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Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Craft Room Tole Painting Tools

Hello sweet most of you probably know by now, I love to use painting on my dolls! I have had some requests to put some of my tole painting how to's on my blog, so here is a start. This first post will be focusing on what I use for painting tools in the craft room and their function. I eventually will post some pictures on a face as it gets painted. A video would be a nicer way to do this, but I am not confident in my movie making abilities just yet. I need to play with the movie settings on my camera.

Here you see from left to right some essentials in the craft room when painting, and as you can see by how grungy they look, they are well worn but loved. First is my water bin, mine happens to be a Donna Dewberry, but there are many good ones out there. A water bin is essential to keeping your brushes moist between colors, and frequently rinsed during the painting process. The grids on the right side are there to release paint from your brushes, this is done by gently dragging your brushes back and forth across the grids. Never dig your brushes in and around in circles or straight up and down here, you will damage them. If you don't release the paint properly, you run the risk of excess paint drying in the bristles resulting in a ruined brush! The left side of the bin is used to lay your brushes in after swishing all the paint out while painting, the water is clean on the left side since the released color is on the other side. I love that this particular bin has holes on the upper edges of different sizes to hold various brushes while painting.

Next you see a pallette knife, I have probably had this one for over 20 years! These are used to mix your colors together for custom colors, mixing water into paint that needs thinning etc.. a very useful tool to have.

The foam paper plate in the Donna Dewberry holder is my absolute favorite painting tool, I am in love with this! Donna Dewberry is the only one I know of that has come up with anything like this. It holds those cheap foam plates securily, your hand has something nice to hang onto as well. A paper towel for blotting extra water out of your brushes goes on the handle area. I use these plates as a pallette for my paints as I am working, I also use the plates as a surface to side load my brushes for shading. The reason the foam plates are so wonderful for loading your brushes for any stroke really, is that it is a nice slick non-porous surface and will keep the paint in the brush. As the plate becomes too icky, just throw it away and start fresh with another one. So so handy!!

The sponges you see here are Sea Sponges, they are wonderful for basecoating surfaces you want a mottled or marbled effect on. I use these a ton for basecoating my dolls faces instead of a brush, why? because a brushed surface will sometimes show brush marks, sponging does not. I love to take two or three colors on my plate, take a damp sponge and dip in an up and down motion until the three colors are melding together. Pouncing the loaded sponge onto your surface makes a nice slight variation in color and a wonderful basecoat with a bit of texture. If your paint is not covering well enough, spray your dollies head with a mist of water first, it helps the paint to cover a bit better.

I use Jo Sonya's Retarder and Antiquing medium a lot, mostly for preparing my surface for blending. For example, on a doll's face that I have basecoated, I can add a light sheen of retarder onto my cheeks or any area I want a nice soft shading, then when I add my color this allows me to blend the color out without harsh lines. Retarder extends the drying time of the paint, giving you time to move the paint around and work with it. You can either use a dry scruffy brush with most of the paint rubbed out on a paper towel for adding your paint, or add some paint and then use a dry soft brush to blend the colors out. Play with it, it is a wonderful thing! NOTE: this product will not work on fabric that is not basecoated first.

Next you see Folk Art spray matte sealer, I use this a lot to seal my finished paint projects, even though it does say (matte), it does have a soft sheen to it. It goes on nice , I really like it. This being said, I don't always finish off my dolls faces with this spray, it just depends on if I am okay with a soft sheen or not.

If you prefer a brush on varnish, then the Dura Clear matte works pretty well, I use it even on my finished snowman faces then before it is dry will sprinkle fine glass glitter, once dry it is on there! I do like Delta's brush on varnishes as well.

Here are more well worn and loved tools. This contraption is an Opti Visor, it is the only reason I can see to paint fine details such as eye lashes, linework etc... there is no painting for me without this essential tool. It adjusts to your head size and will go over glasses. I do have a tip here, do not over tighten your head gear, you can actually cut the blood supply off to your head, ask me how I know this!! I almost passed out in my porcelain class many many years ago because of a tight opti visor.

In the cup is a mechanical pencil, a caliper and you see an eraser. I like the mechanical pencils because you can get fine lead for them, I like very thin lines when I am drawing a pattern for painting. I use these pencils for drawing in my doll eyes, noses etc... before painting, I use a light touch and use the eraser if I did not draw it to my satisfaction. The caliper is wonderful to use for measuring even distance between dollies eyes, proper placement of nose in correlation to eye corners, mouth, all of it.

A note on facial feature placement: If you measure your dollies head from chin to the top, eyes for a younger face should fall  below the halfway point, an adults will fall on the halfway point. A human face has one eye width between the eyes and one on each side for a total of five eye widths across. The inner eye corner lines up usually with the outer nose edge, the outer mouth line will fall about mid eye width. The bottom of the nose wll fall on the halfway mark between the eyes and botton of the chin, the mouth is somewhere halfway point between the nose bottom and chin bottom. Eyebrows start from inner eye width usually. Draw all this out on paper or study a human face to see how things measure out, knowing this will help when freehanding your doll faces on. Most of these dolls are whimsical and these rules don't always apply, but it is still good to know the basics. Honestly, most of the time I just eye ball placement and go with it, is usually works for me.

