Monday, January 24, 2011

Ball-Jointed Doll (BJD), Step by Step

BJD from BlueFairy dolls
What is a BJD?   A BJD is a ball-jointed doll .....any doll that is articulated with ball and socket joints.  Body elements are held together by thick elastic cords, making them fully articulated and highly poseable.  BJDs are capable of standing on their own, without a stand or other support, and are also capable of very natural looking poses.

WIP by Morezmore (OOAK)
Such a doll is sometimes called an 'articulated puppet'. A favorite pastime among collectors and hobbyists are posing their dolls and photographing them in various positions that imitate real life.

European and Egyptian articulated dolls made of wood and other materials date back hundreds of years.  From the late 19th century through the early 20th century French and German manufacturers made bisque dolls with strung bodies articulated with ball-joints made of composition (a mix of pulp, sawdust, glue, etc).   Refer to Wikipedia if you're interested in the history of ball-jointed dolls.

Today, BJDs are produced by anything from single-person outfits on a hobby level, to incorporated multinationals.

"Nappy Choo" BJD
Modern Asian BJDs are intended for adult collectors and customizers and range in price from US$100 to over US$1000 They are designed to be easily customized; by painting, changing the eyes and wig, and so forth. These dolls are purely intended as art, and not for play.

Different methods are used to create the joints but essentially they all are hollow figures with some type of ball mechanism for the joint.  Commercially available ball-jointed dolls are initially modeled in a substance such as clay. The hardened clay body parts are used to form molds for multiple parts to be cast in synthetic polyurethane resin.

Many one of a kind (OOAK) handmade dolls are made of air-dry clays such as Creative Paperclay and LaDoll.   Polymer clay is generally considered too fragile for a OOAK ball-jointed doll.

Hand-sculpted dolls are formed in air-dry-clay over a Styrofoam core for head and body.   After the clay has cured, the body part is cut into 2 pieces and the Styrofoam is removed.  The 2 parts are then re-attached to form a hollow body (or head).   Legs and arms are formed around a brass rod (some even use plastic straws) to create a hollow tunnel for stringing the elastic.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own BJD from Paperclay, there's very good, step-by-step instructions at 'Between us, girls'   This website is written in Russian.  If your browser doesn't automatically translate, you can use Google Translate.  This tutorial is a slight modification of  the traditional, complex construction used by many Asian artists and therefore, might be a little easier for your first try at a BJD.   Good luck!   ;-)


  1. Nice overview and links to resources.

  2. I would love to try to make one in 1:12! :)
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Hugs, Jollie

  3. Thank you Jolie. I hope you do try one in mini scale! I'd like to try that myself! ;-)

    Thanks also to BJD Magazine. Your magazine looks like a great resource. I'm getting lost in all the beautiful photos you have!

  4. The Moresmore site-- has a great English tutorial too-- Mary---- Love your site and all the info--- We are lucky to have you!!! jan@TangledArt

  5. Thanks Jandee! I knew about Morezmore's step-by-step BJD project. It's very interesting reading but she's experimenting with polymer clay for a BJD. I didn't think her information would apply to an air-dry clay doll. She did say she was going to use Creative Paperclay next time she makes a we'll have to watch for that article! ;-)

  6. I also love BJDs. I think they are better than those Barbie made dolls."Nappy Choo" BJD on the pic is uber cute. :3

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  8. thank-you for sharing the bjd tutorials with us. I read your magazine for the best most up to date information and tutorials. thank-you

  9. Nice post. I have fully read the post. Thanks for sharing it...
    I really liked it ...
    Have A Nice Day...



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