3D printing dolls

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Design and Print the Doll of Your Dreams


Obviously anything doll-related may not be something to associate with dreams for some, but there are communities of doll collectors that are larger than you’d initially think.

One doll community which is starting to feel the force of 3D printing in particular, is the Ball Jointed Doll (BJD) community.

What is a Ball Jointed Doll?

A BJD is a doll which features ball joints, and is strung together with elastic cord. Most are cast in resin and finished by hand, before being professionally painted, which is why they come with quite a hefty pricetag. However, this doesn’t stop doll hobbyists from collecting them, painting them, developing characters and making accessories. The ‘custom’ element of these dolls is what brings many people into the hobby (as well as them being super pretty and cool to look at) and ‘custom’ products are becoming more and more widely produced on 3D printers.

Sculpt: Ringdoll Andrew, credit to Lydia Mahon

These resin BJDs allow you change their eyes, hair, how the face is painted, and body parts can even be mixed and matched depending on the owners requirements to help create the perfect doll for them. They even come in a wide range in sizes, from as small as under 10cm, to over a metre tall. More common sizes include 1/6 scale (around 27cm), 1/4 scale (around 45cm) , 1/3 scale (around 60cm) and larger (70cm +).

sculpt: Kids Sky Moonstone, credit to Lydia Mahon

However the levels customisation these dolls already offer just isn’t enough to some, as that perfect face shape can often be just out of reach. This is where RML makes their entrance.

RML allows customers to model their own doll face using a user-friendly program, print the 3D modelled face, finish, paint and then assemble the face and body into a full doll.

How do I customise my own doll face?

A user friendly program called ‘RML 3D FACEMAKER’ presents you with a list of facial features which you can manipluate using a sliding bar which you can select and scroll side to side with a computer mouse or touchpad. You don’t have to pay anything to use the program, so I’ve already had a go at creating my own dream doll. Here’s the link to the program, which requires unity web player and a browser to run. It doesn’t run in Google Chrome, but it works with most other browsers.

You can create a wide range of faces, here are two I created myself, which both look very different. The different sliders do need a lot of tweaking in order to balance everything and create a face, but its super fun, especially when RML encourages users to share their creations with each other. They do stress that users can’t use their creations on a commercial level, however.

Providing a program that uses a browser to run is particularly useful, as it doesn’t shut out potential users who would otherwise be unable to download large programs just to customise a doll face.

To get your finished design over to RML for making, all you do is copy and paste the code at the bottom into the right box in the order form, and they do the rest. Make sure to click the ‘creation code’ button when you’re finished creating, otherwise you either won’t have a code or may have the wrong one!


Just imagine if this kind of software could be used for other customised items? A chair? An ornament? One of the biggest problems when it comes to 3D printing is the lack of user friendly programs which opens doors for those who struggle with complex 3D modelling software, so this could be the way forwards for customers to customise products themselves.

Once the information is sent off to RML, the face is printed in nylon using a 3D printer.

Once printed, the face is a bit rough, which is fine for some figurines and toys that are printed, but in the world of BJDs, the dolls need to be finished to a very high level of quality, after the printing stage, the head is then sent to an artist who sands and paints the doll face.

The head can be bought separately as is, without a body too, for those who want to paint the doll themselves.

You can get the full doll with a body, which stands at 60cm tall, fitting into the 1/3 category for dolls, also placing it at about the average size for a BJD. This doesn’t seem that important for some, but many owners struggle with buying clothing for dolls which are odd sizes, so having your own custom doll at a size which is easy to buy accessories for makes the doll all the more appealing to potential owners.

The finished face is smooth, painted professionally, and sealed with a Japanese branded matte sealant called ‘Mr Super Clear’.

From this point, you can either buy accessories and clothing straight from RML, or source or make your own. As a doll collector myself, its amazing to know that I can customise a doll down to the tiniest of facial features, like lip thickness.

It’s a bit hard to find the right area on the website for everything to be in English, but if you choose the English option in the facemaker program page its a lot easier to navigate the site. However, you can also access the FAQ here and the order form here to see what RML has to offer.

3D printed doll clothes too?

