Introducing Mia!

An adult female doll in a long, flowing gown. She has olive skin and shiny brown hair arranged in large curls that extends past her shoulders. Her expression is serene and she has hazel eyes, subdued purple eyeshadow and natural pink lipstick. She has pearl earrings and pink fingernails. She is wearing a one-shoulder gown with a white satin bodice patterned with thin, light grey scrolls. The skirt of the gown is yellow near the waist, then gradually turns to orange, then to red near the hem, and is sparkling all over. A gold belt separates the two parts of the gown, and has a large amethyst circled by a ring of pearls. She is wearing a gold circlet decorated with pearls and three smaller amethysts.Meet Mia, my first digitally-colored doll! I hope you all like her, as I’ve worked very hard to prepare a doll that I was happy with. I also intend to release other dolls to go with her, hopefully once a month. Mia’s name was partially chosen by people on the mailing list and people who follow me on Facebook and Twitter: I chose five names I liked, then made a poll. Right up to the very end, Mia and Amethyst were tied, but Mia pulled forward at the very end. I enjoyed the poll and will probably do it for future dolls!

The site is also shiny and new, thanks to my husband Brian Kerr of Different Chairs. Brian happens to do this sort of thing for a living, and he worked with me to create a fabulous showcase for my art and make the site faster, easier to read and tablet and mobile phone-friendly. The results are amazing, and I feel very lucky that I can put my new, more detailed digital coloring work on such a simple, but sophisticated site. It’s even got its own domain name! (Took me long enough.)

You’ll notice some changes. First, if you want to print out the dolls and dresses, you’ll want to use the PDFs; the other graphics no longer have tabs. This is so that you can enjoy the detail without the tabs to distract you, and also so that the pages print out consistently.

There is also a black-and-white version that you can print out, too! When I was drawing paper dolls that had black outlines, I used to make black-and-white versions of the dresses, but when I stopped outlining the drawings, that was the end of versions that you could color yourself. Now, because of the way I transfer my drawings to digital versions, it’s simple to make black-and-white versions of the dresses. If you color them yourself, I’d love to see the results!

I’ve made it easier to follow me on social media: I post site updates and my thoughts about paperdolling on Twitter @lianapaperdolls, site updates, things I’ve been working on and fun links on my Facebook fan page, and a steady stream of ballgowns, saris and Art Nouveau jewelry on my Pinterest boards. You can also sign up for my mailing list, the form is on the top right-hand side of the page. I’d love if you’d follow me on whichever of these fine platforms best suits you, or just come back to the page every Friday!

I finished my Paperdoll Retrospective from the other day by saying that the best days of this blog are still to come. I hope you’ll agree that Mia is a good start!

Come back next Friday for a medieval gown fit for a queen. The subject was chosen by my Facebook fans, and the coloring will be decided by Nikki Paulsen, who won my contest.

Edit (Feb. 2, 2014): I’ve edited the PDFs so that the dolls and dresses are slightly smaller, so that more elaborate gowns will be able to fit into the printable area on the page. If you’ve already downloaded the old PDFs, please delete them and download the new ones!


Magenta, Charcoal Grey, Olive Green and Wine Red Ruffled Gown

A strapless, velvet gown with a silver sash around the waist, a peplum, and multiple ruffles dangling from the waist. Most of the gown is dark magenta, while the ruffles are either magenta, green or red at the edges, turning grey towards the top of the ruffle.Click for larger version (PNG); click for PDF version. Click here for the list of dolls.
It’s contest time! This time it’s on Facebook, so please take a look at my Facebook page to enter. The winner gets to tell me how to color a brand new medieval dress! If you don’t use Facebook, no worries, because I plan to move the contests around. The next one may be over Twitter, through my mailing list or on this blog. This was colored for the winner of my last contest, Lauren. She guessed that my son had a thing for spoons. (It’s been long enough since then that he can’t be easily amused by just handing him a grown-up spoon. No, he wields spoons on his own these days, and he only needs me to just scrape up the last bits of peanut butter oatmeal for him.) Lauren wrote, “I like the ruffle gown from the may 15th 2010 post; I picture it in a dark purpely magenta with wine red, olive green and charcoal grey accents. I think the dress should have a velvety, smoky look to it.” I hope you like it, Lauren!

