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.
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 +).
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’.
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!