Cat pets in ever increasing varieties of cats, dogs, rabbits, snakes and dragons. There are many others, but these two brands are the ones I’ve had the pleasure to paint. Both offer ready made (painted and assembled) BJD pets, as well as cheaper raw kits, where you get the fresh out of the 3D printer white plastic parts to process, paint and assemble.

I specialize in painting intricately patterned cats and imitating a fur like texture. It’s a time consuming process of layering colours and I’ll explain the process step by step so you can try it at home. I recommend trying with some inexpensive items first, as these raw kits are still pricey art works and because of the porous texture of the plastic it’s hard to fix mistakes. Painting 3D plastic is very similar to ink painting on rice paper. You can only cover something with a darker ink.

*Before handling the kit, make sure you have clean hands. The oils in your skin can leave fingerprint stains that change the way the paint is absorbed. I use surgical gloves while working as acrylics stain skin as well.

When you get your kit it looks like a jumble of random parts. Make sure you got all the parts right away, especially that every part has a left and right, instead of two left feet.  This can be a bit of a challenge especially for Helga Reinhart cats as there are no assembly guides. You just have to look at the photos on the website to puzzle the cat jigsaw together.

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Next you want to check the parts for rough textures and make sure the holes inside the parts are clear. I often have to drill the holes bigger to make space for the hooked wire I use for stringing the parts in the end. You can also do this after the painting, but it risks damaging the paint surface and you might need some touch ups after. Sometimes external surfaces need a bit of sanding too as 3D printing leaves a coarse texture to the raw kits. Most of the time I really like the texture, as it fives the surface a fuzzy look that works well for furry pets. However, on the top of the parts such as head you can sometimes see clear pixels and I soften this spot with smooth sand paper.

Note that the raw kits can be very dusty with loose powder inside the parts, so I recommend wearing a breathing mask for the prepping stage. To clear the polyamide powder inside the parts and off the surface, wash the parts by submerging them in water and soak them in water overnight.

The next step is the base painting. This is similar to wash in aquarelle painting. Get you wet 3D parts from their overnight bath and place them on a paper towel to dry. Use water based artist acrylics and dilute them with water to create an ink that you can brush as base paint. I use a tiny piece of sponge on bigger areas and a clean moist one to blend. I add several layers of gradient effect with a brush, building from lighter to darker shades. Let the parts dry over night before adding detail.

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When the parts are dry I recommend arranging the unassembled kit in somewhat whole form so that the pattern size and shape flow naturally. In the picture below I actually got the left shoulder part in the right socket, but happily it did not ruin the painting. Using highly diluted acrylics (maybe 80% water 20% paint) I paint the rough patterns. The more diluted the paint, the harder it is to control, but the seeping effect creates a nice blurry edge that looks more natural. Hardest part is getting the face symmetrical, but since cats often have asymmetric patterns one shouldn’t obsess over this detail so much. Let dry completely before the next step.

38053612942_755eabd9a1_bYou could stop here, but for extra realism and fluffiness I recommend painting individual hairs to create a fur like texture. When your patterns are dry, dilute the paint less than before (maybe only 60% water or so) and use a tiny brush to start texturing. I use the same shade or a shade darker to paint over the patterns, keeping in mind the natural direction and length of the fur. This is a lot of work. Honestly, you may spend days doing it, but it is worth it.

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When you are done, let your pet dry overnight and you finally get to string it together. Eve the Cat happily has video tutorials for few different animals so I will simply link a polyamine cat assembly video here for you to see. Even if your pet is different from this you will get a good idea of the principles and tricks to be applied to other forms.

A final touch of realism is to use a tiny hand drill to make holes and glue whiskers into them.

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Here are some past commissions I have made:

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Click the links for more photos of Eve the Cat and Helga Reinhart 3D pets I have painted. The Flickr photos tell you the brand and size of the raw kits used. Note that all the dolls I paint are OOAK and I cannot make exact copies. Each cat has it’s own personality and coloring. No two are alike.

You can commission me to paint a OOAK pet for you. The fee depends on the size of the creature and the intricacy of the patterns. Here are some price examples:

  • Basic paint and assembly start at 300usd (6cm size) or 400usd (15cm size)
  • Fur texturing is 100usd more for small size (6cm) or 200usd for large ones (15cm size)
  • Helga Reinhart cats can be ordered with two heads with differetn expressions. Painting and extra head is 100usd more.
  • Adding whiskers is 50usd more per head regardless of the size. The technique works better for larger pets. 5cm Eve the Cat has too small face for the drilled holes.
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Creative Process and Shadowlands Collection

I’ve had the privilege to get one of the most interesting projects of my life, collection of dolls based on science fiction stories by Dyan Bender. The story is of a desert planet, a distant trading post between civilizations, a melting post of cultures and genes. The crew consists of creatures evolved from humans, an odd group of misfit heroes from varying backgrounds. I love going beyond mere pretty and creating dolls that are wild, have personality, tell a story. That is why this collection is such a dream come true. Dyan’s stories weave a rich tapestry of an alien world in turmoil, echoing with old Earth cultures and branching out into new paths of evolution.