I decided to use colored pencils for this dress, just for old times’ sake. If all goes well, this will be the last dress for Grace and Ivy, and it just seemed right to color it this way. I haven’t touched my colored pencils for so long that when I started taking them out, I felt like the hero of a samurai movie or a Western who’s forsworn violence taking up the sword or gun one more time. Because of my carpal tunnel, I’ve been scared of what it would feel like, but my thumb didn’t go numb at all. It just felt awkward to draw with a brace on my hand, and my hand ached slightly. This experience made me feel more confident about moving to digital coloring. I’m not saying I’m never going to use colored pencils again, certainly. It was just plain fun to draw with them, and I’m glad I did this dress in them.

But they have so many drawbacks compared to digital coloring! For one thing, they never look as good as scanned as they do drawn. This one looks much more subtle in reality, but if I try to even it out once it’s scanned, it just looks washed out. Doing digital coloring, I know from the start how the color will look in the end, and it’s much less frustrating. Plus, I don’t have to deal with a hundred plus pencils, not to mention sharpening them. That’s a real concern! If I’m drawing while my son naps, there’s no sharpening for me.

One of the biggest problems is that there’s no changing things after the fact. I decided, after drawing the first green ruffle, that the ruffles really needed just a touch of a lighter color on the edge, otherwise they looked too flat. But it was too late to add it with colored pencils. (I added just a touch of green in Photoshop later.) With colored pencils, I put something on the page and that’s where it stays, but I can redo lines, colors and so on as often as I need to when I’m using Photoshop or Procreate (my iPad drawing program). This can be both good and bad — you should see me redraw a simple-looking line ten times to get it just right — but mostly I think it leads to better drawings.

It does make my hand hurt, sadly, although it’s nowhere near where it was when I first started wearing the wrist brace. I can tell that I don’t want to do the detail work that really makes a drawing great, just because it would involve a lot of gripping the pencil tightly and pressing really hard. It makes me feel like I just want to get this drawing done already.

All the same, using colored pencils gave me a sense of nostalgia. I’ll probably never write them off completely…

Next Friday, if all goes well, you’ll meet my new doll and see the site redesign! If all doesn’t go well, I’ll still have something pretty for you to enjoy, so no worries. Wish me luck, and wish my husband Brian luck, because he’s the one doing all the fiddly WordPress stuff! Don’t forget to enter my contest on Facebook, and for updates on how the new content is going, follow me on Twitter. Also, if you use Pinterest, please check out my profile: I’m taking a page from RLC’s book and using it for paperdoll reference — and plain old pretty thing reference, too.

Edit Jan. 24 1:17 PM: My mom suggested that I add a mask, and I thought that was a great idea, so I did! The PDF has now been fixed, too.


Paperdoll Retrospective: 2004-2014

Six paperdolls. From left to right: Anna, 2004, a white female doll with black hair in an elaborate updo. She is wearing a purple robe. Sylvia, 2007-2009, a white female doll with brownish-blonde hair worn loosely around her shoulders. She is wearing a green dress with a flower and ladybug pattern. Iris, 2007-2009, a black female doll with chin-length, curly black hair. She is wearing a purple wrap dress trimmed with white lace. Ivy, 2009-2014, a white female doll with long, wavy brown hair worn down. She is wearing a blue gown and a tiara. Grace, 2009-2014, a black female doll with long, straight black hair worn down. She is wearing a yellow gown and a tiara. An unnamed doll, 2014. She is shown in silhouette.


Within the next few weeks, I’ll be unveiling a new doll and a new series of digitally colored outfits for her. I’ve put some teaser pictures up on my Facebook fan page and Twitter. Curious to know just how many sparkles I can load on one skirt? Better check them out. Also, I’m running a special poll on my Facebook fan page this week. Help me decide what the new doll’s first outfit will be!

Looking at my archives, I realized I’ve been doing paperdoll blogging for about ten years, on and off. That’s not even counting the paperdoll page that I had in high school! Some of you may have been following me for the whole decade, but for those of you who haven’t, I thought it would be fun to look back over the highlights and introduce you to some dresses and dolls you may have missed.