 The clothing is printed in flexible acrylic, and is modelled and printed to fit their specific doll. Sadly this means these creations aren’t the right size to fit other BJDs on the market, but if you happen to own one of their dolls, this clothing should fit.

I’ve seen all too many doll collectors angst over never finding the perfect face for a character they want to customise a doll for, so it’s incredibly exciting to see that you can in fact customise a doll face to exactly what you need. In fact, it is mentioned in the FAQ that you can contact RML about them helping you to create a particular look if you can’t quite manage it using the program, so even if you struggle with the software, you can still have the doll face of your dreams!

Happy Customising!

Lydia Mahon

A Product Designer and overall creative person, with a passion for all things design. I have a particular interest in cosplay and the violin, but I'm an explorer of many mediums.

Dolls on a 3d printer: 3d model of an articulated bjd

Creating beautiful well-detailed dolls is a rather long and laborious process. 3D printing technology will help simplify it. It will allow you to create three-dimensional articulated dolls using a printer. Consider how such dolls differ from ordinary ones, how they are created and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such products.

BJD-dolls on a 3D printer

BJD (ball-jointed doll) are ball-jointed dolls. Thanks to the articulated joints, the doll's arms, legs, head and torso are movable.

BJD dolls are printed as separate parts on a 3D printer, which are assembled on an elastic band using special fasteners.

Due to their good detail, ball-jointed dolls are very often used as models in photo shoots to demonstrate various reduced items of clothing, accessories, shoes, etc. Ball-jointed dolls are also popular for visual demonstration of various sports stances, yoga poses and other demonstration purposes.

What do 3D printed articulated dolls look like?

The 3D printed dolls have highly detailed facial features, body curves and even fingers. With proper refinement with the help of decorative materials, they will look very similar to people.

Thanks to 3D modeling it is possible to develop dolls with characteristic individual features (special eye cuts, different hand poses and different body parameters). In this case, they will be perfectly symmetrical.

BJD dolls have a solid construction thanks to the material they are printed from (ABS plastic or translucent plastic (ProJet, Objet)).

Where can I get a 3D model?

Creating a 3D model of a ball-jointed doll is a very complex process that consists of designing each individual part of the product and creating supports. Therefore, few masters share their many hours of the fruits of labor.

But you can still find 3D doll models online. The largest number of files with different print formats can be found on two sites: https://www.thingiverse.com and https://open3dmodel.com. The first site is completely in English, but its database of 3D objects is quite extensive. The second web resource has a smaller number of models, but its localization is completely Russian.

How to print?

Creation of a ball-jointed doll on a 3D printer is carried out in seven stages:

  1. Development of a 3D model in a specialized program. Almost any software that usually comes with the printer is suitable for this. You can also use highly specialized programs for 3D modeling. You can skip the first stage of creating a doll if the user already has a ready-made three-dimensional model.
    Important! Jointed doll mainly consists of hollow parts. Therefore, before completing the development of a three-dimensional object, it is necessary to install support structures in the necessary places of the part, which will help to print the parts of the workpiece located in the empty space.
  2. Cutting finished product parts in a slicer. Each part must be cut into identical slices. Thanks to this, layer-by-layer printing will be more clear and will produce better quality blanks.
  3. Media selection. There are two recommended materials for making a ball-jointed doll:
  • ABS plastic is durable and inexpensive. However, it has a low level of detail and requires post-processing (priming and sanding) after printing.
  • Translucent plastic (ProJet, Objet) is a strong but expensive filament. It reproduces the fine details of the product well when printed. The surface is very smooth and does not require additional processing.
  1. Doll print. Sliced ​​3D doll parts are printed separately. Further, depending on the material used, the workpieces are cooled, washed in acetone or illuminated. After that, the supporting structures are removed.
  2. Post-processing parts. Additional surface treatment may be required depending on the material used. Most often they are sanded, sanded and primed. All these actions are necessary in order to remove the irregularities that have arisen during printing and remove the remnants of the supporting structures. After the part is painted in the main shade (flesh or any other, depending on the master's idea).
  3. Assembly of the doll. All prepared parts are assembled into a single product using special hooks or thick paper clips. When assembling movable dolls, high-strength elastic threads are used, which are stretched.
  4. Decoration. At this stage, eyes, lips, nails and various small details of the product are drawn. Hair is also attached, clothes, shoes are put on and accessories are added.

