Paper dolls: making your illustrations interactive.

Alright artists, Elly here for our final play date of the season and today we are playing with dolls. Paper dolls.

You might be able to tell from looking at my work, but I spent a significant period of my childhood as an aspiring fashion illustrator. I loved paper dolls and all their changeable outfits and this led me to articulated paper dolls which work more like puppets and lend themselves well to art journals.


You will need:

  • Paper. I recommend thicker cardstock or watercolour paper, but you will also need paper to draft your doll design which can be very thin.
  • Colour. Watercolour paints, coloured pencil, marker, ink – basically anything which will not smudge once it has dried. I’ll leave it up to you.
  • Brads/Split-pins. You can pick these up from most craft stores. You will want the teeny ones they sell for scrapbooking.
  • Awl. Or just any kind of stabby implement. I use a dry point etching needle.
  • Lightbox or window.
  • Scissors or craft knife.


Design your doll

Animal, monster, human… cartoon superhero? Draw a sketch of your character and then decide how many joints you want them to have. Will they be able to bend their elbows? Tilt their head? Flowing hair?
With a firmer line (like a pen) outline the shapes that you will need, overlapping everywhere that there will be a joint.

Create the pattern

Using a light-box or well lit window, trace the shapes you just outlined onto thicker paper. Make sure that you draw every shape in its own area with no overlapping.


Colour in all your shapes, go outside the lines, you’ll be cutting everything out soon so who cares!

Cut it all out

Carefully cut out all the pieces. Smaller details will be easier to do with a craft knife or scalpel.

Assemble your doll

Using your awl, stab through the joints and keep them in place with brads.


If you are intimidated by a fully articulated character, just start with simple designs with one moving piece.
Look for inspiration around you. Plastic toys all have their own point of articulation, how can you take ideas from life and use them in your designs?
Experiment with how you attach your dolls into your book. If you want to be able to remove it to move it through your book, maybe you could build a special pocket for it to live in.

Action items

  • Design and make your own paper doll.
  • Use your favourite mediums to create a page to house your dolls.
  • Make a doll version of the superhero that you made in Divyam’s tutorial earlier in the season.
  • Use articulation to create secret journaling on a page.
  • Tell one of your favourite fairy tales of stories using your dolls.


Elly lives in Sydney, Australia. Her favourite part of journaling is being able to play. She loves being able to test out ideas, and styles, and mediums without pressure. This applies to the ideas she’s expressing too: getting to work through experiences and communicating opinions in a place that is fun, safe, and colourful.


  1. Maura Flood

    This looks like so much fun! I’m thinking of all the animals I might make. Our monster page could turn into a movable monster. Thanks for sparking my imagination.

  2. TC Larson

    You had me at “shabby implement”. Love this and I’m really looking forward to making my own moveable people!

  3. Julia Bethmann

    So fun, going to try this!

  4. Rebecca Johnstone

    Omg amazing! Can’t wait to try this 🙂

  5. Heather Gibson

    This is so amazing!! I can’t wait to try making paper dolls and adding them into my journal. Elly, I could watch you draw and make art all day!

  6. Kestrel Summers

    LOVE these! Will totally try some paper dolls, thank you for the inspiration! <3