2004: The age of Anna

My first paperdoll blog had one doll, named Anna, and about fifty outfits. I started paperdoll blogging in the summer of 2004, a year after I was married and graduated from college. I was working as a temp and getting back into drawing with colored pencils, after a excursion into the world of Flash and vector drawing. My paperdoll dresses, originally just part of a more conventional blog, barely made it through a site move to WordPress, so now you can’t link directly to an entry and the comments are gone forever. Funny, in my memory this blog lasted longer, but it appears that I only drew for Anna for half a year.

A black ballgown with a large bustle, trimmed with plenty of white lace in various styles and widths. It is decorated with a corsage of purple violets at the waist.
The first dress I did for this new doll is also one of my favorite dresses I’ve ever done, with the lavish lace and the elegant black, and it was very popular. It was based off of a dress description in Anna Karenina, which is, of course, where Anna took her name from.


A gown with full, long sleeves, a fitted white bodice and a long skirt. The sleeves and skirt are colored in purple and pink.A gown with full, long sleeves and a long skirt, colored in blue and green. There is a black vest worn over the torso.
I also particularly like the dress robes I drew, with the gradient effect and the bright highlights. I don’t actually know how I got that to work. I tried reproducing it, years later, and I couldn’t get it quite right.


A dress based on duck plumage, with feathers at the sleeves and hem. A one-shoulder dress composed of marsh plants, with a pink lily at the shoulder and lilypads at the waist.I drew this wood duck fairy and wetland fairy while temping at Ducks Unlimited. My days as a temp afforded more scope for imagination than you might think.


A short green jacket with wide, curving sleeves and a lapped collar. There is a wide black bow at the front with one side hanging down to the knees. The jacket is worn over a wide red skirt-like garment that has the waist near the bust and extends to the floor.This hanbok, as well, was very popular, and if I remember right it was because the page was highly ranked by Google at the time, so it was one of the first things you’d see on a Google Image Search. The silhouette isn’t quite right, but I do like the collar.


A hot pink, light pink and purple gown with three separate layers that can be mixed and matched to create different styles of dresses. The dress I think was the most clever was the “Roses ‘N Ruffles” homage to 80s Barbie fashion. One of my favorite Barbie dolls as a kid was Jewel Secrets Barbie, which has a skirt that becomes a little drawstring bag, a ruffled blue stole which can become the ruffle on a skirt hem, a peplum or a shoulder ruffle, and a sparkly silver dress that acted as the base of the outfit. That’s the sort of thing I was thinking of, and I can see several ways to rearrange the pieces to make new dresses. Can you see them too?


A red cape trimmed with white fur, covering the entire upper body, and a green and yellow striped skirt trimmed with bells. There are red stockings and elfish green and yellow shoes. I reposted Aelinora the elvish princess in 2008, but I actually drew her in 2004 for this blog, and for some reason she doesn’t show up in the list of blog entries with Anna and her dresses. Even with just a holly-trimmed slip and two dresses, she’s one of my favorites, and I like the idea behind her little story. I believe my intention was to make Christmas cards out of her to send to family and friends, but I think that when I looked into it it was more expensive than I had expected.


2007 – 2009: Sylvia and Iris

I didn’t revisit paperdolls until 2007, when I came up with Sylvia, and then Iris. That was right around the time I graduated with my master’s degree, and I ended up getting a part-time job grading essays written for the TOEFL. That left me with a nice chunk of time to draw and study Japanese, and for a fairly long time, inspired by the example of Ze Frank and his video series “the show,” I tried to draw a new dress every day. (Here’s my thought process on that. I wrote it in 2008 and I still need to remember what I wrote to myself.) I hadn’t looked at these dolls and their dresses for a long time, and I had forgotten how much fun I had with them! Since I started drawing for Grace and Ivy, I’ve thought of them as the “good” dolls and Sylvia and Iris as the “old” dolls. But Sylvia and Iris are really killing it in some of these outfits.

A black skirt suit with padded shoulders and shiny, diamond-shaped accents.A figure-hugging sleeveless dress with a white bust, a yellow-green band underneath the bust and a blue skirt. There are white knee-high boots to go with it.Rachel’s black suit from Blade Runner got me posted on Metafilter, which made me happy because I love Metafilter and read it daily. I responded with a Metafilter-themed mini dress, which prompted a Metatalk thread. It’s only funny if you are familiar with Metafilter’s culture, but I really liked this comment about other possible Metafilter-themed outfits.