The main advantage when creating articulated three-dimensional dolls is their realism. Dolls really turn out very similar to real people. It follows from this that a doll printed on a 3D printer can always look different. Thanks to 3D modeling, individual parts of the product are extremely detailed and can be designed in any way. Therefore, the master can create individual models of dolls that will fully meet the requirements of the customer.

Along with significant advantages, articulated dolls have a number of disadvantages:

  • a very long process of creating a 3D model in a specialized program;
  • Limited media available for printing;
  • 3D printed dolls always need post-processing.

Creating BJD dolls on a 3D printer is a rather laborious process that will require certain modeling skills in specialized programs, good knowledge of working with a printer, as well as the ability to do post-processing and product design. However, if all these skills are present, then the user can easily create original gifts or sell unique dolls at a high price.

  • March 22, 2021
  • 8925

Get expert advice

3D printed articulated doll. A samurai has no goal, only a path.

A couple of months ago, while watching the anime "Attack on Titan" I thought that I really want to get myself a pocket corporal Levi. A static figurine did not inspire me, because I understand that I will quickly get tired of it. Slowly finished watching the anime and then it dawned on me - I need a articulated Levy doll.

Corporal Levi.

Usually when a person sees a ball-jointed doll for the first time, the first reaction is: "Fuuuuuu. You can see the hinges. It's not pretty, they should be hidden." But if you look closely at the dolls of professional masters, you can see amazing detail and even some charm in such joints.

In general, articulated dolls are a whole art - each doll (even cast from one master model) is unique, because you can customize any part - from makeup to head, face, eyes, etc. They look almost alive, especially when dressed and with makeup, as if each has its own personality and character.

Many people are crazy about the cost of the finished doll, but an experienced craftsman can make one doll for months, achieving the perfect combination of all parts and bringing the surface to the ideal.

The process of molding a ball-jointed doll by a master. Photo from here.

I have been looking at articulated dolls for several years, but there was not enough incentive to start. For me, it's like diving into a bottomless well, I have to master a lot of skills and knowledge, and there is sorely not enough free time.

Model preparation.

I needed a certain character. After going through well-known free sites, I found several static 3D Levy models and one BJD boy doll. I had to put it together somehow. My 3D modeling skills are like a random vinaigrette. A little bit from there, a little bit from there. All my attempts to somehow systematize my skills run into my laziness and lack of motivation =)

I understood that I would hardly be able to create an articulated doll from scratch. There are too many nuances to consider in modeling hinges, etc., so it was decided to try to stylize the face of the doll downloaded from thingiverse as much as possible.

Styling is a tricky thing because upon closer inspection, Levi's drawing is different in anime, manga and the same yaoi fanfics. But the character is still recognizable. I singled out for myself a couple of main features and tried to repeat them.

Different options for drawing Leo and

Everything was complicated by the fact that I was more familiar with modeling theoretically, my artistic skills are rather lacking, and my knowledge of anatomy will make a knowledgeable person want to heat me up with an anatomical reference book. Well, modeling with a computer mouse is a separate kind of perversion. But in the end we have, IMHO of course, +/- a similar character.

On the left is my "stucco", on the right is a unique original

During modeling, if something visually confuses, it is worth checking the anatomy. Along the way, I tried to add some muscles to the body, to make them a little more prominent. The original model has the figure of a teenage boy, it's lucky that Levi in ​​anime drawing looks about the same.


When you need to print a small model in which a smooth surface is important, but it is too lazy to process a lot, an adequate person will choose a photopolymer. But I don’t have a photopolymer and it’s unlikely to appear in the near future, so we climb into the bins and find the thinnest nozzle for the right UlTi (0.3 was found, I wouldn’t be afraid to use even 0.1).

