CHINA PAINTING INFORMATION
INDEX (Click on Highlighted words to move about the page quickly)
Waterbase China Painting
CHINA PAINTING SUPPLIES: China Painting Brushes China Paints Media Tools Miscellaneous
CHINA PAINTING: Preliminary Setup Overall Wash Cheek Blush Lid Blush Eyelashes Eye Rim
Eyebrows Lips Nose Dots Painted Eyes (Antique Dolls) Painted Hair
Would you like to have a form to fill out to keep records of the dolls you make? Click here to download a printable version for Antique Reproduction Dolls. Click here to download a printable version for Modern Reproduction Dolls.
To use the correct terminology, we should call what we
do "BISQUE PAINTING". Bisque is the unglazed surface of the porcelain that we use
as a painting surface. China
painting is the term usually applied to the act of painting over a glazed
surface--such as a china plate or glazed porcelain figurine.
We do, in fact, use paints that are called "onglaze" or "overglaze"
paints; but we apply them to the unglazed porcelain surface.
There are ceramic colors for underglazes, overglazes,
glazes, clays and slip. All these
colors are obtained from the same source, namely various metal oxides.
An oxide is the chemical combination of an element and oxygen.
This is achieved by firing the element to high temperatures and
introducing air or pure oxygen. Nowadays,
the colorants are mainly commercially produced.
Basically, the ingredients undergo a very high (refractory) firing, and
then are finely ground (fritted). This
process of fritting the ingredients minimizes, but by no means eliminates their
toxic content. They are then
carefully intermixed with other fritted colorants (stains) and fluxes to produce
the stain to color glazes, slips, or the paint you use in your doll decoration.
Not all colors are suitable for all purposes.
Some will not withstand, others will need, high temperatures.
However, a larger range of colors is available in the lower temperature
ranges (cones 019 to 015) than in the higher ones.
So, china painters have an immense range of vibrant colors at their
The color intensity is directly linked to the amount
of vitrification surrounding it. Therefore,
a color that is imbedded in a glaze is much more vibrant than a color applied to
under fired, unglazed porcelain. Color looks dull and muddy if applied to under fired bisque.
Doll makers work on an unglazed surface, especially
those who use colored porcelain and do not apply an overall wash.
This means that there is no glaze available to help fasten the color to
the porcelain surface. Therefore, enough Flux has to be present in the color to
adhere it firmly to the surface. Flux
is a glaze, which melts, forming a glass, much as sugar melts with heat.
If insufficient Flux is present to melt the color on, or insufficient
heat has been applied to melt all Flux particles, the color will rub off.
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WATERBASE CHINA PAINTING:
I use and teach the SEELEY WATERBASE
TECHNIQUE as our method of painting the dolls.
SEELEY’S did not "invent" the
Waterbase Technique. Glycerin was,
in fact, used in doll making during periods of war when oil based products were
hoarded for wartime needs. They
have, however, refined it to a point where the modern doll maker can easily use
the method to reproduce any doll she wishes.
Also, the colors produced by SEELEY’S are the results of continuous
research on matching colors to the actual antique dolls.
In addition to the research in china paints and
painting, Seeley's has designed a line of brushes specifically created for use
with the Waterbase Painting Techniques. These
brushes allow the student to apply the paint correctly which helps produce a
finer doll. We do not feel that
purchasing ALL of the brushes is necessary as some of them are
quite multi-purpose. If you can
afford it, however, having each item does make the job easier.
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CHINA PAINTING SUPPLIES
CHINA PAINTING BRUSHES:
YOU MUST NOT USE YOUR PAINT BRUSHES FOR ANYTHING
ELSE. The brushes could
pick up contaminants that you are not aware of and the result could be a damaged
doll. Keep your paint brushes
completely separate from your cleaning supplies. The container in which you carry your equipment should
ideally have two separate compartments to hold cleaning and painting supplies
After each painting session, you should clean all your
brushes with clean water. If you
have used your China Mop or Blush Brushes you should wash them in warm water,
using only the tiniest amount of a gentle dishwashing soap.
