By no means am I an expert on the subject of repainting dolls. But there are some things I think I know rather well (not that knowing always means actually DOING, but hey, a free advice! :P), and thought I could share them with anyone interested.
Painting eyes on dolls is a rather difficult task, since it involves creating something that needs to be symmetrical on a surface that is uneven. There is a big difference between painting on a flat piece of paper, and on a sculpted face with some already existing features. Not only our hands might slip easily, but our eyes might deceive us just as well. Recognising small differences of depth on such a small item is no easy task, especially since a lot of us, used to computer monitors, have astigmatism (I know I do), and are not always aware of that fact. Astigmatism interferes with our perception of depth, but it’s not the only thing that causes mistakes. Some of us are just a bit better with symmetry than others. Luckily, it can be trained. Apart from training, there are a few tricks that can really help us along.
I picked them up not while repainting dolls, but working as a make-up artist. You can often see make-up artists seating their clients in front of a mirror. It’s perfectly normal for a hairdresser, since they have to see the head from every possible side, but why a make-up artist? Well, because checking things in the mirror immediately reveals any asymmetry. It happens because of two things. As we look at something for a longer time, especially while creating it, we get used to it so much, we stop seeing asymmetrical details. Sudden horizontal flip of the view makes us see every problem very clearly (often it’s quite shocking and feels completely out of place), because our brain suddenly sees the exact opposite of what it was already used to. The second reason is the mirror’s flatness, and the fact that it limits our field of view – just like a screen. So if you’re not sure if the doll you’re painting is symmetrical (especially irises and pupils) – place her in front of a mirror and you’ll see.
Another easy trick is to take a lot of photos during work. Photos are even better, because they really translate the whole thing into two dimensions. You can then horizontally flip the photo back and forth, to see if it’s okay, and believe me, it will be crystal clear. A word of advice, though: do not try and make everything perfect. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, in real life things are not symmetrical, and perfect symmetry feels really unnatural. Just see if your doll is not cross-eyed or wall-eyed, if the eyebrows, or both halves of her upper lip are even (unless, of course, you want them like that), and that’s it. Keep it reasonable and don’t be too harsh on yourself.
It’s also good to keep in mind that the rounder the surface, the harder it is to paint. For example, Cleo de Nile (Monster High) has rather flat eyes, rather easy to paint. Lagoona and Spectra on the other hand have bulging eyeballs, so just be careful there. To be completely honest, Lagoona’s eyes are so prominent, that even the original face paint makes her look like she was trying to see both corners of the room at the same time. 🙂