Rose Princess Ballgowns: A Princess Paper Doll

A fantasy princess with two ballgowns, two pairs of shoes and a crown. Back when I first named this paper doll Maeghan. The “real Maeghan” demanded that she have “absurd fantasy dresses.” Well, I don’t know how absurd these are, but I do think they are fairly over the top. Most of my dresses are realistic in so much as they could exist, not in so much as they do or should exist.

I did have fun drawing them. I admit my normal taste is a more towards these sorts of fantasy gowns over the huge skirted things that I drew today. Still it was fun to go wide skirted for once and I might have been influenced by watching Cinderella recently. (Though the Evil Step Mother has far better costumes than anyone else in that film.)

I digress.

A fantasy princess with two ballgowns, two pairs of shoes and a crown.

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I wanted the full skirts to feel light and almost tulle like. I was thinking about late 1940’s and early 1950s ballgowns like this one and this one as I drew these. Her hair is inspired by the 1940s as well, blame the Evil Step Mother.

I gave her a sword, because I wanted her to be able to defend herself. Plus, she has plenty of room to conceal it among those amazing skirts.

Has anyone else seen the new Cinderella movie? What did you think of the costumes? I really enjoyed them, myself.

Beauty in Bloomers: A Steampunk Paper Doll inspired by Amelia Bloomer

Once in a while, I host little drawings for custom paper dolls. I do them rarely, because frankly they are time consuming.

Anyway, last June I held one. People submitted custom paper doll suggestions. You can see all of them on the original contest post. The winner of the drawing was Lina, but I added all the ideas to my paper doll ideas list. Today’s paper doll comes from an idea submitted back then. (See, I do sometimes draw things people request.)

Erin Winslow proposed a steampunk set based on Amelia Bloomer’s women’s dress reform movement costume. My first thought was, “No Way!”

Because, honestly, I really didn’t like the Bloomer Dress. I’ve always thought it was both unflattering and kinda ugly. Why would I want to draw something I thought was ugly?

And then… rather unexpectedly, I found myself thinking… I should draw it because I find it ugly. I should tackle a style I dislike for a paper doll set. I should stretch. Plus I recently read a this book on Victorian dress reform movements.

First, I had to gather sources and ideas. You can see a collage of these below.

I remembered somewhere I had seen a photo of a female doctor wearing a Bloomer costume. That was where I started thinking about doctors cases and I found that Pat Stall, one of my favorite paper doll artists ever, had done an Amelia Bloomer paper doll set. I found some wonderful modern pieces and then a few great cartoons from various Victorian periodicals. I felt like I was on my way towards a set I might actually like.

A black and white printable fantasy warrior or huntress paper doll entitled

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I decided to cast Hazel as my bloomer wearing steampunk Doctor. I gave her glasses and some doctor bag inspired accessories. She has three dresses to go over the two pairs of bloomers. Her vest, shirt and skirt can be worn over any of the bloomers as well. I did not make my bloomers quite as full as those worn by Amelia Bloomer. Despite creating this paper doll set, I still find the look to be astonishingly unflattering. Never the less, here is my foray into the world of steampunk bloomer costumes.

Plus, I got to draw Victorian glasses and that was fun. :)

As most of my readers have figured out by now, I’m currently conducting a survey about developing products to open a Paper Thin Personas store in the next year and some other stuff. It’ll only take about 15 minutes and I’ll send you a thank you paper doll if you leave me your email at the end. (The emails are deleted out of the survey results immediately to keep things as anonymous as possible. So, no worries about that.)

Check out the Survey Here!

Thanks again to everyone whose already done the survey! I’m closing it on Saturday, so I can begin to analyze the results. I’ll share some of my discoveries sometime in the next few weeks.

Farewell to the Showcase!

So, remember how on Friday I said there were going to be changes… Well, this is one of them.

The time has come to say a sad farewell to the Showcase.

I have been horrible about updating it and when I went through my email to clean it up a few months ago, I found dozens of things that people had sent me and I had done nothing with. I felt rather guilty and then decdeed it was time for the Showcase to go.

There is now a Pinterest board called “PTP Paper Doll Sightings.” I’ve seen a few pattern designers use this method for showing off the work of people who had made their patterns and I thought it was a great idea.

Follow Rachel’s board PTP Paper Doll Sightings on Pinterest.

It is so much easier for me to just download the image from my email and post it up onto Pinterest. No fuss, no muss and I get to share things that people don’t send me, but I find around the internet where my art has been featured in various ways. Plus I can link to others sites very easily which lets them get some credit too. So, go check it out and let me know if there is anything I should add to it.