You can also wash them with a mild shampoo. For all natural hair brushes,
it is good to give them a rinse in hair conditioner every now and then.
This helps stop the bristles from becoming too brittle. It is
sufficient to just swish the other brushes in clean water until all of the paint
Be careful to keep all of your brushes protected,
especially if the brush has a fine tip. If
you have lost the protective end that came with the brush, use a small straw
that fits snug over the end of the ferrule of the brush.
Do not lay your brushes on your work surface in such a manner as to
distort the bristles of your brush. When
applying china paint to the brush, do not roll the brush in the paint; rather,
pull the brush through in a "stroking" fashion to load the paint. Proper care of your brushes is good for you and bad for the
studio--if you don't take care of them, we get to sell more brushes!!!!!!!
The brushes that we use in our studio for china painting are:
SIZE 0/6 JAYNE HOUSTON LASH BRUSH:--used to paint eyelashes. Long bristle brush.
LASH ONE:--(Blue Tip) (you may want to trim this brush slightly) used to paint eyelashes. Also used to paint fine lines such as eye lines, accent lines on lips, etc. Short bristle brush.
LIP BRUSH (Yellow Tip), MEDIUM AREA BRUSH (Maroon Tip), LARGE AREA BRUSH (Pink Tip):--all are used to paint lips, nose dots, shadow brows, nails, details, etc.
PRO LINE BRUSHES (Come in four colors: Brown, Blue, Red and Green):--used to smooth painted areas such as irises, shadow brows, lips, etc. Intended for use on modern dolls, but also work well on antique reproductions.
SMALL CHINA MOP:--used to apply blush from the CHEEK BLUSH CAKE to cheeks and body parts.
LARGE CHINA MOP:--used to polish the bisque after you have applied the all-over wash.
FILBERT BRUSHES (white handles) (Small, Medium and Large sizes):--used to spread paint with no streaking. Used to blend paints such as blushes, all over wash, shadow brows, etc. Great for blushing cheeks on Dollhouse and tiny dolls.
SUPER BROW BRUSH:--used to paint all types of eyebrows. Makes the finest lines as well as the thickest lines. Extremely versatile brush once you learn to master it.
EYEBROW #1 and #2:--used to paint eyebrows. #1 is natural hair and #2 is synthetic.
DUNCAN FILBERT BRUSH #6 or #8:--used to apply paint on larger areas such as shoes, etc.
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As mentioned previously, we use SEELEY CHINA
PAINTS in our studio. There
are many colors in Seeley's range of doll making colors and your china painting
technique sheets list which colors are required for each doll.
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As a general thing, use the media
sparingly. They absorb atmospheric
moisture and it is this combination of medium and water that works so
particularly well. Avoid working
too close to direct heat.
FINE LINE MEDIUM: A colorless odorless, non-toxic
and non-corrosive water based medium that is used for painting fine lines.
Slower drying than regular Line Medium.
LINE MEDIUM: A colorless, odorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive, water
based medium that is non-drying. Line
Medium is used for all fine line work such as eyelashes, brows, accent
lines, stroked baby hair lips, underbrows and painted eyes.
In short, all fine, close work.
· AREA MEDIUM: This medium is more liquid and thinner than Line Medium and will partially dry off in time. It is also colorless, odorless, non-corrosive and non-toxic with a low temperature evaporation point. It is used whenever color is dry-stippled, blotted or polished as in the application of overall wash, cheek blush, lid blush, and some baby hair. It can also be used for blotted lips and dry-stippled shadow brows. In short, all area work.
This is an additive, which is added to Line Medium and your
paint to minimize blotching.
It will dry off completely in time.
It is used mainly for eyebrow browns, lip reds and painted eyes.
