The Cases of Heads A & B

I obtained the following heads in a trade. I knew they were damaged, but I was surprised that they were THIS damaged. Head A was once a Sticca, and Head B was once a Holly. My original plans for Holly were to restore her. After I saw them, my original plans went out the window and the only goal I had left was to make them beautiful again, however I could.

Head A: Head A was a Sticca head with a broken eyemech, and the faceplate painted green, the back plate painted purple (the description) No scalp or eyelids

The circled areas are the ones I identified as the 'major' trouble spots. The lips and nose had a good bit taken off of them. There were gouges on the bridge of the nose, and the cheek and forehead were gouged so badly it looks like someone tried to sand the face by using a slab of concrete.

This profile shot shows some of the structural damage better. The red outlines are what a normal pullip looks like in profile. The nose is blunted, the lips blunted, and a bit of the chin is gone. The gouges on the rest of the head will be a pain to get out but can be done with a lot of sanding. The missing parts are more of a problem.


Head B: A Holly Head with the makeup sanded off + damaged eye mech (description) No scalp or eyelids.

The reality:


I forgot to take a face-forward shot of this one before I started trying to fix it, but the profile picture shows the problems pretty obviously. All of the bottom lip and a huge part of the chin is just gone. The face has also been sanded with something like 200 grit sandpaper. It is so scraped up it feels like an old dog's chew toy. It's spiky to the touch under your fingertips. The picture isn't all that sharp, but you can STILL see some scrapes around the eye/cheek area. Also, horribly rusted eyemech with missing parts.

THE GOAL: I plan to fix both of these dolls so that they have working eye mechanisms, and are as pretty as my other customs. No 'hey, it looks nice considering what it was', just a pure and unqualified 'pretty'.

Day 1

The first step was to sand the heads down to figure out exactly what was and was not salvageable. Ideally, I would like to be able to fix both of these dolls so that I will not have to paint their heads. Painted heads are more fragile to handling, and besides, it's more of a challenge to fix them without using paint to cover up flaws.

I wet-sanded both heads with 800 grit sandpaper. Wet sanding leaves smoother results than dry sanding on the same grit sandpaper, and it works faster and makes sandpaper last longer because water keeps the sandpaper from getting clogged up. After all of the major flaws were removed with 800 grit sandpaper, I went over it again with 1000 grit sandpaper, again wet sanded. This time I was smoothing out any areas that had been marred by all the sanding, and tweaked areas that needed a little work.

Head A

On Head A, the nose was smoothed out and blunted on the sides to make the nose look more natural, smoothed the lips, and did my best to reshape the chin so that even if it wasn't as pronounced, it still looked right. There is still some makeup around the eyes, mouth, and nose that I didn't remove entirely. This is because when I compared the faceplate to the back of the head after everything was sanded smooth, I saw this:

While all the paint has been removed, it seems like the paint being on there so long tinted the plastic just enough for the faceplate not to match the back. Damn! I could try to tone the head, but because the color has seeped into the plastic and is not just on the surface it will never be a perfect match in all lighting. Therefore, this head will have to be painted, unless I can think of a way to customize the head so that the difference won't matter, or will work with the custom.


Head B:

On Head B, I angled the area on the sides of the chin and made a shallow indent between where the bottom lip would be and the chin to make it look more natural. See how it slopes in a little bit under the lip and slightly under the neck from the previous pictures? It's mild, but you can't take away much more without receding the chin back further. When I do makeup on the doll I will accentuate these areas with blush. Now the chin looks more natural, and all I have to worry about is the missing lip.

Here's the head from the front. Smoothed out, but still with missing lips and receded chin. If you don't know how pullips are supposed to look it doesn't look all that bad; it makes the doll look a little younger, maybe. The bottom lip will need to be sculpted on there, and if that's covered with lipstick, it should be all right.



Day 2

Now that the dolls have been sanded down to what can be salvaged, it's time to decide what to do with them. Because these are not 'standard' heads, the changes that have already been done to them should be evaluated to best suit the dolls that will be made from them.

Head A
This head needs to be painted. What kind dolls would need a painted head? My personal preference is to not paint the body because I haven't found a body painting method that suits my standards (stands up to play without chipping or rubbing). Some options I came up with were cyborg, geisha, goth. The way the nose, lips, and chin have been mildly blunted does make the doll appear to be more asian featured, so I think I'll go with a geisha or elegant gothic lolita type. However, I feel like the features could be tweaked a bit more to really suit either of those options, so out comes the Apoxie Sculpt. Apoxie sculpt is a 2-part modeling compound that can be sanded and carved after it is dry.

Head A's nose is blunted, but I think it could be a little straighter towards the tip, where the worst of the blunting was. I'll build that up a little. I'll also lower the eyelids and build up the lower lids slightly to give the eyes a nice slightly slanted almond shape.

