Hello, welcome to Dolling 101! We'll be going over all the basics that every beginner doller should know. There's a lot, so let's get to it!
Lesson 1: Terminology/Vocabulary
What is a Doll?
It might help to begin this article by telling you what you're reading about! A doll, or as we call them on DeviantArt, Digital Dolls, are small graphics, usually pixel-art, of people and characters. People create these by taking a base body another person has made, and creating art on it - designing clothes and hair, and turning the blank template into whatever kind of character they can imagine.
I will go over dolls more in detail, but that's the very basic description. Please, read on!
What is a Base?
Bases! You're probably familiar with this term. That's right, those pixel line-arts of bald/naked people that you draw on to create your own character. That's a base! A base can include hair, extra poses, or optional clothes to get you started.
But getting down to the basics, they're exactly what they are - a base! Think of the definition of 'base'. The base of the house is the bottom (the main support structure). The base of a doll is... the body! The base.
So, you've got your base, and you dressed it up using a program of your choice (like MSPaint or GIMP). What's that called? That's a doll, the term taken from the idea of what it all is.
When you're a kid, you take a naked Barbie doll and put clothes on it. Now, you take naked bases online and draw clothes on those. Once they're dressed up, they're dolls (like how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, where the caterpillar is a base and the butterfly is the doll, or the final product)! If you do this, that makes you a doller.
Have you wondered why you submit your works to the Customization > Digital Dolls category? (Hint - it's the 'dolls'! If you’re not submitting your work to the Digital Dolls category, then you should start doing so!)
Welcome to the dolling community!
Dolls versus Base Edits
Now then. A few people seem to be a bit confused about what to call their works. When they doll up the base they used, they don't know what to call it. Some people submit them as 'used bases' (while this term is technically correct, it's not widely used/accepted). Other people call them 'base edits.' This is not right! A base edit is... again, just that! An edit of a base.
If you’ve put clothes/hair/etc on the base, then you’ve created a doll. It’s okay if you edited the base in the progress (such as changing the position of an arm, or editing the eyes/nose/mouth) but if it's not a bald, naked pixel line-art anymore, it’s a doll.
A base edit is something a little different. Usually you must ask permission from the base-maker, but once you have their permission, you take their base, edit it, and repost it. Change the position of the arm, edit the eyes and nose, or recolor it. It's still a base - a naked, bald pixel-lineart for people to dress up. But you've edited that base. And that's a base edit!
These two bases are base edits. You can see that the artists credit the original base-maker in their descriptions!
Pop Quiz! Which of these are dolls, and which are bases?
// B. // C. // D.
// E. // F.
Congrats! You've gotten through the basic terminology. Ready for a few that are a bit more complex?
Art Theft and Recoloring
First, and most important, is art theft. Yes, we all know... but a lot of people starting out dolling can get confused. Bases are for everyone to use. However, dolls that people have created are NOT for others to use and edit! They are complete artworks, and recoloring and submitting them is considered stealing, even if you credit the person who made the doll.
If you do an impressive edit of someone's doll, it is still stealing! So make sure that what you're starting to doll on is a base, and not a doll! Otherwise, you can get in big trouble, and that's never good
To make it even more confusing, there are some bases that include clothing and hair options. Make sure you read the description carefully on anything that already has clothing or hair so that you can be extra sure that it’s a base and not a completed doll.
The first doll shown here is an edit of the second one. While this is usually a big no-no, you'll see in the description that she got permission to do it. Thank you, gauche0gallery and FionaCreates!
Frankendolling and Frankenbasing
Something similar is "frankendolling". It doesn't happen too often now, but in the past it was pretty common. Someone would take parts of different dolls people have made (usually from the same base) and edit the parts together. (Like Frankenstein! Euguhuuuh!)
They'd take the arms from one doll, the head and body from another, and the legs from a third.. or any different combination! Since they started with other people's dolls, and did not have permission, it is the same as stealing.
Here are a few examples of frankendolls, made by people using their own dolls simply to show what it means (don't yell at them for stealing! They're re-using their own art!)
Another term is "frankenbasing". The same concept, only they create a new base (either for their personal use or to submit as a base edit) from body parts of other bases. Remember the creepy toys in those movies that have different doll parts all connected to one doll body? Kind of like that.
This is a little more accepted in the community, however. I personally love it when people get creative with my bases, and make up something of their own. But a lot of base-makers frown upon it. If you are thinking of doing this, remember to read the base-makers rules, and if you can’t find the answer you seek, ASK! If you don’t get a response, assume you can’t frankenbase.
Sadly, I couldn't find any more! This is a lovely frankenbase by foxlee, using the head of one base, and the body of another. She got permission from both artists, so this frankenbase is A-OK!