I have found that mixing your medium half and half with water enables the
doll artist to apply paints to feature areas without any loss of depth after
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PALETTE KNIFE:--used to mix your paint.
CERAMIC TILE (Smooth surface, plain and shiny white--no pattern):--used to mix your paints on. Preferable to have at least two--one for storing paint and one for mixing and working on.
SUPER DOLL SPONGES:--used for applying paints, media, washing pieces and for removing excess media, paint, etc.
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BOUNTY PAPER TOWELS:--or some other such LINT FREE paper towel. used for everything.
ROUND TOOTHPICKS:--used to remove paints from tubes, cleaning eyewax from doll’s eyes after setting eyes, applying glue to set eyelashes, etc.
Q-TIPS:--handy. Used to apply Isopropenyl to eyes to remove eyewax.
RECTANGULAR PAMPER or other such WATER-PROOF SURFACE:--used as a padded surface for work area.
LARGE WATER CONTAINER:--used to clean out sponges. Should only be HALF FULL of water. Should be changed frequently. This is the water that is ensuring that your porcelain pieces are absolutely clean. Don’t be washing pieces with dirty water. Dirty water can turn into paint when fired on your doll. Remember CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN.
SMALL WATER CONTAINER:--used to clean out your brushes. Should be cleaned frequently.
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PRELIMINARY SET UP:
Before you begin China Painting, you must first set up your work area:
Cleanliness is of utmost importance. If you have china paint all over everything, it will fire all over everything. Keep your hands and work area clean.
Your work surface for china painting should be a towel or cloth that is lint free. To one side of the cloth, flat on the table top, line up two ceramic tiles (with a shiny plain white surface) of a minimum size of 6" x 6". On the other side of your cloth, place a couple of folded squares of a lint free cloth or paper towel. (Bounty seems to be fairly lint free.)
Before you begin to paint, you should clean all of your surfaces with a wet sponge. (Tile, Palette knife, Porcelain pieces...remember, clean, clean, clean!)
At the top of your work surface, place one large container (sour cream or yogurt containers work just fine--be sure to clean them with soap and water prior to using, and RINSE WELL to remove any greases left from the contents.), half filled with water, to use for washing your sponge. Leave your sponge in this container when you are not using it, that way you won’t have any accidents with water. Beside this, place a small container (again, smaller versions of the above containers work great), three-quarter filled with water. This container is for washing your brushes out. It is important that the large container be only half filled with water so that you do not squeeze water all over the place when you are wringing out your sponge.
As with your cleaning tools, you should have some kind of container to hold your brushes, paints and media while you are working. Your brush container should hold the bristles of your brush off the table--either a jar or brush rest work well. Again, remember that if you are working in a studio environment, you should have your name on everything.
Your work surface should remain clear of all tools and equipment, with the exception of the piece you are working on. Try not to get too many pieces out at one time, and remember CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN!!!
is important to have everything set up before you begin to work.
You must also prepare your porcelain for China Painting.
To do this, you must first wash all the Hydrated Alumina and Prop-it off
the pieces. It is extremely
important that you do not sand the pieces with this on them, as both items are
extremely bad for your health. Then
you must sand the pieces smooth, using a grit scrubber.
Once the pieces have been sanded, you then scrub them thoroughly with Comet
and a denture brush. RINSE
EXTREMELY WELL with clear water.
Before you begin to paint, you must be sure that all of your surfaces and equipment are clean and ready to work with. Wipe your surface with a damp towel and then wipe dry. Make sure that the SIDES of your palette knife are clean, as well as the surfaces. If you do not see some particle of old paint on your equipment and then pass it on to your porcelain piece that you are working on, you could end up with it fired on permanently. It is much easier to be PERFECTLY CLEAN to begin with. ALWAYS RE-WASH THE PORCELAIN PIECES BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO PAINT. If you wash them down with your sponge, you will be absolutely certain that you have removed all of the Comet and that the piece is clean. Letting the piece air dry is preferable to drying it with a towel or paper towel. You want to avoid getting lint on the piece as much as you can.
