Today’s lovely Maisa whom I met on dollfan, she is such a sweetheart and worked on a pretty expansive list of links and tips for newbie sculptors. it’s such a great starting point for new sculptors I thought we could share her post with those who aren’t on doll fan.:)

here it is:

Over the past few months, I have noticed that we regularly get new sculptors asking for advice on how to start, where to learn and what to buy. I pulled together some of the things that members have posted that respond to those questions. If any of you can think of other helpful things to list, please let me know and I can add them. That way, this can be a post that we can refer new sculptors to.

Tools – see this thread: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=187123&p=1597544&hilit=fAVORITE+TOOLS#p1597544
Poymer clay ( I use Prosculpt).
A basic set of sculpting tools (wooden or otherwise).
Since you are making a bigger baby, perhaps you might like to try the tool by Jack Johnston. It is a three in one tool. It helps making the nail beds, ears and other sculpting.
Clay shapers (they have a rubber tip and come in different shapes).
Liquid Sculpey (in case you need to add baked clay to fresh clay)
Aluminum foil & wire if you want to make your own head, arm support.You can also purchase these support forms. I especially like the ones that Pat Maulton sells.
I have purchased the form from Secrist but did not like it.
A good sculpting dvd to learn the basic skills (I have the one from Pat Maulton).
A good stand to work from (I also have one from Pat Moulton)
Some clean brushes for smoothing the clay in hard to reach places (I have some that I keep just for that purpose).
Sand paper in different grits
Nail polish remover to get rid of the ridges caused by the sanding
A few good reference photos of real babies (it helps to remember how things actually are).
Baby wipes (to wipe your hands and working surface often)
A hand held vacuum cleaner (to keep the lint at bay)
Good lighting perhaps with a magnifying glass.

Secrist sells dvds on sculpting minis and lifesize babies.
Pat Moulton has a dvd on sculpting lifesize babies.
There is a good series on youtube for sculpting an adult female face that I found interesting to watch as well: … re=channel
Dawn Macleod also has a PDF or cd tutorial on minis that you can buy through ebay or her site
Patricia Rose has dvd on sculpting full body mini babies. There is an excerpt of it on youtube. The link is:
Hunnybyns nursery has tutorials in the website at … ichael.htm
Elizabeth Townsley has some sculpting info at … 9c75e.html
Sandra Maxwell has a tutorial on sculpting larger babies at

General advice/tips:
OK…I am officially on sculpt number seven…..or let’s make that head number seven as I have only finished two mini’s and have five other heads floating around some with one or two limbs, but none complete…but in this time I have truly learned some essentials on how to be a good sculptor…not that I am a good sculptor (I am a noob sculptor LOL or sculptor-wannabe)…but I know what NOT to do if you want to have a hope of having decent sculpts…so let me SHARE the benefit of my few trial and errors as I know some people are as new to sculpting as me and might can benefit (and please keep in mind that I am seriously new to sculpting too so for seasoned sculptors feel free to jump in and amend these don’ts as you see fit…..I am clearly not an expert on this topic :0):

1. NEVER use baby oil on uncured prosculpt…..NEVER, EVER!!!! The clay will not cure and any hair you try to stick on it will not stick well and you will definitely be bald from pulling your own hair out….now other clays you might can, but I personally haven’t used any other clays so I can only speak to this!! To my happy delight…my last sculpt I actually ROOTED with a rooting tool mohair into straight prosculpt and had wonderful success in the hair holding firmly…I was able to even COMB the hair without it falling out…how is that for success??…

2. DON”T smooth with baby powder unless you are done COMPLETELY with sculpting…this deserves reiiterating: If you are going to smooth with baby powder, you must be done sculpting completely….I need to define completely…as this tip was given to me by a very good sculptor…BUT I personally did not understand the word COMPLETELY….what this means is that you can only lightly touch your sculpt after applying the baby powder…this does not, however, mean that you can push ANY (no matter how slight) of the clay around…trust me….you will end up with little baby powder spots embeded in the clay that look like moonies and you will bruise yourself kicking yourself for being so stupid and ruining a perfectly good sculpt!!

3. RESIST the urge to NOT wash your hands…even if you just washed them five minutes ago….in other words you need to scrub up as if you were doing open heart surgery on your mate!!! Your hands cannot be clean enough…seriously……and anytime you see a spec on the clay (because invariably there will always be specs unless you happen to be in an OR) go ahead and dig it out sooner rather than later.

4.DON’T waste your time detailing early on……it is a waste of time….you will be spinning your wheels…go ahead and get the landscape right first…in other words…you need to get the planes right…..nose field, eye field, mouth field where they are going to be before settling on any exact look or detail you eventually want….how many times have I sculpted the best nose ever only to realize that it needed to come out from the eyes a bit more because I didn’t have it in the right plane???…well not too many as I haven’t done that many sculpts….BUT the point is…spinning my wheels….in the end in truth each of my sculpts because of these errors is probably ten sculpts in each…..and practice is practice..but still ….don’t waste your time on this inevitable frustration!!!