I will probably still do posts of readers creations once in a while on the blog, but I’ll update the Pinterest board much more regularly. I have been testing it for the last few weeks and it has performed admirably. So, feel free to go follow it and see how people have colored and used my art. :)

Knight in Armor: Paper Doll Knight in Color

A printable knight paper doll in color with five inter-changeable pieces of armor. One of my good friends has nicknamed this paper doll, “Beardy Swordsman!”. I have decided to go with the poll name winner and call him Mikhail. Personally, I was rooting for Mikhail to win and that was my vote. I feel a little guilty because Mikhail won by just one vote and that might have been me. Still, I’m allowed to vote in my own polls, right? I didn’t vote more than once…

I decided to make a knight paper doll as the first of the Mikhail paper dolls, not out of any particularly grand plan, but because I think a lot about the sort of stories you might want to play out with the paper dolls. Back when I was a kid and I played with paper dolls, the narrative provided by the paper doll book rarely worked out as written. With a wedding set, I might decide I actually liked the Maid of Honor paper doll better than the Bride paper doll and she was going to run off with the Groom and the Best Man was actually the older brother of the….

Well, you get the idea.

So, when I create paper dolls I think about the types of stories you might want to tell. Since every doll of a series can share outfits with every other doll of the same series, Mikhail and Marcus can exchange clothes. Now along with being airship mechanics or casual dates, they can also be knights who rescue princesses or knights who get lost in swamps and need to be rescued themselves.

Several years ago, I met a young lady who was four (I think) and who very much wanted to be a knight. I thought to myself, “Good for you.” I drew a knight paper doll for her, but every time I draw a knight, I think of that young lady.

A printable knight paper doll in color with five inter-changeable pieces of armor.

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I have done a lot of dark haired guys, so I decided to make Mikhail a blond. Frankly, coloring armor is fairly dull. It is made of steel. It is going to be silver. There’s just not a lot of variability in that. I went with a lot of gold accents on the armor, because I have decided that Mikhail is a noble night and can afford to spend a fair bit of cash on his armor. Plus it broke up the grey.

In a totally unrelated note, as many of you know, I am currently conducting a survey. (At this point, my daily readers are like… Can she shut up about the Survey already?) I would ask that if you haven’t filled it out, please do so. It’s about developing products to open a Paper Thin Personas store in the next year. It should only take about 15 minutes and would be uber-helpful and I’ll send you a thank you paper doll if you leave me your email at the end. (The emails are deleted out of the survey results immediately to keep things as anonymous as humanly possible. So, don’t worry about that.)

Check out the Survey Here!

Thanks again to everyone whose already done the survey! I’ve learned a lot from everyone’s comments and responses. Maybe at the end, I’ll do a post about some of the stuff I learned? I don’t know… does that violate the principle of an anonymous survey? Thoughts from my readers?

Shayna: African American Paper Doll

An Afrcian-American paper doll who is part of the Ms. Mannequin series of paper dolls. She is available both in color and in black white. Today’s paper doll is named Shayna. Shayna is a Yiddish name that means “beautiful”. I also liked it, because it was close to Shauna which was the name of my best friend in college and, also, one of my roommates for several years. Shauna, it should be noted, looked nothing like my paper doll Shayna. I don’t really draw paper dolls of my friends, even though I do sometimes name them after them.

Shayna is yet another paper doll with micro-braids. I would apologize for this, but the truth is that I really like how micro-braids look and they are fun to draw. Shayna is the same skin tone as Kira another one of the Ms. Mannequin paper dolls, so they can share shoes.

I’m sure Kira is grateful, because she doesn’t have any flats and might want some. The bases of the paper doll are the same color, so if there is ever confusion about who can share with each other, I hope this clears it up.

As always with paper doll skin-tones, I really do like this warm soft brown color. I think it is rich and natural looking. Plus, it is a shade which still prints beautifully on my home printer. I love my darkest shade of brown, but it doesn’t have much contrast with the black line-work. You can check out my skin-tone pallet if you want to see the commonest eleven skin-tone colors are. I’m not totally pleased with some of those colors, but I also haven’t had a chance to refine the pallet.

I haven’t really got a lot else to say about Shayna. I think she’s cute. She’s getting to me closer to my 10 Ms. Mannequin paper doll posts in 2015 goal. That always makes me happy.

A black and white African-American paper doll who is part of the Ms. Mannequin series of paper doll. She has micro-braids and stands about 10 inches tall.An African-American paper doll who is part of the Ms. Mannequin series of paper doll. She has micro-braids and stands about 10 inches tall.