A two-piece, sleek and sleeveless white dress adorned with gold jewelry and golden decoration on the fabric. Princess Ashe’s wedding dress from Final Fantasy XII was also hugely popular, especially thanks to Google Image Search. Even now, if you search for her wedding dress it will be one of the first few results. I spent a lot of time trying to get the details right, and I like how it turned out. Incidentally, these days I try to do fewer reproductions of existing designs, because of worries about copyright if I try to do anything commercial with my drawings. I’m more likely to do something like an alternative costume, or something inspired by some aspect of whatever media I’m into.


A mermaid tail in iridescent purple, with a tattered red tunic decorated with red seaweed and white lilies, plus a veil. A two-piece white dress with a heavily embroidered top and a white skirt decorated with embroidery and layers of delicate blue fabric.
Because I loved drawing mermaids and my readers loved seeing mermaids, I instituted Mermaid Monday, which is just what it sounds like. (Well, it does include dresses with a marine theme, too.) These are just a selection of what I came up with, to say nothing of the little stories that I posted along with them. For my new page, I want to have one post a week to start with (given that I am still primary caretaker to a highly energetic toddler and have two other odd jobs), but maybe someday I can increase my mermaid output…


A curly-haired hobbit girl with four outfits: a purple traveling cloak over a grey dress, a red dress for cleaning, a springy white dress and a blue vest and skirt over a ivory blouse.A rare stand-alone doll and set of outfits that I created as a present for my mom. We would certainly both be hobbits, if we lived in Middle-earth, although we would admire the elves’ dresses.


A black French court gown with a wide skirt, decorated with Halloween motifs and swags of orange fabric. Since Halloween is a holiday uniquely suited for paperdolling, I did some fantastic Halloween costumes for Sylvia and Iris. Here’s one of my favorites, from one amazing October where I got something like 20 dresses posted in 31 days.


A white off-the-shoulder gown with a cream-colored panel of flower-patterned fabric on the front of the corset and down the front of the skirt.I drew this gown from Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ video because a friend was working on recreating it, and it brought me a whole bunch of new fans of pretty dresses. It’s probably safe to say it’s one of the single most popular drawings I’ve done.


A red princess gown with puffed sleeves and rows of ruffles at the waist, embroidered with roses and bordered at the hem with gold.My poor twelve dancing princesses! I still have the sketches of the original gowns somewhere. I never did finish the story. But the dresses I did for it are among some of the fanciest princess gowns I’ve made, and are quite worth looking at on their own. This is the first one.


A blue gown with a wavy pattern of blue curls on the overskirt, decorated with iridescent crystals.I just love how this blue gown turned out. It was drawn by request. I should note, I don’t take requests any more, because I’ve disappointed people by saying I’ll draw something and never doing it, and I hate that feeling. But this one came at a time when I was in a paperdoll slump, and it was just intriguing enough that I wanted to take a shot at it.


A golden sleeveless gown with a square neck and a green peplum, decorated with scrolls and Celtic patterns.Ah, the Wiki dress! (I did two, but this one turned out better.) We started a small wiki, and let people edit a dress description. After a week, this is how it turned out. I always meant to draw a few other dress descriptions that were produced by the experiment. Someone (not naming names, *cough*Brian*cough*) added in dinosaurs, and I would like to see how that works in a dress, myself.


A French court dress with a wide skirt, decorated with red hotels and green houses from the game Monopoly and split in the front to show a pink lace slip. The overskirt has a jagged line pattern on the edge modeled after the falling Dow Jones, and the bows on the front are made of folded dollar bills. There is also a tall white wig, with a full bucket of water tied on precariously with pink ribbons.I must say, I thought this recession-themed court gown (with a pouf a la bailout) was pretty clever. It’s got the pink slip! The houses and hotels! The falling stock ticker as a design element!


2009 – 2012 (Grace and Ivy)

I always end up feeling uncomfortable with the flaws in the paperdolls themselves, and so I switch to a new set. In 2009, this impulse produced Grace and Ivy, and they’ve served me very well. I’ve drawn around 200 outfits for them.