5. DON”T not set the eyes appropriately (forgive my double negative, but I am doing the ten DON”Ts LOL)….for mini’s a great trick I invented (though I say I invented it but I only say that because I never read it anywhere..doesn’t mean someone else didn’t figure it out before me and invent it FIRST..lolol)….e.g. for two millimeter eyes…you are crazy if you think you can keep them in place while you sculpt a one to two inch doll around them without baking them in position first… yourself a favor and go ahead and bake those small eyes in position in a tiny piece of clay first and then sculpt around that eye block. If eyes are off, the sculpt will NEVER be good….so this is SO important….eyes being crosseyed are better than eyes being wall-eyed from an observer’s perspective …………..the reason being that the eyes cross naturally when focusing on a near object, but will never go past straight ahead to wall-eyed even if looking in the distance in a normal adult….babies can go crosseyed and walleyed during the first three to six months of life, but it still makes for a disturbing image…seems out of place to the observer….so just align them from the beginning so that won’t be why you sculpt doesn’t sell. Also for sleepers make lids with eyeballs under them….in other words….make a lid somewhat spherical like half an egg, rather than flat like a plate…eyelids cover ROUND eyeballs that are spheres, so there should be some contour to the lids…..and if you have to bake little sphere balls and put them in place before you sculpt the lids if you can’t trust yourself not to flatten them too much :0).

6. DON”T trust the light reflex to align eyes exclusively. Another comment about eyes..but this is my forte’…..I know it has been discussed that you line up the eyes by the little Hirschberg reflex in each pupil…..and this is one of the tests eye doctors do to test for eye alignment (fwiw, I am an eye doctor so maybe this is why eyes in sculpts are a big concern to me ;0) ….BUT I have had the unfortunate experience to discover that you can’t base your glass eye alignment on this reflex completely….and I have realized the reason why……the corneas on these glass eyes (especially the miniature eyes) are not symmetrical to one another and so the reflex is skewed and if you line the eyes up according to this little light reflex your sculpt may in fact appear to have crossed or walled eyes even though the reflex is RIGHT where it should be…so use the light reflex as a guide but ultimately you have to ‘eyeball’ it (pun intended ;0)…LOL

7. RESIST…oh…RESIST the temptation to bake your sculpt too soon…this was very hard for me….VERY hard for me….once I got something looking right I wanted to bake it in place immediately dare I mess it up….it really is best to resist this urge and wait until the last possible second, minute, hour or…to bake it…because you will never have as much control over your sculpt as you do before the first bake. Even when you think you are finished and ready to bake…give it one final once over and especially look at head contour….that old sneaky head contour…so easy to get lost in the face and forget that your baby doesn’t have a gulp…brain stem…;0)..LOLOL…you can use the old ‘artist license’ all you want, but people don’t want to buy a baby with lumps and bumps all over his skull…they aren’t practicing frenology and NO the added realism from the baby looking like they came through the birth canal will only go JUST so far….LOLOL….so that will be discussed in a bit more detail in number 9.

8. Don’t rely on just washed hands to keep clay clean…..Seriously..use plastic wrap…..we hear about tinfoil…for armature etc…but really PLASTIC WRAP is your best friend….use it to store your conditioned clay in sections, make sure you cover your sculpt with it so it doesn’t dry out or get dusty and even use it to smooth your sculpt…yes…sculpt with plastic wrap between your fingers and the clay…when you are roughing the structure it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but the less you touch your clay the better. I had read this tip and thought…NO….can’t see me doing that…but finally I did it and am so glad I learned this tip and wonder why I didn’t do this before.

9.Don’t just ‘go with the flow’……SYMMETRY MATTERS….whatever you do make it symmetrical…look from every angle…..unless it is a mouth or a particular expression that needs assymmetry make one half of the face look like the other…in fact I found that detail one half of the face first and then matching symmetrically the other side was a good technique for me (yes…in my seven sculpts…lolol….boy..I sure sound like an expert….like I have a ton of experience under my belt don’t I???LOLOL)….but I know enough from plastic surgery shows on TLC that symmetry is key to beauty…so make your babies symmetrical….from all angles….look from below, above, straight ahead, right and left…seriously….this is an important tip….and can make the difference in a great sculpt and a sculpt that has something just a little ‘off’.

10. I think the biggest DON”T is if ‘you DON’T practice, you WON’T get better’…..I can tell that just getting your hands ‘dirty’ so to speak gives you more knowledge of the manipulation of the material and no book, tape or person can replace hours of practice. I did discover that sculpting with a very light pressure when detailing and making subtle curves and slopes in the clay rather than harsh distinctions would make a HUGE difference in the outcome of my sculpts….here I am talking like I am a good sculptor and believe me I am NOT…but I have seen improvement in just seven (or was that seven HUNDRED???) sculpts…felt like…..but these are tips I would love to pass on to others in love with the art of sculpting. I cannot believe how passionate I am about this and hope everyone with this early love of this art can have a wee bit easier time at it by reading these ten don’ts :0)

The above information reflects just some of the member responses that have been given through the sculpting forum for new artists. Feel free to also check past threads, as there is a wealth of information to be found!


Thanks Maisi!! this information is invaluable!!!