{Click Here for a PDF in Color} {Click Here for a 150 dpi PNG in Color}{Click Here for a PDF of Black and White} {Click Here for a 150 dpi PNG in Black and White}{Click Here for More Clothes}{Click Here for More Paper Dolls to Share Clothes}

As we move towards 2016, there are going to be lots of changes to the blog.

First of all, the blog is moving to a fixed schedule with posts on Monday, Friday and an erratic posts on Wednesday. This is actually the schedule I have had it on for the last few weeks. There will always be a paper doll on Monday and Friday. Wednesdays will be everything from historical costume book reviews to interviews to sketchbook content. All sorts of things I’d like to do with that day of the week. And, once in a while, probably an extra paper doll or two.

In the meantime, if you have fifteen minutes and don’t mind spending it answering a thrilling survey… I am currently conducting a survey of my readers. If you have already taken the time to answer, THANK YOU! If you haven’t please consider it.

Click Here to Take the Survey.

If you have any questions, concerns or thoughts you’d like to share with me- Survey or otherwise- please feel free to drop me an email ( or post a comment. I might not respond to every comment, but I try to answer all the ones that ask questions.

Three Stages of Paper Doll Drawing: A Look at My Process

I get a fair number of questions about how I draw paper dolls. I have tried to answer these over the years through a variety of posts that range from showing the templates which I build to draw a base doll through the doodles I draw when planning dresses.

I’m usually not organized enough to get successive photos of the same page of the same sketchbook, but I planned carefully and am pleased to show off today the three major stages of paper doll gown creation.

Stage 1: The Light Pencil Sketch

The first step is to lightly sketch out the major lines of the paper doll gown, shoes and hair. This is one of two dresses that I have planned for a princess set. At this stage of the process the only two things I had decided were that I wanted a full-skirted silhouette, the paper doll was for Marisole Monday & Friends, her shoes were going to have stockings, and that I was going to make her black with an afro-puff styled hair. I hadn’t really thought much about other details yet.

A rough pencil sketch of a future paper doll set featuring a full skirted princess gown, shoes, tiara and wig.

At this stage, when nothing is really finalized, I always feel excitement and dread. More than one paper doll set has never gotten past the rough pencil stage.

Stage 2: The Detailed Pencil Sketch

The next step in the process is doing what I call “detailed” linework. This stage can take several revisions- that’s why I draw fairly lightly. I cleaned up some of the silhouette, added lines to indicate folds and then started thinking about pattern.

Lately, I have been really into traditional African fabrics dyed with a wax process. So, I decided to create several pattern elements inspired by those textiles that I could use to construct a pattern on the wide expanse of the skirt. I chose a lattice pattern for the jacket and then created four other motifs. I might not use all of them, but I like to have options. You can see my growing collection of African print fabrics on my African Prints & Fashion Pinterest board.

A penciled in sketch of a princess gown, crown, wig, instrument and two pairs of shoes. These penciled sketches are then inked to create a version for scanning.

I changed the design of the tiara, because I wanted it to match the motifs I had designed for the pattern that will eventually go on the skirt. That meant altering the tiara accordingly. I really like the new design.

Additionally, I settled on adding garters to the tops of the stockings and decided on a psuedo-Victorian look for the shoes. Try as a might, I can’t help but associate these full skirts with the gowns of the 1860s. This is also the stage of the process when I add accessories like the hair pick and tea set. Everything on this page will be inked when I start inking.

Stage 3: Inking

After I have settled on a detailed pencil sketch, I begin inking. I always start with the major outlines and then work my way in. The last things to get inked are the fold lines on the skirts or ruffles and stitching on boots. Because ink can smear, I always take pauses while inking to let things dry a little before continuing my work. There are inevitably mistakes or I suddenly decide I want to add something I hadn’t planned, but mostly it is a slow and steady process. Inking is very meditative for me- I really enjoy settling down on my couch and getting to ink for an hour or so in the evening while watching television.

The inked sketch of a princess gown, wig, accessories, shoes and a tea set. The pattern elements that will eventually make up the skirt are on the far left side of the page.

Opps… I just noticed I forgot to ink the folds in the ruffle at the top of the bodice. My bad. I’ll do that after I erase all the pencil lines.

Certain elements- like the strings on the instrument remain uninked, because I will add them with Photoshop. I am not very good at drawing perfectly straight lines.

Before I scan this drawing, I will erase all the pencil lines and check for and make any minor corrections I need to make. I’ve already noticed a mistake.