A green gown patterned with dark green swirls with long, bell-shaped sleeves in delicate purple. The front panel of the bodice is black, with a yellow dragon head on it. The dragon's eyes are red, and its mouth is slightly open. To the left and right of the bodice panel are two large, golden dragon wings, which are fully unfurled and reach well past the shoulders. The waist is bound with a long golden sash, the ends of which extend past the knees, and at the center of the waist, at the point where the front panel of the bodice meets the waist, is a large ruby brooch set in gold. The front of the skirt is a deep V shape, and at each side of the V are stylized white-capped waves, as if the skirt is a boat plowing through the water. Underneath each wave is a row of three ruffles. On the left, these ruffles are deep blue, and on the right they are sea green and purple.I meant to do a series of dresses inspired by the Dawn Treader, and I only ever finished the first one, but it’s likely I’ll do more in the future. (Eventually.) The ruffles on the hem are my favorite part about it.


A dramatic golden gown with a red and black overdress. The golden underdress has long, bell-shaped sleeves with white satin ribbon at the hem and thin black lace panels down the front. It is gathered at the neck, with a choker-style collar. The long, full skirt has several thin black lace panels running up and down its length, and is trimmed at the hem with satin ribbon. The overdress has a shiny black bodice with a V neck, puffed sleeves and an empire waist, and is open at the front under the bust, ending above the hips. Under the puffed sleeves is a band of white ribbon, then a red velvet sleeve, split in the front to show the black lace panel on the sleeve of golden underskirt and about half the length of that sleeve. Under the end of the black part of the overskirt is a red velvet skirt, pleated and higher at the front, then gradually falling to about knee level at the base. The red parts are decorated with a subtle vine pattern at the hem. The black part of the overdress is decorated with white ribbon and has a purple gem set in the front, from which two long white ribbons trail down to the knee.One October, I did a bloody, blue and white dress belonging to a ghost who was called “The Good Queen.” This is what her dress looked like before she became a ghost. I have a long memory for my paperdollverse.


A green masquerade gown patterned with dragon scales at the waist and shoulders, a green overskirt patterned with rich golden swirls and trimmed with multicolored jewels and a flame-colored underskirt. It has delicate green wings and a dragon tail that curls in front of the skirt.This dragon-themed masquerade gown is probably the most glorious dress I’ve ever drawn. It coincided with the most traffic the site ever got (about 1,500 people per day) and I’ll always think of it as my high-water mark for the joechip-era paperdoll blog. It’s also when I first remember my hand hurting after too much drawing, although at the time it took a long time for the pain to start.


A one-shoulder green gown, with a bottle green top that appears to be pulled behind the gown at the waist and wrapped around the back, reappearing at the hem. Under it is an asymmetric grass green layer that ends around the knees, and from there to the hem is an underskirt in a third shade of green.This layered green gown is something that I did quickly and didn’t put much thought into, and yet it was this very gown that became a hit on Polyvore, a site that lets you create digital collages. It’s a good base to add accessories to, I think, because it’s dramatic yet simple.


A brilliantly colored masquerade gown in bright reds and oranges. The neckline is off-the-shoulder and decorated with a gold scroll pattern. The scrolls are uneven, giving the appearance of flames. There is a small ruffle of white fabric at each shoulder, and the bodice is orange. The sleeves are three-quarter and are decorated with more golden scrolls and bright red ruffles. The bodice is slightly open at the bust, showing a bright red ruffle underneath, and there are three blue gemstones at the waist. There is a bright orange peplum, bordered with uneven, fire-like scrolls. Under that is a row of wide, bright red ruffles, then an orange skirt, open in the middle and gathered at each side, with the folds falling gracefully to each side. More wide red ruffles border the skirt, and more golden scrolls edge the skirt. The open overskirt reveals an underskirt consisting of dozens of layers of ruffled white fabric. There is a gold necklace with a blue stone, and a red mask that covers only the top part of the face.The Cursed Sisters: a Halloween story and dress set that I actually finished! I wrote the story first, to make sure that it wouldn’t end up a disappointment like my Twelve Dancing Princesses story. If my dragon dress was my best post, I’ve always thought this was my best series of posts.


