Making Paper Dolls

Paper Dolls

I found that my fashion designs took longer to draw because I was always recreating the wheel:  drawing the figure.  To speed things along, I decided to create paper dolls, figure templates I could trace to draw my designs upon.

Feel free to use my paper dolls or, if you’d like to make your own, follow these steps:

STEP 1:  Choose your model and collect photos.

Marilyn Pose

Pick a model or several models who have the figure you prefer.

Because I design clothing for busty girls, I decided to use Marilyn Monroe as my figure template.  She was also a good choice because she was one of the most photographed women of all time.

Do a Google Image search and collect photos showing her face, torso and/or legs, both front and back.

I prefer poses at a slight angle, with the face pointing left.  Sometimes I had to flip the photo to get the face pointing to the left.

Here is my collection of Marilyn photos.  I saved the photos as PNG format to prevent the blurring that JPG images get when they are saved over and over.

STEP 2:  Pick your favorite poses and remove the backgrounds.

No Background

Choose photos that have body parts (face/neck, torso, and legs) that look like they will stitch together well:  have similar angles, will make reasonable poses when combined.

Crop the photo to include only the model.  Leave the full body even if you are only going to use part of it — you may need parts of it in the next step.

Zoom in and erase any background still showing.

STEP 3:  Stitch the body parts together.

Combo Pose

If you are lucky you may find a single photo that will work and can skip this step altogether.

For photos of different sizes:  re-size them to fit together proportionally.

  • Pick a body part common to both photos (waist, height, etc.) and measure it.
  • Take the larger number and divide it by the smaller one.  This will produce a number greater than 1.
  • Multiply this number by 100 to get the percent change.
  • Re-size the smaller image by this amount.

Try several combinations of body parts until you find one you really like.

Here are my Frankenstein’s laboratory images where I stitched together front poses and back poses.

STEP 4:  Put front and back dolls in one image.

Combine the best front and back poses into one image.  Resize them to the same scale, if needed, using the procedure in Step 3.

STEP 5:  Remove clothing and skin.

Outlined in Black

Outline the model and erase the clothing and skin shading.  I prefer to draw basic underwear on the figure so I can standardize necklines, etc.

Decide which details to include.  I decided to leave only the face and neck of the original photo.

You may need to adjust the image to make front and back views consistent.  For example, Marilyn’s shoes were different in the photos I chose.

Change the outline to a pale gray so it will not distract from your design.

STEP 6:  Get to work.

Print a bunch of paper dolls and start designing your fashions.  I prefer to print my paper dolls in grayscale so the full-color face won’t distract from my designs.


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