How to Make a Paper Doll

So you want to make a paper doll. But you're not confident in your artistic talent, or your creativity. What if you just make a fool out of yourself? Well, never fear. Paper doll creation is easy with a little preparation, a little practice and a lot of fun!

This tutorial is for dolls about the size of a large sheet of paper, or smaller. The tools listed below will be needed by you whatever size you use; however, if you're aiming for a larger doll you'll need more paper and more cardboard. Keep that in mind.


Punk Rock Paper Doll, by the Dead Milkmen.

You will need....

  • At least 10 (preferably > 20) sheets of white drawing paper
  • Pencils
  • An Eraser
  • Colored pens and/or pencils
  • Glue
  • Flat cardboard, e.g. from a cereal box, OR
  • Thick/heavy construction paper
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • Fashion magazines, hairstyle magazines, full body photos, art anatomy reference books, other paper dolls (yes, you can cheat), and other pictures of people, taken straight on, from head to toe. If you're uncomfortable with nudity try to find a picture of somebody in their underwear.

Before you start...

  • Plan. How much time are you willing to devote to this? How much time do you have? Are you going to set up on the kitchen table, in the living room, in the office, or where? When are you going to clean up? Deal with logistical issues before you deal with anything else; otherwise you're likely to sabotage yourself.
  • Brainstorm. What kind of paper doll do you want to make? A punk rock one? A 1980s goth? Are you going to make a paper doll of your favorite musician or actress? What sort of clothes would you like to make? Take a pen and paper and write everything down, no matter how outrageous it sounds.
  • Decide. If you don't decide on one solution, don't get started. When I say "one solution," I don't mean you have to choose 1980s goth or Angelina Jolie. Choose both if you want. But make sure the concept is clear and concrete, both in your mind and on paper. If you can't boil it down to one sentence, e.g. "Angelina Jolie as a new romantic," it might be too vague for you to get started.

Sailor Moon paper doll

So you're past the planning stage and ready to make a paper doll. Wonderful! After all that preparation, about 80% of the hard work is done. Now get ready for the fun!

  1. Find (or create) your base figure. This is the full body figure that you're going to use. You can use a pre-created figure, a fashion picture, a nude body, or a drawing of your own.
  2. Cut out (or photocopy) all of your inspirational pictures. If you don't have a photocopier, use graphite transfer paper to trace the outline onto a sheet of paper below.
  3. Decide which accessories, hairstyles, clothes, glasses etc. you're going to use. Keep in mind that you might have to resize and redraw some articles. Scrap the rest.
  4. Draw some items by hand (optional).
  5. Take the pieces that don't fit your base figure, and make them fit, either by resizing, reposing or redrawing them. You can do this by hand or in Photoshop.
  6. Glue your clothes, accessories, hairstyles and so on to the cardboard or construction paper. Draw tabs on these pieces, to hold them in place.
  7. Cut out the items, with the tabs.
  8. Cut out your base figure.
  9. Voila! You're done! Have a drink, alcoholic or otherwise.

That's how to make a paper doll. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact us.

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"Punk Rock Paper Doll" by the Dead Milkmen.

Usagi Paper Doll from George's Millenium Moon.

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