For the rest of this section of your Handbook, we will
refer to the porcelain that you are working on as the "HEAD"
rather than "PORCELAIN PIECES" simply for ease of reference.
All porcelain body parts will have an overall wash and a blush firing.
You will treat these parts the same as the head.
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The first step in China Painting is to do your overall
wash. Besides providing nice
shading and color for the finished look, an overall wash of China Paint provides
a strong base to which the rest of your colors can adhere.
As has been previously mentioned, Flux is the BONDING agent that takes
the place of the glazed surface of china painting.
To prepare the head for painting, we will apply a very
thin coat of Area Medium to the ENTIRE head, using one
of your Doll Sponges, not your fingers. The head should have a "glow", not a
"shine". Mix your Bisque
Tone Color with Area Medium and mix to a smooth, creamy consistency.
Spread your paint out in a thin layer over your tile.
Using another, clean sponge; dip the
sponge LIGHTLY into the paint.
Using a circular motion, apply the paint to the head.
Use enough pressure to spread the paint without wiping the color off.
Do not, at this stage, attempt to smooth color totally. This Doll Sponge only distributes the color evenly.
Where there are still a few accumulations of color, usually around the nose, mouth, eyes and ears, stipple the sponge lightly over those spots. Using your Duncan #6 Cat's Tongue spread the remaining paint smoothly around the nose, mouth, eyes and ears. You may also use a stipple brush at this point. Using another clean, dry sponge, lightly spread the color over the balance of the head. When you have smoothed the paint out and do not have any piles of color anywhere, take your Large China Mop (black tip) and polish the head smooth, turning the bisque in different directions. This "cross polishing" is important to achieve a smooth even coat of color. You may also stipple with your Large China Mop by bunching the hairs together with your fingers and pouncing lightly over the nose, mouth, eye and ear areas. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO WORK THE OVERALL WASH TOO LONG as it will ruin it--not improve it. As your media begins to dry out, you will only get streaking and bunching of the paint. The head should still have a glow when you are finished.
Remember, the bisque tones are extremely forgiving paints and flow out evenly if applied properly.
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Use CHEEK BLUSH CAKE. (Either make a Cheek
Blush Cake using Line Medium, Water and Cheek Blush Paint
or purchase a pre-mixed Cheek Blush Cake.)
Using a clean Doll Sponge, apply a light coat of Area Medium,
over the porcelain, extending beyond the required area of color
application. This ensures
well-blended blush edges.
Remove any excess medium with a clean, dry Doll
Sponge. Do not
use your fingers or paper towels. Rub the dry China Mop (Grey tip) firmly
over the Cheek Blush Cake. Hold the
China Mop by the base of the hairs in one hand, the Cheek Blush Cake in the
other. This makes it easier to
remove color from the cake onto the brush.
Just patting the cake with the brush is not sufficient.
Now apply color to the fattest part of the cheek, fading the color gently outwards. Add color to chin and lids as required.
You can also apply the cheek blush using a dry sponge, pouncing lightly with the sponge, and moving the paint outwards in ever widening circles until it blends away to nothing. Once you have practiced this method, you will find that it produces beautifully blended cheeks. You can then use your China Mop to lightly smooth out any "rough" spots.
¨ LID BLUSH:
Use Dusky Lilac china paint and make a lid blush cake. Proceed exactly as described for Cheek Blush. Apply color to lids, Where needed, from the prepared Lid Blush Cake, with a small China Mop or Small Stippler.
Some dolls require a more lavender color to the upper
eyelids. Use Lavender Mist. When doing modern lady dolls, it
is nice to apply either a blue or green upper eyelid shading.
