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Customizing Dolls in full Pavé Style

Have a taste for the glamorous? Don't have much money, but you have lots of time? Make your own super sparkly doll! 

Watch the video below or read the written version beneath that:

I think the pictures are self-explanatory enough as to what Pavé is, but if you want to know a bit more, you can watch the beginning of the video, or read about it on various other sites where it pertains to jewelry and statuettes. 

But we'll get started here with what you'll need. 

Gather your materials: 

- A doll of course

- Worbla or some other sculpting material if you want to make additive  modifications. I prefer thermoplastic because it is fairly durable, lightweight and has a degree of flexibility.

- Paint or Mica powder. There will be little spots here and there where doll skin will show through between crystals. Painting the skin the same color as the overlaying crystals helps to make this less noticeable. 

- Paint brushes. For the base medium you're going to lay out. 

- Rhinestones. Real lead crystal is the best, but it's prohibitively expensive. Next best thing are glass rhinestones and there isn't really a particular brand or seller that I have been able to find that are both high quality and reliably stocked. It's all about the cut and clarity for these, which can vary greatly. Price is often at least something of an indicator, but also check customer reviews and photos. I've bought and compared quite a few samples when I was working on a project back around Christmas. But even now, just half a year later, some of the sellers I bought from are gone and others have popped up. If pictures look like cheap plastic, that's probably what they are. Below glass are resin rhinestones which I do not recommend because they will eventually yellow. Then at the bottom of the barrel are acrylic and plastic. Resin, acrylic and plastic all scratch easily, showing wear and tear very quickly. In addition, acetone melts them, so you can't use that to easily clean stronger glues off of them. 

- An Xacto blade and replacement blades (they will dull quickly)

- A dremel tool with various sized and shaped burrs. 

- Sandpaper and/or files: No need to work down very fine because every 
  surface will be covered anyway. 

- Glue: I use Gem-tak which holds much better than e6000 for me. 

- Toothpicks

- Q-tips

- acetone or alcohol, depending on what your rhinestones are made of

Before I get in to it, I have to say, this tutorial assumes that you are using ss3 size rhinestones which are 1.4 mm in diameter. If you use larger rhinestones you will have to modify your own calculations accordingly. 



And with that out of the way, let us begin! 


Step 1: Establish the overall shape/sculpt of your doll. For instance, if you are going to do a hard sculpted hair style like I did with Ghoulia here and will be doing soon with Ginger, that is the first thing you need to deal with. Dehairing the doll and sculpting the new hairstyle. Or if you want to modify the body shape or add some features, etc. etc. It is a good idea to sand the seams down and sand any molded underwear off, as such obstructions prevent the crystals from laying flat and will result in a wonky looking section with crystals pointed every which way rather than the evenly paved surface that it is supposed to be.




If you're going to use a single larger gem for each eye like I'm going to for this Ginger, you should flatten out a spot on the eye or the large gem will be protruding out strangely and you may even see the raised edges of it, depending on what you use to surround it. 


Step 2: Joint Prepping: 
Draw lines out on the doll's joints where they will need to be carved out for mobility. If you want to still be able to pose your doll once it's all blinged out, you have to make room for all those little gems.


With each limb, move them around to their furthest extremeties and mark where the limb meets the socket. The surface of all the space between those lines and the body need to have about 2mm of space space carved out. Since you're removing so much material here, you'll want the dremel for this stage. It's a good idea to make a little depth mark with a marker on your bit so you can mark how far you're drilling down then mark little spots at that depth over the spaces that need to be carved out, then carve them out however you like. 


Once that's all done and smoothed out, you can carve out some extra space inside of the joints with an exacto blade to free up just a bit more room for movement. Now just taper off the edges. Double check all the joints, moving them around and making sure that it looks like there's enough room everywhere. Lightly sanding the rest of the doll is optional, but depending on what kind of paint or glue you use, that could make a difference. You'll also want to make a light mark around the neck to note as far as the head goes when you tilt it in various positions, because you won't be able to apply rhinestones there if you want to keep the head's mobility. 

You can see the carved out space in the joints of the Ginger and Ghoulias, compared to their original forms:


Step 3: Washing  

Simply your doll and dry it thoroughly! Pretty self explanatory step. I just use some dishwashing liquid. 


Step 4 Undercoating:   

Paint various areas the same color as the rhinestones that will cover them. If you'r doll isn't already molded in the colors that you want to use, paint them with either acrylic, or mica powder mixed with modge podge or something similar. Unless you're a real professional, there's going to be spots here and there where the doll's skin is going to be visible between crystals. Doing this keeps those spots from looking so disruptive. Err on the darker side because lighter colors are much more noticeable in those cracks. 

Step 5: Start gluing! 

This is where the majority of your time will be spent!

Start with any areas where you're going to have finer details, like the eyes and eyebrows. You can't let those get offset or the features will be all wonky, so it's best to set those areas early on and give them the chance to dry before you start working around them. 

I use a toothpick to spread a little glue over a small area. Make sure it's not too thick or the stones will sink into it and it will dry over them and dull them, then lightly wipe the excess glue from that toothpick on a paper towel. It'll be slightly sticky and that will make it easy for you to use it to pick up rhinestones and lay them down where you want them. It's also pretty likely that you're going to end up getting some glue over some of the rhinestones, but as long as you are using crystal or glass, you don't have to worry about that too much. Because of...

Step 6: Final Cleaning 

Now it's time to polish up. I use acetone on lint-free cloth to slowly and carefully go over the whole doll, starting from the head, to the arms, then down the torso to the toes. I wear silicon gloves for this part, just to avoid getting finger prints and body oils back on it again as I go. 

Acetone cuts through the glue fairly easily, so in those spots where it got over the gems or you used a little too much glue, this helps you get that sorted. 

However, if you used resin, acrylic or other kinds of plastic, acetone melts those. The best you can do that I can think of is just rubbing alcohol which will at least remove fingerprints and body oils, but won't do anything to the glue. 

And with that, you're finally done! 

It's a lot of work, but for someone like me it's totally worth it! If I were rich, I'd totally have a few of those Swarovski Crystal Myriad sculptures. Maybe some day I can try my  hand at making something similar. 

I'd love to see other peoples' pave projects, so if you give this a 
try and you have a minute, please come back and share some pics in the forums! 

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