While putting all these together in a post only took about thirty minutes, the truth is that each of these photo represents weeks between stages. It takes a long time to get from Stage 1 to Stage 3 and there are still steps to go before the paper doll goes live.

So, two other little things. One, there is currently a poll on what to name my “bearded friend of Marcus” paper doll, go vote if you haven’t. Maxwell is currently in the lead. Secondly, I am currently doing a survey of my readers on Product Development for Paper Thin Personas. Sounds thrilling, I know… But it has been already very enlightening. So, if you should have about fifteen minutes and you haven’t done it already, I would urge you to please fill it out and, as a reward, you will get sent a Thank You paper doll, if you give me your email address.

Begin the Survey Here!

And, of course, a huge thank you to everyone who has already done it. I have the best readers ever. Seriously, you guys rock!

Any questions about my process? The survey or anything else? Ask me in a comment.

Knight in Armor: Paper Doll Knight

A printable knight paper doll in black and white with five inter-changeable pieces of armor. Meet the first Friend of Marcus! He doesn’t have a name yet- there’s a poll to vote for one below. Once he has a name, I’ll start calling him by it. For now, I think of him as Marcus’ bearded friend.

I have been wanting to do a knight with armor male paper doll since I added male paper dolls to the Marisole Monday & Friends collection. I waited a while though, because armor is actually rather hard to draw.

I was complaining about how boring men’s hairstyles were and then I remembered- facial hair. Mustaches, beards, goatees, soul patches- There are many fun options for paper doll facial hair. So, this guy got himself a beard.

A printable knight paper doll in black and white with five inter-changeable pieces of armor.

{Click Here for a PDF to Print} {Click Here for a PNG to Print} {Click Here for More Marisole Monday & Friends Printable Paper Dolls}

After doing some experimenting, I think the helmet works best if it is placed underneath the armor, rather than on top of it. He’s got a broad sword and an axe.

So I have narrowed my options down to four different names. Help me decide which one I should choose by voting below. The poll is open until Sunday.

What should I name my new male paper doll?

  • Mikhail (38%, 31 Votes)
  • Maxwell (37%, 30 Votes)
  • Maurice (20%, 16 Votes)
  • Murphy (6%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 82

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One last thing I wanted to mention- I’ve decided to do a survey of my readers about potentially opening a shop to sell my paper dolls and setting up a Patreon account for Paper Thin Personas. The survey should only take about 10 or 15 minutes of your time. If you complete the survey and include an email at the end, I will send you a “THANK YOU” paper doll within the next week.

Click here to begin the survey

Right now, my plan is to have the survey open for the next two weeks, depending on the response rate. Thank you!

Brooches and Smokkr: A Paper Doll of Viking Dress in the 10th Century

A paper doll of a viking woman from the 10th century with two historical outfits based on the work of scholars in Viking dress. She also has shoes and historical accessories. In truth, we know very little about what Viking women wore. Unlike the 10th century Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings did not have a manuscript culture. Their art was generally metal work or stone carving and highly stylized. Making things more rather than less complicated, textiles rot extremely quickly in soil and those which remain in tact are often saved by their proximity to other materials such as metal, while metal breaks down it releases salts that protect the textile.

This means that what remains we have of Viking garments are fragmentary at best. While working on my Viking paper doll, I did my research, as always, and then made decisions based on my understanding of Viking garments. My understanding isn’t perfect. I am not an archaeologist, nor do I study Viking cultures extensively. My post Wednesday, Viking Women’s Dress in the 10th Century  covers my sources and what I understand about Viking garments.

A paper doll of a viking woman from the 10th century with two historical outfits based on the work of scholars in Viking dress in black and white for coloring. She also has shoes and historical accessories.

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Though I came away from my research with the conclusion that there is more supposition than certainty in Viking dress research, I couldn’t be more pleased by how my paper doll came out. Her two apron-dresses or smokkrs over shirts were both designed based on the work of some excellent scholars. I chose a closed smokkr, because I agree with Ewing’s and Geijer’s views on the shape of the smokkr. I added an apron on one, based on the work of Bau and Ewing. To the other, I added pleats based on the reconstruction of a smokkr by Hilde Thunem. She has a key, a cup, a comb and a small knife. From the brooches on her left smokkr hang a pair of scissors, a small knife and a needle case.

Her shoes are based on finds at Viking York and her stockings and garters are based on the work of Ewing who argues that Viking men wore garters. I have no reason to believe if men were wearing them than women weren’t. Besides, Scandinavia is rather chilly to be wandering around bare legged.