For inspiration, Dyan sent me series of scattered stories that describe the characters, their personality, other’s impressions of them, and their capabilities. I find that for me this opens a deep well of inspiration to draw from. Character design has always been one of my favourite things, from childhood drawings of Tolkien heroes, teenage role play characters, theater costuming and finally dolls. Every time I paint a doll I tell a story that brings it to life. It’s part of process.

For inspiration and creativity, there is nothing more limiting than someone coming up with a premade sketch – or asking me to make one and stick to it. Conscious design process renders mediocre and boring results at best, and regurgitates used up ideas most times. I do sketch, but always filling a page with myriad ideas for the same concept.  When designing a garment, I select materials, create a colour palette, then tune out my brain with an audiobook and let my hands do their part. Often I start with a square piece of cloth that I fit, drape, rouch and hand stitch directly on the doll. It is sculpting fabric rather than sewing.

However, I’ve always admired impeccable tailoring. Alexander McQueen was my idol in this and inspired by the exquisite costuming in the show Game of Thrones I wanted to give this collection a highly tailored and stiffly structured look. Especially since the first character was wearing leather armour. Hence, I need to break my comfort zone, sketch, create patterns and challenge myself.

I do love a challenge.

 

Rahal – The Wanderer

The first character in the collection is Rahal, a member of a race that calls themselves the Wanderers, the other species typically call them Natives. They are genetically closely linked to a big feline species called the Helkin. They have a tribal culture and few of them venture from the high desert regions, and when they are in high demand by the caravans. They are one of the few races that can sense the extra dimensional doorways commonly called Shadows. This makes her very effective guarding travelers from hunting predictors.

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She has sharp little fangs, partially retractile claws on both hands and feet and faint spotting pattern along her flanks. Her eyes are dark with reflective retina like cats and surrounded by pigmentation spots. She bleached her long hair white, but has now let it grow to reveal her natural raven roots (hard cap wig custom made for her with angora wool). She wears an armour of Sand Dragon skin (vintage snake skin) lined with dark brown silk, and carries a serrated blade made out of the fang of the same beast (hand carved from two-component-epoxy putty).

The doll is a Busty Inamorata Nubia in Coffee skintone.

 

Fyre – The Highborn

The second character in the collection is Fyre, whose secret name is Ardala. She is the adopted daughter of a wealthy Healer and direct descendant of the last ruler of what is often called the Great City.

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She is a Highborn, a race the developed from Human close intermarriage of the ruling families. Thru centuries of narrowed bloodlines a race of physically beautiful and mentally gifted people consolidated power. Marked physically by extremely pale pearlescent skin and blazing red hair with oddly metallic quality. Highborn are marked by a drive to acquire power and are gifted with something other races call Charisma.

Ardala is young, she has gained her full height but is still not filled out completely. She has been able to pass as a boy for years. Her eyes are blue, the warm blue of shallow seas, and bright with curiosity and good humor. Although wealthy now for many years she and her mother moved often and she has learned to easily adapt to new locations…she enjoys learning about new people, customs and cultures. She is gentle, and her gentle nature shows in her expression. She completely lacks the imperious and commanding nature that typically marks Highborn, but she is just starting to understand that she has personal power, she is starting to learn that she can command the attention of others.

She wears her silk finery, wide pants of teal silk that were left a bit short in the ankles in her last growth spurt; silk slippers encrusted with brass sequins; a silk chiffon vest draping over her young shoulders with fine brass chains; a bra heavily embellished with tiger eye gems, brass and gold, forming hawk motives that symbolize and foreshadow her soaring potential. Her hips, neck and intricately braided hair are adorned with gold chains.

The doll is a Andro Inamorata Nnaji in Milk skintone.

Ashe – The Immortal

The third character in the collection is Ashe. She is one of a species called Felashi, Shadowwalkers or Immortals since they have such long life spans. Much of what is called magic has come into the other species from interbreeding with Felashi. They are telepathic or empathic and have other talents as well. Their eyes turn full silver as they use these gifts.

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During the centuries Ashe has roamed the world, she has lived many lives. She has been a captain of a space ship, protector of a royal family in a long gone capital, and a shadowwalker to guide the caravans through hostile deserts. Hard life has left her body and soul scarred. She blocks most of the memories, and people, out. Her companions are a pair of Helkin, Shadowcats, Polaris and Aurel.