On the left is a reshaped eye, on the right is the original eye shape. It's quite a bit smaller, and I only do this drastic an alteration when I am painting the face. I take extra care to blend in the apoxie as airbrushing will accentuate any bumps that are not perfectly smooth. after the apoxie cures I'll sand it smooth again, just in case.

The completed head from the front. The greenish gray areas are areas that have been built up: The tip of the nose, the eyes.

Here's a shot from the side. Mostly it's just to show the nose work as you can't see much of the build up from the front. Refer back to the day 1 shots; now the tip is rounded not blunt.


Head B
Head B is going to have a sculpted bottom lip, so I can have a whole lot more creativity with the mouth than I might try with a normal mouth. As-is, the head looks a bit childish with the rounder face from the sanded chin, but who knows how it'll look after I add a full mouth? Something that was suggested, and something I've wanted to try for a while is vampire fangs. Most of the time in pictures people just slap fangs that protrude over the bottom lip, and that just annoys me because it defies anatomy. Luts makes a really nice vampire head on their ball jointed dolls, so I decided to try something like that.

I also decided to lower the eyelids slightly. I like a heavy lidded look, but it's not as dramatic as Head A's lidded eyes because as I am not going to be painting this head and can only sculpt as far as I can reasonably conceal with eye makeup.

The bottom lip is a little bit bigger than I need, but as I will be carving it back and sanding it to get it just right after the apoxie has cured I'll have more room for error.

Now let's let the apoxie cure for 24 hours.

Day 3

This is sort of really Days 3&4 but I only got Head B's mouth done on Day 3, and that's not much to show. First I took fine sandpaper and went over the places where I sculpted apoxie and smoothed and shaped until everything was smooth and symmetrical. Then I started painting.

Head A
Geisha styled heads are incredibly difficult. Because of the painted base, you do not get a second chance. If you screw up, you can't erase. You pretty much have to start all over again. Because of this the Geisha inspired dolls are never quite what I was planning at the beginning because I have to constantly improvise as I go through to keep both sides of the face symmetrical.

I didn't get enough eyelids to cover all the dolls I got with missing parts, so I decided to give her animal eyes. Animal eyes are plastic eyes that bulge out in the front. Because of the bulge, they look very realistic, but also because of the bulge you can't close the eyelids. I only used animal eyes in one custom (which has a modified eye mechanism so that the eyes can blink) but I do like how they look, so not having any eyelids was a great excuse.

The nose looks pretty natural from the side. You wouldn't be able to tell I had to give her a nose cap to round off the tip. The dolls also didn't come with wig caps, so I made wig caps with craft foam. Cut a circle, and then cut darts around the edge until you have a domed shape that fits over a scalp. Cut it to fit the shape of the head. To give support from the inside, cut smaller circles, put darts in them, and fit them inside the cap in between the head and the 'new' wig cap.


Head B
The first thing I did with this doll after I got the bottom lip the way I liked it was to paint the lips. If I couldn't get the lips to look good I'd have to start over, so there was no point in doing the rest of the face. Fortunately, the lips turned out pretty good! I couldn't use natural looking pastels and gloss like I had with previous open mouthed customs, so the effect is a little cartoonish. That's ok, I just planned the rest of the head to match. She seemed like she'd go well as a 1950s styled vampire, like Vampira and the mom on the Munsters. Classic black and white horror movie girl vampire, like one of Dracula's brides.

She also got animal eyes. I tried a bunch of different eyes, and the effect of a pair of animal eyes painted with gold on the back looked far better than anything else I tried on her. Like two big full moons. I also have a small stock of special effect eyelashes I picked up from last halloween clearance that seemed like they'd go well and they did.

A side shot shows how recessed the teeth are. I can't emphasize enough how recessed 'anatomically correct' teeth are to making a vampire mouth work. Sabre tooth tiger teeth hang down over the bottom lip. Human teeth do not, alive or undead. Here's a great example of bad teeth: Cover art of The Fixer, by John Merz (Merz wrote it, he didn't do the painting). Not a bad book, but if I hadn't been in a book store when the author was doing a signing, I never would have picked it up. Because of those teeth. It isn't a huge image, but the two little horizontal white needles that were slapped on like an afterthought should be pretty obvious. I giggle every time I look at it.

So in the end, everything worked out pretty well. The trick with damaged dolls like these is that you can't just do whatever you'd like with them as with a new doll. You have to work with what's there. Your options are fewer, but if you're creative you can turn a flaw into an opportunity to try something new that might not work on a normal doll.

(click to go to Lady Butterfly's custom gallery)

(click to go to custom gallery)

Do you have a doll in need of some serious plastic surgery?
Let me know.