Hiya! Welcome to the basics of starting down the path of creating your own cartoon dolls - shading! Yup, this is like any other artform, boys and girls. You won't be great right away, its something you have to work for. If you ARE great right from the start, AWESOME!! You did better than me ;)
To start out with something like MS Paint is ok, but I'd much prefer to recommend a painting program like Paint Shop Pro, version 6 or 7 at the very least. You can download PSP at www.jasc.com, where you can get a free trail of their latest PSP version for 60 days.
Well as you know, my dolls are pretty good, huh? And I know, i'm not modest either ;) Thats because I've been doing this for a pretty long time, almost 5 years now come Christmas. Thats a long time! Which means I've had LOTS of time to practice ;) This is just like drawing anything else, it takes time to perfect. It definitely WON'T take you 5 years, lol, but don't expect to be great right off the bat. If you are though, more power to you!
The most basic part is, have a graphics program. I like to use Paint Shop Pro, especially version 6 and 7. You can download a free trail of PSP at www.jasc.com. The next most basic thing is, to work with the pencil tool, which nearly EVERY graphics program out there has. And, make sure that tool is set to ONE PIXEL wide.
Yup, one pixel at a time. That is how classic palace editing is done ;) But, if you create your dolls for your website, you have lots more opportunity to experiment with your graphics programs filters and all that fun stuff. Xandorra was the first person to introduce me to using blurring and filters on my dolls. If it weren't for her, I probably wouldn't have found that I could use those methods until much later ;) Although for myself I do prefer to still remain in the 'classic editing' mode ;P
Ok, what you want to start off with, is learning how to shade. Shading is what makes everything seem life-like, ya know what I mean? There is no secret to shading; its not very hard. And since dolls are so small, its relatively easy to shade them. To start off with shading (if you aren't very good at it yet), I'd recommend to download one of the blank peices of clothing and practice on them.
First, before anything else now, determine what color you would like your clothing to be. I choose red for this shirt, but you do not have to. You also don't need to use the same amount of colors I used. Now that you know what color you want, pick/choose several variations of that color, from a darker version of the color to a lighter version. Here are a few sample color palettes that you may use:
Basically, here is how I colored in one of the blank peices of clothing found on my site. Just look at it and study it, and you will see one way to shade. I will add more examples over time as well. There are different ways, and I will try to cover as many of them as I know here.
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