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Mix dry china paint to a smooth creamy mixture with Line
Medium. Run the bristles of
the brush through a few drops of Line Medium, working the brush back and
forth as you pull it. This is
called "Conditioning your Brush". Then draw the lower portion of the bristles lightly through
the paint. This is called "loading
The color of the lashes, ranging from black to light
gray, is determined by the color mixture and the amount of Line Medium used.
Try not to load the brush too heavily with paint. Practice loading and painting a few times so that you get the feel for the correct amount of paint for YOUR touch. The paint should not be loaded into the part of the brush close to the ferrule or metal part of the handle. Paint in this area causes the bristles to spread more, contributing to darker, fatter eyelashes. You should touch the side of the brush to the inner rim of the cutout area of the eye. Then lift the brush away and go into the dot of paint your brush has left on the inner rim--WITH JUST THE TIP OF THE BRUSH. This allows you to use the point of the brush only to make your lashes. The stroke of the eyelash is made using just the dot or reservoir of paint that you have left on the eye rim. You should not press heavily because this simply makes fatter lashes. It is common sense that the lash will be thicker if you are pushing more of the brush onto the porcelain bisque.
Depending on the size of your brush and the eye being painted, and the amount of paint you can leave on the eye rim without blotching, you may be able to paint one row of lashes without reloading your brush. If you do reload, make sure that the dot of paint you are leaving is not heavier than the preceding dots; otherwise your lashes will be darker. If you practice enough, you will get to the point where you can finish a row of lashes with one load of your brush as you will be getting the paint from the "load" on the upper part of the bristles and simply using the point of the brush to pull the paint out for the length of the lash.
It is important that you learn to rotate the head with the "holding hand" and hold your "brush hand" in a stable position, ready to apply the lashes. This helps to establish the correct rhythm required to get the flow of the lashes working for you.
· FRENCH DOLLS WITH VERY BLACK LASHES: (i.e.) Steiner, some Unmarked French Bebes. Etc., -- SATIN BLACK
· FRENCH AND GERMAN DOLLS WITH BLACK LASHES: (i.e.) Jumeau, Bru, Steiner, AT, some Simon & Halbigs, etc. -- SATIN BLACK - 2 PTS SATIN WHITE - 1 PT
MOST GERMAN DOLLS AND SOME FRENCH DOLLS WITH GREY LASHES: (i.e.) K*R, A.Marseille, some Jumeaus, etc. -- SATIN BLACK - 1 PT AND UP TO 2 PTS of SATIN WHITE
If a smooth, watercolor-like consistency is desired in
the eyelashes, then you add more Line Medium on your brush.
If the lashes desired are to be quite black, then you add less Line
Medium and work with more paint.
Check your painting picture first to be absolutely
certain that the doll you are painting did, in fact, have a painted eye rim.
Using the same paint mix as the eyelashes, paint by rubbing the base of the Lash
Liner along the rim edge. Make sure
you do not have an excessive amount of paint on the brush, as the liner will run
if the paint is too heavy.
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One-Stroke Brows -- Mix dry china paint with Line
Medium to a smooth, light consistency.
Paint light, smooth brow with moistened Lip Brush #1
(yellow tip) or Medium Area Brush (Burgundy tip).
-- Proceed as for One-Stroke Brow.
Feathered Brows -- Mix paint with Line
Medium and then PAINT the brow using a mixture of Line Medium
and Water to condition your brush. You
can apply a VERY THIN layer of Line Medium to the brow area prior
to painting your eyebrows. However,
keep in mind that the Medium causes the paint to spread, so if you can learn to
apply your eyebrows without first applying Line Medium, it is better.
Use your Eyebrow Brush (Red Tip or Green Tip) or your Super Brow Brush
Condition your brush the same way as you did for your
Eyelash Brush. Work the conditioned
brush through the paint mixture to load the brush thoroughly with paint.
Lay the tip down first and gently lower the brush so the hair is laying
on the porcelain. Drag the hairs
along the porcelain in a smooth arc. This
is achieved by pivoting the head on the outer edge of the ball of the hand below
the little finger. Use a "Frisbee-throwing" movement.