A paper doll of a viking woman from the 10th century with two historical outfits based on the work of scholars in Viking dress in color. She also has shoes and historical accessories.

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When selecting colors, I tried to be aware of what colors were known to be used by Vikings. There were several references to brown twills in the articles I read (sources here) and the Kostup find is known to have been blue. Her brown smokkr, or apron-dress, has different colored straps, because linen loops could be used on wool smokkrs. I wanted to make a nod to that practice. Both the serks or shirts, I left undyed in lighter colors. One shirt is pleated, as is found in many Birka graves, and one is unpleated. The paper doll has a hair covering as referenced in Ewing’s book, Viking Clothing.

I made my Viking paper doll blond really only because when I think of Vikings, I think of blonds. Perhaps an unfair assumption, but there you go.

As with my Anglo-Saxon paper doll of the same century, I strongly recommend reading my little article and then reading my sources. I would also caution that most of the research on Vikings is not published in English. Until more of the articles are translated into English, I did the best I could with what sources were readily available.

I know people have been waiting on this paper doll, so I hope the wait was worth it. I certainly am nothing but pleased with how she came out.

Viking Women’s Dress in the 9th and 10th Century

An actual Viking oval brooch from the 10th Century- The Met- Accession Number: 1982.323.1

Today, we’re going talk about Viking women’s  dress. As always happens with me, I did a lot of research. This post could have been many more paragraphs, but what I wanted to do today was write a quick overview. The truth is that we actually don’t know what Viking women wore. Rather, scholars have examined various pieces of archaeological evidence and have come up with theories which, at times, completely contradict each other. In the this post, I tried to summarize the major scholars on the topic and explain what I learned while working on my Viking paper doll.

I maybe many things, but I am not a scholar on Viking dress.

Who were the Vikings?

The Vikings were a Germanic Norse seafaring culture which existed from about 700 ACE until about 1000 ACE. The main strongholds of Viking culture were Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but there where were Viking settlements in England, Ireland, Iceland and Greenland.  The Vikings also made contact as far as the Middle East, Russia, and China. Seriously, these dudes got around.  Their travels and expansion heavily influenced European medieval cultures.

Basic Overview

It is generally agreed that Viking women wore clothing; however, theories differ on what this clothing looked like.  Most agree that women wore a shirt of some kind underneath a dress suspended from two oval brooches. This dress is often called an apron-dress or smokkr. If you need to modern version, imagine a jumper. The apron-dress was held up by oval brooches, sometimes called dwarf brooches. Over top of the apron-dress women may have worn an apron in front, a pleated train in back, a caftan coat, a cloak or a shawl. That’s one of the areas  scholars disagree on. The exact meaning of the apron-dress and who was entitled to wear it is also a topic of debate. I’m not going to get into that discussion here. It should, however, be noted that this apron-dress does not appear to have been universally worn by women of all social statuses and ages.

More Below!

Space Princess: An Alien Princess Paper Doll

A printable paper doll of an alien princess in color with a seven piece wardrobe. I am so excited about this week… there are going to be a Vikings on Friday and a post about historical Viking dress on Wednesday and, of course, today we have an alien paper doll in color. What could be more fun than aliens and Vikings? (Maybe pirates and aliens and vikings, but lets not be greedy.)

Anyway, I am super-pleased to be showing off this little alien. I choose blue for her skin as I have a soft place in my heart for blue skinned aliens. I don’t know why. It is always the first color that comes to mind. It does occur to me though, I have done another blue skinned alien recently.

When you are dealing with a skin-tones not in the range of human normal, than the skin-tone does not act as a neutral. Therefore, the paper dolls skin-tone becomes part of the color palette in a way that is rarely something I worry about. So, I wanted bright cheerful colors that would accent and no compete with my little alien’s blue skin.

That was why I settled on a magenta, line green, dark teal and bright yellow color palette.

I went back and forth about how to color the gowns. My first thought was that they were all one color. Later, I decided it would be more interesting to make them multicolored. You can see the results of my multicolored experimentation below.

A printable paper doll of an alien princess in black and with with a seven piece wardrobe.

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Both jump-suit were colored in the same color scheme as the dresses and I made sure the boots would match the jumpsuits. I do admit that while I do think of my alien was a leader in war and a diplomat, I’m not sure going to war in platform boots makes a lot of sense.

Maybe in space, your foot wear doesn’t matter. After all, gravity might not be around, so you could wear whatever shoes you want? Maybe? I really don’t know, but I do love me a good pair of platform boots.

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