Constructive Criticism and Works-In-Progress
CC is short for Constructive Criticism. This term is usually used when you're working on a doll, and the shading just doesn't look right! Or the hair you're dolling is a total mess. Or the leg looks broken!! You need help!
Some people will submit their dolls halfway through for help, or post their finished work, and ask for tips for improvement. That's what CC is! Other dollers will point out where you could have done things differently, and maybe even draw some guidelines on your doll to help you out. It's all in good fun, and you'll learn something and grow from it every time.
Though these aren't dolls, this is basically what it looks like when people red-line. Of course, CC doesn't mean red-lining, but it's the best way to get a visual on what someone is explaining to you!
Alright, this one is simple! WIP. That stands for work-in-progress. Exactly what it means! A doll or a base that you haven't finished and are still working on, so it's not done! It's a work in progress! Sometimes people post them for CC, sometimes people post them when it's a big project. Sometimes they just post them for fun.
Oh no! The term strikes fear into many. Many people start out shading this way, and many people have heard the term. But what exactly is pillow-shading? Well! There's a wonderful off-site description here that tells you all about it!
Basically, pillowshading is shading something like a pillow. It's height is in the middle and goes down around the edges. That means the light hits the middle, and the shadows are around the edges, giving it a weird spotlight look. This form of shading is frowned upon, because it's unrealistic (on things that aren't pillows!) and makes things look nasty!
Here's a few good examples and tutorials to help you out!
OC. This one confused me at first. OC normally means Original Character. A character that you've created! Or maybe your friend. Either way, you won't find them in any TV show, game, book, or anything else, because they're yours!
However, there's another term for OC you may find. It's a program called OpenCanvas. Typically for digital paintings, but some people sketch their dolls out with it before pixelling them, or if they do tooled dolls, then they might finish their whole doll in the program! OpenCanvas is similar to photoshop, only made by a different software company.
So, most dolls you see are clean-cut, clear pixels. You can see exactly where one color ends, and one color begins. You can count the colors used in the doll. Typically, they're made with the pencil tool (in Photoshop), or in MSPaint. However! Some people create dolls in a completely different way.
Instead of the clean-cut pixels, they use the paint-brush in Photoshop, or other techniques to give the doll a soft, blended look. It's similar to what you see in digital drawings and art. They sure aren't pixel art, right? Exactly! Tooled dolls aren't pixel art, but they still start out with a base.
Here are some wonderful examples of tolled dolls!
Alright, thanks for sitting through all those new words. Now I can tell you a few of the basics.
Lesson 2: Courtesy
Haha... yes. A lot of the dolling community thrives on this. You'll be surprised, but being kind to your fellow dollers will get you very far. So let's go over the main things that the community follows.
First of all, let's say you're going to use a base to create a doll. You're wanting to make it a big, gory doll, and then sell it for some virtual money (like points on DeviantART or on Gaia.com). Wait! Does the base-maker allow this!? Most of the times, the base maker will have a link to their rules in the base description, right on the base image, or have them on their main page. Wherever they are, be sure to read them!
Some base-makers have silly rules, such as "Send me a link to the doll once you are done!", "Do not edit the base in any way", or "When you doll on this base, one of the colors must be bright orange!" Make sure you know their rules so that you can follow them, otherwise the base maker might get angry (and angry base makers often don’t like making new bases if people don’t follow their rules. They might even take their bases down, so no one can use them anymore!).
A few interesting ways people have made their rules easy to see!
Lesson 3: Saving Your Doll
Now, let's assume you're done with a doll. Hooray, congrats! I'm sure it looks amazing. But now... now you have to save it. Since it's pixel art, the way you save it is very important.
You can't just save it as a .bmp (bitmap)! Assuming you'll upload it to DeviantArt, DA doesn't allow .bmp uploads, and will convert it to a .jpg. (You can save it as a .bmp while you work on it. It won’t screw up the colors, as long as it’s a 24-bit Bitmap. However, when you want to go and upload it to DA, you’ll need to save it as something else before you upload it.)
.jpgs are just as bad, though! They make your doll blocky, with ugly ugly colors, like a blotchy computer man vomited all over your lovely doll. Oh no!
With a .gif it's hit or miss. Saving .gifs with MSPaint isn't a good idea, because it will mess up the colors, almost as bad as .jpgs. Colors are the whole point of your doll, so we can't have that! Unless you have a special program to save them as .gifs (I suggest BMPtoGIF ), I would advise against it. Saving things as .gifs in Photoshop works just as well, though!
So, what DO you save it as? A .png! It makes the disk-space size of the file smaller, like .jpg does, without messing up the colors. Also, if you use a program like Irfanview you can save a transparent color as well. Hooray!