Ashe’s hair (hard cap wig made with saran and mohair) is midnight black, but glimmers with red highlights when sun touches it. A strand of hair has turned grey from and old scar running up from her right eyebrow. Her wears no make up, so her face up was more about giving emphasis to the sculpted aging, blushing more shape to the face, scars and few beauty marks. Her body was also was heavily resculpted to add massive scarring. The sculpted micro wrinkles concentrate on her hands and face, areas that would be bare to to arid environment of the desert planet.

Ashe wears a, armour patched together over time. Other characters assume it is Sanddragon skin, but parts of it are of a creature now extinct. I wet-sculpted ostrich and salmon leather to create this mythological armour. Since they are in a hot climate I took a gladiator approach to the side and left the back bare, covered in straps that display her gruesome scar from a star ship crash. A wound that would had killed a human. Ashe is a warrior and wears her weapons as other women wear jewellery. She has a Sanddragon fang sword, similar to Rahal’s, only Ashe’s has a decorative carving running down it’s side. She also carries a pair of honour blades and an array of smaller knives hidden all over her person. I even hid two throwing daggers into her hair piece. She also carries a quarter staff with Sanddragon teeth embedded into it as a spiral, and ties her House colours onto this staff when approaching and Oasis deep in the desert.

The doll is a Andro bust Inamorata Valerie sculpt in Caramel skintone, resculpted to add aging and scars.

Aurel & Polaris – The Helkin

These new characters in the collection are two Helkin companions of Ashe: Polaris and Aurel. Helkin an alien feline species, large, fierce predators and highly intelligent. The other characters in the books wonder if they are in fact sentient beings as Ashe seems to communicate with them telepathically.

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Almost all Helkin have spots and patterns, and Aurel ‘s silvery blue fur is inspired by a snow leopard. She is a young, bold and playful creature, often being silly like a kitten. Polaris is older, calm and energy efficient. His tawny colouration is inspired by a king cheetah.

The cats are 3D printed pets designed by Helga Reinhard.  They stand about 15cm high and pose beautifully. Each cat comes with two heads and 4 tails in different poses. I painted them with highly diluted acrylics and then assembled the kits using thin rubbed bands.

 

More to come…

IN STOCK: NEW INAMORATA JUST ARRIVED!

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I’m so excited to see the new sculpts I worked on for half a year finally in resin. Five head sculpts (Charo, Nnaji, Valerie, Midori and Nubia, and five skintones (Milk, Latte, Caramel, Chocolate and Coffee) are now in stock as blank dolls (800usd) or as bespoken OOAKs (starting at 1100usd). There are also two bust sizes to choose from: Busty and Andro.

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Email me for orders: emiliacouture@gmail.com

More photos at Flickr:

Inamorata Dolls
Inamorata Dolls

 

Inamorata Resin & New Caramel Skin

I’ve been asked a lot about the luminescent quality of the resin I use for my dolls and the secret is in its translucency. Human skin is not opaque and if we stand against direct sunlight the thin parts of our bodies, like ears, light up. I wanted to give my dolls the same quality and after a long search I did find a superb polyurethane resin that grants this effect. It’s also stronger than regular resin so tiny parts, like separately sculpted fingers, don’t break as easily as in opaque old school resins.

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Upon request I have made a new skin tone: Caramel, available for the new Inamorata 2.0 patch. Caramel is a warm dark tan and picture (see below) in the left. On the right there is Latte, that is rather pale tan and the hands holding the resin samples are the pinkish, almost paper white, Milk.

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That means there are 5 skin tones now available for preorder: Milk, Latte, Caramel, Chocolate and Coffee. Inamorata dolls almo come in 5 different head sculpts and 2 bust sizes.

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THREE NEW INAMORATA HEADS

I am proud to present three new head types for Inamorata dolls! Midori was inspired by the beautiful women I saw in my travels around Taiwan and Japan. I absolutely love the rebooted Nnaji 2.0 but I feel she lost some of her ethnicity with the narrower nose, so her new sister Nubia is here to bring back the feeling of the original Nnaji sculpt from 2012. Last but not the least, as I have been working on her for years, is Valerie, a new softer Caucasian sculpt to compliment the most popular of Inamorata sculpts; the Latina vibe Charo.

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The new heads are available now for preorder patch either as blank dolls or commissioned OOAKs. Please read more about the order here.

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Hand Sculpting

People often ask me why I don’t use 3D imaging in my work. I love sculpting by hand and feel more connected to the finished work this way. Also, I believe in keeping the old traditions alive. Too many beautiful crafts are dying in the world and while visiting museums in Taiwan I have become even more acute aware of this. This is why I make my dolls completely by hand.

