Behind the Scenes of Worry Dolls

Next month I’ll share more of these images. For now, I’d like to outline the process of creating them.

TL;DR version: I used Lumi Inkodye and a halogen work light to print portraits of Worry Dolls on watercolor paper. Then I hand colored them.


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Taking the PhotographsPrinting the Digital NegativesPrepping the PaperSetting up the Exposure AreaPrinting the ImageWashing the PrintDrying the PrintColoring the Images


Taking the Photographs

I took portraits of all 18 of my worry dolls (some I got from ebay, a few I had already- a gift from my grandmother. All 18 are vintage). I placed them in my table top studio, against a white background and used my iPhone 4s camera (which was the phone I had at the time- I knew that I planned to use an alternative process to print these and wanted to play with the old v. the new, smart phone camera v. solar printing).

Original iPhone portrait of Worry Doll 12 of 18 before the printing process.

Printing the Digital Negatives

I edited each image, removing specks and distracting elements, increasing the contrast, changing to black and white and then inverting the image and cropping to 5″x7.”

I printed 2 images per 8.5″x11″ sheet of transparency film, using my regular old Canon desktop inkjet printer.

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Prepping the Paper

With a mix of Arches Watercolor Natural White Cold Press and Rough and Bright White Cold Press 140 lb. 300 g. paper, I tore each down to 8″x10″ and marked off 5″7″ areas with painter’s tape (the less abrasive kind that’s made to not tear paper and such).

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Setting up the Exposure Area

I set up my very make shit printing area, tying a 500 W halogen work light to the shower curtain rod so that it was facing downward. I then used a TV tray with 2 shoe box sized storage boxes and a laptop tray stacked on top, to get the print close enough to the light. I was aiming for about 18″ of distance between the image and the light source.

*It is most definitely best to use a UV exposure unit for this process if you’re looking for consistency and quick printing time, or to use the sun, if you’re looking for cheap DIY. However, I don’t have the funds for an exposure unit, nor the daylight for the sun, and I’m very much a make things work kind of person. So, after researching solar light sources, I settled on a halogen work light. Cheap. Easy to acquire. Can use indoors. Will do the job.

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Printing the Image

To prep each print, I rolled black Lumi Inkodye per instructions, onto the sheet of paper, within the 5″x7″ area, wiping off excess with a sponge brush. I then placed each digital negative, ink side up within the tape lines on the piece of paper and placed an 8″x10″ sheet of clear glass on top. Then I put the paper, negative and glass under the light and exposed for 35 minutes. (This part took some trial and error, I exposed one for 19 minutes, checking it off and on throughout, then another for 45 minutes. At 45 minutes, the ink got as dark as it’s supposed to, but being as there was not enough contrast in my original image, the background got pretty dark as well. I compromised between the 2 times. I wanted to get the details as dark as possibly without muddying up the background. I figured that I planned to color on the images anyway, so and contrast that was lost in underexposing could be added back in when drawing.)

*For more info on photo printing with Lumi Inkodye click here.

In the end, the photos were printed just using the weight of the glass, no clamps involved. They caused more trouble than they were worth.
In the end, the photos were printed just using the weight of the glass, no clamps involved. They caused more trouble than they were worth.

Washing the Print

Lumi Inkodye is made for fabric. You can buy a detergent specifically for it that you can put in the washing machine with your printed object. I used paper, so no washing machine, and I already owned some Solar Fast detergent (Solar Fast is a different brand of roughly the same things as Lumi Inkodye). Crossing my fingers that the detergent would work in the same way, I placed a cap full in a glass baking dish and filled the dish with hot water. I left the sink running on hot, placed the freshly printed image in the water basing and lightly rubbed the image surface with my fingers (the way Lumi works, is the the part of the image covered by the black of the negative stays soft- the light does not hit it, the part of the image covered by the white/clear of the negative hardens. Washing the image after exposing removes the soft part of the ink and prevents the image from further exposing). I flipped the paper over in the water and agitated the water a bit. I then ran the front and back of the paper under the running water, then repeated the process. Water basin with detergent, hot running water. I did this about 3 times.

*I used 1 cap full of detergent + 1 basin of water to wash 3 prints, then I’d change out the water and removed the tape before washing

*Please ignore my messy, cluttered bathroom. I pushed back all the stuff we normally have on the counter so that I’d have room for printing. The bathroom was still in use during it’s time as a studio.

Glass baking tray and sink  for washing. You'll also note the very safe (sarcasm) placement of the extension cord (that's the only outlet we have in the bathroom)/ And the box with towels over it (used to put the brush and dye in while exposing a print, to protect the unused ink from the light.
Glass baking tray and sink for washing. You’ll also note the very safe (sarcasm) placement of the extension cord (that’s the only outlet we have in the bathroom)/ And the box with towels over it (used to put the brush and dye in while exposing a print, to protect the unused ink from the light.

Drying the Print

I cleared off the kitchen bar and laid out cling wrap. As I finished each print, I brought them out of the bathroom and laid them on the counter. They took all night to fully dry.

Wolfgang discovered he likes cling wrap almost as much as cat nip. He rolled all over it and almost fell off the counter a few times. I did get him down a couple times but he hopped right back up. Long story short, I had to straighten it quite a bit when he was done.
Wolfgang discovered he likes cling wrap almost as much as cat nip. He rolled all over it and almost fell off the counter a few times. I did get him down a couple times but he hopped right back up. Long story short, I had to straighten it quite a bit when he was done.

Coloring the Images

To color the images, I simply used pastel pencils. I kept the images to 2-4 colors each, to keep the color schemes simple and less distracting. These dolls are filled with worry, so the schemes are mostly cooler colors, nothing too warm and inviting, and the background lines close in around each doll, symbolizing their burdens and pressures.

I’m sure I left a lot out. If you have any questions, just ask. :)

Thanks for reading!

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