A few dolls that have been saved improperly. Oh no!
Lesson 4: Uploading
Crediting the Base Maker
Awesome! So now you've saved your doll or base. Let's upload it to DA. Assuming it's a doll, you've used someone's base. But whose!? It's proper etiquette to post a link to the person's base you used, or at least link to their gallery or main page, in the description of the doll.
They made the base for you after all, so it would only be rude to not mention them in the description. Also, if you don't credit them, it can be seen as theft (bleh, so confusing! Let's just credit always!).
That, and other people might want to use the base that you just used! Most of the time, base makers will put their name somewhere on the image. Usually what I do is move their name off to the side as I work on the doll. That way, I know who did it when I'm working on the doll, and delete their name off the doll as I'm finishing it.
Another way of remembering who made the base is favoriting the base on DeviantART. But... what if there was no name, and you found the base on your hard-drive? Uh oh. This can happen, and don't worry! Just let everyone know in your description that you've tried all you can, but you just can't find the artist. People will usually help out, and you'll have a link in no time. If no one can supply you with a link to the base maker, at least you’ve acknowledged that you didn’t create the whole thing from scratch and that someone else helped to make this work of art!
Categories on DeviantArt
Okay, we're all set to upload this doll! Now... where do we put it? The Customization > Digital Dolls category, of course. But there are sub-sections...so let’s clear up these subsections so you know where your doll should be submitted!
First we go over how you made the doll.
For the Pixel Dolls, they are made entirely pixel-by-pixel (line and curve tools in MSPaint are exceptions, as confirmed by Lyricanna) and the flood-fill tool. Usually they are smaller dolls, and have a limited color count. Though recently, bigger bases have become popular, and the use of the curve tool has made them very easy to do.
Tooled dolls! You remember me going over those, right? Dolls made in programs with lots of tools, like Gimp or Photoshop, using techniques to give them that soft and blurry look. Smudge, Dodge, Burn, Paintbrush, whichever tools are used. Most of the time, they look like a very small digital painting.
The Misc (miscellaneous) category is very touchy. It can range anywhere in between the pixel-by-pixel to the brushstroke style. Dolls with gradient, photo, or textures (or that's what you're using for the background) will fall under this category. Maybe you only tooled the hair? Or maybe you used photoshop layers to make that part of the dress a little transparent? If a tool was used, but it's still mostly pixel-looking, your doll will go here. Cell shaded dolls belong in Misc as well, even if they do have a hard pixel outline and limited colour count, since it's more floodfill tool than actual pixel by pixel work.
Pop Quiz! Can you categorize these? (Hint: Some of the artists have submitted these into the wrong categories, so cheating and looking there won't help!)
A. // B. // C.
D. // E. // F.
Yay! We got through how you made it. But now... what did you make?
Original Base is where you post dolls you've made on bases of your own. A doll you made on a base you made. So all the artwork belongs to you. That makes it yours! Originally yours! 100% yours! Get it?
Someone left their base somewhere. You brought it home, dolled it up, and now you want to post it. You've 'adopted' their base. Since you dolled on a base you have not created, the doll would go into Adopted Base. Most dolls would go into this section (unless, of course, you created the base on your own).
Next is the Bases category! This is pretty explanatory if you know what a base is, yeah? Ohh, it feels good to have knowledge. All your naked, bald girls/boys that are ready to be dressed up and dolled on go here.
But wait! What's this Traced Base category? Well, as of June 11, 2012, there's still no description for it. However, my assumption is that bases go here that are not 100% original artwork by you. If you made the base by tracing over an anime screenshot, a drawing that you haven't drawn, or even a photo, then that base you've made would go in the Traced Base category. Some dollers don't mind traced bases, but others have a burning hatred for them. They won't use anything unless it was completely original! Thus, this category was born. Help the mods on DeviantArt keep these categories organized!
Keep in mind that while the Traced Base category does exist, it is still common courtesy to get permission to trace! So many problems can arise if you do not get permission. Theft is still an issue, as well as having people angry at you, possibly being banned, or who knows what!! Stay careful, and make sure that you have permission before you trace.
With that said, you should have a good grip of the dolling world. Hopefully this wasn't too much for you. And remember, it's the basics! Each and every doller knows these rules, and if you plan on dolling, then it's a good idea that you know them too! Thanks for taking the time to read this, and good luck dolling!
Pop Quiz! Which of these are dolls, and which are bases? ANSWERS
A, C, D are Dolls
B, E, F are Bases
Pop Quiz! Can you categorize these? ANSWERS
A, E are Misc
B, F are Tooled
C, D are Pixel