A sleeveless light green gown with a deep V neckline, made of light, filmy fabric. The bodice has a slightly dropped waistline and a gathered peplum decorated with a subtle scroll pattern. The neckline is decorated with small silver beads, and there is a belt of gold lilies and small blue forget-me-nots around the dropped waist. There is a semi-transparent overskirt of light green, decorated at the hem with silver beads, which goes over a calf-length underskirt of light green, decorated with a scroll pattern at the hem.I did a series of Lord of the Rings-themed outfits, and this was my interpretation of Goldberry’s dress. Green is my favorite color, and everything about this dress just makes me happy. The transparency! The sparkles! It’s definitely a dress that I love.


Thank you for going on this little trip through a decade of dolls with me. I promise that the best days for this blog are ahead of me! So please like my Facebook fan page, follow me on Twitter or sign up for my mailing list (top right-hand side of the page) so you can keep track of all the beautiful things I make in the next ten years!

Check back next Friday for a dress with colors chosen by the winner of my last contest! Also, I’m running a special poll on my Facebook fan page, so please like it and give me your opinion on what to draw next!


A quick update…

I pulled that disappearing act again, and I’m sorry. I was doing so well, too! Thank you for your patience with me.

I had some problems with my left hand, which is my dominant hand. Specifically, I had carpal tunnel syndrome with nerve damage in the thumb. For a while now I’ve had some pain in my hand when drawing, but only after two-three hour drawing sessions, and it wasn’t too bad, so I didn’t worry about it. But starting a couple of months ago, my thumb was going numb after two minutes of holding a pencil.

The good news is that I saw a specialist and he had me start wearing a brace, and it was effective enough that after a month of wearing it many of the symptoms became less severe. At the moment, it appears that I’ll be able to avoid surgery. When I first started wearing it, it felt clunky, but after a month and a half, I’m more used to it now…

The bad news is that I haven’t touched my colored pencils since the numbness started. I’m too much of a wimp; even now that my hand feels better I fear what I’ll find. But then the good news is that I’ve had good results drawing on my iPad. It’s even better in some ways! I erase mistakes instantly, and I can use layers to refine my drawings. So I don’t think this is the end of my colored pencil days, but no matter what, I’ll still be able to draw. Before I got the brace, I was using it to work on the iPad app Brian and I are making slow progress on (which I’ll talk more about in a second) and I was really happy with what I was able to do.

A adult princess doll with brown skin and close-cropped black hair. She's unfinished, and she has no face and a black and white bodice. The skirt is the only part that looks finished, and it's large and flowing, reaching to the floor. It's light green, and has a white, lace-edged petticoat. There is a white lace overlay over the green skirt, with a small butterfly pattern and a swirling lace pattern near the hem.Brian and I are working on two iPad apps, albeit slowly.. One is a basic app that will let you dress up Grace and Ivy with all of the dresses that fit them, and the other will be a princess-themed doll app with all new artwork and lots of customization options. Neither are really anywhere near completion, but we’re working on them! The image to the left is a screenshot of how the skirt would look with a white lace overlay. I think it looks lovely, but as you can see there’s so much still to do. But work takes up most of his time, and I take care of the little guy and have also started working as a translator for Cookpad, which is a very popular Japanese recipe site that recently launched an English version. If you have any interest in Japanese home cooking, or even just in yummy, pretty food, please check it out!

As for this site, I don’t anticipate going back to colored pencils any time soon, so I will stick to digital coloring. I’m dissatisfied with the contrast between Grace and Ivy, done in colored pencils, and the new, digitally colored outfits, so I think my next step for this site is to draw a new doll. That’s never my favorite step! But I’m working on it. That will probably be the next thing you see up here.

Milo is doing well; he’s 18 months now, and he’s growing up beautifully! His hair is finally getting long, and it fans out in cute little wisps above his ears. He’s allergic to tree nuts; we found that out the hard way. But otherwise, he’s just a healthy, cheery, inquisitive little guy who points at everything that catches his interest and loves his mama and dada.

If you would like to keep track of what I’m doing, you have several options! You can join my mailing list by entering your e-mail address in the box at the top right of the page, and I will e-mail you whenever I update. You can also follow what I’m doing on Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t updated either of them much, since I haven’t really wanted to talk about my hand, but I will try to be better with it!