I shared my first custom character doll, a little witchy gal modeled after Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter movies, to several doll groups on Facebook recently. As soon as she was shared the requests started flooding in to share my process for creating custom character dolls! I decided to share every step of the process with my next character I’ll be creating- Liv Moore from iZombie. This post will cover the basics for getting a doll ready to be customized. To start with, I chose a Madame Alexander doll with platinum hair and blue eyes as my base. I picked this doll specifically because her facial structure is similar to Liv’s, and obviously the hair and eye color were a good match as well. This is how she looked upon arrival:

Right off the bat, that bright pink lipstick HAS to go! This is often the hardest step in creating a custom character, as those factory paints tend to be designed NOT to come off through years of rough play. Usually a good thing, unless you’re trying to remove them!

I always start with a full-body bath with a Magic Eraser and then gentle soap and water to remove any surface dirt and start the process of “blanking” the face. This doll came to me in fantastic condition, with no surface wear or dirt to speak of, so I got right to work on removing her makeup.

The Magic Eraser didn’t even put a dent in that lip color! I even tried boosting it by wetting with rubbing alcohol instead of water (my go-to for stubborn factory paints. It’s taken set-in blood red hair dye out of my bathroom tile, so it’s almost always effective.) All that managed to do was smear the paint all over her mouth, but none of it actually came off. I went for the Goo-Gone next, figuring that since the issue was the stickiness of the paint, maybe something designed to remove sticky messes would work. It did manage to lift off all the color that had smeared, but there was still a lot of color left on the lips themselves. Finally I had to go to the acetone nail polish remover. I only ever bust out the acetone as a total last resort treatment, but this girl just wasn’t going to be usable as Liv with bright magenta-colored lips, and that color just wasn’t budging. With the acetone and a little elbow grease, I *finally* managed to get the last of the color removed. A careful scrub with some soap and water to remove any lingering chemicals, and she’s finally starting to look like our favorite zombie medical examiner! 😀

(Unfortunately I nicked her upper lip a bit while taking off the color, but as I was planning on keeping her for my own collection, I’ll let it slide for now. I’ll just have to be more careful with Liv #2!)

I opted to leave the painted lashes since the shadow I’ll be adding will cover them anyway. I also left the eyebrows in place to use as a guide later. I scrubbed her poor little face enough as it is, I felt she deserved a break. XD

That’s it for now, I’ll update again after I’ve worked on her some more. Next up is to start contouring with pastels!