The original model is already 60 cm tall, I don’t need so much) I really wanted to fit in the size up to 20 cm, but having estimated my capabilities, I decided to stop at the size of 24 cm. All the same, in addition to the doll, I have to make eyes, clothes, accessories, and my fine motor skills are not as good as in my youth)

Initially, I wanted to use Ceramo for printing, but I found only black in the bins, so I didn’t bother and took the usual ABS. Although the idea of ​​a pseudo-ceramic doll does not let me go, it is debugged on the back burner.

We print in 3 passes, we pick out the supports, remembering the old adage - "We print, tear off the supports, bandage our fingers." There were two options for the head, the only difference is the slightly different eyelids. You can see the difference if you know where to look.

I cut some of the parts so that there would be less support on the outside. And after printing it turned out that part of the lower leg has a too thin wall.

We remake and reprint. We put everything together, take away my husband's glasses for soldering with lenses "for the blind", take out the engraver and clean the connections.

After initial sanding, the surface looks almost perfect, but it is not. I remembered the old way to remove the surface - fill the surface with a thin layer of paint and gently sand it. On the ledges, the paint will easily peel off, and in the pits it will remain, highlighting the surface relief. Skinning until we remove the pits and scratches. Repeat as many times as you can be patient. It took me 2 times.

Although the difference is very noticeable even after the first treatment. Without primer, I could hardly see the bumps on such a small detail.

I think it’s clear here what is processed and what is not )

First assembly

We primed, there was only gray soil at hand and without enduring we collect it to check whether the doll will stand. Hands itchy)

Primed dismemberment.

I will assemble the doll using thin spandex (0.6 mm), although 1 mm would be better. The stretch is selected experimentally, but in fact it is necessary to ensure that the elastic inside is stretched almost to the limit. The elastic band passes through the entire doll, and at the ends it is attached with hooks to the feet and hands.

Making hooks is hell. At home, there were not a single long-nose pliers or, at worst, wire cutters / pliers. And the hooks had to be made from thin steel wire (sold as a wire for bracelets with a "memory effect", after working with it I call her vindictive). Somehow I made 2 hooks from thick copper wire for the legs, but such a wire no longer fit into thin hands.

We collect and Levi is standing! Hooray! This means that all hinges work correctly. Later, she asked her dad for long nose pliers and made hooks for her hands. Dad is still distrustful of my needlework and is reluctant to share the tool) It seems that he considers it complete garbage, condemns, but silently.

And even keeps balance on one leg) We check the hinges, everything is ok, only I want to deepen the hinges in the elbows a little. And another small nuance - the plastic is slippery and Levi's legs-handles do not hold in a half-bent position. In order for the doll to have intermediate positions of the joints, there are 2 solutions - the first is to fit the hinges very tightly, but over time they will still get used. The second and most popular is to glue the hinges with something non-slippery, such as suede, or drip a couple of drops from a glue gun. I had leather, but I didn’t have a glue gun, so we bore the hinges to the state - they dangle freely and glue them with leather.

Levi dismantled again for final painting and hinge gluing. Finding the right skin color was quite difficult. I used to paint with model acrylic paints all sorts of metal-like things, so in my paint box there are mostly metallics and pigments ala dirt, streaks, rust. And I usually paint like these things.

Mystery Joe Mask .

And here we need a bodily one. Preferably also pale. I ordered paint in a couple of places and got different shades of young pigs and a yellow, glossy Chinese. She burst into tears and went to the nearest Leonardo for an aerosol can that at least resembled a normal skin color. We paint in 2-3 layers.

Two versions of the head, the right one without treatment, and the paint lay down somehow greasy.

Next, try on the legs and arms, swear that I did not take into account the thickness of the paint, skin the hinges and paint again. It was not possible to deepen the elbow joints, for good they need to be deepened at the modeling stage, so we are content with what we have. We glue the hinge receivers with leather. I further thinned the skin with a sharp scalpel.

We cut off the excess skin and assemble Levi again) The hinges in the legs were very tight, but the skin was a little tucked up and it turned out quite bearable. Somewhere between these stages, I made 4 not very scary hooks for arms and legs. We assemble and handsome Levi is ready. With jambs, but a lot of experience received as a bonus)


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