Make a custom magnetic paper doll from photos

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that Mabel had been working on this project, but I’ve been waiting for her to finish the second doll before posting it. This is an idea I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but Mabel got around to it before I did–and she did a great job.

The first thing you need for this project is a compliant subject. I’m actually amazed that Mabel got two-year-old Hazel to pose so well for so many photos. She says Hazel was wiggly at first but caught the spirit of the project as they went along.

Use a tripod and make sure it doesn’t get bumped (or mark where it goes on the floor) or do what Mabel did for her first attempt: Stack some books on a stool and put the camera on top of it. Put a little masking tape to mark where your camera goes. Also put masking tape on the wall behind the child to show where their hands, feet, and head will go.

Then take a lot of photos–first a photo in underwear or a leotard, and then subsequent photos in various outfits. Photograph tops separately from pants or skirts unless you want them to be permanently connected. Take photos of different seasonal clothes, pajamas, swimwear, sports uniforms, favorite toys, hats, shoes, dress-ups, costumes, and whatever else you think of. It’s probably best to take all your photos in one session, so the lighting stays consistent.

We printed one of our paper dolls on cardstock and the other on photo paper. The photo paper gave a crisper image but was harder to cut out without marring the images, and one of the dolls got scratched. (So far I’m too lazy to reprint it.)

You don’t have to be proficient in Photoshop to do this project, but it helps. If you “cut out” all the images in Photoshop first you can save ink and sheet magnet by creating a compact layout of all the clothing. Be sure to keep all your images the same scale.

If you don’t know how to use Photoshop or a comparable program, just print your photos and then cut them out.

We used the magnetic laminating cartridge in my Xyron machine to laminate the clothing onto the sheet magnet, which works great. (I wasn’t paid to say that, but I don’t mind giving Xyron free advertising because I love their product.) I think you can also get printable sheet magnet, or you could use adhesive spray to stick the clothing onto the magnet backing.

We chose not to make the dolls magnetic this time–they go between the metal tin and the magnetic clothing pieces. The Xyron sheet magnet isn’t very strong, so the pieces will come loose if you shake them, but they stay on well enough if you don’t.

This is a nice portable quiet toy if you store it in a flat tin, like the tins CDs used to sometimes come in. The last tin we had left was this nice one that was the packaging for a pair of scissors. (If you have any flat tins you don’t need, I’d love to have them.)

You can also play with the dolls on a magnet board made from a piece of sheet metal with duct tape wrapped around the sharp edges and corners. (Mabel made hers in a church activity, but I’d guess you get the sheet metal at a hardware store.) I think it would be fun to make a quiet book with some of the pages made of sheet metal, with felt or fabric pages with pockets in-between to store the doll clothes (and to keep the metal sheets from clanking against each other).

So there you have it. This is a fairly time-consuming project, but it’s absolutely adorable when completed. And when your kids grow up, you can get out the paper doll and reminisce about when they were small enough to let you dress them.

This entry was posted in Kid Crafts, My kids actually are funny (and sweet and wonderful), Papercraft, Tutorial and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Make a custom magnetic paper doll from photos

  1. hthalljr says:

    This is just amazingly cute.

  2. Kristina P. says:

    This is so fun! I am thinking about my niece or Adam’s niece, for Christmas. I loved paper dolls when I was a girl. And actually had a heart and whimsy.

    • zstitches says:

      Have you checked the cracks between the couch cushions for your whimsy? I’ve heard that’s a common place to lose it.

      • OhSusanna says:

        The tin can lid is a better idea anyway, ’cause I’ve done the dolls magnetic before and the clothes don’t line up correctly. Those are so darn stinkin’ cute I can hardly stand it.

        • zstitches says:

          If you make the doll with the magnetic side on the front (by gluing the paper over the surface of the magnet) AND make sure the clothes are oriented the same way on the sheet magnet as the doll was (never perpendicular) then the clothes will only get out of alignment by a small amount, like 1/16th of an inch or so. But even that 1/16th can be annoying to a detail-oriented child (or adult). So, yes, we’ve found it works great to make the doll from paper and sandwich it between the clothes and the tin. Printing the doll on cardstock works, too, and makes a sturdier doll, but the clothes don’t adhere as strongly because of the thickness of the cardstock.

          • Amaria says:

            I make magnetic dolls to sell on Etsy. I cut out dots from the magnetic paper, make sure they’re lined up with the doll and then stick the clothes on. It takes less magnetic paper that way and -more importantly- aligns properly!

          • zstitches says:

            Your dolls are really cute. I can see how your method works better with regular sheet magnet, but since we’re using a magnet/laminating cartridge in a Xyron, it’s easiest for us just not to magnetize the doll (or to let the alignment be slightly off).

  3. Emily S. says:

    That is so extremely adorable. I love it!

  4. Pingback: Rose as a paper doll | My Imaginary Blog

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