Sunday, July 08, 2007

Best Fabric and Mediums for Cloth Doll Faces

Marie-Paule from France wrote me a letter today asking about the kind of fabric used for cloth doll faces, and how to color them. This is a great topic. I can tell you from experience, not all fabric is suited for making dolls, and some fabric is better than others when it comes to coloring them.
Of course, there are lots of mediums you can use to "paint" a doll's face- and body, too! But let's get down to basics.

If you are beginning to learn how to construct a cloth doll, and color the face- then you should start with colored pencils. You get absolutely gorgeous results and it's a perfect way to learn and practice all the important techniques- how to shape the eyes, where to place them, how to shade, how to form realistic features. It really isn't rocket science. And you can do it all with a few colored pencils. After you feel comfortable, you can try paint. Many doll artists just stick to colored pencils, though.

What kind of colored pencils?
Most importantly, they should have a high pigment and do well on fabric. Not all pencils that are made for paper can color on fabric. I wrote a post about this about a year ago, and you can read more about it here.

Fabric is also very important. THe best kind of fabric for dolls is cotton, the kind you use for making quilts. The higher the thread count, the better the quality of the fabric, and the better for painting and coloring on. There are several resources on the internet for "doll fabric." Your local quilt shop may have something in a nice skin color, but my experience living in Israel tells me that such fabric may not be accessible to everyone everywhere! I tried substitutes but believe me, when I ordered the "right stuff" from the internet, my dolls and faces changed dramatically. Form needle sculpting to coloring, fabric makes a tremendous difference.
Here is one of my favorite sources for doll fabric:
My favorite doll fabric happens to be "Pimatex parfait." You can find it at that site. Another goodie is Kona Cotton. It's a bit thicker than the Pimatex.

Some other handy things you will need when coloring faces:

  • micron pens (they are super super thin, great for making eyelashes)
  • Gel pen in white (for whites of eyes)
  • Spray bottle or q-tip dipped in water (for blending)
  • Fixative Spray (for sealing and protecting your work)

I'll try to post a bit more details about face painting in the future. Lots of pictures to upload, I'm afraid I don't have time today!

And of course, there is a fabulous book that I have to recommend. Creative Cloth Doll Faces byt Patti Medaris Culea. There are lots of books out there on this subject, and Patti's is a great resource. Easy to understand, well written, and you can't go wrong!

Have fun!


  1. Thanks for the face coloring tip!

  2. Patti Culea also recommends using "skin tone color" cotton batiks for faces and bodies because it's a bit stronger than regular quilting cotton due to the dye process. I've used it a couple times and the other thing I noticed is that it gives a more realistic feel to the doll's skin because it's made of shades, not one overall color. But you really have to search to find suitable batik shades. I think it's worth the hunt in the end. Thanks for the link to the coloring pencil tips.

  3. mpaule10:38 AM

    thank you very, very much for the explanation! you are an angel!
    I look for the material, I do a doll and I show you.
    have a nice day

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  5. Anonymous2:22 AM

    These are great tips! I usually use acrylics to paint faces, although I have used coloured pencils before. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to come and see the dolls on my blog and let me know what you think?
    Thanks for a great post.


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