Keep your fingers perfectly still and relaxed--the
brow arc will be formed through the wrist movement. Hold the head so you are looking at it in profile.
To change the brow-lines, change the position of the head--do not alter
your hand movement.
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Shaded Lips - First Coat
Mix dry china paint with Line Medium to a smooth, light
consistency. Using a Lip Brush
(Yellow Tip) or Medium Area Brush (Burgundy Tip), moistened with water,
paint a smooth, light-colored coat. Long,
smooth strokes, with slight pressure exerted on the brush, flattening the hairs
lightly against the porcelain, will give best results.
(Stippling with the brush tip causes blotchiness and an overworked
appearance.) If it doesn't come out
right, wash it off and try again. Don't
keep worrying away at it, because you will never get smooth lips that way.
If you have used too much paint and not enough water, you will have a
very dark color. If you condition
your brush with water and then work the hairs in the paint, you will achieve a
nice smooth, thin color that will fire perfectly.
When you are loading your brush on the tile, the paint you see should
look the same as it will on the doll. If your brush is loading into thick
paint, then the lips will be painted thick and shiny. If you are loading
your brush with a fine, translucent load, then the lips will be painted fine and
translucent. It is truly a case of what you see is what you get.
Shaded Lips -- Second Coat
Shading Mix darker shade of red (usually half and half
Rose Red Gloss and Pompadour Red or Yellow Red Gloss and Pompadour Red for
antique dolls) and mix with Line Medium.
Using Lip Brush, paint shading where needed (refer to your painting
· Accent Lines Use a moistened Accent Line Brush (Orange Tip) or your Eyelash Brush (Blue Tip) and load lightly with darker lip color. Apply as per painting picture. I find that if I wet the brush with JUST water and then into the paint, applying the color quickly to the lips, loading the brush for each stroke, I get a beautiful, crisp line that stays in place after firing.
Unshaded Lips -- Single Coat
· Proceed as for Shaded Lips - first coat.
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Shaded Nose Dots:
Paint very pale first coat with top of water-moistened Lip Brush.
Color mix is usually the same as first coat of shaded lips. Add a slightly darker inner nose dot using the shading color
from the lips with Lip Brush. If
you hold the head upside down and paint to the top of the nostril, you will
eliminate the "nose-bleed" factor.
· Single Coat Nose Dots: Use lip color mix and tip of Lip Brush.
It is most important with nose dots that your brush is a smooth, fairly dry load as the dots will become shiny if too much paint is applied.
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PAINTED EYES ( Antique Dolls):
· Iris: Mix iris color with Line Medium and Water mixture. Paint entire pupil and iris area with a moistened Lip Brush. Shade a little where needed.
· Lid Line: Paint lid line with the Accent Liner Brush (Orange Tip) or Eyebrow Brush (Red Tip).
Lid Crease Line:
Paint pink lid crease line, where required, using Accent Liner Brush.
· Pupil: Mix color with Line Medium to creamy consistency. Paint pupil with Lip Brush. Rinse brush thoroughly in water.
Paint iris shading as required using remaining color and Lip Brush.
Add a little dry color for extra depth.
Mix color with Line Medium to a very thick consistency.
Use the tip of a round toothpick to apply.
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Apply a smooth coat of Area Medium to the surface of
the head, extending slightly beyond the hair line. Using a Doll Sponge,
pick up paint and apply to the head, starting at the crown of the head and
working out and around. Apply more paint as needed. You can smooth
the paint by rubbing it around on the head. Just remember that most
antique dolls with painted hair have no definite "line" where the hair
color ends. Rather, it just blends out into the flesh tone of the rest of
the head. It is darkest at the crown of the head.
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Good Luck with your doll making!!!!!!!!
Evelyn Stanbury, DAG GMDM
Certified Doll Artisan Guild Instructor
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This page last amended on July 21st, 2007