The brushes you see here are my essentials for blending and making doll cheeks! The green brushes are Donna Dewberry's scruffy brushes, I use the medium size the most but recommend gettting them all. They are perfect for dry brushing. I dip a dry scruffy brush into a cheek color, swirl a few times on a paper plate to coat most of the bristles, I then go to a paper towel and in a circular motion scruffy off as much paint as possible, so only a bit comes off, test on a scrap fabric. Now in a circular motion "lightly" add your cheeks until the desired depth. You can also add your retarder to a basecoated face "not straight muslin", and add your cheeks in the same manor, it will result in a very soft nice cheek. Use these brushes for any application that requires a nice soft blend of color.

The pink brushes are my Jayne Houston brushes, they are wonderful for blending out applied color over retarder, they move the paint without making marks or lines, love these! I show the Pink Soap because these brushes are expensive, so taking care of them is important, always keep your brushes free from dried on paint and always wash in a brush cleaner after every use, blot excess water out and let dry.

This picture just shows an assortment of flats, rounds and liners that are useful for painting projects. I like to keep nice quality brushes, it makes a world of difference on how your paint will come off, even the most experienced painter will not paint as well with cheap brushes, and will be very frustrated. A nice brush can make even an unexperienced painter feel like they have some control of thier brush strokes.

Okay, now you see how addicted to buying brushes that I am, don't know why I am airing my dirty laundry like this, oh well LOL! You by no means need to keep a huge supply of brushes like this to paint, I have been painting for over 23 years, so I have accumulated a few! This nifty spinner my brushes are in, is a pampered chef kitchen utensil tool that makes a perfect brush bin!

I highly recommend  buying at least one good book on basic brush stroke work, here you see a Donna Dewberry book, but there are many good books out there. By practicing and learning the basics, you will be abe to apply these skills to pretty much anything. I also recommend buying a practice paper pad tablet for doing your practice strokes on, using plain paper will not take the paint well and you will be frustrated! If you plan on painting on fabric, take some scrap muslin and tape a piece to a foam plate, practicing on the fabric will give you the feel of how the paint behaves on this material. Just have fun!! Note: If you do not learn any other brush stroke, be sure to learn how to side load for shading, I use this one the most. This is what adds dimension to painted faces.

I am not sure where I got these, I have had them forever, but if you can find a good eye painting chart, it helps to see how to properly paint an eye. I love these because they show different expressions as well as different eye color variations. Remember though that dollies eyes do not have to be realistic, all of these things should be looked at as suggestions only, the best thing is your imagination!

Lastly I want to show you the paints I use for pretty much all my painting, I don't stick to one brand, I use all three brands depending on what color I want or like! They are all pretty much the same. I do like Delta's Burnt Umber the best, and I use a ton of it. I also like Delta's Red Iron Oxide for cheeks the best, as well as Folk Art Heritage Brick and Folk Art barnyard red. Folk art paints tend to be a bit thicker, but a bit of water is all that is needed to thin it down.

Part 2 will be painting on a doll's face, that is when I figure out how to present it well enough. I hope you got something out of this post and you will be inspired to pick up a brush and some paint!

I finally have the sign up to my newsletter here on my blog if you want to be on it. I will probably only send one once a month or when I have some news on a new pattern or giveaway!

Have a blessed Sunday...


  1. I used to take a painting class when I lived in Plymouth, it was in Buzzard's Bay and I really enjoyed it. With several moves since then I don't know what happened to all of my painting supplies. Darn, I have to start all over. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Hi Jody, Wow, I can tell that you are a painter! You would laugh if you seen my painting supplies! Thanks for sharing! How is your new Annie pattern coming along? Have a great week! Kim

  3. Hi Jody, Thank you for sharing such a great tutorial on supplies. I look forward to your next one on painting. Also lookig forward to your new patterns being released! Wishing you a wonderful week!
    Hugs Mary

  4. You are so kind in sharing your tutorial on artist tools and tips on making base coats and cheeks. I really appreciate it. I will look forward to the next instalment.

  5. o my gosh!!! This is just great information. Painting is one thing i really struggle with... it takes me hours and hours to paint one tiny little face...I have always thought this method of painting is so cool...but never take the time to learn it...i even have a cd, im going to really try and watch it...I love your painting...i'll join the newsletter. Thanks so much! Love Colleen

  6. I admire you so much! I like to dabble a little but I wouldn't be brave enough to paint faces! Can't wait to read more about how you do it though! Thanks for sharing! ♥♥♥

  7. Holy cow! I am going to have to come back here with a cup of tea and read this! Thanks for sharing all your painting tips! xo

  8. What a fantastic post, Jody! It's so cool to get a peek "behind the curtain"...

    And wow, those are really a lot of brushes! LOL


  9. I am to submit a report on this niche your post has been very very helpfull phoenix house painter

  10. You are the most generous I have ever seen with your information.
    I too love Donna Dewberry's tools and techniques. I took two of her classes and you and your dolls have inspired me to get back into doll-making. It has been a while. Love your patterns. Thank you so much.


Thank you for taking the time to leave me your thoughts! I enjoy each and every comment.


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