Instead, I use hard wax to make the first drafts, make a silicone mold and home cast them in resin to continue refining the sculpt. These heads are in the resin stage of sanding the surface and endless tweaking of facial features. For this I use a 2-component epoxy putty to add mass to the resin. The brand I use; Magic Sculpt, gives about an hour to work with the soft, wax like, form of the putty, before it hardens and can be carved, sanded and painted. I paint the models grey to see imperfections of the skin more easily and finally use a surfacing agent like Mr.Surfacer 1000 to give the model a nice matted skin like texture.

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FOR SALE: BLANK DOLLS & OOAK COMMISIONS

The new Inamorata sculpts are now unveiled and all five Inamorata 2.0 sculpts are available for preorder now. I will unveil the resin head samples of the new head sculpts for painting testing soonand the production will take place in June.

The price for blank dolls is 800usd and there is a 50% deposit to order and the rest is due with shipping costs when the dolls are at hand. The production slot is in June, but it’s safe to allow 3 months production period as the workshop that does my dolls is a very small family business. I love to support small entrepreneurs who take pride in the quality of their work.

So create your own perfect Inamorata doll with 8 hands and a stand from the 5 head sculpts, 2 bust sizes and 5 different skin tone options. Note that there is also a new feet sculpt with separated toes.

OPTIONS:

The head sculpts available for order are Nnaji 2.0 and Charo, as well as three new head sculpts: Nubia, Midori and Valerie. You can read more about the new head sculpts and the process here. The two chest plate options are Andro and Busty.  The skin tone options are Milk, Latte, Chocolate and Coffee. As requested I have added a new skin tone Caramel, a warm tan.

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Please email me (emiliacouture@gmail.com) to preorder and include the information below:

  • Blank (800usd) or fully painted OOAK doll (1100usd)
  • The dolls head sculpt, skin tone and bust size.
  • Your full name, address, phonenumber and PayPal ID

The deposit is 50% and the production is on it’s way.

Thank you for your patronage!

 

 

Tattoos and Hyper Realistic Body Blushing

One of my favourite things in painting dolls is to use layers to create lifelike skin so translucent and textured that it is almost as if the doll is just holding their breath, ready to gasp to life at any moment.

Dénear The Sirens Twins Inamorata 2.0 OOAK Charo Busty Milk art doll bjd haute couture emiliacouture em'lia
Dénear – One of the OOAK Siren twins, Inamorata 2.0. with hyper realistic body blushing, freckles and strobing.

This means multi hue base. To give Milk skin that feel of translucence I use pale copper oxide green, powder pink and faint lavender. Between the layers I might draw blue blood vessels, on top freckles, moles, scars and tattoos. It’s a mixed media of aquarelles, pencils, acrylics, pastels and other pigments. I often use loose pigment powders made for human makeup such as the ones from Make Up Store and MAC. Each layer is sealed with thin spray of Mr. Super Clear UV Cut Flat sealant and each doll has 5-10 layers depending on the level of detail. I also love deep dark skin tone, although dark resin is always harder to work with, but I find the glow of dark skin and the paler palms and soles of absolutely stunning.

For tattoos I often use aquarelle pencils sealed with UV spray. If the tattoo is meant to look fresh I use darker, more vibrant colours; if the tattoo is worn and old, the colours are faded and I do the body blushing over them for a more authentic feel.

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I’ve always loved tattoos and for two years I have been planning a collection of tattooed dolls, each OOAK representing a tradition of body art. My favourite has always been the Japanese Irezumi, an aesthetic heavily influenced by the ukiyo-e wood prints, and associated with yakuza. The other body art traditions represented could be Russian Bratva prison tattoos, American traditional, Indian henna, tribal scarification and Viking warrior.

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I am also interested in exploring bruises, scars, piercing and other body modifications in dolls. I was a tomboy of a child with constantly scraped knees, that grew into martial artist naming her bruises after the person who gave them to me. I consider scars and wrinkles as a part of a person’s life story written on their skin and all of it is beautiful, even if painful, because life carves depth into our souls. Hence, making dolls that show aging, bruises and scars is a wonderful way to tell story. It is what makes the dolls, and this work, interesting.

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You can find examples of commission prices for OOAK Inamorata dolls and other doll commissions here. Hyper realistic body blushing is 100usd. Tattoo work depends much on the scale and detail, but estimate for a small individual tattoo is 50usd, and larger sleeves or full body tattoos need to be priced case by case. Same goes for leaf “gold” accents. A detailed full body Irezumi style tattoos start at 500usd.